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30 Epic Restaurant And Bar Design Fails That Are So Bad, People Had To Shame Them Online

Most people are oblivious to their own mistakes, but they can spot someone else doing something wrong from a faraway distance. It’s the same with restaurants: if you’re the owner, you probably think your place is great, but if you’re a customer, then you’ll most likely notice everything that’s wrong with the place in a jiffy. And sometimes restaurants mess up so badly without realizing it that customers can’t help but snap a picture and upload it to the popular ‘Crappy Designs’ subreddit.

For your perusing pleasure, here are the worst of the worst, the crème de la crème of horribly bad restaurant designs. We hope you like design fails as much as we do, so please enjoy this list in its entirety, click on the upvote button next to fails that you think are worth it, and remember to share with your friends.

You can find more of Bored Panda’s captivating lists about crappy designs and design fails here, here, here, here, here, and here. And here’s one more. So make some popcorn (and save some for us!) because there are plenty of designs to look at and make fun of!

More info: Reddit


This Was Hanging In The Bathroom In The Restaurant I Ate At Tonight. Only In China…


Two Different Restaurants. No Affiliation. Located Just Up Ahead


I Love Eating At Restaurant Logo Here

Bored Panda had previously reached out to the ‘Crappy Design’ subreddit’s moderators to learn a bit more about the community.

“The original motivation for the subreddit was to point out crappy designs. Nowadays, most subscribers probably come here for entertainment,” the subreddit’s team told Bored Panda. “However, it is common to have meaningful discussion here on why or why not something is crappy design.”


Stopped In Wisconsin Today… And I’d Rather Not


This Restaurant In London (Waiters Love It)


Front Desk At Restaurant In Northern Virginia

The community’s moderators also said that “the subreddit was created 8 years ago. Currently, there are 1.7 million subscribers with over 2 million page views per month. It is very popular.” At the time of the interview, the community was indeed 1.7 million people strong; since then, however, it has grown to a whopping 1.8 million followers!


A Restaurant In Sicily That Just Ruined My Childhood


This Bowl My Friend’s Dinner Came In


This Painting Inside A Local “Fancy” Restaurant

The Balance writes that there are several things you can do to improve your restaurant’s interior layout and design. For example, when thinking of how many seats you want to squash into your restaurant, you should aim for a golden balance between profit and atmosphere.


The Wendy’s Restaurant In Beaver, Utah Got A New Sign


Seen In A Restaurant In Texas


Saw This At A Local Mexican Restaurant… I Think I’ll Wait

Furthermore, some tables are naturally considered to be ‘bad’ if they’re near the main entrance, the bathrooms or the kitchen; partitions, plants or even screens can help improve the situation.


Wall Painting, That Included Shutterstock Watermark. Took This Photo In Some Cafe In Vietnam


Anyone Want Some Thai Food?


Polish Restaurant – Three Cooks…

Cleanliness in restaurant bathrooms should be one of the top priorities, as should be good air conditioning and pleasant music to keep your customers comfortable. However, even these helpful tips might not be enough to hide serious design fails in some restaurants.


This Image In The Restaurant Will Haunt Me Forever


“Lets Just Make Our Plates Look Like They Haven’t Been Washed In 4 Years”


This Is The Logo For A “New York Style” Pizza Place In Ponce, Pr


This Sign For A New Mongolian Restaurant


French Restaurant Menu


The Stylization On This Carl’s Jr Makes It Look Like It Got A One Star Rating


This Sign Makes It Look Like Its Quoting A Fire Extinguisher


No, This Picture Isnt Blurry… The Menu Is

See Also on Bored Panda

One Of My Favorite Restaurants. I Hate To Put Them On Blast, But This Is Too Good Not To Share. The Restaurant Is Called Let’s Do Greek!”


A Bar I Go To Never Cleans The Dripped Candle Wax


All Plates At This Restaurant Have This Pattern That Resembles A Single Human Hair Stuck At The Edge


This Indian Restaurant Was In A Basement, But Wanted To Created The Sense That It Wasn’t. They Created An Entire Wall Of Fake Windows Looking Out Into Pictures Of A Parking Lot


This Really “Artsy” Mirror At A Fancy Restaurant


Bathroom Mirror At A Bar In Italy

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Chef Proves You Dont Need $1000 Knives To Cut Slices Like A Pro, It Only Takes 2 Steps

Most of us have daydreamed about becoming professional chefs and wowing everyone with our superstar skills in the kitchen. Sadly, not all of us are equally good when it comes to cooking, and intense training in the secretive ways of the culinary arts seems like a grueling task.
Petteri, a chef from Finland, is here to tell you that absolutely anybody can act like a professional cook — if they know the right techniques. He uploaded a series of photos to imgur, demonstrating how to use average kitchen knives to cut food into ultra-thin slices.

Image credits: hewari

Image credits: hewari

Bored Panda interviewed chef Petteri from Finland about how to properly use cooking knives for cutting food, and how to take proper care of them. Petteri told us that he spent 3 years learning the trade at a hotel, restaurant and catering college, and a further 8 years working at fine dining, a la carte and lunch restaurants, as well as in the catering business.
“You don’t get the benefits of a high-end knife if you use them only for home cooking,” Petteri shared some of his in-depth knowledge about knives with Bored Panda and explained that the main difference between expensive and cheap knives is the quality of steel. “For example, my expensive knives actually dull faster and need more sharpening and maintaining compared to the knives I have at home because they are in constant use. Good mid-range knives last for a lifetime if cared for properly.”

Image credits: hewari

Image credits: hewari

The chef also recommended anyone interested in taking care of their cooking knives to get a whetstone and honing stick: “They are easy to use and the Internet is full of great guides on how to use them. Honing the blade will straighten the blade and keep it sharp and the whetstone will reform the actual blade and remove little nicks and dents from it. Hone the knife when you feel it isn’t cutting smoothly. And use whetstone when you feel that the honing isn’t helping anymore.”

Finnish chef Petteri taught Internet users how to cut vegetables super-duper thin

Image credits: hewari

Image credits: hewari

Petteri warned us that we should never, ever put a knife in a dishwasher. “Rinse the blade with water and use a brush if there is something sticky, rinse and repeat. Avoid using soap and always store knives separately, such that the blade part does not come in contact with other knives and other utensils. I recommend getting a magnetic rack or a knife rack.”

Image credits: hewari

Image credits: hewari

“When testing the quality of a knife, I look for a few things. Is the handle comfortable in your hand? Do you like the grip? Is it well balanced? How fast does it lose its edge? Sadly, there is no sure way to tell if the knife is fantastic on the spot. Usually, after a month of use, I have a clear idea if I like the knife or not. I have had knives made of really high-quality steel but the handle falls apart or the blade is really top-heavy which makes the knife cumbersome to use,” the chef added.

This cutting technique can be used even with very cheap kitchen knives

Image credits: hewari

Image credits: hewari

Image credits: hewari

He also had some final advice for anyone planning on going shopping for cooking knives in the future: “Don’t buy those knives that market themselves as “never needs sharpening” or “never dull”. They actually can’t be sharpened and once it’s dull or you accidentally drop it and the blade nicks a little, it’s gone and you wasted money. It’s important to get the right knife for the right job and I recommend, at the very least, to get one knife for meat, one for veggies, and one for pairing. In the end, it’s not how expensive your knife is, it’s how well you treat and use it that counts.”

Here’s what people had to say about cooking knives

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Review: Anova Precision Cooker Nano

They say you never forget your first sous vide precision cooker. Actually, nobody says that. Even now, in an era when vacuum-sealed food bags having become the latest benefactor/victim of the app-guided cooking trend, most people genuinely don't know what I'm talking about when I tell them I sometimes cook with a sous vide wand.

But there's a good reason why home chefs—or those who fancy themselves chefs—have embraced sous vide, a method of cooking that involves dropping food (meat is an optimal choice, though you can cook other things) into vacuum-sealed plastic bags and submerging it for an extended period of time in a temperature-controlled water bath. The result is meat that's incredibly tender, juicy, and evenly-cooked. Cook a fine piece of salmon sous vide, and it can come out looking so perfect that it resembles the fake food you see in display cases. Also, many sous vide dishes are finished off with a light sear from a blowtorch. That's the fun part.

Low-temperature cooking is an ancient technique. And sous vide, as established by the French, has been around since the 1970's. But modern sous vide machines, like so many other home appliances, come with Wi-Fi radios and Bluetooth chips. You stick the wand in a pot of water, then pair it with an app. The app tells you the desired temperature, tells you how long to cook your meat for, and tells you when your food is done. Much of the guesswork is eliminated.

Get Small

The $99 Anova Precision Cooker Nano is the newest entry into this category of connected sous vide wands. Anova Culinary has been making sous vide wands (also known as immersion circulators) since 2013. WIRED food writer Joe Ray called an early version of an Anova immersion circulator the "one to beat." That product is no longer made. The company does sell a newer circulator that ranges in price from $130 to $150, depending on where you buy it and whether it's an 800-watt wand or a 900-watt model.

The thing that sets the Nano apart is cost: it's just $99. That's a bargain compared to almost all of its competitors, including the $200 ChefSteps Joule, which I have at home and like. The Anova team has made some design sacrifices to keep the cost down, but if you're a novice looking to dip your toe into sous vide, $99 is a sweet price for tender eats.

Like previous version of Anova wands, and unlike the Joule, the Anova Nano has a touchscreen display. This is one of its best features, as it means you're not constantly picking up and unlocking your phone with grubby fingers while you're cooking just to see the time or temperature. In my experience with the Anova Nano, I mostly used the app to look up suggested times and temperatures for foods, but after that did everything on the wand itself. Sure, it means the top of the wand can get gross, but it's easy to wipe clean when you're done with it.

Warm Feelings

The device is made of heat-resistant plastic. Anova says it considered using metal, which almost certainly would have given it a more refined look, but opted to cut that cost. Still, it feels durable. The front of the wand features a thin strip of light, which indicates when the water is heating up, or when it's hit temperature. The Nano also has a speaker, and chimes when it's ready. (The Joule doesn't have this.)

One of the sacrifices Anova has made is the exclusion of Wi-Fi. The Nano connects to your phone app via Bluetooth, but it doesn't work over Wi-Fi. This isn't a deal-breaker, but it can result in asynchronous information being exchanged between the wand and the app.

For example, in one instance I initially set the bath's time and temperature from the Anova app; then later changed the time and temp on the wand's touch interface after Googling for some sous vide salmon suggestions. The new time and temp weren't immediately (or ever) reflected in the app during the cooking session. A spokesperson for Anova confirmed that the settings in the app won't change if you manually overwrite them on the Nano's touchscreen, though she did add it's a feature that customers have been asking about, and one the company is looking to solve.

The Nano has a power capacity of 750 watts, compared to competing wands that have 800, 900, or even up to 1,100 watts. The amount of wattage affects how long it takes to heat the water; though Anova claims that its new algorithm, which pulls cooler water through the upper vents and distributes it out of the lower vents at 1.25 gallons per minute, means the 750-watt Nano heats water more efficiently than its previous Bluetooth device does. I wasn't able to do a controlled test of multiple cookers with different wattage, so I couldn't say exactly whether 50 watts makes a huge difference. But here's the thing to know about sous vide in general: it can feel unfriendly for weekday cooking, when you’re pressed for time.

Much of this also depends not just on the power of the wand, but on the size of your water bath—and the kind of end result you're looking to achieve with your food. As I discovered, cooking farro sous vide was not worth the time it took. Heating up the bath to 185 degrees with the Nano felt endless; actually cooking it (in a Ball jar, with some water and seasoning) took 30 minutes. Sure, the sous vide farro was nutty and delicious, but all in all, it took nearly an hour.

It's worth noting that the clip on the Nano wand, the thing you use to clamp the Nano to the side of your pot, is non-adjustable, meaning you can adjust the clamp but you can't move its position up or down on the wand. It's positioned right at the Max line for water levels. I happen to use an eight-quart stock pot for sous-vide-ing, and this means filling the pot nearly to the top with water in order to get it somewhere between the Min and Max lines printed on the Nano. It can feel like a tremendous waste of water, but such is sous vide, where your food needs to be submerged.

Anova's mobile app could also use a re-think, especially when compared to the ChefSteps Joule app. For example, Anova's app doesn't make time and temperature recommendations based on how thick your cut of meat is. I sometimes found myself cross-referencing the Joule app just for that. Since Anova is aiming the Nano at sous vide novices, I do think the company needs to add more granular instructions to its app's Guides section. Also, the Anova app searches for your nearby precision cooker immediately upon opening the app, which in some instances is a good thing. But if you're at work, trying to plan that evening's dinner ahead of time and browsing through recipes in the Anova app, you'll have to deal with the constant "Looking for Anova…" text at the bottom of your app screen.

App aside, the Anova Nano is a solid choice for the sous-curious, and even for people who have a little more experience with sous vide and are looking for a lower-cost option.

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Are Air Fryers Worth It?

A few months back, I went to a kitchen appliance trade show and was surprised by the large number of manufacturers coming out with air fryers. "Enjoy great tasting fried food"[sic] reads the cover recipe booklet for Philip's new Airfryer XXL, a lovely sounding idea. With their focus on faux fried flavor, an aversion to fat, and an emphasis on convenience in the marketing from almost every manufacturer, the rise of air fryers felt like the second coming of the George Foreman Grill.

Honestly, though, I was suspicious. Wasn't air frying more of a tweaked version of baking than a luxurious, crisp-making wallow in hot oil?

I called in one of Philips new XXL models, which is both large and a good representative of the best of the industry's offerings.

It arrived in the morning and, lacking other options in my fridge and pantry, I made baked potatoes for my wife Elisabeth and myself. Pulling the air fryer out of the box, three things became immediately apparent. First, these things take up a lot of counter space—pretty much the footprint of a five-gallon bucket, and two-thirds the height. (Other brands might be smaller but not that much.) Second, the fan that that runs whenever it's on is loud, effectively sucking the conversation or ambient music right up into the ether. The third thing was how ridiculously tiny the cooking basket is; at nine inches by nine inches by two and three-quarter inches high, two large potatoes effectively maxed out its capacity.

The spuds were good but that was more of a sour cream, cheddar, and chives thing than an air fryer thing. Clearly, more testing was in order.

Heat Wave

What is it that makes air fryers unique? The answer might be, "Nothing, really." Air fryers are convection ovens in a bucket, meaning that like a regular oven, they have a heating element and like a slightly fancier oven with a convection feature, they have a fan that circulates the hot air, keeping the temperature consistent throughout the cooking area. Thanks to faster-than-a-normal-oven heat transfer capabilities from that rapidly circulating air, convection ovens can shorten the cooking time of some foods, potentially giving them a crispier exterior that brand-conscious marketeers seem to consider to be similar to fried food.

An air fryer would be flattened in a mano-a-mano with a real Fryalator and its big tub of hot oil.

Let's be clear, though: an air fryer would be flattened in a mano-a-mano with a real Fryalator and its big tub of hot oil. Few of us deep fry at home, though, as it involves that huge amount of hot oil which you have to deal with after dinner. So does air frying bring us close enough to the ideal to take the plunge?

I'd been back and forth with a Philips representative, asking for suggestions on what to cook that really put the machine's skills to the fore, and was flummoxed when they suggested frozen french fries.

"Hell," I thought. "I'll bite."

I went to the store and there they were, same brand and everything. I split up the bag, and started one batch in the air fryer, and another in my oven with the convection off, then made a follow-up batch using the convection setting. The air fryer fries were nicely browned and crisp, but a bit hollowed out, seemingly at the expense of some pleasant creaminess inside. The no-convection oven batch was more leathery on the outside, creamy within, and noticeably less browned. The convection oven version landed squarely between the two.

While all three specimens were reminiscent of special treats mom would make for my sister and me when we were kids and she didn't want to cook, they were in no way as good as real French fries. If a perfect paper cone full of Belgian fries eaten on a Brussels sidewalk is a 10 and excellent fries at your favorite bar are a seven, then the oven fries were a two, the convection oven version was a two point five and the air fryer a three. With a bit of tweaking, like preheating the sheet pan for the oven version, I guessed I could bring each of those home-cooked numbers up a point, but none of the fries I'd made were terribly compelling.

For the Birds

Another recommended recipe was a whole chicken like the one found on the cover of the XXL's recipe booklet. Having now used the machine, I had some serious geometry questions, most significantly how to cram a whole bird into the air fryer's basket.

The booklet sneakily recommended cooking a three-pounder, but I sensed trouble. Birds that small aren't easy to find at Safeway. Elisabeth checked at the grocery store near my house and after flipping through a bin of chickens, she couldn't find one smaller than 3.5 pounds. Considering it's an organic market and those birds tend to be smaller than the typical Oven Stuffer Roaster, this was disconcerting.

I called my butcher, who said theirs are almost always larger than three pounds, but that they'd root around for me.

"We found a runt!" she said, holding the tiny fowl aloft when I walked into the shop. It weighed 2.75 pounds. I bought that one along with a 3.25 pounder, planning to roast them both for friends.

I preheated the air fryer and my oven, prepped the birds and immediately ran into trouble. I had to cram the tiny chicken into the air fryer basket, and as soon as I closed the door, I could smell something burning. I'd clearly exceeded the height limit for this ride, and now dinner was running late. I fished the slightly singed chicken out, set it on a cutting board and—getting a little desperate since people were on the way over—did what must have looked like man-on-chicken chest compressions in an attempt to break the backbone, or at least flatten the thing out a bit before performing some innovative re-trussing. Surprisingly, it worked.

Taking a bite, the meat was surprisingly juicy, but the crust was horrible, with a peculiar texture that, while sloughing around between my teeth, reminded me of shale.

In my relatively tiny oven, I perched the larger bird on a bunch of vegetables: onion quarters, whole carrots, and fennel. Below that, I used the free space to roast another tray of veggies. When I pulled the oven chicken out, I put the veggies in the roasting pan up by the broiler for a quick bit of extra browning.

It all made for a lovely meal, particularly once I could turn off the air fryer and hear our guests. The air fryer chicken was tiny but tasty with crispy skin, perhaps even superior to the oven-roasted bird. That said, its advantage over the oven chicken might just be because it finished earlier, and I wanted to get food on the table.

From there, I tried another recipe in the Philips recipe booklet: shrimp on lemongrass skewers with sweet potato fries. The idea is that you're supposed to cook it all in batches, a detail that subtly pops up on the very last line of the recipe. My estimate is that you'd have to do the fries in (at least) two batches, followed by the shrimp in two, turning it into 60 minutes of cooking time. Compare that to cooking the fries in the oven (there wasn't much difference in taste in the fries between the three methods), then blasting the shrimp under the broiler. Don't get me wrong, the results of all three methods for the shrimp were excellent, but the oven and broiler gave me more options and slightly superior results, and, thanks to the relatively luxurious amount of space in my oven, I could cook much more food in about half the time.

The air fryer hail Mary was buttermilk fried chicken. If I could pull it off, I thought, it'd be pretty fantastic. The recipe starts out right, marinating chicken thighs in buttermilk for hours before dredging them in flour, and dropping them into the air fryer.

Oh, friends! It was so sad! I could only cook four thighs at a time, despite the recipe's idea that you could fit six. (Where do they find these miniature chickens? Why not call for a broiler or a squab?) Two people would need to wait an hour of "fry" time to get more than two pieces each—often a necessity with good fried chicken. When done, the exterior was blotchy and scaly, and vaguely, but not really, fried-looking. Taking a bite, the meat was surprisingly juicy, but the crust was horrible, with a peculiar texture that, while sloughing around between my teeth, reminded me of shale.

It also recalled a bender I went on while researching a story about chicken wings in Buffalo. There, at a bar called Kelly's Korner, a very large man named T.C. railed against the heretical idea of ranch dressing being served alongside his flats and drumettes.

"If someone ever gives you ranch dressing," he exclaimed before downing a shot of Jameson's, "you throw that shit against the wall!"

Nothing flew against the wall in my test kitchen, but attempting fried chicken in an air fryer was miserably unworthy of reproduction.

Sorry, Please Fry Again

So here's the deal: you don't need one of these things. They're loud, even the big ones have a surprisingly small capacity, they don't do anything significantly better than an oven and you probably have an oven anyway. They'd also require bumping your toaster and coffeemaker onto a storage shelf.

Instead, if you're into the air-frying idea, save the potentially significant amount of money you'd spend on one (high-end models can cost $400 or more) and upgrade to a convection feature the next time your real oven croaks.

The marketing materials for the scores of companies that make these hot-air blowers will tell you that they are a great way to cook that cuts down on fat. But good lord, fried is fried, and "air fried" is not that. Better to eat well most of the time then go to your favorite fried chicken place on your birthday, or do it up at home with a couple of liters of canola oil and a Dutch oven. The rare dose of perfection is far better than the consistent drip of mediocrity.

Food writer Joe Ray (@joe_diner) is a Lowell Thomas Travel Journalist of The Year, a restaurant critic, and author of "Sea and Smoke" with chef Blaine Wetzel.

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A New Cookbook Takes Us Deep Into the World of the Instant Pot

A few years back, in that now-forgotten time before Instant Pots were a thing, I reviewed an electric pressure cooker and struggled mightily with it. It was supposed to be a safe, fast way to speed up cooking and promised to make slow-cooker style dinners appear in a heartbeat. Unfortunately, stovetop pressure cooker cookbooks didn't really work for their slightly-less-powerful electric counterparts, and this one came with a mini-cookbook with recipes that tended to flop.

Flash forward to last fall when Instant Pot Mania was in full swing and I put the company's Ultra cooker (a souped up version of their classic Duo) at the top of my Christmas list. Once I popped it out of the box, though, I quickly realized that sub-par manuals and not-so-great included recipes are par for the course.

Multicooker Perfection: Cook It Fast or Cook It Slow—You Decide by America’s Test Kitchen is out on April 17.

America's Test Kitchen

Turns out that Instant Pot is notorious for this, so much so that it's rumored to be reworking its manuals. The Instant Pot Community group on Facebook is too much of a jungle for beginners, and while my friend Lylah secured an invitation for me to Facebook's secret Instant Pot for Indian Cooking group, it was clearly over my head.

While there is a mushrooming number of electric pressure cooker cookbooks out there (many with those awful, mansplainy covers), it's hard to know which one will allow you to kick the tires and give you the foundation you need to bring this new tool into heavy rotation in your kitchen while making tested, tasty recipes.

Yet here we are with our own electric pressure cookers, or, more precisely, "multicookers" (they also do things like sauté and slow cook), and our excitement to make everything we can in them, and I was still missing the manual I needed.

All that to say that I was excited to see America's Test Kitchen had a new book in the works.

I am a full-on cookbook devotee and faithful to my favorites: Simon Hopkinson's Roast Chicken and Other Stories, Cook's Illustrated's Best Recipe, and almost any cookbook with Naomi Duguid's or Julia Child's name on it. If I were looking for common threads running between them, they would be trusted palates and fail-proof recipes. They may be simple or complicated, but follow them to the letter and you're guaranteed success.

My short-term goals with the America's Test Kitchen book were to find similar success making chicken stock, cooking a pot roast at warp speed, whipping up risotto for lunch, and understanding how to quick-cook dried chickpeas, beans, and lentils. From there, I hoped I'd have the hang of it well enough to wing it and pressure cook something adapted from Hugh Acheson's The Chef and The Slow Cooker.

No Pressure

America's Test Kitchen's new Multicooker Perfection spends the first 15 pages of the book both educating users and setting expectations. It should also be pointed out straight off that the Instant Pot Duo is not ATK's favorite. The fact that it's "recommended with reservations" is a mighty blow to the hallowed brand. Instead, among the six multicookers reviewed, it's in fourth place, behind two Fagor models and one by GoWISE USA.

One of the recipes in Multicooker Perfection is for rustic Italian braised short ribs.

America's Test Kitchen

Everybody breathe. ATK's big beef with the Duo is that it slow-cooks poorly. In short, the testers found that Instant Pot's slow cooking temperature is so low that slow cooking becomes extra-slow cooking. In fact, ATK both customizes recipes for the Duo or it just says, "Do not use Instant Pot to slow cook this recipe." Ouch!

It's not the main reason you buy a pressure cooker, but slow cooking with a multicooker can be useful as it's occasionally more practical to let something bubble away all day than to have to be around at the end of a short cook to let off the pressure.

Knowing this, I read all of those 15 first pages in Multicooker, picked out a few tasty-sounding recipes and started making tortilla soup. I sautéed tomatoes, onions, and garlic, added broth, whole chicken thighs, sealed the lid and set the pressure cooker function for five minutes.

Wait, what? Five minutes from onions to almost-done soup? Holy cow! All is forgiven!

It's not quite that quick—multicooker users know that the countdown doesn't begin until the unit is pressurized, which can be a couple minutes for meals without much liquid in there, or a while longer if you're waiting for six cups of broth to heat up enough to build the pressure.

No matter. After those five minutes were up, I let the pressure out, shredded the thigh meat and put it back in the pot, sprinkling Cotija cheese and cilantro over my bowl, then adding a dollop of sour cream and a squeeze of lime. Along with some toasted tortillas, it made for a fantastic dinner.

I switched gears for the next meal, this time opting to understand the fuss around pressure cooker mac and cheese. The key here is that it's not a quantum leap forward in macaroni technology, but it's a dinner that allows you to dump uncooked pasta in cold water with some mustard powder and cayenne and hit start. After five minutes under pressure you stir in evaporated milk, cheddar, and Monterey Jack cheese, make sure the pasta is al dente, and Bob's your uncle.

The more I cooked, the more I learned. Two keys I figured out were to get all the prep done ahead of time, and read the recipe all the way through before you do anything. Yes, you should do both of these anyway, but they're more urgent with the pressure cooker. Things often move quickly from one step to the next in pressure cooker recipes, so it was particularly necessary to have everything ready for something like the Thai-braised eggplant, where you sauté several ingredients then add 1/2 cup of broth, which halts the browning and provides the liquid to make the steam and build pressure. If that half-cup isn't measured out, you could end up with a scorching problem.

Cooking through these recipes also taught me what to watch out for and the limitations of multicookers. I learned to make extra sure to scrape all of the flavorful fond off the bottom of the pot after sautéing or browning food, especially if it was a dish with a thicker sauce, otherwise I'd get an unwanted "burn" message on the Ultra's screen during the pressure cycle.

Speaking of searing, temper your expectations. My Ultra, which has the same searing capability as the Duo, left me wanting more. It could capably sauté onions but browning something like chicken legs was slow enough that I asked the manufacturer to ship me another Ultra just to make sure it wasn't just mine. Unfortunately, it wasn't.

This isn't just an Instant Pot problem. America's Test Kitchen points out that some cookers have low, medium, and high sauté functions, while others have a "brown" option, and that you should use the hottest one. Regardless, an ATK spokesperson told me that "once you take that into account, the models all perform about the same."

Now I know two things: it's not my fault—yay!—and for a nice sear without a lot of waiting, I'll use a skillet on my stove and transfer the browned food to the pot when it's done.

I plowed on, picking up the pace, gaining confidence, and even riffing a bit. I made a pot roast from ATK's 2013 Pressure Cooker Perfection, which hit the market before stovetop pressure cookers had been overtaken by the electric models. Since stovetop pressure cookers can build up a bit more pressure, they cook faster, so I cross-referenced what I was doing with Multicooker Perfection and it worked out very well. I also made Multicooker's chicken broth recipe, a classic of the pressure cooker genre, as it's fast, flavorful and done in an hour. One very nice touch? After browning chicken wings and onions, the 12 cups of water that the recipe called for brought it right up to my six-quart pot's fill line for pressure cooking.

Risotto was next, another pressure cooker classic since there's no need for constant stirring. In fact, it goes so quickly that you can have the whole yummy shebang on the table in half an hour.

Instant Hit

My only quibble with Multicooker Perfection is the curious omission of short sections for rice and grains, beans, and cuts of meat or vegetables cooked on their own. These were right up front in Pressure Cooker Perfection, and having that reference is a invaluable, especially for weeknight dinners.

Still, I'd run through enough recipes in the book that I felt comfortable enough to start spreading my wings. I had other recipes and cookbooks I wanted to explore, like the tamarind baby back ribs in Melissa Clark's Dinner in an Instant. I also wanted to cross reference recipes in The Chef and The Slow Cooker, using the timing for similar food done in Multicooker.

You might find another book that does a great job getting you up to speed. For me, after making a host of recipes in ATK's new book, the wilds of pressure cooking didn't seem so wild anymore. I'd built the foundation I needed and was ready for more. So ready, in fact, that I logged into the secret Instant Pot for Indian Cooking group and looked up a recipe for dal makhani.

Food writer Joe Ray (@joe_diner) is a Lowell Thomas Travel Journalist of The Year, a restaurant critic, and author of "Sea and Smoke" with chef Blaine Wetzel.

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