Remember the early, heady days of the Instant Pot? Remember Amazon Prime Day of 2016—which history will certainly record as Peak Instant Pot if the history of kitchen gizmos is indeed etched into our shared chronicle of civilization—when Amazon sold two hundred and fifteen thousand of them in twenty-four hours, and would have probably sold more, if that number hadn’t represented its available inventory? Remember the Prime Days of 2017 and 2018, which were also dominated by the Instant Pot?
That, as they say, was then. Now we are gathered to mourn the Instant Pot. This is not an obituary per se, because, although the device’s parent company, Instant Brands, recently filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, the Instant Pot is still for sale. Instead, we are bidding farewell to that innocent moment when the Instant Pot seemed like it would finally answer every culinary prayer and make cooking dinner a snap.
The graveyard of kitchen fads is wide and deep, littered with the domestic equivalent of white dwarf stars that blazed with astonishing luminosity for a moment and then deteriorated into space junk. The allure of invention in the category is understandable, since preparing meals is a Sisyphean task and anything that promises to make it faster, or easier, or better, or healthier, or more fun, is irresistible—and often, for a while, anyway, profitable for the manufacturer. Some cooking “tools” are so specific and inessential that they are hardly missed: cue the microwave s’mores maker, the pancake pen, the carrot sharpener, the hot-dog slicer, and the butter cutter. Many of these haven’t vanished completely; they have just transitioned from ubiquitous (or at least a fixture on Christmas-gift lists) to rarities, from being items you feel that you must have and will use to dust catchers that will end up front