The Instant Pot has taken over kitchens across America, and dozens of cookbooks have been written about how to create the most delicious dishes using the magical tool—and for a good reason. As a best-selling brand on Amazon, the Instant Pot is the ultimate multi-cooker. Whether you want to make cheesecake or chili, it has your back.
The thing is, though, if you haven’t jumped on the bandwagon yet, purchasing your first one can feel like buying a mini spaceship for your kitchen—a little intimidating. How do you decide which model to buy? What’s the best price point? The questions are kind of endless. But we’re here to help.
Choosing the best Instant Pot for you comes down to size and function. Different models offer a variety of pressure levels, wattage, and built-in heat. To help you choose which Instant Pot is right for you, we break down the different cooking features in top-selling models below.
What is an Instant Pot, exactly?
The Instant Pot is a pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, yogurt maker, steamer, sauté pan, and warming pot all in one. A pressure cooker is great for preparing one-pot dishes because you can add all of the ingredients into the pot, lock it, and let it do its job. It works by controlling the steam pressure inside the pot. As the liquid inside the pot heats up, it turns into steam, raising the pressure in the pot and thereby reducing the time it takes for food to cook.
On the other hand, a slow cooker relies on moist heat to cook food over a long period of time. A Crock-Pot is one example. Slow cookers have a heated bottom pot that works in cycles so you can use a timer to turn it on or off for a certain period of time. It’s best used for tenderizing meats and preparing soups and stews.
A rice cooker and yogurt maker are just what they sounds like: They cook rice and make yogurt, using water and heat. Some rice cookers can also be used as a steamer.
How to choose the best Instant Pot for you
That said, there are over a dozen different kinds of Instant Pots and they all provide similar functions. Most of them come in three sizes (3-, 6-, and 8-quart). As a general rule, the 3-quart is best for one to two people, while the 6-quart is good for families of three to six people. The 8-quart is the largest size and great for large families and parties for six or more people. Here’s a quick breakdown of the top models:
Duo: 7-in-1 pressure cooker. This is what you might call the classic model, featuring the original seven cooking features mentioned above.
Duo Nova: 7-in-1 pressure cooker. Best for beginners, the Duo Nova has everything the Duo does, plus an upgraded display and lid as well as 13 customizable programs for quick one-touch meals.
Duo Plus: 9-in-1 pressure cooker. This has three additional programs for making cake and eggs, and sterilizing, plus 13 customizable programs and improved steam venting.
Duo Crisp: 11-in-1 pressure cooker. Enjoy a slow cooker, steamer, sauté pan, food warmer, sous vide, air fryer, roaster, mini oven, broiler, and dehydrator in this model, which features EvenCrisp™ air flow for maximum crunch air frying, as well as 11 customizable programs for quick one-touch meals.
Pro: 10-in-1 pressure cooker. The latest and greatest generation of Instant Pots, the Pro line features 20% faster pre-heating and up to 70% faster cooking overall. This one works as a slow cooker, sous vide, sauté pan, rice cooker, sterilizer, yogurt maker, food warmer, cake baker, and steamer, and it has 28 smart cooking programs.
Pro Plus: 10-in-1 pressure cooker: The most high-tech model of them all, the Pro Plus has wireless capabilities that allow you to literally cook from your phone. When connected with the Instant Pot app, it provides recipes and guides you through the entire cooking process, from when to sauté your vegetables to how to (yes, wirelessly!) release steam. It’s worth noting that the 10 functions of the Pro Plus are slightly different than the Pro: It’s a pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, steamer, sauté pan, yogurt maker, warmer, canning pot, sous vide, and NutriBoost, which self-stirs risottos and the like.
Pro Crisp: This model has all the same functions of the Duo Crisp, plus just a few additional bells and whistles like easy grip silicone handles and a sleek all black look.
Max: 9-in-1 pressure cooker: Best for canning and sous vide, this model features maximum pressure capabilities and can reach up to 15 PSI. You can also use it as a slow cooker, sauté pan, rice cooker, stock pot, steamer, yogurt maker, and warmer.
To help you pick the right one for your cooking needs, here are the best ones based on reviews and function.
- 4.7 out of 5 stars
- 138,000+ customer reviews on Amazon
If you’re looking for a basic model with no frills attached, this is your go-to. It’s super versatile and great for quick weeknight meals, especially meats and sauces—the sauté program has three different temperatures for searing, simmering, and thickening.
An Amazon reviewer can attest to how quick this multi-cooker really is: “I’ll often make dinner right after I reheat my lunch and make sure the warm function is on. I’m able to drive with it in my sink (I love in a Sprinter van full-time) and have a hot, healthy, and delicious meal waiting for when I’m done driving.”
- 4.7 out of 5 stars
- 44,000+ customer reviews on Amazon
As the next generation of the Instant Pot Duo, this model has three new programs for preparing cake and eggs and sterilizing. The cake program makes the most beautifully moist baked goods, while the egg program can whip up the fluffiest scramble in minutes. The sterilizer feature is great for cleaning utensils, jars, baby bottles, cans, and much more.
One Amazon reviewer raves, “This product is my best friend, and I would marry it if I could. I’ve put pork loins, potatoes, and yellow bundt cakes from boxed cake mixes. I’m eating healthier and cleanup is easy. The food tastes awesome.”
- 4.7 out of 5 stars
- 2,900+ Amazon customer reviews
If you thought the original Instant Pot was innovative, you’ll be blown away by this one. You can practically cook from your phone thanks to its wifi and mobile app compatibility. The app comes with over 800 recipes, so you’ll never run out of dinner ideas, and the Pro line promises 20% faster pre-heating and up to 70% faster cooking overall.
“You never touch the vent-it’s all done with the touch screen,” one reviewer raves. “You can also customize the temperature for sautéing and sous vide. I highly recommend this model.”
- 4.8 out of 5 stars
- 600+ Amazon customer reviews
As the air fryer continues to be the cooking obsession of the moment, this model will give you the most bang for your buck: an air fryer (which uses a special dome-shaped lid), plus all the pressure cooking abilities we know and love. Enjoy 14 pre-programmed one-touch meal programs as well.
“French fries are quick to cook to perfection with out the need of turning on the huge oven that pours heat into our home,” one shopper writes. “It’s definitely the right appliance for regularly making meals for two people.”
- 4.7 out of 5 stars
- 2,900+ customer reviews on Amazon
If you’re looking to prepare the juiciest and most tender piece of chicken breast, the Instant Pot Max allows for fermentation and sous vide cooking. Through the sous vide program, you can create perfectly poached foods, while retaining their vitamins and minerals. The Instant Pot Max also comes with the new NutriBoost technology that works by creating a boiling motion during pressure cook to break down food, thereby adding nutrition, flavor, and taste.
One Amazon reviewer writes, “I finally used the sous vide technique by setting the ultra button to custom and sous viding a couple of beautiful New York strip steak. The best-tasting home-cooked steaks I have ever eaten. I’m never going back to pan-fried, except for the 50-second sear. Love this pot!”
Cookbook author Brittany Williams, who struggled with weight loss her entire life, shares how she discovered the Instant Pot in January 2017 and it helped her lose 125 pounds. This cookbook details the recipes she prepared. They’re not only delicious but usually take less than 30 minutes to make.
This Instant Pot accessory is a must-have when preparing a variety of dishes with your pressure cooker. The non-stick surface makes it easy to remove grease and food debris. It comes in three different sizes for the 3-, 6-, and 8-quart Instant Pots. An Amazon reviewer says, “This has become the only inner pot I use. It’s just so much easier to clean after cooking when compared to the stainless version.”
Whether you’re preparing cheesecake or a quiche, this springform pan makes it infinitely easier to bake in your Instant Pot. The glass base also allows to cut and serve right out of the pot. Compatible with the 5-, 6-, and 8-quart Instant Pots, this accessory is a must-have for those who love to bake.
One Amazon reviewer says, “The bottom is very sturdy. The silicone sides do exactly what they’re supposed to do. The clip that holds the sides together works perfectly and is easy to put on and remove but sets enough to keep everything in place. I have a 6-quart Instant Pot, and this fits perfectly.”
Perhaps you’re not committed to buying an Instant Pot Crisp just yet, or you already have a model that you’d like to convert—pick up this air fryer lid and turn your regular pressure cooker into the ultimate french fry machine. There’s one caveat, though: this lid has no pressure cooking capabilities and is only suited for use with the six-quart Duo, Duo Plus, Duo Nova, Duo Gourmet, Viva, Ultra, and Lux models.
“It worked amazingly well with the two batches of chicken wings and fries that I cooked. The chicken wings turned out crispy and juicy, and the fries turned out even better than the deep fried version!” one reviewer raves. “I also tried making crispy brussels sprouts which turned out deliciously well.”
As the best-selling Instant Pot cookbook, this book is basically the bible of all Instant Pot recipes. Filled with more than 100 delicious recipes, it has everything you could ever make in an Instant Pot, from hearty breakfasts to wholesome lunches to speedy weeknight dinners and mouthwatering desserts.
One Amazon reviewer writes, “The recipes in this book state the prep time and cook time separately; this makes it easier to see at a glance the time needed for each. The total cook time is also stated and includes the time required for the pot to come to pressure (pre-heat), and the time needed to de-pressurize. This is especially helpful when you are in a hurry and need to know at a glance how much time the whole recipe will require.”
This cookbook is great for beginners who need a guide on how to use different sizes and models of the Instant Pot. Whether you have a 3-quart or 6-quart Instant Pot Duo, or one of the other models, this road map of recipes and tips will help you make the most of your multi-cooker.