Straight to the Point
The Instant Pot Duo Crisp with Ultimate Lid Multi-Cooker + Air Fryer does a decent job air frying, but we disliked its exposed heating element and didn’t find it to be as convenient as a basket-style air fryer. Instead, we recommend getting a standalone air fryer (like the Instant Vortex Plus Air Fryer Oven) and Instant Pot (like the Instant Pot Pro). It may cost a bit more, but it’s the move if performance and safety are top of mind.
Instant Pot is, perhaps, one of the most recognizable countertop kitchen appliances. It’s a “multi-cooker,” which combines an electric pressure cooker with additional functionalities like slow cooking, yogurt making, and sautéing.
But let’s face it, most folks use their Instant Pot for one purpose: pressure cooking. So, when we tested Instant Pots, we focused heavily on their searing and pressure cooking abilities (we also tested other settings, like sous vide and cake). But, having recently reviewed air fryers and highly recommended a model from Instant, we were curious about how an Instant Pot-air fryer hybrid functioned. So, we decided to test the Instant Pot Duo Crisp with Ultimate Lid, focusing on its air fryer functionality (as we already recommend the Instant Pot Duo’s pressure-cooking functions and don’t recommend using one as a slow-cooker or for sous vide).
- Frozen French Fries Test: We air fried one pound of frozen French fries for 25 minutes at 400°F, stirring the fries halfway through the cook time, to see how the air fryer worked with uniform frozen food.
- Brussels Sprouts Test: We air fried one pound of quartered Brussels sprouts for 10 minutes at 400°F, stirring every two to three minutes, to see how the air fryer worked with fresh vegetables.
- Chicken Wings Test: We air fried two pounds of chicken wings for 20 minutes at 360°F, turning the chicken halfway. Then we increased the temperature to 400°F for six minutes to crisp the chicken wings. We wanted to see how the air fryer would cook protein.
- Usability and Cleanup Tests: Throughout testing, we evaluated how easy the machine was to use, including how intuitive its controls were. After each test, we cleaned the basket and bowl by hand.
What We Learned
How It Works
Instant Pot sells another, older multicooker with an air fryer lid. With this model, the lid can be swapped in or out with a standard Instant Pot lid, turning the multi-cooker into an air fryer with a simple lid switch. The Instant Pot Duo Crisp Ultimate Lid has just one lid for all functions.
To use the air fryer function, you open the lid, which is attached to the body of the Instant Pot by a hinge, and remove the inner lid cover by pressing a red button (the cover actually falls off, so you have to be sure to catch it). This reveals the heating unit and fan underneath.
From there, it functions much like other Instant air fryers: you can set the timer and temperature (the maximum heat is 400°F). Once you press start, the air fryer will begin preheating the unit. And once it’s gone through that process, it will prompt you to add food.
Cooking Went (Somewhat) Fine, for the Most Part
Much of the fries, Brussels sprouts, and wings cooked per our air-fryer expectations (read: we enjoyed eating them!). However, stirring the thin fries and quartered Brussels sprouts resulted in them falling off of the perforated air fryer cooking rack and into the bottom of the cooking pot. These wayward pieces did not cook evenly.
In fact, a quarter of the fries and a third of the Brussels sprouts ended up at the bottom of the pot, a result of a too-small rack with a too-loose fit (the rack was roughly 3/4-inch smaller in diameter than the inner pot).
Stirred, Not Shaken
Unlike a typical, basket-style air fryer that has a handle that allows you to pull the basket out and shake the food, the Ultimate Lid doesn’t have a convenient way for you to do this. In theory, you could pick up the inner pot using oven mitts, then shake the food that way, but this was both impractical and awkward.
Mind the Heating Element
Once you open the Ultimate Lid when air frying, the heating element is directly pointed at you, and your hand gets fairly close to it when you go to stir the food. We disliked hinge-style air fryers when we tested them for this very reason. They just don’t feel as safe as models with concealed heating elements.
It Was Pretty Big!
Finally, the idea of owning one appliance that can replace your air fryer and electric pressure cooker (it has a sous vide function too, though we weren’t fans of this sort of thing when we reviewed other Instant Pots) theoretically sounds great. However, the Ultimate Lid is still a large, heavy appliance.
With a footprint of 15 3/4 inches by 15 1/2 inches and a height of 13 inches (closed) it takes up a lot of space. Once the lid is opened, the height increases to 23 inches and you need to accommodate an additional five inches behind it, so the lid can open up properly. And weighing a hefty 24 pounds, moving the Ultimate Lid is no lightweight task.
If you don’t own an Instant Pot and are looking to buy one, and you occasionally want to air fry, the Ultimate Lid may be a fine choice for you. However, there are safety concerns with a lid with an exposed heating element, and we didn’t find it as convenient to use as a standalone air fryer or Instant Pot.
- Settings: Air fry, pressure cook, sauté, slow cook, steam, warm, roast, bake, broil, dehydrate, yogurt, sous vide, bread proof
- Stated capacity: 6.5 quarts
- Care instructions: Inner cooking pot, air fryer rack, and inner pressure cooking cover are dishwasher-safe
- Price at time of publish: $230
Is the Instant Pot Duo Crisp Ultimate Lid worth It?
In our tests, the air fryer function of the Instant Pot Duo Crisp worked fine, but the exposed heating element on the lid felt dangerous. If you're just looking to use an air fryer occasionally, it might be worth it. But if you use your air fryer frequently, we suggest a dedicated air fryer.
What can I make in an Instant Pot?
We have a number of Instant Pot and multi-cooker recipes here on Serious Eats, feel free to check them out.
Can I slow cook in an Instant Pot?
All Instant Pot multi-cookers have a slow cooker function, but we don’t recommend using it. You can read why here. Multi-cookers like the Instant Pot are best used as a pressure cooker.