When I started working from home due to the pandemic, I thought that I’d have more time to prepare dinner, as I was gaining a good hour back from not having to commute home at the end of each day. However, life and a toddler have a funny way of taking up your time. A pressure cooker is a good way to reclaim at least a little bit of it, by reducing the time it takes to make dinner.
The $199 Chef iQ Smart Cooker is one of the more expensive pressure cookers (some of the best-selling models cost less than $100), but it’s also one of the smartest, with a built-in scale and Wi-Fi connection to an app, which not only lets you control it remotely, but offers some easy-to-follow recipes, too. In this Chef iQ Smart Cooker review, we’ll see if this is a truly tasty deal.
Chef iQ Smart Cooker review: Price
The Chef iQ is typically priced at around $199, but is often available at major online retailers for around $50 less. Its closest competitor is the Instant Pot Smart Wifi ($149), which is also app-controlled, but lacks a built-in scale and touchscreen.
Chef iQ Smart Cooker pressure cooker: Design
Apart from some aesthetic differences, most pressure cookers all look like a metal cylinder. The Chef iQ doesn’t deviate from this design, but it is covered in an attractive matte black, which adds to its high-tech aesthetic. On the front, a large 2.83-inch color touchscreen is surrounded by a number of touch-sensitive buttons. A large dial below lets you cycle between menu options; pushing the dial lets you select items.
The Chef iQ has a 6-quart capacity, the most popular size among pressure cookers. It measures 13 inches in diameter, and weighs a hefty 10 pounds. It’s not overly heavy to move or store, though.
The Chef iQ comes with a number of accessories, including a steamer basket, silicone potholder, measuring cup, spatula, and a ladle. The ladle is a bit dinky, though.
Chef iQ Smart Cooker review: Interface
I’ve used the Instant Pot Ultra for a while, and while I finally got the hang of its selection dial, it’s not exactly the most intuitive interface. By contrast, I quickly took to the Chef iQ’s colorful touchscreen and easy-to-navigate menus. Anyone who’s used a smartphone — and probably many who haven’t — will pick it up in no time.
Lining the Chef iQ’s touchscreen are several touch-sensitive buttons: Pressure Cook, Sear/Saute, Steam, Slow Cook, Favorites, More. Selecting one will change the screen to show you all your options, starting with what you’re planning to cook (poultry, beef, chicken, vegetables, etc). It’s a cinch to figure out.
Chef iQ Smart Cooker review: App
Within the Chef iQ app are an assortment of recipes, ranging from matzo ball soup to pulled pork. You can search by keyword, difficulty level, diets (vegan, kosher, etc.), meal, cuisine, and main ingredient (such as noodles or seafood). There are currently about 160 recipes in the app; the company claims that it’s adding 5 or so per week.
Recipes are easy to follow, and tell you their overall difficulty level, prep time and total cooking time. When it’s time to start using the pressure cooker, the app will send the appropriate commands to the machine for cook time and pressure release. And, when things are ready, the app will send you a notification on your smartphone, which is really helpful if you’re in the middle of doing a bunch of things.
Also really smart is the Chef iQ’s cooking calculator: You tell the app what method you’re using (pressure, slow, saute, or steam), what you’re cooking, how it’s prepped, and the weight, and the app will create a program based on those parameters. For example, I told it I wanted to pressure cook a boneless brisket that was fresh, cubed, and weighed between 1-2 pounds (you can also use the Chef iQ’s scale), and the app returned a program for pressure cooking on high for 45 minutes, with a pulse steam release. It even recommended I add a cup of beef broth for more flavor. It then sent the program to the pressure cooker, and asked if I wanted to favorite the recipe.
Also included in the Chef iQ app are a few tips and tricks videos, such as how to cut an onion and some basic knife skills.
Chef iQ Smart Cooker review: Performance
I made a variety of meals in the Chef iQ, including chicken, artichokes, rice, and more, and was pleased with the results every time. The cooker heated up quickly so I was able to saute onions in a short amount of time, and was also good at browning meat.
When used as a pressure cooker, the Chef iQ lets you choose from three steam-release methods: Fast, slow, or pulsed. The latter two are good for more delicate foods. One thing I particularly like about the Chef iQ is that I could activate the pressure release not just from the front of the device, but from the app too. It was nice not having to get too close to something venting hot steam. (If all else fails, you can manually release the pressure, as well.)
Everything I made with the Chef iQ—whether using one of its recipes or my own—was tasty. The risotto had just the right bite, the artichokes were succulent, and the chicken thighs were pull-apart tender.
Another not-so-hidden feature of the Chef iQ is its built-in scale, which lets you weigh ingredients as you add them to the pot. Considering how essential a good kitchen scale is when cooking, this is a really handy feature.
Chef iQ Smart Cooker review: Verdict
The Chef iQ Smart Cooker pressure cooker is not cheap: At $199, it’s $100 more than the best-selling Instant Pot Duo. Is it worth the investment? Given its ease of use, yes. Anyone with a passing knowledge of how to use a smartphone will find the Chef iQ’s screen a cinch to use, and anyone with a smartphone will like that they can monitor the Chef iQ remotely. Additional features such as the built-in scale and recipes in the Chef iQ app make this pressure cooker all the more richer.