When I think of a blender, I think of smoothies, protein drinks, milkshakes, crushed ice, and maybe salsa. I certainly don’t think of cooking. But, Instant Pot is changing my perception of blending appliances.
It recently came out with a blender that can cook: The Instant Pot Ace Blender. Available exclusively at Walmart, the $99 Ace is unique because it has hot settings and cold settings, so you can literally cook food in it. I tested out the Ace Blender, and here’s what I thought of it.
Yes, the blender really can cook
The Ace has 700 watts of blending power, and it has 600 watts of heating power. The heating element is concealed in the blender’s base, and the hot programs are designed to combine boiling and blending, so you can make a meal in a blender. The Ace has four hot blending programs: Puree, soy milk, rice milk, and soup. Three of the hot programs — puree, soup, and rice milk — have a two separate settings, a higher and lower setting, to prepare different types of foods. For instance, the low soup setting is ideal for chunky soups, and the high soup setting works better for creamy soups.
You can put cream, veggies, broth, and other ingredients in the blender, and it’ll cook into a soup. For the milk settings like the rice milk setting, you use the lower setting for ingredients that take less time to cook (think white rice), and you use the higher setting for things that take longer to cook (think brown rice). The blender then cooks the rice and blends it with the water and other ingredients into a milk.
When you use a hot setting, the blender displays the temperature on the screen in real-time, and you can choose to have it in degrees Celsius or degrees Fahrenheit. It pulses and periodically blends during cooking. Some cooking programs, like the purée setting, are very quick, while others (like brown rice milk, soy milk, and soup) take upwards of 20 minutes.
The actual process of cooking in the blender is extremely easy. I just chucked the ingredients in the blender and let it do the work, while I move onto preparing other foods in the kitchen.
Soups, smoothies, ice cream, dips, and more
I prepared several recipes in the Ace blender, from healthy recipe creations to fat-filled delicious junk foods. The Ace made well-blended smoothies, shakes, and ice cream creations. I didn’t have to go around the sides of the device with a spoon and then re-blend, nor did I end up with any chunks in the finished product. All of the cold settings worked exceptionally well.
Using the ice cream setting, I made a tangerine, pineapple, and mango sorbet. I even hid a serving of carrots in the sorbet, and my kids had no idea they were eating ice cream with carrots in it. I did the same with smoothies. I made a berry smoothie with kale in it, and I laughed like Doctor Evil in my head (mu-ha-ha) as the children drank their vegetables and raved about how much they enjoyed it.
For taco and nacho night, I made cheese dip in the blender. Not to toot my own horn (beep), but the dip I made was even better than any dip I’ve had at a Mexican restaurant. It pains me to give away my super easy, lazy-person cheese dip recipe, but here goes: a pound and a half of deli white American cheese broken into one inch cubes, a cup and a half of organic skim milk, a four-ounce can of roasted green chilis, a half-teaspoon of cumin, and a half teaspoon of chili powder. I chucked the ingredients in the blender, pressed the soup button twice to activate the high soup setting, and I had perfect cheese dip in about 23 minutes.
The cream of broccoli soup took two attempts. On my first attempt, I tried using frozen broccoli, and it didn’t come out very good. Some of the larger broccoli pieces were undercooked. On my second attempt, I thawed the broccoli first. I pressed the soup button once, and viola! I had awesome soup. Here is the recipe I used.
I made gravy in the blender too. I used a thin slurry of cornstarch and chicken brot, and added drippings from a cooked chicken. I pressed the soup button once and the gravy came out pretty good. It wasn’t as good as my cheese dip though.
Sleek and durable
One thing I have to give credit to the Ace blender for is its exceptionally high quality. The 60-ounce pitcher is made of thick glass instead of cheap plastic. The blades are stainless steel. The lid is made of plastic, and it has ridges, so it securely seals onto the blender. You know how some glass containers will crack if you put hot water in them after they’ve held something frozen? This blender doesn’t do that. Now, I’m not suggesting you try this yourself, but I filled the Ace with hot water immediately after making smoothies in it, and it held up perfectly fine.
The base looks sleek and high-tech, and it looks nothing like those old school blender bases with those giant rectangular buttons. The Ace’s display actually reminds me a lot of the Instant Pot pressure cooker’s display. It has eight programs: Smoothie, puree, crushed ice, ice cream, soy milk, rice milk, nut/oat milk, and soup. It also has six additional buttons: low, medium, and high button for manual blending, cancel and pause buttons to start and stop the machine, and a pulse/clean button for automatic cleaning.
The Ace comes with a machine-washable strainer bag, which is helpful for removing seeds, lumps, or chunks that you don’t want in the final product (although the Ace blender rarely leaves anything un-blended). You also get a measuring cup, a cleaning brush (that I thought was a toothbrush at first), and a food tamper to help break down and smash foods.
Clean it or throw it against the wall?
I know I’ve been talking about this awesome cooking blender that can hide veggies in ice cream and then turn around and make soup and cheese dip. Yes, it’s amazing, and I was super pumped about it…until I went to clean it. Things got dark real quick.
A half-centimeter layer of cheese dip burned on the inside bottom portion of the pitcher. I tried a clean cycle, and still, the burned cheese dip remained. I tried using the cleaning toothbrush that comes with the device…nope, didn’t work.
The inside bottom portion of the pitcher is metal, and it houses the stainless steel blades. You can fill the pitcher with water, but you cannot submerge the entire device in water because it has electrical connector prongs that draw power from the base.
I couldn’t scrub the bottom of the pitcher with a sponge because the blades were in the way, and I didn’t want to look like I got in a fight with Edward Scissorhands. Finally, after soaking the pitcher on and off for hours, scrubbing it with the toothbrush, and running about a dozen clean cycles, I finally added about a quarter-cup of liquid dishwasher detergent (not dish soap, actual dishwasher detergent). I let the detergent sit in the pitcher overnight. The cheese dip released from the bottom of the pitcher the next morning.
The next time, when I used the Ace for broccoli and cheese soup, I tried spraying a light layer of cooking spray to create a non-stock surface on the bottom of the pitcher. Guess what? It didn’t work. I still had a thick layer of scorched soup on the bottom, but at least I knew what to do this time.
When cooking cold items, however, like smoothies, ice cream, or protein shakes, cleaning is a breeze. I just put a drop of soap in the pitcher with a few cups of water, run a quick clean cycle, rinse out the pitcher, and it’s all clean. I don’t even have to pre-rinse the pitcher, and the clean cycle even gets the lid clean. Why is it so incredible easy to clean this thing sometimes, and so brutal other times? It’s that soup setting.
The difference in the cleaning process after using the soup setting and the cold settings is like night and day. Even the other hot settings, like the puree settings and milk settings, don’t give me too much trouble. It’s really just soup.
I have mixed feelings about the Instant Pot Ace Blender. I love so many things about it. I can’t rave enough about the blender’s cold settings, especially the ice cream setting. I can make sorbet, sherbet, or soft-serve style ice cream using just the blender. I don’t need rock salt or an ice cream machine.
The dips, soups, milks, and gravies are pretty freakin’ tasty too. The Ace’s ability to blend and cook foods with good taste and texture is top notch.
But the scorched foods on the bottom of the pitcher are a real bummer. Although the layer of burned soup on the bottom doesn’t affect the taste, it affects the overall experience of using the Ace.
The first time I experienced scrubbing cheese dip from the bottom of the Ace, I thought to myself “I hate this thing.” But then, when taco and nacho night came around again, I ran right to the Ace Blender to make cheese dip. What does that mean? I suppose it means the Ace’s ability to easily make great food outweighs my frustration with the cleaning process. Or, maybe I just love cheese dip.
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