If you are anything like me, then you shop online a lot. The problem though is there is really no way to know what you are buying until you get it home and try it out. When it comes to Instant Pots, that could involve a whole lot of buying and returning until you find the one that fits with your family and needs.
That is why I decided to put together this buying guide. In this guide, you will find some of my favorite Instant Pots, including their sizes, special features, and quirks. I hope that you find this guide helpful in deciding which Instant Pot is right for you and your family.
- What is an Instant Pot?
- Instant Pot vs. Pressure Cooker
- Instant Pot vs. Slow Cooker
- Instant Pot vs. Rice cooker
- Instant Pot Functions
- Instant Pot Sizes
- The Best Instant Pots
- Instant Pot Comparison Table
- Q & A
What is an Instant Pot?
If you are new to the world of Instant Pots, you may not even understand what they really are. The simple explanation of an Instant Pot is an electric version of a pressure cooker. However, that really does not do an Instant Pot justice. Instant Pots can do so much more.
Some Instant Pots can be used to sauté, bake, cook rice, and many other things. And with a bit of imagination, and some great Instant Pot recipes, an Instant Pot can replace many appliances in your kitchen.
Instant Pot vs. Pressure Cooker
Ok, since most people think of an Instant Pot as a newer version of the pressure cooker their mother or grandmother used to use, I thought it may be a good idea to compare some of the biggest differences.
- Both use pressurized steam and heat to cook dishes thoroughly.
- Both offer the ability to manually release the pressure.
- An Instant Pot offers the ability to set a timer and walk away from it. On the other hand, a pressure cooker often requires regular monitoring and possibly adjusting the heat to properly cook your food.
- Another difference is the natural pressure release. An Instant Pot is designed to hold onto pressure so using natural pressure release will take a long time.
- A stovetop pressure cooker begins to naturally release pressure as soon as it is removed from the heat source. In recipes that call for you to let the pressure release naturally, an Instant Pot will require a significantly longer up to 4 or 5 times longer for the pressure to drop naturally.
- While there are many Instant Pots that offer the ability to sear, the process is easier in a stovetop pressure cooker. This is due to the smaller, curved design of an Instant Pot. A stovetop pressure cooker is essentially a large pot when the pressure lid is not in use, this allows for easy searing and browning of meats. You can then add any stock and convert to pressurized cooking.
Instant Pot vs. Slow Cooker
Another common comparison is an Instant Pot and a slow cooker. Both offer a bit of convenience to cooking, the ability to set it and forget it. Since slow cookers have been around for generations, it is sometimes hard for traditional cooks to embrace the Instant Pot and what it can offer
- Automatic cooking
- Delayed start on most models
- Automatic temperature regulation
- Warming settings
- An Instant Pot uses pressurized steam that is sealed into the cooker; a slow cooker uses heat conducted through the bottom and sides of the cooker.
- Time, an Instant Pot cooks most dishes in a fraction of the time it would take in a slow cooker.
- Using a slow cooker for stocks and stews will allow the liquid to thicken and reduce much more than an Instant Pot allows.
- You cannot open an Instant Pot to check on your food, add spices, or whatever without interrupting the pressure. A slow cooker, on the other hand, allows you to easily add, stir, and monitor dishes. Lifting the lid on a slow cooker has almost zero effect on the cooking time, as the heat is coming from the surrounding cooker, not pressure.
- Slow cookers also usually feature a see-through lid for easy monitoring, while an Instant Pot’s sealed lid offers no ability to see the food until you are done cooking.
Instant Pot vs. Rice cooker
People that love to cook their own rice often swear by a quality rice cooker. And both an Instant Pot and rice cooker do a fantastic job of cooking rice. They have some similarities and differences though, and they include:
- Automatically cooks rice
- Cooks using steam
- Can be used to cook other foods
- Take up a small amount of counter space
- An Instant Pot uses pressurized steam that is sealed into the cooker while steam can escape a rice cooker
- The pressurized cooking in an Instant Pot can cook rice more quickly than a rice cooker
- Instant Pot can cook all types of foods, including larger quantities of vegetables and meats, while a rice cooker can only cook rice and a few other simple sides.
- Instant Pots are generally larger and heavier than rice cookers, and usually, require dedicated counter space even when not in use. A rice cooker can be more easily packed away.
Instant Pot Functions
Instant Pots are available with all kinds of features, some I would consider a must and others are just some extra perks. Some of the functions may be new to you, so I thought I would share what the common functions are to help you decide what you may want to make sure are available on the Instant Pot of your choice.
Please note: Most of these functions are just shortcuts that set the pressure cooking time to make your life easier. So for example, if your model doesn’t have the “Egg Cooker” function, you can still make hard-boiled eggs by setting the cooking time manually.
This is the heart and soul of an instant pressure cooker. Many instant cookers come with the option of using the automated pressure settings built into the machine or a manual option. For recipes that call for cooking at lower pressure, this is a vital feature found on most instant pressure cookers. Available on all models.
When you want to brown meat or sauté veggies, this is the function that you will want to use. This essentially turns your Instant Pot into a quick and easy sauté pan without having to turn on your stove and heat up your kitchen. Another way to use this function is to thicken the liquid at the end of cooking. Available on all models.
Warming is a feature available on most Instant Pots and is a way for the food to stay warm for an extended period of time. This is separate from natural release; this keeps the pot itself warm. This is a great feature for busy families that eat at separate times. Available on all models.
This feature drastically lowers the amount of pressure used during the cooking process compared to regular Instant Pot cooking. This is a great feature for steaming more delicate vegetable and beans that may become too mushy if cooked using high pressure. Available on all models EXCEPT the Instant Pot Max.
Slow cooking in an Instant Pot requires a little adjustment if you are using a recipe designed for a traditional slow cooker. The settings may vary slightly between models and manufacturers, but in general, the low setting on an Instant Pot is similar to the warming function on a slow cooker.
Medium on an Instant Pot will be similar to low on the slow cooker, and high will be close to medium/high on a slow cooker. Unfortunately, there is no function that is exactly like the high setting on a slow cooker, so you may have to do some recipe adjustment in such cases. Available on all models.
As described above, the rice cooker function turns your Instant Pot into a rice cooker. You can adjust the length of cooking time depending on the type of rice and how ‘done’ you want it to be. As an added bonus, an Instant Pot will keep the rice warm for a very long time, great for buffet or potluck style dinners. Available on all models.
Yep you read that right, many instant pressure cookers offer the option to sterilize. That means that you can be sure to eliminate any nasty germs and bacteria from baby bottles, some can even reach the level of sterilization of an autoclave… the appliances used in hospitals, nail salons and other places to surgically sterilize tools and supplies.
Only available on Instant Pot 6 and 8-quart models Duo Plus, Viva, and Ultra.
A quick one-button way to cook eggs, or anything that requires just 5 minutes of pressurized cooking.
Not available on Instant Pot 6-quart models Lux 60 V2, Duo, Nova Plus, and Max or the Instant Pot Duo 80
This function brings the pressure up to high and cooks for between 25 and 40 minutes, perfect for most Instant Pot cake recipes, or other recipes that require these times.
Not available on all Instant Pot Mini models, Instant Pot 6-quart models Duo, Nova Plus, and Max; or on the Instant Pot Duo 80
Some Instant Pots feature a one-touch control to make your own yogurt. If you plan on using your Instant Pot to make yogurt this feature will come in very handy.
Available on all models EXCEPT Instant Pot Lux .
If you don’t know what sous vide cooking is, then you are really cheating your taste buds. Sous Vide is a way of cooking that involves cooking in a vacuum sealed bag completely immersed in water. Think ‘boil in a bag’ but more exact.
The water temperature used for sous vide cooking is below boiling and kept at a more constant temperature throughout the cooking process. Sous Vide is only available on the Instant Pot Max. However, you can use Ultra and Smart models for a pseudo-Sous Vide cooking.
Instant Pot Sizes
Instant Pots are available in the three sizes. Each size available in a specific model usually has all of those model’s features. To find the right size for you, consider how you will most likely be using your Instant Pot. For example, a larger size is great for larger families or cooking the main entrée, but many users also have a smaller Instant Pot that they use to cook sides or make smaller recipes, such as yogurt, etc.
Mini 3 Quart
Smallest Instant Pot size, perfect for cooking meals for 1 or 2 people, or side dishes like vegetables, rice, or even deserts for larger families. Only uses 700 watts of power, making it a great addition to traveling in RVs, cabins, or even camping (where power is available).
This is the most commonly used size of Instant Pot. The 6 quart capacity is perfect for most families with 3 to 6 people, or meal prep for smaller families or individuals. This size makes cooking multiple dishes at the same time possible; many models include a rack just for this purpose. Cook your dinner and dessert in one appliance!
For larger families, parties, buffets, and potlucks the 8 quarts offer most or all of the same functions as the smaller models in a larger capacity. This is a great option for family meal prep or making enough for dinner and having leftovers for lunches or to freeze.
I would not suggest this size for an individual or couple unless meal prep or canning is what you are using it for. Using a larger Instant Pot on smaller servings can drastically change cooking times.
The Best Instant Pots
1. Instant Pot DUO – Best Overall & Most Popular
I’ve chosen the Instant Pot 60 7-in-1 as my pick for the best Instant Pot for its basic features, easy operation, size, and price. Not only can you do all of the common things like slow cook, steam rice, or sauté, but this is the least expensive option for making yogurt. A great option for home cooks that want to step up their cooking and learn some great tips and tricks.
The Instant Pot Duo features 14 built-in programs, including both manual and pressure cooking, steaming, soup/broth, rice, etc. This Instant Pot also features settings for sautéing, slow cooking, warming, and up to 24 hours of delayed start.
- 7-in-1 works as a pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, steam, sauté/searing, yogurt maker & warmer
- Easy to read LED Display, with large buttons
- Delay start for up to 24 hours
- More adjustable settings than lesser models
- Only operates on high pressure
- Larger sizes are very heavy and most likely require dedicated counter space
Available Sizes & Specs
- Mini 3 quart: 11.4 x 10.0 x 11.2 inches; 8.60 lbs.
- 6 quart: 13.4 x 12.2 x 12.5 inches; 11.80 lbs.
- 8 quart: 14.8 x 13.2 x 14.0 inches; 15.79 lbs.
2. Instant Pot LUX– Best for beginners
This is the best Instant Pot for beginners and families that plan to only use theirs occasionally. This model has all of the most popular basic functions of the large, and pricier, models including manual pressure cooking, rice, and can even make both dinner and a dessert at the same time.
The Instant Pot Lux 60 V3 features 12 built-in programs, including easy settings for manual or pressure cooking, one-touch rice cooking, cakes, eggs, and much more. This versatile Instant Pot is a great way for beginners to get their feet wet, with added features that included sautéing, slow cooking, and warming for up to 24 hours.
- 6-in-1 works as a pressure cooker, sauté, steamer, slow cooker, rice cooker, and warmer.
- Offers 1000 watts of cooking power
- Delayed start up to 24 hours
- Sauté and slow cooking at 3 different temperatures
- Does not include settings for sterilizing, poultry, bean/chili, or yogurt
- Not lid holder
Available Sizes & Specs
- 3 quart: 11.5 x 10.2 x 11.0 inches; 8.80 lbs.
- 6 quart: 13.2 x 12.2 x 12.5 inches; 11.53 lbs.
- 8 quart: 14.5 x 13.2 x 13.5 inches; 15.39 lbs.
3. Instant Pot DUO Plus – Best For Families
This is the best Instant Pot for big families thanks to its capacity, flexibility, and easy operation. It has a sterilize function for cleaning baby bottles or toys. As an added bonus, the popularity of this model means nearly an unlimited supply of recipes tested in the same machine both online and in several cookbooks.
The Instant Pot Duo Plus 9-in-1 features 16 built-in programs, including both manual and pressure cooking, steaming, soup/broth, rice, yogurt, and many more. This Instant Pot also features settings for sautéing, slow cooking, warming, and up to 24 hours of delayed start.
- 9-in-1 cooker works as a pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, steamer, sauté, yogurt maker, sterilizer and warmer
- Plus, newest preprogrammed settings; cakes, eggs, sterilize
- Easily adjustable cooking times with + and – operation
- Large LCD digital display
- Delay Start
- Lid rest
- No poultry setting
- Sautéing and browning are more difficult than standard stovetop methods
Available Sizes & Specs
- 3 quart: 11.5 x 10.2 x 11.0 inches; 8.80 lbs.
- 6 quart: 13.4 x 12.2 x 12.5 inches; 11.84 lbs.
- 8 quart: 8 x 13.5 x 14.5 inches; 15.57 lbs.
The Instant Pot Ultra 10-in-1 features 16 built-in programs, including rice, cake, sterilization, eggs, and many more. This Instant Pot also features fully customizable temperature options for sautéing and slow cooking. And you can also make yogurt, keep your food warm, and of course a delayed start.
- 10-in-1 replaces many kitchen appliances pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice/porridge cooker, cake maker, yogurt maker, sauté/searing, steamer, warmer, sterilizer, and the Ultra program**
- Quick release button
- Altitude adjustment
- More customizable than lesser models
Ultra program allows you additional customization including setting your own programming for both pressurized and non-pressurized cooking and adjustments for altitude.
- Using back to back may cause the fuse to overheat, thermal fuses… allow the unit to completely cool between uses to avoid this issue
Available Sizes & Specs
- 3 quart: 11.5 x 10.2 x 11.0 inches; 8.97 lbs.
- 6 quart: 13.0 x 12.5 x 12.5 inches; 11.84 lbs.
- 8 quart: 14.8 x 14.0 x 14.2 inches; 15.70 lbs.
5. Instant Pot Smart Wi-Fi – Best For Tech-savvy
Smart technology and the convenience of cooking with an Instant Pot collide in the first ever Wi-Fi connected Instant Pot. This amazing appliance features many of the favorite pre-programmed setting available on other models including pressure cooking, slow cooking, cakes, steaming, rice, yogurt, and many more.
This Instant Pot also links seamlessly to your iOS or Android device for access to over 1000+ recipes that are pre-programmed and can be sent directly from your smartphone. You can even monitor progress through the Instant Pot app or allow other family members Wi-Fi access. Want to know exactly when your meal is done? No problem, the app will also send alerts directly to any mobile device!
This Instant Pot will replace a pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, yogurt machine, and can sauté/sear, steam, and keep your food warm. 13 included preprogrammed buttons for the most popular methods are included.
- First ever Wi-Fi enabled Instant Pot – Alexa Enabled!!
- Access to over 1000+ recipes and programs with the Instant Pot app (new recipes added all the time)
- Pseudo Sous Vide with the app (not an included button)
- Delay Start up to 24 hours built-in, or even more flexible using the app
- Multiple slow cooking and warming temperatures
- Wi-Fi use requires stable 2.4GHz connection throughout the cooking process, disruptions in the signal may interrupt cooking
- No digital temperature readout
Available Sizes & Specs
- 6 quart: 13.2 x 12.2 x 12.5 inches; 11.5 pounds
6. Instant Pot Max – Most Versatile
The Instant Pot Max features the latest touchpad technology with the new LCD display featuring soft touch ‘buttons’ and real-time temperature and cooking information. This model cooks at a higher pressure, up to 15psi than all other models of Instant Pots. Some of the other features this model has over others are the touch button venting option and adjustment for altitude.
This Instant Pot gives the widest range of cooking options thanks to the inclusion of Nutriboost™ technology that allows you to keep more of the vital nutrients in your food. Other improvements include enhanced slow cooking, improved wireless control between touchscreen and electrical components, and new safety features.
This is the only model that have an official Sous Vide Program.
- Reaches 15psi, previously only possible with traditional stovetop pressure cookers
- Slow cooking improvements more closely resembles traditional slow cooker processes
- Touch screen with real-time temperature and cooking monitoring
- Can be used for canning
- Sous Vide Function
- Takes longer to reach full pressure
- Included recipe booklet includes no recipes for this model
- Some of the functions from other models not included (Meat/Stew, Multigrain, Cake, Steam)
Available Sizes & Specs
- 6 quart: 12.2 x 12.6 x 13 inches; 15.7 pounds
Instant Pot Comparison Table
Q & A
Which Instant Pot Model Is The Best?
The most versatile Instant Pot is definitely the Smart Wi-Fi model. However, I think there are still a few bugs they need to work out with this model. In my opinion, and from sales figures, the best Instant Pot is the Instant Pot DUO60. It offers the most commonly used features at a very affordable price. This is also the most common Instant Pot to be put on sale if you are a bargain shopper!
And most importantly, this is the Instant Pot I have :]
Which Instant Pot Size Is The Best?
The size of Instant Pot you need is going to depend on how you plan to use it and the size of your family. In general, the Mini 3 quart Instant Pots would work well for small families of 1 or 2 people, the 6 quart is a great option for most families up to 6 people (or smaller families that want to meal prep), and for larger families of over 6 people the 8 quart Instant Pots would be the best bet.
The 6 quart Instant Pots are the most popular size of Instant Pots purchased.
Is Instant Pot Good For Beginners?
An Instant Pot may seem confusing or overwhelming at first, but with a little bit of practice, anyone can cook amazing meals in an Instant Pot. Here are a few suggestions for easy recipes for beginners:
Is Instant Pot Safe?
We’ve all heard the horror stories of pressure cookers exploding, and the truth is if you do not use a pressure cooker properly, traditional stove top or electric, they can cause injury. After all, you are dealing with up to 15psi of very hot steam.
However, Instant Pots are manufactured with 10 or more safety mechanisms, depending on the model. Instant Pots are all UL/ULC certified safe for residential use. In many cases you can even leave your Instant Pot unattended.
Just make sure you are reading the User Manual and doing the initial test run before the first use.
For more info, check out this post: Is Instant Pot safe?
Is Instant Pot Healthy?
Depending on what ingredients you add to your Instant Pot it can have added health benefits. For example, vegetables cooked properly in an Instant Pot retain up to twice as many of their nutritional value as opposed to conventional boiling.
This is because items cooked in an Instant Pot are actually cooked at a lower temperature than conventional cooking, the pressurized steam speeds up the cooking time, not higher temperatures.
Is Instant Pot Worth It?
I am obviously biased, but I do believe for most families an Instant Pot is absolutely worth buying. They really do offer many more options than many other types of kitchen appliances, and these days kitchen space, whether on your counter or in your cupboards, is valuable real estate. Having one appliance that can potentially take the place of up to 9 or 10 other gadgets equals huge savings in my book.
However, I will admit that getting an Instant Pot just because it is trendy is probably not the best idea unless you are going to use it. I use my Instant Pot on a regular basis and really do not know how I would do without it now.
I wrote a full post about this subject – https://www.corriecooks.com/instant-pot-worth/, so if you’d like you can check it for more info.
Is It Easy To Clean?
Cleaning your Instant Pot is super easy, the stainless steel cooking pot can either be washed quickly by hand or placed in a dishwasher. Personally, I wash mine by hand after each use. Their accessories, such as steaming rack, can also easily be cleaned the same way.
What Are The Disadvantages Cons?
Unfortunately, nothing comes with absolutely no disadvantages, and that includes the Instant Pot. And I want to be completely transparent, so here are a few disadvantages or cons to owning/using an Instant Pot.
Footprint – Counter space
An Instant Pot, even a Mini, is not a tiny appliance, takes up about a square foot of counter space and weighs almost 9 pounds. Larger model Instant Pot can weigh almost 16 pounds and take up over 1.5 square feet of space. You also want to make sure that you can move your Instant Pot out from under any upper cabinets when venting to avoid damage to your cabinets from the hot steam.
Even seasoned cooks have to learn new ways of cooking when switching their favorite recipes to an Instant Pot. While an Instant Pot can be used in place of appliances such as a slow cooker, rice cooker, or even a stove top pressure cooker; how the Instant Pot cooks are drastically different.
It will take some time and trial and error before perfecting your cooking in an Instant Pot, especially when adjusting your own recipes. This can be less difficult when using recipes that have been thoroughly tested using an Instant Pot.
Fast Cooking May be Misleading
One of the most deceiving things floating around about Instant Pots is the various statements about fast cooking times. While it is definitely true that many things can be cooked quicker in an Instant Pot than other cooking methods, the times advertised for cooking are often only the time that the Instant Pot is cooking once it has reached pressure.
These misleading times often neglect to include the time necessary for the Instant Pot to reach pressure or the time for natural pressure release (if applicable).
There is No Way for Moisture to Escape During Cooking
Many foods release moisture during cooking, and when you cook using an Instant Pot there is no way for that moisture to escape. Recipes that are not designed specifically for using an Instant Pot may also require some adjustment to the liquid ingredients to adjust for the moisture retention as well.
Trapped moisture also means that a traditional crust will not develop when cooking many items unless you have added other steps such as searing before or after using the Instant Pot to cook the food through.
Does Instant Pot Really Cook Faster?
An Instant Pot uses pressurized heated steam to cook the food. In many cases, this will cook most foods faster and more thoroughly than other cooking methods. A great example can be found when cooking meat that you want to be extra tender.
In order to achieve desired tenderness, you would have to slow cook many types of meat all day (or night) either in an oven or slow cooker to get really tender meat. An Instant Pot can achieve the same result in a fraction of the time.
Where Can I Find Instant Pot Recipes?
When it comes to finding great recipes for your Instant Pot, there are a ton of options, honestly almost too many! Many Instant Pots will come with a few simple recipes in the operations booklet to get you started.
You can also find many great recipes in my 1001 Instant Pot recipes project. I add new recipes all the time, so be sure to bookmark the page to find it easily.
Instant Pot also offers several recipes specifically for use in their cookers, although many have found that there is often some important information missing, like cooking times, yikes!
Many popular recipe sites also offer recipes that can be searched specifically for Instant Pot or Electric pressure cookers. Though be careful to check and make sure the recipe has actually been tested in an Instant Pot to avoid any unnecessary disasters.
Well, I think that is all I can think of to help you decide which Instant Pot may be just right for you. I hope you have found this guide helpful and look forward to hearing what amazingly delicious meals you are able to create with your new Instant Pot.
It tooks me 2 weeks to write it and I think it covers all the necessary information. But if you have any question – feel free the comment below and I will try to help.