The Instant Pot Blender Really Does Cook — We Tried It!
We have to say, this appliance seriously surprised us.
By Amanda Neal and Rachel Trujillo for Food Network Kitchen
As multi-use appliances continue to gain traction (hello, Instant Pots and air fryer toaster ovens!), it's a little hard to justify single-use products (although here are some we do think are worth buying). In the multi-functional vein, we had to ask ourselves, why settle for a blender that just blends when you can get one that also cooks? When we came across the Instant Pot Ace 60 Cooking Blender, we were immediately excited about the additional functions on an otherwise one-dimensional gadget. While high-speed blenders have always been kitchen workhorses mixing up creamy smoothies and blending velvety soups, the Ace 60 Cooking Blender also incorporates Instant Pot’s easy pre-programmed settings, including programs to make frozen desserts, nut and oat milk and soup. But, unlike other blenders that can only puree your soup’s ingredients, this one can actually cook them.
When the Food Network Kitchen tested high-speed blenders, we deemed this one our best blender for everyday use. We only tested the traditional blender features (it felt unfair to test the additional programs against other standard high-speed blenders), and found the smoothie feature yielded great results and the stop/start mechanism on the crushed ice setting got the job done quickly. But, for our second round of testing, we put the additional programs to the test. Here's what you need to know if you're considering cooking in this blender.
How the Instant Pot Ace Blender Works
First, let’s break down the functionality. The blender has eight Smart One-Touch programs that are broken up into two categories: cold blending programs and hot blending programs. The cold blending programs include Smoothies, Frozen Desserts, Crushed Ice and Nut/Oat Milk, while the hot blending programs include Purée, Soy Milk, Rice Milk and Soup (Rice Milk, Soup and Purée include two cooking options).
Both time and temperature are controlled by the blender, depending on which program you select. For hot soups, the heating base got as hot as 212 degrees F while we were cooking, which makes us comfortable to use it for cooking vegetables, but not safe to cook meat. (Caution though, the glass carafe does get very hot!) If you’re hoping to make chicken noodle soup or something with a meat-based protein, Instant Pot Ace’s recipes typically call using pre-cooked meat. The two cooking options for soup are Creamy Soup, which blends your soup as it cooks, and Chunky Soup, which gives your soup an occasional stir during cooking but otherwise disables the blending feature.
When blending, the lid must be properly sealed before you can start any functions, but it unfortunately doesn’t have the iconic beeping you hear when adding a pressure cooking lid onto an Instant Pot. Just like the Instant Pot, there is no designated “start” button. Rather, you select your desired program for the cooking or blending to begin. There is a “cancel” and “pause” button, though, if you need to quickly and safely stop your blender.
Creamy Soups Were Impressively Smooth
In testing, we decided to put both soup features to the test, making a creamy carrot-ginger soup as well as a loaded vegetable chunky soup. For the creamy soup, Food Network Kitchen Recipe Developer Amanda Neal combined raw chopped carrots, garlic, ginger, cannellini beans, coconut milk and water. It took about 10 minutes to heat up and 22 minutes to cook, the blades pulsing intermittently while heating up and cooling down. According to Neal, “This is a really interesting feature because the gentle pulses of the blades help to 'stir' the soup without fully pureeing it.” In the last few minutes, the blender, “kicked into high gear and pureed the soup to a very smooth consistency.” Overall, we were impressed by how user-friendly this feature was (plus, one cooking vessel also means simple clean-up!).
Making Nut Milk Was Quick and Easy
We followed the Instant Pot Ace Blender’s recipe (which was a pretty typical process for making homemade almond milk) and started by soaking one cup of whole raw almonds overnight in water then blending with 1 1/2 cups of water, a pinch of sugar and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract. The preset time for nut and oat milk is 4 minutes 36 seconds, which is quicker than making nut milk in a standard blender. We then strained the very finely and evenly chopped pulp through a mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth. The result was an impressively creamy homemade almond milk.
Frozen Desserts Were a Fun Project
If making homemade ice cream is on your bucket list this year, this blender can make that project much simpler. If you follow the blender’s frozen dessert instructions, you’ll be making a product similar to no-churn ice cream — but much faster and without dirtying extra dishes. The base for most no-churn recipes calls for whipping cream with a mixer then folding the cream into a mixture of condensed milk and vanilla before freezing. The Instant Pot Ace Cooking Blender does all that work for you, calling for a combination of fresh fruit, whole milk and pudding mix. When testing, we opted for making a “nice cream” with berries, combining frozen blueberries, strawberries and heavy cream. The whole process only took about 1 minutes and 20 seconds to make but we “did have to stir the mixture with a spoon halfway through because it wasn’t catching all the frozen berries.” After freezing, we found the finished product to be very creamy and smooth.
Who Should Buy This?
Now that we’ve tested the broad scope of what this blender can do, our label of the "Best Everyday Blender” holds more true than ever. It can tackle simple tasks like making a smoothie or a creamy soup, but it also makes projects like homemade nut milk and ice cream accessible and simple. While we didn’t try out the soy and rice milk features, we think they will be as simple to tackle and successful as making almond milk. While we still dub the Vitamix Explorian E310 for being the Best Overall Blender, the Instant Pot Ace 60 Cooking Blender is a great option for anone looking for a new way to cook in the kitchen. You can easily blend up your morning smoothies or get creative by making soup without ever turning on your stove. It’s a great option for families looking for quick weeknight dinner options or anyone hoping to make more use out of each appliance in their kitchen.