Best Instant Pots: Which Instant Pot to Buy
See my guide on how to use an Instant Pot.
Are you wondering which Instant Pot to buy? There are so many options, from different sizes to different models, that it can be overwhelming. In this Instant Pot comparison I simplify the options to help you decide on the best Instant Pot for you and your family.
As a mom of five with real-life experience using different sizes and models of Instant Pots, I can help you decide what size and features you really need. So which is the best Instant Pot? It’s the one that meets your cooking needs and has the functions that you need, without extras that you don’t. Extra features sound nice, and they are if you actually use them. But if you’ll just be using the basics there’s no need to pay more for a more complicated Instant Pot model.
I have purchased two Instant Pots for myself and one for my mom. I’ve also helped my mother-in-law decide which Instant Pot to buy. I’ve helped friends with different Instant Pot models learn how to use an Instant Pot.
I’ve done lots of research and I’ve had lots of experience cooking with different Instant Pots. I’m ready to share what I’ve learned to help you decide which Instant Pot to buy. You’re going to love your new Instant Pot! Also see my favorite picks for the best Instant Pot accessories.
What is an Instant Pot?
The simplest answer is that an Instant Pot is an electric pressure cooker. The long answer is that an Instant Pot is a multi-use appliance that can pressure cook, slow cook, sauté, steam, cook rice, keep foods warm and more. You can make true one pot meals in an Instant Pot. When you use an Instant Pot pressure cooker, you can cook foods faster than you could using other cooking methods.
Why you need an Instant Pot
Do you really need an Instant Pot? Yes, you do. I only wish I had bought one sooner! This appliance is truly amazing and has changed the way I cook.
These are just a few of the benefits of Instant Pot cooking:
- You can cook easy one pot meals.
- You can safely cook meat from frozen.
- There is no watching a pot on the stove.
- Pressure cooking creates better flavor.
- It’s much faster than using a slow cooker.
- You can cook tender, fall apart pot roast or pulled pork in an hour.
- Versatility: From perfect hard boiled eggs to one pot pastas to tender chicken breast, there’s really no limit to the foods you can cook in an Instant Pot.
- It makes meal prep easy: You can batch cook dry beans, oatmeal, rice, shredded chicken, and much more.
Which Model of Instant Pot Should You Buy?
Before I go into specifics about each Instant Pot model, let me say that most of the fancy stuff is stuff you probably don’t need. For example, you may have noticed that Instant Pot models vary in the number of pre-set program buttons. All of those program buttons are just a combination of a cook time and pressure setting (low or high).
So, whether or not your Instant Pot has a “poultry” or “cake” button is not important, because you can cook pretty much anything in your Instant Pot using the Pressure Cook function and manually setting the cook time. In fact, most of the recipes that you find are going to tell you to use the Manual/Pressure Cook function, not one of the other program buttons. And pretty much every recipe will be cooked at high pressure.
The Bottom Line
- Most people should buy the 6 Quart Instant Pot Duo Plus. The Duo Plus is easier to use than the standard Duo because the steam release valve is set to sealing by default. The steam release valve is also more easily opened with a switch.
- If you want to save money, buy the standard 6 Quart Instant Pot Duo. It has all the same features as Duo Plus just an older steam release valve design that takes a little more attention to operate properly.
- If you are cooking for a family of 6+ or like to cook big batches of foods (dry beans, chicken, soup, etc.), get the 8 Quart Instant Pot Duo Plus.
- If you are really into gadgets and technology, consider getting the Instant Pot Pro Plus with Wifi or Instant Pot Max which have a Sous Vide mode and auto steam release but honestly, they are not worth it in my opinion. Both models are available in 6 quart or 8 quart sizes.
- I do not recommend the Instant Pot Crisp models or air fryer attachments for the Instant Pot, I use a separate Air Fryer.
Which Size of Instant Pot Should You Buy?
Depending on the model, you can choose from the mini 3 quart Instant Pot, the standard 6 quart or the large 8 quart.
6 Quart Instant Pot
For the average user, I recommend getting a 6 quart Instant Pot. Most recipes that you will find online and in cookbooks are tested in a 6 quart Instant Pot. The six quart is large enough to cook for a family of 4-5. I most often use my 6 quart to cook for my family of 6 (my kids are not big eaters yet, though).
8 Quart Instant Pot
If you have a large family, have a family of big eaters, or like to meal prep big batches of food, I recommend getting an 8 quart Instant Pot. The 8 quart is also great for cooking for a crowd if you like to entertain.
The 8 quart Instant Pot is bigger than the 6 quart, so you will need to plan for more storage space. It’s a little bit taller and a little bit wider. Here’s a photo of my 6 quart and 8 quart side by side.
3 Quart Instant Pot
I don’t recommend getting the 3 quart Instant Pot, unless you are very comfortable adapting recipes and are always cooking for just one or two. Since most recipes that you will find are designed for the 6 quart, you would need to scale them down to fit in the 3 quart “mini” Instant Pot.
Instant Pot Models Comparison
All the Instant Pot Models below will be able to pressure cook your favorite recipes. The bottom line is if you want to save some money get the 6 or 8 Quart Duo or Duo Plus depending on your size needs. The standard Duo model is completely no frills and the cheapest, check the price of the Duo here. The Duo Plus is a great choice for just a little more money and easier for new users due to the updated steam valve system. Get the Instant Pot 6 or 8 Quart Duo Plus here.
1) Instant Pot Duo
Sizes: 3 quart (mini), 6 quart, 8 quart
Functions: (9-In-1) Pressure Cook, Slow Cook, Sauté, Steam, Rice Cooker, Warmer, Yogurt Maker and more.
The Instant Pot Duo is a popular choice to save a little money. It’s simple to use, without an over-complicated display or too many extra features. The Instant Pot Duo has many built-in programs, including bean/chili, poultry and porridge. You don’t need these build-in programs, though, since you can get the same functions using the Pressure Cook button and setting the time yourself – which I prefer because of the flexibility.
2) Instant Pot Duo Plus
Sizes: 3 quart (mini), 5 quart, 6 quart, 8 quart
Functions: (9-In-1) The Duo Plus model has all of the functions of the standard Duo and newer redesigned steam release valve.
The Duo Plus model is a little more expensive than the Duo model, and offers a few more features. There are a few key differences between the Duo and the Duo Plus models:
- The Duo Plus steam valve is sealed by default for less user error when operating the Instant Pot.
- The Duo Plus has a slide switch to open the steam valve, keeping your hand farther away from the steam. You should still use a long handled utensil to keep your body and face away from the steam.
- The Duo Plus has a fancier LCD display with four status indicators: Heat, Pressure Cook, Keep Warm On/Off, Sound On/Off. There is an icon to show that the Instant Pot is heating up and one to show that pressure cooking has been selected, for example.
- The Duo Plus a few added program modes, but again, you probably won’t use most of these anyways.
3) Instant Pot Pro
Sizes: 6 quart, 8 quart
Functions: (10-In-1) The Instant Pot Pro, the newest generation of Instant Pots, boasts 10 functions. In addition to the functions of the Duo models, the Pro also touts a mini oven mode, a new quieter and faster steam release and claims faster overall cooking times.
- The Pro has a larger, fancier LCD display with additional status indicators and information.
- The Pro also has more programmable buttons, a new auto-sealing design for the steam release valve and steam release reminders.
4) Instant Pot Nova Plus (Discontinued)
Sizes: 6 quart
Functions: These are basically the same as the Duo model.
- The Nova Plus was designed exclusively for Costco.
- The Nova Plus has an LCD display and four status indicators: Heat, Pressure Cook, Keep Warm On/Off, Sound On/Off. The Heat icon shows that the Instant Pot is heating up and The Pressure Cook icon shows that pressure cooking has been selected, for example.
- The Nova Plus has the same LCD display as the Duo Plus but the same body and buttons as the Duo model. Basically, it’s the Duo but with a nicer display.
5) Instant Pot Smart Wifi (Discontinued, replaced by Instant Pot Pro Plus Wi-Fi)
Sizes: 6 quart
Functions: 13 smart programs. The Smart Wifi has all of the functions of the Instant Pot Duo and possibly more.
- You can program your Smart Wifi Instant Pot from your phone. You can also check on the cooking progress of the Smart Wifi using your mobile device. Since you have to be home when cooking with your Instant Pot, I don’t see much benefit of this feature. The biggest benefit may be that you can use pre-programmed cooking programs right from your phone using the Instant Pot App.
- The Smart Wifi has an LCD display and 5 cooking status icons: Wifi On/Off, Heat, Pressure Cook, Keep Warm On/Off, Sound On/Off.
- The Instant Pot Smart Wifi may be a good choice for you if you are into technology and gadgets. It replaces the discontinued Smart Bluetooth model.
6) Instant Pot Max / Ultra (Discontinued)
Sizes: 6 quart
Functions: In addition to the regular Instant Pot functions, the Max has a function for sous vide cooking and pressure canning. However, I have read some worrisome reviews that claim that the Max may not reach temperatures high enough to destroy potentially harmful bacteria during pressure canning.
- The Max is the most expensive Instant Pot.
- The Max is heavier than the Duo and Ultra by 2 pounds.
- It has a sleek design and an LCD display with a touch screen.
- You can control the steam venting using the touch screen, and even program the steam release before you start the cooking cycle.
- The Max has a higher wattage and can therefore achieve higher pressure (15psi vs. 12psi). This does not mean that it can reach pressure faster, though. The higher pressure may affect the cook times, meaning that you might not be able to use the same cook times given for recipes tested in the most common Instant Pot, the Duo.
- It has a feature called NutriBoost, which is essentially a self-stirring function to help with even cooking when cooking broth, rice and beans.
- The Max has a bigger learning curve, so it may not be ideal for beginners to Instant Pot cooking.
Which Instant Pot Should You Buy?
If money is tight, buy the Instant Duo in either the 6 or 8 quart depending on the size of your family.
The 6 or 8 quart Instant Pot Duo Plus is the most popular model and it is also a great choice. The Duo Plus adds a new steam valve design that is easier to use.
Honestly, the higher end models just don’t make sense in my opinion or experience. The Duo and Duo Plus have everything I need to make meals for my family and for meal prep.
However, if you want the latest and greatest with all the features including Wifi control, get the Instant Pot Pro Plus Wi-Fi model.
Questions about which Instant Pot is Best for You?
If you have questions, please ask them in the comments below. I love to help!
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