Which Is the Best Instant Pot for You?

Confused by the different electric pressure cooker models? We break it down to help you find the best Instant Pot for your kitchen.

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I distinctly remember the rappity-pop-pop, rappity-pop of my grandmother’s old pressure cooker rattling away on the stove in her kitchen. While I associated the sound with her soon-to-be delectable homemade rice pudding, I steered clear until that final hissing of steam trailed off. She’d be tickled to discover today’s craze for pressure-cooking and the safety and convenience of electric pressure cookers.

Although there are several different manufacturers of multi-functional electric pressure cookers, the Instant Pot brand has cornered the market on popularity so far. But the number of models, functions, bells and whistles can be overwhelming. How do you know which model is right for you?  Take a look at some of the basic differences to determine which is the best Instant Pot for you. (Not sure you want an Instant Pot? Here’s why you need one.)

What to Consider Before Buying an Instant Pot

Size

Do you have a large family or are you cooking solo? Size truly does matter when it comes to choosing the best Instant Pot. The most popular size is the 6-quart option, but some models offer 3-quart, 5-quart and even 8-quart options. Smaller sizes are more budget-friendly and take up less space on the counter, but larger sizes are great for cooking a family meal. (If your family is larger than four, an 8-quart model might be the best Instant Pot for you.) We tested out all of our Instant Pot recipes using the 6-quart option and found it to be the perfect medium.

Editor’s Tip: Remember that the volume size is the absolute maximum capacity for your pot. (Read: It’s filled to the brim!) When you’re dealing with piping hot foods you should only fill your Instant Pot 3/4 full. For example, if you’re looking to make a 3-quart recipe like our delish Pressure-Cooker Potato Soup, we recommend using a 6-quart Instant Pot. Though you can always learn how to cut down a recipe, here.

Functionality

As previously stated, the Instant Pot offers much more than a traditional pressure cooker. However, some Instant Pots have more settings than others. Regardless of the model, you’ll be able to pressure cook, saute, slow cook, steam, make rice—the list goes on. Just think of how many gadgets you can replace in your kitchen with a single Instant Pot. That’s a score for all of us who are low on storage space!

You may notice that many models offer a variety of pre-programmed buttons such as “egg” or “porridge.” These are simply suggested cooking times and temperatures for a specific food type. With a little know-how, you can just as easily cook your food using the “manual” and “adjust” buttons. Learn how to get the most our of your Instant Pot, here.

Price

You probably saw this one coming! Various Instant Pot models sell online from anywhere between $60 to $200. Consider your budget when determining which is best for you. If you’re a savvy spender like us, keep on the lookout for in-store and online deals and strike when the price is right.

Editor’s Tip: If you’re buying an Instant Pot second-hand, make sure you’re buying the latest version of that particular model.

Here are a few other smart money-saving ideas to consider.

Instant Pot Models

Note: Please keep in mind that manufacturers continually come out with newer models or later versions of existing models. Let us know if we missed one that you’re interested in!

The Lux Series

instant potvia Amazon.com

Current price: $60-$90

Sizes: 3-,  6- or 8-quart

Features:

  • Pressure Cook
  • Slow Cook
  • Soup/Broth
  • Meat/Stew
  • Egg
  • Saute
  • Rice
  • Porridge
  • Steam
  • Keep Warm
  • Cake (on the 6- and 8-quart models)
  • Multigrain (on the 6- and 8-quart models)

The LUX is one of the most basic Instant Pot models, but that doesn’t mean it’s lacking in functions. It’s a 6-in-1 model with 10-12 built-in programs (depending on the size) as well as manual settings. The LUX also has a cooking delay timer that allows you to postpone cooking for up to 24 hours. Reviewers give it high marks for ease of use (although every Instant Pot will need a thorough review of the instructions). However, it doesn’t make yogurt. LUX series models also do not offer the option of cooking at low pressure for more delicate foods.

Shop for Instant Pot LUX here.

The Duo Series

via Amazon.com

Current price: $80-$140

Sizes: 3-, 6- or 8-quart

Features:

  • Pressure Cook
  • Slow Cook
  • Soup
  • Meat/Stew
  • Bean/Chili
  • Saute/Simmer
  • Rice
  • Porridge
  • Steam
  • Keep Warm
  • Yogurt
  • Manual
  • Multigrain (on the 6- and 8-quart models)
  • Poultry (on the 6- and 8-quart models)

The DUO series Instant Pots are the most popular models on the market today (and our Test Kitchen rates them highest among all pressure cookers). In addition to all the functions of the LUX series models, this gadget can make yogurt and cook at low pressure. Along with oodles of smart programs, the IP allows you to manually set the cooking time for pressure cooking up to 120 minutes. Perfect for recipes like our tasty Pressure-Cooker Char Siu Pork. Plus, cleanup is a breeze due because the lid, inner pot and steam rack are all dishwasher safe.

Shop for Instant Pot DUO here.

The Duo Plus Series

instant potvia Amazon.com

Current price: $100-$160

Sizes: 3-, 6- or 8-quart

Features:

  • Pressure Cook
  • Slow Cook
  • Soup/Broth
  • Meat/Stew
  • Saute
  • Rice
  • Porridge/Oatmeal
  • Steam
  • Yogurt
  • Keep Warm
  • Sterilizer
  • Egg
  • Sous Vide
  • Cake (on the 6- and 8-quart models)
  • Bean/Grain (on the 6- and 8-quart models)

The DUO Plus contains all the features of the DUO with the addition of a sterilization program and some additional bells and whistles. The sterilization program is perfect for sterilizing baby bottles, utensils and jars and pasteurizing milk, making it the best Instant Pot for new moms and those working in infant care.

The display has changed to a large, blue LCD display with a new user interface that allows you to adjust the cooking settings, pressure levels, and turn the Keep Warm function on and off at any time during the cooking process. (Less expensive models require you to cancel the cooking program and reset it.) Four icons allow you to view the status of the cooker—”heat” indicates heating or cooking in progress, “pressure cook” indicates that program is selected, “keep warm” indicates whether it’s on or off and “Sound” indicates if the sound is on or off (you can choose to turn alarms on or off). The programs come with three adjustable settings, “Less,” “Normal” and “More” so you can customize results to your taste.

Shop for Instant Pot DUO Plus here.

The Ultra Series

instant potvia Amazon.com

Current price: $120-$200

Sizes: 3-, 6- or 8-quart

Features:

  • Pressure Cook
  • Slow Cook
  • Soup/Broth
  • Meat/Stew
  • Bean/Chili
  • Egg
  • Saute/Searing
  • Rice
  • Porridge
  • Steam
  • Sterilize
  • Yogurt
  • Warm
  • Ultra
  • Cake (on the 6- and 8-quart models)
  • Multigrain (on the 6- and 8-quart models)

If you live at a high altitude, this may be the best Instant Pot for you. This model has an “altitude adjustment” feature that takes the guesswork out of converting a recipe, providing a more precise cooking time and better results. The additional “Ultra” program allows for complete customized programming for pressure and non-pressure cooking—perfect for detail-oriented cooks who demand total control. The large, blue LCD display has a cooking indicator that shows the progress of your dish from preheating all the way to Keep Warm. A central turn-and-press dial provides easier program selection and adjustments and an upgraded quick release button allows for safer steam release.

Shop for Instant Pot Ultra here.

The Smart Series

instant potvia Amazon.com

Current price: $150

Size: 6-quart

Features:

  • Pressure Cook
  • Slow Cook
  • Soup
  • Meat/Stew
  • Bean/Chili
  • Poultry
  • Saute/Simmer
  • Rice
  • Multigrain
  • Porridge
  • Steam
  • Keep Warm
  • Yogurt
  • Manual

Ideal for techies or cooks who live on their smartphones, the Smart’s revolutionary Wi-Fi connectivity allows you to control and monitor your cooking from your smart device with a free app. This model functions similarly to the DUO with the addition of smart technology. So instead of watching your dish as it cooks in the kitchen, you can get notification updates on your phone, instead. This Instant Pot is also Alexa and Google Assistant enabled.

Shop for Instant Pot Smart here.

If you’re still unsure about ditching an old school pressure cooker, we settled the Instant Pot vs. pressure cooker debate once and for all.

More Handy Instant Pot Tips:

  • Instant Pots pressure cook at about 11psi. The average stovetop pressure cooker operates at 15psi. If you’re making a regular pressure cooker recipe, increase the cook time by 7–15% to accommodate the difference in psi.
  • Always use at least 1/2 to 1 cup of liquid when pressure cooking or the unit won’t fully pressurize—read the instructions!
  • There’s no need to defrost items prior to cooking. Just increase the cooking time slightly. Does this tip apply to frozen meat? Learn if you can cook frozen meat in an Instant Pot.
  • When using the Instant Pot in pressure cooker mode, there’s no need to soak or pre-cook dried beans first.
  • You can’t do pressure-canning in an Instant Pot because it has not been tested or rated for temperature by the USDA, but you can do boiling-water canning of foods such as jams and pickles.
  • Make the most of your new appliance with some Instant Pot accessories.
  • The gaskets, valve parts and seals are generally not covered by the standard 1-year warranty. It’s wise to replace these parts about every one to three years, depending on use. Keeping your Instant Pot clean will help it in good working order.
Ready to give your Instant Pot a try? Start with these recipes.
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Dana Meredith
Dana is an editor and writer who shares her passion for travel, food and the beauty of American landscapes. When she's not wielding her red pen, she can be found tending her flower gardens, remodeling her house, creating one-of-a-kind jewelry or dancing to "Uptown Funk."