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!
Once you get your new Instant Pot, read my simple Instant Pot Manual to learn how to do a water test and start using your Instant Pot. Then try one of these Best Instant Pot Recipes.
Thanks so much for this article. It really helped me. I have an Instant Pot and love it. but I spend my summers in Vermont and have been buying appliances for that kitchen and my daughter there who “doesn’t cook” and I am getting one for there for this summer. I think I’ll get the Lux as I don’t need to make yogurt and don’t cook on low on y regular pot at all. Thanks again.
That’s what I would do! I love my Lux and it has all of the functionality that I need for every day cooking. I’m so glad this post was helpful!
I LOVE your article! So informative! I do have a question…does the Duo have a quick pressure realease? I have a Cook’s Essentials pressure cooker right now. 8 at…how do you feel about those? Thanks SOOO much in advance!
I meant to say the one I have now is 8qt, not 8at lol!
Hi Ashley, I haven’t tried that particular pressure cooker (I’ve only used the Instant Pot brand). To release the pressure on the Instant Pot Duo you turn the valve to the venting position. If you want to do a quick release you will turn it right away when the cook time ends. It doesn’t release automatically.
We have a max. It works better than the others that we have had. The features are definitely worth it and easy to use.
I just got the 8 qt Instant Pot Duo. We have my daughter and grandkids with us right now I definitely so I opted for the 8 qt instead of the 6 qt.
My question is … does the size of my Instant Pot matter for whatever recipe I use? I ask because you mentioned most of your recipes were for the 6 qt. So does that mean I can’t use that recipe in the 8 qt?
Also, now that I have this (and once I get used to it) can I get rid of my pressure cooker and crockpot? Doesn’t the Instant Pot have functions for those as well?
You can make recipes that were tested in a 6 quart Instant Pot in an 8 quart. I have both sizes and do it all the time. 🙂 The biggest difference (other than size) that I’ve noticed between the two is that the 8 quart can take a few extra minutes to reach pressure and to release pressure, because of it’s bigger size. The 8 quart also seems to be more prone to the burn warning, but I’ve only gotten it once so it’s not a huge issue.
The Instant Pot is an electric pressure cooker, so you shouldn’t need another pressure cooker. I would definitely keep your crockpot because in my experience the slow cook function on the Instant Pot doesn’t work nearly as well as a regular slow cooker. I hope that helps!
Hi, thank you for all the detailed comparision and info! I’m heading out to buy my first instant pot and your article is my main reference guide to finalize on a viva. Do you know if the 6qt duo’s inner pot will fit the 6qt viva too? I’m planning to get a spare inner pot too and can only find ones marked for duo.
I’m glad it was helpful! I don’t know for sure, but my guess would be that the 6 quart duo inner pot would fit.
Can the 8 quart duo be manually programmed for sous vide cooking? I’m interested in trying that method, but don’t know if it’s worth buying the higher priced model just to get that function.
Not that I know of. I believe that you would have to purchase an Instant Pot that has a sous vide program.
I’m so glad to have come across your post about which instant pot to purchase! I’ve been trying to decide between the Viva 6qt and Duo Plus 6qt models for sometime now. The only reason I decided to purchase either or instead of the Duo 6qt model is because of the Cake setting on both the Viva and Duo plus models. Do you think it’s worth it? If yes, which one should I chose of the two (Viva vs. Duo Plus). If it’s not worth it and there’s a way to “bake” a cake in the Duo model, can you please advise as to how that can be achieved? Thank you so much i advance for your response!
The cake setting is simply different set cook times (normal, more, less) and it cooks at high pressure, the same as the pressure cook or manual function. So you can achieve the exact same thing without a cake setting. 🙂 Most recipes that you find for Instant Pot cakes will likely give you a cook time at high pressure, so you can cook cakes in your Instant Pot just fine without the cake setting. I hope that helps!
Hello Kristine, this is my first time on your site. I’m a new owner to Instant pot. I’m trying to read all I can.
As I went looking at your recipes, I couldn’t find the chicken pot pie with biscuits. Would love to have it.
By the way I did not receive a manual. I’m thinking of texting the Company.
Thank you for all your information
Best article on Instant Pot!!!!
Thank you so so much for your article! Detailed but yet concise, and truly helping one with being able to make a selection of which Instant pot they need by the time they finish reading your article!!!
Here we go for a Duo 6 quarts!
Tagging your site as one of my favorite for recipe too!!! Thank you bunch!!!
I’m so glad this was helpful to you! Thank you for taking the time to let me know. Enjoy your new Instant Pot!
Hi! Great article. I am curious about the separate air fryer lid available. Do you have experience using it?
I haven’t tried the air fryer lid. Sorry I can’t give advice on that.
Thanks for the helpful article. I can’t decide between the 6 qt and 8 qt Duo Nova. It is just my husband and I but we like to have leftovers. I also would like to be able to cook beef roasts and whole chickens along with some vegetables. I am leaning toward the 8 qt. Is there ever a time that the 8 qt is not as good a choice? Like for cooking a smaller batch of rice, for example? Thanks so much for you help.
If you want to cook large batches for leftovers or whole chickens, I recommend the 8 quart.
Thank you Kristine for all this information. My question to you is: Are the Evo and the Ultra the only models with Quick Release?
All models have a quick release capability including the base Lux and Duo. With the regular models, you just move the steam release value from sealing to venting (with a long-handled utensil for safety) at the end of the cook time for a quick release. Some fancy models like the Evo Plus have a separate switch or more automatic setting.
Hi, I’ve read all the Instant Pot recommendations. I already have a very nice 6-qt. Electric pressure cooker. Will the Instant Pot recipes work in my Cuisinart? Just can’t afford to get rid it and replace it now. Thanks so much.
I have not tested the Cuisinart pressure cookers but they should work similarly.
I have actually bout 2 Viva instant pots this week and neither one shows a countdown for the timer. It just continues to show “ON” even though the pot is at a full steam. Have you heard of this problem with the Viva pot? I have called the manufacturer and they said they had not heard of this. However, I did find a comment somewhere on-line that the timer doesn’t always work on the Viva pot. It cooks just find, but I end up having to use the stove timer once the steam is activated. Please let me know if you have heard of this problem. Thank you, P. DeJesu
I have not heard of this issue before. I do not currently own a Viva model.
Thanks for the detailed article. I am planning to buy instant pot duo crisp + air fryer but I do not see anything about air fryer in your article. I have three options duo, viva and air fryer, which one do you suggest??
I do not use the air fryer. The Instant Pots I use every day are the Duo and Lux. The fancy buttons on higher-end models are not very useful because nearly every Instant Pot recipe you will find will just use a manual pressure cook with a time setting.
I have had my insta pot since November of last year and have not used it because I have a 3 quart pot. Thank you explaining how to use and what kind is suitable for your family size, I am single and the 3 quart size is perfect for me, although I would like to see more recipes for the 3 quart.
I have the duo crisp (comes with both lids, regular and air fryer). Can I use your air fryer recipes using air fryer lid. Also instead of sautéing in ip, could I use the air fryer lid?
Yes you can use the air frying lid with the air fryer recipes. Cook times may vary a little, check meats for doneness with an instant-read thermometer. I would not substitute air frying for sautéing, air frying with not apply the same quick direct heat or browning as sautéing.
Thank you for your article. I actually have just purchased a Magic Chef 9-in-1 which, I understand, is very much like an Instant Pot. The reason I bough it is because I was trying to figure out how to cook Sous Vide “without” putting the food in plastic bags. Someone that has an online site mentioned getting this appliance because it has a Sous Vide program but you don’t have to put the meat in a bag. I did try this and it worked very well. First time I have made a steak that was not either undercooked or overcooked. But I’m at a loss with using all the functions. Do you know anything about a Magic Chef? If not, can you direct me to where you talk about getting started with a pressure cooker?
Hi Elaine, I do not have experience with using a Magic Chef. Perhaps a web search can guide you to instructions on how to use that brand of pressure cooker. Good luck!
thank you for this article and all your recipes!!! going to get me an insta pot!!