This year, Black Friday and Cyber Monday might as well as been the start of recruiting season for the world’s newest, tastiest cult. The Instant Pot may, on its stainless-steel surface, appear to merely be a moderately well-priced hybrid of a pressure cooker and slow cooker. But its hype and reception have been something else. It tops Amazon’s U.S. home and kitchen best-sellers list, and the company said it was one of its top-selling items on Black Friday this year. The New York Times released a lengthy guide to its use, explaining its yogurt-making utility and outlining its many components. It is seemingly on every publication’s Cyber Monday list. More than 763,000 people are members of the largest Facebook group devoted to Instant Pot use. A Bloomberg critic raved, “This is a magical pot” like she was writing a fairy tale instead of a review of an 11.8-pound food preparation tool.
The Instant Pot is the brainchild of a laid-off Canadian engineer, hit the shelves in 2010, and then became a surprise favorite on Amazon Prime Day in 2016, when more than 215,000 were sold. And due to its versatility—you can sauté, cook rice, even make a cheesecake—and ability to cut cooking times in half through a pressure-cooking function that’s less explosion-prone than its traditional alternative, it’s become the object of home-cook worship. This squat “multi-use programmable pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, steamer, sauté, yogurt maker and warmer” is capable of moving innocent recipients to tears:
Is it possible to just casually admire the Instant Pot? Judging by the Facebook reviews, the answer is a steadfast nope. Of the 39,000-plus reviews of the 7-in-1 DUO Pressure Cooker from Instant Pot ($84.96 for the 6-quart model), 83 percent are five stars, and only a paltry 4 percent are one star.* This may seem unremarkable, until you realize that Beyoncé’s Lemonade has an 82–6 ratio on the same metrics. Yes, the Instant Pot is more revered than Beyoncé.
There are also a staggering amount of Facebook groups where people virtually congregate around all things Instant Pot: “Trim Healthy Mamas” (17,000 members), vegans (9,100 members), and beginners (61,000). There’s an “uncensored” group if your love of your multicooker must be expressed in expletives. In the largest group, Instant Pot® Community, people ask for tips, share videos of children sampling Instant Pot-prepared meals, ask for sewing patterns for Instant Pot covers, and sometimes meditate on the unsettling nature of their attachment to their cookware.
On Tuesday, one woman wrote, “Ok I'm beginning to think this is a cult! My feed has been taken over by Instant Pot. I'm losing touch with family and friends. IP family, I'm losing touch with the ‘real world’.” Among the replies: “Welcome to our Cult! You are now a pothead.” Another user likened her love for her Instant Pot to an affair; her husband, she said, was jealous. In this online Instant Pot bubble, the Instant Pot even gets personified: One user posted that she’d bought her first Instant Pot “her new little sister.”
Yes, there are exceptions, people who aren’t beguiled by the Bluetooth-compatible, soup-simmering wizardry. Even gushing reviewers admit there’s a steep learning curve to using the not-so-intuitive device (fortunately, there are also handy cookbooks, like Instant Pot® Obsession). Blogger Kaitlin Flannery of the Kitchn wasn’t a huge fan, but such is the fervor around the Instant Pot that her review title—“I Tried the Instant Pot and Didn’t Love It. What Am I Missing?”—questions her experience like that of someone who’s been gaslit.
Why are we so obsessed? Is it just rampant gluttony? Late-capitalist idol worship? Our culture’s continued treasuring of domesticity, paired with our surprisingly complementary fixation on technological innovation and efficiency? However it happened, we now prize these multicookers with the kind of hopeless devotion normally reserved for fluffy dogs or One Direction before the departure of Zayn. If you must buy Instant Pots for loved ones this holiday season, remember that you’ll also be signing them up for an entire lifestyle.
*Correction, Nov. 27, 2017: This article originally referred to a 6-ounce Instant Pot model. Its sizes include a a 6-quart model, not a 6-ounce one. (Return.)