Electric pressure cookers have evolved substantially since the first patent was filed on January 9th, 1991. Based on cooking control capabilities, electric pressure cookers are now classified into four “generations”.
1st Generation: Mechanical Timer
The 1st generation of electric pressure cookers laid the groundwork for basic safety mechanisms and operation conventions. Owners of 1st gen models can expect safety features such as the lid locking under pressure, and protection against excess pressure. Moreover, new operational elements such as built-in sensors monitor and automatically regulate pressure & temperature.
With 1st gen models, however, the cook can only exercise control over the cooking time with a mechanical controller—a device akin to a countertop egg-timer. The issue with this style of mechanical control is that it offers only a loose estimate for cooking duration and does not account for pre-heating.
1st generation electric pressure cookers can now be found in pawn shops across North America, however, they are still being manufactured in Asia for cost-conscience consumers.
2nd Generation: The Digital Controller
2nd generation electric pressure cookers build off the capabilities of the 1st generation, improving upon existing safety mechanisms and refining user control with the introduction of the digital controller.
The addition of sensors to detect improper lid placement was this model’s most notable safety development. 2nd gen cookers will not heat until the lid is fully closed, which guards against the risk lid failure under pressure.
Operationally, linking the existing pressure sensor to a digital controller was a game-changer. 2nd gen cookers take pre-heating into consideration, and a cooking countdown timer appears after working pressure has been reached. With this add-on, delay start cooking becomes possible!
A fair number of the electric pressure cookers still sold in North America today are 2nd generation.
3rd Generation: Smart Programming
With advancements in technology and the inauguration of the embedded microprocessor, Instant Pot and other makers of 3rd generation electric pressure cookers began incorporating sophisticated digital controls into their designs. The high accuracy of pressure & temperature sensors, paired with the launch of “Smart” programming, resulted in greatly improved quality and consistency of dishes. Further enhancements in safety also contributed to a more relaxed, enjoyable cooking experience.
The new microprocessors embedded in 3rd gen cookers can be programmed to perform complex cooking tasks based on readings from the temperature and pressure sensors. Smart Programs are built to control heating intensity, temperature, pressure and cooking duration for optimal results, every time. For instance, the Instant Pot’s “Multigrain” Smart Program begins with a warm water soak, set to 60°C (86°F) for 45 minutes, before pressure cooking for 1 hour—the results are tender. Refer to How Smart Cooking Programs Work for details.
The microprocessor also allows for cutting-edge safety mechanisms. To paraphrase Instant Pot/Brands CEO Robert Wang, one common mistake when pressure cooking is leaving the stream release in the “Venting” position. Instant Pot electric pressure cookers employ a feature called “Leaky Lid Protection,” which monitors the pre-heating time and stops heating to protect meals from losing too much liquid.
Read more about Instant Pot Safety Mechanisms.
All Instant Pot electric pressure cookers are 3rd generation or better.
4th Generation: The Connected Cooker
4th generation electric pressure cookers break out from the limitations of the control panel and come alive in your hands. These models may be controlled through an app, such as the Remote Control for Smart Wifi app, which features a grocery list option, vetted recipes and more.
Of course, the most important thing any cooker can do is cook food well, but with over 500 million people living in North America, taste can be hard to account for. While one person may enjoy soft, fluffy rice, another may prefer a firm, sticky variety. Since the flavor and consistency of rice is determined by how it is cooked, one-size-fits-all programming is being outmoded by hyper-customization in the kitchen appliance space.
The concept is simple: to achieve perfect results, cooking programs must be custom-built for each recipe. The Remote Control for Smart Wifi app was enhanced to store hundreds of recipe algorithms, easily accessible, and now executable over WiFi from smart mobile devices.
Instant Brands Inc. introduced the industry’s first 4th generation Bluetooth connected smart cooker at CES in Las Vegas in 2014. The next iteration, the Smart WiFi is now available on the market.