I had been looking at air fryers for a while and finally pulled the trigger when the makers of Instant Pot released their Instant Vortex Plus 7-in-1 Air Fryer Oven, 10-quart in mid-2019.
Two things I immediately noticed when I opened the box is that 1) the unit has a huge footprint and 2) there’s an almost comically little amount of instructions. Let’s start with the latter issue.
The Instant Vortex Plus comes with two ‘manuals’ (for lack of a better term). One covers safety, maintenance, and warranty. In other words, it’s a booklet listing 34 (yes 34!) ‘important safeguards,’ including ‘insightful’ tips such as not putting the entire Instant Vortex Plus “in a heated oven.” Yes, that is correct; your air fryer unit should not be put in a hot oven. (Note, that don’t say anything about cold ovens.) The booklet then offers 1 page on cleaning and 2 pages on warranty, followed by 2 pages for “notes.” In other words, it is pretty much useless.
The other manual is the ‘getting started guide,’ which devotes 6 pages to an initial test run. Those 6 pages can be boiled down to: put in the drip tray, plug it in, touch air fry, touch start, ignore the “add food” message, add the trays, wait for it to stop after 20 minutes.
Given they devoted 6 pages to the test run, you might be tempted to think the manual would then give a detailed rundown for all its features. You would be wrong. The until is sold as being able to air fry, roast, broil, bake, reheat, dehydrate, rotate for rotisserie-style cooking but instructions for cooking are condensed onto two (yes just two) pages and most of what’s there are charts that offer suggested cooking time for a handful of items. The Instant Vortex Plus comes with a basket and some sort of rotisserie spit but the use of those aren’t addressed. I kid you not.
I’m sure a company representative would be quick to point out that the front page of the guide does offer (fine print) instructions for downloading the “full guide” at instantappliances.com for those of mortals that need full instructions. So, after going to the address listed, then clicking around because the address they show is to a generic homepage I find a PDF that I must download.
The PDF does go into more detail but is lacking. For example, this at least notes that the Rotisserie Basket comes with the unit! However, the directions are clearly an afterthought as it offers cautions such as “Do not overfill the rotisserie basket” but offers absolutely zero guidance as to what is a good amount. In other words, since the basket rotates, it would make sense there should be some room for the food to move. Is half full good? Is three-quarters full good? The picture they use shows what appears to be 3 french fries. Is that good?
Okay, okay, okay, I hear you. No one cares about or reads manuals so it doesn’t really matter. However, some people aren’t comfortable in the kitchen and prefer step-by-step directions. If that wasn’t the case, no one would need cookbooks! In this case, however, you have an unfamiliar machine, cooking in a seemingly new way, with essentially zero detailed instruction. Instead, you get ‘instructions’ such as “Use the Smart Programs as a starting point and experiment with cooking times, and temperatures to get the results your [sic] prefer.”
Let’s move onto the unit itself.
As noted above, the 10-quart Instant Vortex Plus has a large footprint. This is worth noting as it means you either need a large spot in your kitchen to keep it out or you should plan on lugging this behemoth back and forth from a storage spot. At a listed weight of more than 16 pounds, lugging this brute around might no deter frequent use.
After getting the Vortex set up, I ran through the initial test run outlined (in needless detail) in the getting started guide. As can happen with new appliances, it gave off an odor. My daughter walked by and said it smelled like the laminator I use. The cycle completed and I let it cool down. Another test run and the smell was still there. After a third run-through, it seemed like it was starting to go away. The key point here is that plan on spending some time running the unit before you plan on cooking, unless you like that ‘freshly laminated’ aroma for dinner.
It is worth noting that the Instant Vortex Plus Air Fryer throws off a lot of heat out of the back. It doesn’t appear to be a safety issue as long as you keep it away from anything combustible, but it will heat up your kitchen. The unit is also fairly loud. It’s not “you need to put on ear protection loud” but a constant buzz/whine, sort of like a dentist’s drill. After running the unit for a while, you will welcome the silence.
In terms of construction, the unit seems to be well built with one exception. The door hinge seems like a questionable design for long-term longevity. The hinge is on the bottom and has some play it in terms of it moving up and down. This allows you to remove the door for cleaning, but it makes closing it tricky. The door needs to be pushed all the way down otherwise it binds. However, there is a natural tendency to pull up on the door as you close it, putting stress on the plastic hinge. I suspect this is going to be a failure point down the road but after 6 months of sporadic use, it is still functioning. I was also concerned about the durability of the rotisserie basket, as it is made of thin wire. We use it nearly every time we use the air fryer, and so far, it has held up to wear and tear with no rust.
Overall, I’m glad I waited to review the Instant Vortex Plus Air Fryer. I was very excited about getting it and then immediately overwhelmed by “what” I should do with it. The issue is that it’s positioned as a “7-in-1 Air Fryer,” but the lack of instruction sets the stage for a quick case of buyer’s remorse. The truth is, it’s a great air fryer with a large capacity (for an air fryer that is), but I have no idea about how some of the other functions are really different. The product says it will air fry, roast, broil, bake, and reheat. As far as I can tell, the only difference between them is some limits on the max temp you can set. For example, air fry allows you to go up to 400 degrees while reheat only allows you to set the max temp to 360 degrees. Since the temps for each function are adjustable, it seems like hitting air fry and bumping the temp down to 360 degrees (which you can do) is the same functionality as hitting rehear. In other words, reheat is a “function” the same way that the popcorn button is a function on a microwave. Once you get past the confusing marketing prattle and focus on using this as an air fryer, it’s a much better experience.
I will follow up with future posts about some tips for using the air fryer and my favorite recipes.