Typically I’m well known for ripping products apart, but not really for endorsing a product due to the amazing level of its accessibility. Since this subject is so important though, I thought this would be a needed exception. It’s called the Bluetooth Enabled Instant Pot.
First, food is one of those things that is so obviously, part of our daily existence that we overlook certain aspects of it regularly. We need it to survive, therefore cooking is an activity that is a critical part of our lives in one way or another. This also presents important challenges for people with disabilities.
For the last twenty years I’ve avoided cooking for these reasons. Due to the severity of my injuries when I was 14, I didn’t just lose my sight, but I also lost my sense of smell, and much of my ability to distinguish tastes. So in regard to cooking, I couldn’t see when food was cooking or where it was located, I couldn’t smell when it began to burn, and I couldn’t reliably taste when it was supposed to be done cooking. Also, cooking can be physically dangerous, and the idea of damaging my hands which I need for sight and to remain employed seemed like another risk that detracted from its appeal.
So, while at the 2017 CSUN Conference in March, a friend was telling my wife and I about this kitchen appliance she really liked since it was a combination crockpot and pressure cooker that could be programmed.
This last part perked my interest a bit, ‘programmed’ sounded pretty cool to me, though the pressure cooker not so much. I’ve been uneasy about having a pressure cooker in our house for years. Years ago, we had one explode in our kitchen with such force that it bent the lid like a fortune cookie and with such violence that it embedded pieces of meat in the wall and ceiling while causing other bits to ricochet around the corners into other rooms. The blast shook the house like a bomb exploded. My wife was standing 2 feet away from it when it went off, but not a drop of it touched her, which I still think is a miracle. Nevertheless, I have never trusted pressure cookers since then.
So, after we got back we did a bit of research and learned some interesting details about this weird gadget. First it has ten built in redundant safety features that make it impossible to explode in the same manner as our last one did, and the other part was that it was Bluetooth enabled so it could be controlled through an iPhone app. That really got my attention. For years, I’ve been saying that general household appliances don’t need to be custom built with text-to-speech features if they include a Bluetooth or Wi-Fi API that can be tapped into using an app on a mobile device like an iPhone, because VoiceOver is already accessible on these devices already. So, we took the plunge and ordered one on Amazon.
The setup for this thing is incredibly easy. First I installed the app on my iPhone, then plugged in the pot. Then I tapped the ‘Pot Unknown’ button then ‘Add’ within the app to pair the devices, which then prompts you to hold down the Adjust button on the cooker for three seconds until the devices finish pairing. This button on the cooker is the second button up from the bottom right of the display panel. The cooker will beep when the paring completes.
When the lid is placed into the grooves of the pot, a series of tones are played to notify you that the lid is placed correctly, then you turn the lid clockwise to lock it into place, at which point another series of tones is played to let you know that it is locked in place correctly. This is very helpful, especially if you are blind.
Then I opened the app and started playing with it. This is the incredible part, everything about the cooker is accessible through the app! Everything from setting it to use the slow cooker or the pressure cooker, whether you choose cooking options for the type of food in the cooker such as steaming, sautéing, and so on, the pressure levels, the timing options, as well as programming schedules for more complex recipes. As it cooks the current temperature is automatically updated, as is the current pressure level within the pot, as well as the timing countdown and other stats associated with the settings. When the cooking completes the cooker makes a series of beeps to let you know that it is finished and just needs to cool off, and the app shows what the temperature and pressure levels are as it does this so you know not to open it too soon, which isn’t possible anyway because the lid locks to prevent accidental opening when the pressure is too high. It will even adjust the cooking processes automatically to account for your current elevation using the GPS on your phone, how cool is that?!
Cooking with this thing feels just like programming to me, which is totally awesome and appeals to the way my brain works. All I need do is set up the pieces and ingredients according to the recipe, put them in as directed, program the settings as indicated in the recipe then tap the Start button to begin the cooking process. Then it’s just a matter of letting the cooker do its own thing until it tells me it’s done.
I started with something simple, steamed potatoes, which sounds stupid but I’ve never done this before. You simply add some seasoning if you wish like a couple of hot peppers or spices for seasoning, put the grate into the pot over this, add water up to where the grate begins, pile in washed and scrubbed potatoes, put on and lock the lid, then open the iPhone app and tap the Steam button, set the duration for 10 minutes for small potatoes or 13 if larger ones, leave the pressure set for High, set mode to Normal, then tap the Start button. That’s it, they turned out perfectly!
I’ve successfully done other things too, and plan to do a lot more experimentation from now on, but I wanted to publish this in case this information is helpful to others. Complex cooking really is now accessible to the blind, which I can personally attest to.
One last important detail for those who are non-sighted, when the lid is closed and the display panel is facing you, you will notice a wiggly spout-like thingy on the lid directly opposite from you. This is the pressure release valve. So, when you want to use the pressure cooker, you will need to push the valve away from you so it is pointing to the left, which will close the valve so that pressure can build up for the cooking process. When using the slow cooker however, you need to turn the valve so that the spout is pointing towards the handle in the center of the lid, which will keep the valve open so pressure cannot build up in the cooker.
Below is a collection of the sites I’ve been using to get recipe ideas for use with the Bluetooth Enabled Instant Pot, though there are lots of others when Googling “Instant Pot Recipes”.
- Recipes | InstantPot.com
- 50+ Recipes That You Can Make in Your Instant Pot | Kitchn
- 50 Instant Pot Freezer Meals | Once A Month Meals
In the future, as I get better at documenting accessible recipes, I’ll publish these on the blog at HackPoets.WordPress.com if anyone is interested.