If you’re a newbie to the world of electric pressure cookers, figuring out which are the best Instant Pots can quickly become totally overwhelming. Currently, there are no fewer than six different models, and then there are all the different sizes. Which Instant Pot is right for you? Let’s break down everything you need to know in this Instant Pot buying guide.
What are the best pressure cookers? Instant Pot is not a generic name for any old electric pressure cooker. It is a brand in and of itself. There are several other brands out there, like the Power Pressure Cooker and the Crock-Pot Express Multi-Cooker. The majority of the recipes you’ll find online are based on the Instant Pot, so cooking times on other cookers may vary.
One big difference between the Instant Pot and other pressure cookers is that many of the Instant Pot models have preset buttons, like egg, soup/broth, meat/stew, bean/chili, cake and yogurt. You can make any of these items using the plain old pressure cook button and manually setting the time, but these preset set the time for you. When you’re deciding which Instant Pot you should buy, think about what you would cook in it most often and which presets would be helpful.
Which Instant Pot is right for you? Here are all the different models and their features.
The LUX is a basic 6-in-1 multi-cooker that can pressure cook, slow cook, steam, make rice, sauté and keep warm. There is no low-pressure setting, so it cannot make yogurt, and it does not work with the programmable Instant Pot SMART app. If you don’t want to make yogurt or experiment with low pressure, the LUX is a nice, cost-effective option.
The DUO 7-in-1 does everything the LUX can do plus makes yogurt and has two pressure settings, high and low. It does not work with the SMART app. This is the workhorse of the Instant Pot line and is a happy medium between nicely upgraded features and simplicity.
DUO Plus 9-in-1 (3, 6, 8 quart)
The DUO Plus 9-in-1 has all the features of the DUO 7-in-1 plus a sterilize function and presets for eggs and cake.
ULTRA 10-in-1 (3, 6, 8 quart)
The big difference in the ULTRA 10-in-1 compared with other models is that it can steam without pressure, lowering the risk of mushy veggies (the steam function on other models uses pressure). It has a delay timer and allows you to choose whether the keep warm function engages after cooking. You can set the temperature in 1-degree increments, but the thermostat can still vary by 5 degrees, so it is not recommended for sous vide. If you want most of the features of the SMART but only need one temperature/pressure setting and cook time at a time and don’t care about using an app, the ULTRA is perfect for you.
SMART + app
The SMART + app Instant Pot is perfect for techies who love to cook. It does everything the LUX and DUO can do, plus has a programmable app that connects to the cooker via Bluetooth, allowing you to set temperatures and times while out of the house. You can program it for different temperatures for different times for the same meal; for example, pressure cook for 10 minutes, slow cook for two hours, turn off for one hour, then keep warm (in effect, reheat) for 30 minutes. If you love tech and want total control over temperature, pressure and time combinations, the SMART + app Instant Pot is for you.
The MAX offers fermentation, sous vide, warming, simmering, slow cook, boiling, pressure cook and sauté and searing modes. There are no preset buttons. It has automated pressure release on the lid and reaches 15psi, meaning the NCHFP could approve it for canning.
Instant Pots are some of the best pressure cookers on the market today, so it is hard to go wrong with any model. When you’re deciding which Instant Pot you should buy, consider what settings you would use most often, how many people you’re cooking for, and how much customization you need in your settings.