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Ashlee spent time as a newspaper reporter, AmeriCorps VISTA and an employee at a healthcare company before she landed at CNET. She loves to eat, write and watch "Golden Girls" (preferably all three at the same time). The first two hobbies help her out as an appliance reviewer. The last one makes her an asset to trivia teams. Ashlee also created the blog, AshleeEats.com, where she writes about casual dining in Louisville, Kentucky.
The brand Instant Pot has become synonymous with electric pressure cookers, the product that made this Canadian company an internet favorite for home cooks and food bloggers. Now, the company has dipped a toe into a new appliance category with the $99 Instant Pot Ace blender.
The Instant Pot Ace is a whizz at making smoothies.
At first glance, the Ace (which you can only get from Walmart) seems like a stretch for a company that made a name for itself with a countertop cooking appliance. But the Ace's most notable feature -- a heating element in the base of the blending pitcher -- makes this product fit in well with the company's pressure cookers. A combination blender/cooker is suited for dishes that you need to heat and blend such as soup, baby food and dairy alternatives. That means that you can forgo using an immersion blender or transferring a dish from the stovetop to the blender to make it smooth. And you don't have to worry about whether the Ace will make your soup piping hot; I recorded temperatures of more than 200 degrees Fahrenheit inside the pitcher.
The Ace is also as good at blending as it is at cooking. The blender pulverized a variety of foods including a block of cheese, almonds and spinach pesto, and did so in a short amount of time thanks to useful presets. The Ace did have trouble with some of our hardest tests, such as turning almond flour into almond butter and crushing ice evenly, something that more expensive models like the Vitamix Ascent 3500 handle with ease. However, those shortfalls don't take away from the high points of the Ace, which made some of the smoothest tomato soup I've ever had.
The Ace meets a lot of needs for $99, and it performs better than other blenders at similar price points. I recommend the Ace if you're in search for a new blender, or if you're just really excited about soup season.
The 60-ounce pitcher holds the important parts of the Ace: the eight stainless steel blades that chop food and the heating element at the bottom of the container. The blades are built into the pitcher, so you can't remove them. The blender also comes with a lid, a tamper to help guide food toward the blades while you blend, a cleaning brush, a straining bag and a measuring cup.
The control panel of the Instant Pot Ace is similar to that of Instant Pot's electric pressure cookers.
The Ace's base will look familiar to anyone who already owns an Instant Pot pressure cooker. There are buttons for cold blending programs (smoothie, crushed ice, ice cream and nut/oat milk) and hot blending programs (purée, soy milk, rice milk and soup). You can manually choose to blend your food on low, medium or high, and there's a pulse/clean button to activate short bursts of blending over 48 seconds.
We've seen blenders that forgo a slew of presets in favor of a more simple design, such as the Salton Harley Pasternak Power Blender , the Braun PureMix and the KitchenAid Pro Line Series . But I prefer the Ace's everything-but-the-kitchen sink approach because it really makes blending a specific dish as easy as pressing a button. The majority of the presets completed the tasks they were supposed to without needing to add more blending time.
To cook in the Ace, you put all of your ingredients into the pitcher and select from one of the four hot blending programs. The blender will then begin to heat, and a display of the temperature appears on the base of the Ace. The blender's blades pulse intermittently throughout the cooking cycle, which varies in length of time based on what program you use.
The cooking programs made it easy to whip together soup without much prep. For example, I dumped a can of whole tomatoes, big hunks of onion and the rest of the ingredients into the Ace and pressed the soup button to make this tomato soup recipe. After 22 minutes and 44 seconds of heating and blending, the dish was smooth and creamy without a rogue onion chunk or tomato seed in sight. The pitcher does get warm when you cook with the Ace, but you can safely use the handle.
The presets also make easy work of dairy alternatives if you want to bypass the cartons of nut or soy milk in the store. The rice milk setting cooks the rice before it blends it with water; the rest of the milk settings don't use the heating element. The Ace includes some basic instructions for making these drinks. Though the taste of these milk alternatives left something to be desired, I appreciated the option on the blender, and there's definitely plenty of room to experiment with flavors.
The heating element at the bottom of the pitcher's base cooks food while it blends.
To test blenders, we make the following items: smoothies, pesto, almond flour, almond butter, whipped cream and pancake batter. We also test how well a blender can crush ice and grate a block of cheddar cheese.
The Ace plowed through the majority of these tests during which I used the blender's pulse/clean button. It blended the pesto, pancake batter and almond flour after just one pulse cycle that includes four spurts of blending. Though it became overheated and stopped automatically when I attempted the hardest test of grating the cheese, the Ace shredded the cheddar before it stopped. The default smoothie setting made easy work of combining frozen strawberries and orange juice; the end result was the consistency of juice, and only the strawberries' seeds remained.
The Ace stumbled during a few tests. It could never quite blend almond flour well enough to create almond butter, a feat that we've seen on high-end blenders like the Vitamix 7500 or the KitchenAid Pro Line . When it came to crushing ice, there were still some large chunks of ice that remained even when I used the crush ice setting. And the whipped cream was just combined, but not fluffy, after one pulse cycle, but it began to separate during the third cycle. Another shortcoming: the lack of some manual settings for heated blending so you wouldn't have to just rely on the presets, which is the only way you can access the heating feature.
The pitcher of the Ace is easy to clean thanks to the pulse/clean button. You fill the pitcher with 1,000 mL of water (there are measurement marks on the pitcher), add a couple of drops of dish soap and press the button. Then, you can rinse the soapy water away. The pulse/clean button takes care of the majority of residue from blending, but you will need to remove the lid to clean it. There is a catch, though: The glass pitcher isn't dishwasher safe because of the heating element at the bottom.
The Ace is a surprising but great addition to Instant Pot's electric cookers. The blender is more than capable of handling basic blended dishes, and makes soup a cinch thanks to a heating element. The preset blending cycles also make it easy to experiment with beverages like almond or rice milk. And at $99, the Ace is a great bargain if you're looking for a good blender.