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Which Instant Pot should you buy? All of the models compared

Instant Pots are multifunctional pressure cookers with enhanced features and multiple settings to make an even better meal. The best Instant Pots not only offer faster cooking times but other handy features like preprogrammed settings, LCDs, smartphone apps, and customizable parameters. In this article, we compare the current Instant Pot models, examine their unique features, and explain how each product’s settings work.

Instant Pots at a glance

Instant Pot Duo

Instant Pot making asparagus.
Jenny McGrath/Digital Trends

The Instant Pot Duo is the most popular Instant Pot family, and it’s one of our favorites. It can do a lot without having too many frills. It’s a good pressure cooker for those who want to try their hand at pressure cooking or those who have experience pressure cooking. The Duo is a pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, steam, sauté machine, yogurt maker, and warmer; and it has 14 cooking programs: Soup/broth, meat/stew, bean/chili, poultry, sauté/searing, steam, rice, porridge, multigrain, slow cook, keep-warm, yogurt, pasteurize, pressure cook.

The Duo family includes a wide range of individual models.

  • Duo Mini (3-quart): Smaller capacity, two fewer programs.
  • Duo (6-quart and 8-quart): Base model.
  • Duo Crisp (6-quart and 8-quart): Includes air fryer on top.
  • Duo Nova (8-quart): Updated steam release valve.

Our favorite of the bunch is the Instant Pot Duo 6-quart. The Instant Pot Duo has a place to store the lid on the side of the pot. It comes with a steaming rack with handles on the 6-quart and higher sizes. An improved lid design makes the lid easier to open.  The steam release valve is easy to secure in place.

The 3-quart Duo retails for $70, the 6-quart retails for $80, and the 8-quart retails for $100. You can often find the Duo on sale for significantly less than the retail price.

  • Number of functions: 7
  • Number of cooking programs: 13
  • Number of safety features: 10
  • Sizes: 3-quart, 6-quart, 8-quart

Instant Pot Duo Plus

Instant Pot Duo Plus multi cooker on the counter
Image used with permission by copyright holder

The Instant Pot Duo Plus is a step up from the regular Duo, and those who make recipes like yogurts and desserts will probably appreciate the Plus. It adds in a few extra programs and features over the Duo.

It’s a 9-in-1 device — with settings that include pressure cooker, slow cooker, cooking rice, yogurt maker, cake/egg maker, sauté/searing machine, steamer, warmer, and sterilizer. It also has 15 built-in programs: Soup/broth, meat/stew, bean/chili, cake, egg, slow cook, sauté/searing, rice, multigrain, porridge, steam, sterilize, yogurt, keep warm, and pressure cook.

The Duo Plus has a large blue LCD with status icons to indicate the cooker’s status, while the Duo has a more basic display. Outside of the display design, the additional cooking programs, and of course, the price, the Duo and Duo Plus are very similar.

The 3-quart Duo Plus sells for around $100, the 6-quart retails for $120, and the 8-quart retails for $140. This model doesn’t go on sale as often as some of the other IP models.

  • Number of functions: 9
  • Number of cooking programs: 15
  • Number of safety features: 10
  • Sizes: 3-quart, 6-quart, 8-quart

Instant Pot Pro

Instant Pot Pro on kitchen countertop.
Instant Pot

The Instant Pot Pro is approaching the higher end of the lineup. Its major contribution is a baking function, so you can make cakes of all kinds. It also upgrades the number of cooking programs to 28, the most of any Instant Pot family.

The Instant Pot Pro continues to offer all of the other usual functions you’d expect, like pressure cooking, slow cooking, rice cooking, yogurt, warming, sous vide, and sterilizing. The interface has quite a bit going on, giving lots of extra buttons for setting shortcuts, indicators for heating and cooking progress, and everything in between. Expect to enjoy a lot more granular control with the Instant Pot Pro versus other models.

The 6-quart version of the Instant Pot Pro 6-quart normally retails for $130, and the 8-quart Instant Pot Pro goes for $150. A model with an air fryer attachment is available for $250.

  • Number of functions: 10
  • Number of cooking programs: 28
  • Number of safety features: 11
  • Sizes: 6-quart, 8-quart

Instant Pot Max

Image used with permission by copyright holder

The Instant Pot Max can pretty much do it all, and it’s ideal for chefs or those who do a lot of pressure cooking. The Max can achieve the full temperature cooking spectrum, whether you’re fermenting ingredients, cooking steak sous vide, simmering a sauce, boiling pasta, pressure cooking chicken, or searing your finished product.

The Max controls the amount of air in the pot, releasing as much air as possible for faster and better cooking. You can even use the Max as a pressure canner. The Max has additional safety mechanisms (13 instead of 10 like many of the other Instant Pot models), and the lid on the Max is dishwasher safe, which makes cleaning easier.

The Max comes in 6-quarts, and it retails for $150.

  • Number of functions: 9
  • Number of cooking programs: 15
  • Number of safety features: 10
  • Sizes: 6-quart

Instant Pot Pro Plus

Image used with permission by copyright holder

The Instant Pot Pro Plus replaced the previous Smart Bluetooth version. You can control it with your phone via the Instant Pot app. The app also has pre-programmed recipes and alerts to make cooking even easier. The cooker has an LCD and status icons so you can easily check on your meal. The pot connects to Alexa and Google Assistant for voice control too.

The Instant Pot Pro Plus has 16 different built-in programs: pressure cooking, slow cooking, rice/grain, sauté, steam, yogurt, warm, sous vide, canning, and nutriboost. The 6-quart version (the only size available) is sleek and stylish. The Wi-Fi-enabled Pot currently retails for $170.

  • Number of functions: 10
  • Number of cooking programs: 16
  • Number of safety features: 11+
  • Sizes: 6-quart

Instant Pot Comparison

Instant Pot Duo versus Duo Plus

There’s a pretty big difference in functions between the Instant Pot Duo and the Duo Plus. The Duo Plus has sous vide and sterilizer functions, and an additional two cooking programs. This alone may be enough to seal the deal for the Duo Plus. A handful of smaller features can also be found on the Duo Plus, such as quiet steam release, an anti-spin cooking pot design, and a cooking status bar on the LED display.

Instant Pot Duo Plus versus Pro

The Instant Pot Pro is a modest step up from the Duo Plus. The Pro enjoys a baking mode which gives it an edge, but an optional air fryer add-on is available for the Duo Plus. The Duo Plus is available in a 3-quart version if you need something with a smaller footprint, while the Pro has a whooping 28 one-touch smart cooking programs available, and an interface with lots of control available. It’s a close call between these two.

Instant Pot Pro versus Max

The biggest claim to fame of the Instant Pot Max is its canning feature. The Instant Pot Pro Plus is the only other model that is able to do canning. The trade-off is that the Max doesn’t do Sous Vide, while the Pro does. You’ll need to weigh your priorities to figure out which feature is more important. The Instant Pot Pro also comes with 28 one-touch smart cooking programs, which blows the 15 of the Max out of the water. It’s a close race between these two models, so it will definitely boil down to your priorities.

Instant Pot Max versus Pro Plus

The major differentiator of the Instant Pot Pro Plus is its access to your home Wi-Fi network. This lets you schedule cooking, remotely control it, and beam recipes directly to the Instant Pot. The two are available in the same capacities and are otherwise highly comparable in their features. All-in-all, roll with the Pro Plus if you want smartphone control.

Research and buying tips

What is an Instant Pot?

An Instant Pot is a countertop appliance that plugs into a wall outlet. Instant Pots are pressure cookers, but they can also slow cook, steam, sauté, warm, and more (depending on the model). They have presets for certain food items like poultry, rice, and stew, so you can simply press a button to cook your meal.

Which Instant Pot size is right for me?

Before you purchase an Instant Pot, consider your specific needs and the average serving sizes you’ll be cooking. Families of four require at least a 6-quart pot, while larger families will probably prefer 8 quarts. Additionally, 3-quart pots are usually the best option for one or two people or for preparing side dishes.

How is an Instant Pot different from a pressure cooker?

A pressure cooker is a device that cooks food under pressure. It’s either an electric device you plug into the wall or a stovetop device that uses the heat of your cooktop. An Instant Pot is a multifunctional pressure cooker, meaning it has additional cooking functions outside of pressure cooking.

What can you cook in an Instant Pot?

You can make just about anything in an Instant Pot, especially if you have a model with an air frying lid. Before Instant Pot came out with the air frying lid, one of the biggest complaints about Instant Pots was that you couldn’t make dry foods — no breaded chicken or French fries, and chicken skin would come out soggy. With the addition of the air frying lid, you can now make crispy and crunchy food items. Just be careful not to overstuff the Instant Pot because it won’t properly cook your food, and it could lead to problems with the pot.

Can you can food in an Instant Pot?

If you’re someone who loves to pressure can and you do it regularly, we advise purchasing the Instant Pot Max. This particular Instant Pot includes a unique canning feature that’s bound to make all your canning dreams come true.

Are Instant Pots safe?

The answer is yes. If you use your Instant Pots according to the directions, we promise you’ll be perfectly fine. It also has numerous built-in safety devices, just in case something were to become a safety concern.

Picking the best Instant Pot for you requires some research and comparison shopping — with countless features to consider and a wide range of prices, you need to understand what you’re searching for to snag the best possible bargain. Our convenient guide outlines all the Instant Pot models available to assist you in narrowing down your choices. At the end of the day, it’s better to get one device with plenty of diverse features instead of purchasing and storing many different appliances.

Editors' Recommendations

Erika Rawes
Smart Home Evergreen Coordinator
Erika became a professional writer in 2010, and her work is published all over the web on sites ranging from USA Today to…
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