Which Instant Pot to Buy

~ There are so many factors to consider in sorting out which Instant Pot to buy – lots of combinations of sizes and functions! I don’t know about you, but my head started to spin a little when I was sifting through all the possibilities, trying to figure out the best Instant Pot for my own family. I’m sharing what I learned in all my research, with the hopes that it’ll be a useful Instant Pot buying guide for you … and maybe save you a bit of time in making your own decision! ~

  Updated November 29, 2018 to include Max, Smart WiFi, Viva, Lux colors and Nova Plus  

•  Originally Published February 16, 2018  

Which Instant Pot is the best for you and your family? Which one should you buy? There are so many options, functions, models and sizes to consider! The Instant Pot Duo Plus or the Ultra? The 6-quart or the Mini? We break it all down to help you decide which is right for you and your family, walking you through an Instant Pot buyer’s guide that includes specific points you should consider before buying. | #InstantPot #pressurecooker #pressurecooking #buyingguide | www.TwoHealthyKitchens.com

If you’ve been following along during our “Instant Pot Month” here at THK, then you know we started at the very, very beginning – holding hands as we journey together, off to Instant Pot bliss!

To begin with, we covered:

For those of you who still haven’t made the leap into buying one, I’ve been promising I’d offer some advice – a little Instant Pot buyer’s guide.

I obsessed and researched for a long, long time before choosing my own Instant Pot (the Duo 6-quart), pictured below.

I chose the Duo60 6-quart model for my own family. Which Instant Pot is the best for you and your family? Which one should you buy? I’m here to help with a “buyer’s guide” assembled fro the research that went into my own purchases.

Then I went through it all again about a year later, when I bought my mom one (the Duo Plus 3-quart) as a birthday gift. After spending all that time weighing the options, I have a few insights that might help you decide which Instant Pot to buy to meet your own needs.

In my opinion, there are two big questions you need to answer first, to sort through the matrix of available options and figure out which Instant Pot to buy:

  1. Which size of Instant Pot should you buy?
  2. Which model (what functionality) do you want?

Let’s start with a quick peek at all the models in the ever-expanding Instant Pot line …

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Which Model of Instant Pot Should You Buy?

I’m just going to give you a quick overview of the models and options. No need to spend a ton of time on that, since right on the Instant Pot website there’s a terrific Instant Pot comparison chart that maps out all the models, functions, features, and sizes.

Basically, there are six main models (at the time of this update): The Lux, Duo, Duo Plus, Ultra, Smart, and Max. Falling somewhere in between these main models are the quasi-hybrid Nova Plus and Viva models that are basically a slightly different cocktail of features launched exclusively in partnership with Costco and QVC, respectively. (Note that we’re not talking about some other Instant Pot company products – the Gemthe Aura, and the AuraPro – because those doesn’t include the primary functionality of being a pressure cooker, so they’re basically in an entirely different product category.)

Each newer or more “advanced” Instant Pot model is targeted at offering some additional functionality, enhanced levels of control, or changes in the display screens and user interface. Obviously, the main question you’ve gotta sort out here is whether each of those changes and additions is truly important to you and actually worth the additional money, depending on the type of cooking you plan to do and how much complexity you really need to have to accomplish that.

1) Lux Models (Note Updated Color Choices Nov. 2018)

The Lux model comes in 4 sizes with 6 functions.

Sizes: Mini 3-quart, 5-quart, 6-quart, 8-quart

Functions: 6-in-1 (Pressure Cooker which DOES NOT have a low-pressure setting, Slow Cooker, Rice Cooker, Sauté, Steamer, and Warmer)

An important note here is that, unlike the other Instant Pot models, the Lux only has the option of pressure cooking on a high-pressure setting, with no low-pressure setting. That may still meet all your needs, since the high-pressure setting is more commonly used. However, I wanted you to be clear on this, since it’s not always immediately obvious that – while it IS a pressure cooker – the Lux does not really have all the same pressure cooker functionality that the other models do. Also note that, as mentioned in an article by The Equipped Cook, the newer version 3 of the Lux (it’s been through 3 versions and updates at this point) does now offer the “Egg” and “Cake” functions rolled out with the Duo Plus model (which we discuss below).

NEW COLOR CHOICES (UPDATE NOVEMBER 2018): In addition to the basic black accents we’re all used to seeing from Instant Pot, they’ve now decked out their Lux line with four new color options. The 6-quart size (only) now also comes in a dark blue, a red, and also a “Pioneer Woman vintage floral” pattern accented with turquoise, and a “Pioneer Woman breezy blossoms” pattern accented with cobalt (available specifically through Walmart).

2) Duo Models

The Duo model comes in 4 sizes with 7 functions.

Sizes: Mini 3-quart, 5-quart, 6-quart, 8-quart

Functions: 7-in-1 (All 6 functions of the Lux, plus Yogurt Maker)

3) Nova Plus (Costco Partnership Model) – Updated Info Nov. 2018

Sizes: 6-quart only

Functions: This is somewhat of a strange hybrid model, partway between the Duo and Duo Plus models. The Nova Plus is mysteriously listed in Instant Pot’s comparison chart as a 9-in-1 model (like the Duo Plus discussed below), although it clearly has only the same functionality as the 7-in-1 Duo (discussed above). Instant Pot bills it as “the next tier in the Duo Series,” but it adds a blue LCD display screen similar to the Duo Plus Models and 4 new status indicator icons. The Nova Plus was initially marketed only via Costco, which is presumably why Instant Pot played around with the functionality it offered, in order to make it a unique model for the Costco partnership.

4) Duo Plus Models

The Duo Plus model comes in just 3 sizes and boasts 9 functions.

Sizes: Mini 3-quart, 6-quart, 8-quart (no 5-quart)

Functions: 9-in-1 (All 7 functions of the Duo, plus a Sterilize function and two new programs specifically for “Cake” and “Egg,” although, as noted on the terrific website Hip Cooking … ummmmmm … no matter how you do the math, it’s hard to figure out how this adds up to being a “9-in-1”!)

5) Viva Models (QVC Exclusive) – Updated Info Nov. 2018

Sizes: 6-quart (in black, eggplant, cobalt, or cinnamon), 8-quart (black only)

Functions: 9-in-1

There really isn’t anything particularly new here, except that QVC got an exclusive model all their own, and added some color choices besides black to the unit’s housing. Although this is billed as the “next evolution in the Duo Series,” in terms of functionality, the Viva Models basically have the same 9 functions as the Duo Plus. So, if you like the Duo Plus models’ features but you want it all wrapped in a colorful exterior like purple, blue, or red, then you might think this QVC-exclusive model is a fun change of pace from the black-only option. You can view them on QVC’s site.

6) Ultra Models

The Ultra model comes in three sizes.

Sizes: Mini 3-quart, 6-quart, 8-quart (no 5-quart)

Functions: 10-in-1 (All “9” functions of the Duo Plus models, plus the Ultra program, which Instant Pot says “provides complete custom programming for pressure and non-pressure cooking.” Basically, Instant Pot says this offers things like more control over adjusting temperatures and cooking functions, altitude adjustments, and smart features that remember your customizations on various programs.)

7) Smart WiFi Model (Replacing the Discontinued Smart Bluetooth Model) – Updated Info Nov. 2018

Sizes: 6-quart only

Functions: “Unlimited” (according to Instant Pot’s comparison chart)

While it technically lacks the sterilize and poultry functions of some other models, as well as the canning and sous vide functions of the Max model (discussed below), Instant Pot claims that this model has “unlimited” functions. It essentially replaces the former Smart Bluetooth model (discontinued), which limited your connectivity range to a fairly small Bluetooth-connected area (probably not much beyond the perimeter of your own yard, for example). Instant Pot says the new Smart WiFi model allows you to use the Instant Pot App (on an iOS or Android device) to “to cook, schedule, adjust and monitor the progress of your meals … and verify your meal progress from anywhere.”

The Instant Pot App you’ll need in conjunction with the Smart WiFi model includes more than 750 pre-programmed recipes and also allows you to “share access with family and to receive alerts and notifications directly on your mobile device.”

8) Max Model – New Model, Updated Info Nov. 2018

Sizes: 6-quart only

Functions: “Unlimited” (according to Instant Pot’s comparison chart)

Just released in late summer/early fall of 2018. Instant Pot describes this model as, “providing you the ability to cook in the full temperature spectrum – fermentation, sous vide, warming, simmering, slow cook, boiling, pressure cook and completing the circle with sauté and searing.” The company also touts this model’s faster cooking times and its new NutriBoost™ technology, which allegedly requires up to 70% less energy. It also has a new automatic pressure release – possibly its best feature (according to Pressure Cooking Today). 

This all sounds really terrific, right? Maybe.

As of this update, I haven’t personally tried the new Max Model out for myself, but I’ve done a bit of reading for you, and I’ve found some reviews that really raise a red flag about whether or not it’s worth ponying up the extra cash for a Max model, and whether the Max really delivers all that it promises.

Specifically, if you’re considering the Max, you might want to read a Cnet review, which states that the model doesn’t reach the temps needed for true sous vide cooking, and that there are some unresolved disparities between the USDA and Instant Pot “about whether electric pressure cookers can get hot enough (between 240 and 250 degrees Fahrenheit) to destroy potentially deadly bacteria inside canned food.” I’ll be honest – reading that made me uneasy about relying on the Max for high-heat, pressure canning (at least YET). In addition, while some reviews mentioned seeing those promised faster cooking times, the Cnet review specifically found the opposite, stating, “In fact, the Max’s overall cook times were longer than we’ve seen with other electric pressure cookers. It also took longer to cool down and lower its internal pressure through natural release.”

In the end, you’ll have to weigh those nice feature upgrades (like that automatic pressure release) against the heftier price tag and the possibility that some of the new features may not fully deliver on their promise.

Other Differences Between Models

Displays and Controls – Each model offers slightly different read-outs and various changes in the way you control the Instant Pot (whether through buttons or a main dial, for example). If that’s something that’s really important to you, just take a quick read through the descriptions of the two or three specific models you’re comparing on Instant Pot’s website, and it’s pretty easy to figure out the display and control differences between the models you’re considering.

The Instant Pot Duo vs Duo Plus: there are differences in the number of functions and in the user interface screens.
On the left is the Instant Pot Duo60 (the 6-quart size), and on the right is the Instant Pot Duo Plus Mini (the 3-quart size). You can see the difference in the user interface screens between the Duo and the Duo Plus, and also the differences in the relative size of the 6-quart vs. the 3-quart Mini.

Pricing – As you step up from each model to the next, more decked-out model (say, from the Lux to the Duo … or from the Duo to the Duo Plus), you can expect to pay roughly $20 – $30 more for each step up the ladder. Unless, of course, you hit a great sale, in which case – yay, you! But in general, each bump to the next “best” (aka more feature-loaded) model, will cost you around an extra $20 – $30, so it’s worth evaluating how many features you’re really and truly going to use. Because, seriously … sometimes more isn’t better. It’s just … more.

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Which Size of Instant Pot Should You Buy?

3-Quart “Mini” Instant Pot

Pros: The 3-quart has a smaller footprint and isn’t as heavy, so it’s great for small spaces like RVs or campers, small apartments or even dorms (although … do lots of college kids use Instant Pots???). It’s also easier to haul in and out of cupboards when you want to use it, and will take up less space if you plan to leave it sitting on your counter most of the time.

Cons: It will probably be too small to do much big-batch cooking or meal prep, or large make-ahead recipes for things like stews, soups and chilis. It also probably won’t be big enough for families of more than 2 people, and will likely be too small to do much PIP (pot in pot) cooking.

Good for: Small-batch cooking for 1 or maybe 2 people. It could also be a great second Instant Pot if you already own a larger one and want to buy a second to use for simultaneously cooking side dishes.

5-Quart or 6-Quart Instant Pot

Pros: The 6-quart size is the most popular, and often considered to be the standard. This means that most recipes you come across will generally have been developed for the 6-quart size, and you’ll probably also be more likely to find accessories and replacement parts for it, on down the line.

Cons: This size isn’t considered ideal if your family is larger than 4 people. In that case, you may want to step up to the 8-quart.

Good for: Families of 1 or 2 who want the option to do more big-batch cooking, or for families of 3 or 4 people. This size can hold a typical whole chicken and other large cuts of meat.

8-Quart Instant Pot

Pros: This size allows for really big-batch cooking and is also suited for families of more than 4 people.

Cons: The 8-quart has a larger footprint, so it requires more space to store or to sit out on your counter. Also, it will generally take longer to come up to pressure because of its large volume, will need more liquid to generate enough steam to come to pressure (so it’s not going to be as good for cooking very small amounts), and may also take a little longer for a natural pressure release at the end of a pressure cooking cycle.

Good for: This size is definitely best for bigger families, or for smaller families who really like to batch-cook in large quantities.

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Ok … Ok … So Which Instant Pot to Buy? (A Few More Things to Consider)

Actual (Usable) Size – Remember that, for pressure cooking, you typically don’t want to fill the pot more than 2/3 full (1/2 full for really frothy things or things that expand during cooking, like beans and grains), because a too-full pot can cause the quick-release pressure valve to clog. So, when you’re considering which size to purchase and how much room you’ll need to make your favorite recipes, it’s important to think about the actual usable size, not just the total size.

When considering which size Instant Pot to buy, consider the volume of food you’ll be cooking.
Here you can see the difference in the volume of the inner pots, with the smaller, 3-quart Mini stacked inside the 6-quart.

What Do You Like to Cook? – When debating about which size to get, think about whether you like big-batch cooking, cooking to freeze ahead, or the ease of making enough to have leftovers for a few days. If so, then you probably want to choose a slightly larger option, rather than going a little smaller.

How Adventuresome Do You Truly Plan to Be? – Reality check. Here’s where you need to ask yourself things like, “Do I really plan to make yogurt with my Instant Pot?” It’s easy to get lured in by the promise of all the fun you could have with more more MORE functionality. But, since each step up in model also means a step up in price, you might want to have a serious talk with yourself about what kind of cooking is actually likely to be happening, and if the lure of “I might make yogurt one time” or “I might one-day-maybe write my own recipe scripts” is actually worth a higher price tag. If you’ve got the bucks and you think some added bells and whistles could be fun, though … then by all means … go for it!

How Many People Are You Cooking For? – As I delineated above, the 3-quart Instant Pots are targeted to cook for 1-2 people, the 5-quart and 6-quart models are intended for families of no more than about 4 people, and the 8-quart models are definitely best for larger families.

How Much Space Do You Have for Your New Friend? – Don’t forget to consider how much room you have for stowing your new Instant Pot in your pantry or kitchen cabinets. Or, if you plan to love it so much that it’s going to take up permanent residence on your kitchen counter (mine has!), consider how much real estate you’re willing to give it.

Is This a Second Instant Pot? – If you already own one Instant Pot and are trying to select a second one, you might want to choose a smaller size if you’re looking to use it to simultaneously make side dishes while you cook the main meal in your larger Instant Pot. Or, you might want to pick out a different model that offers other features and functions you don’t already have. (Flip side of that, of course – if both your Instant Pots are from the same model line, you only have to remember how to use one control panel, one set of functions!)

What Recipes Do You Plan to Make? – Are you generally going to be following other people’s (blog or cookbook) recipes, or will you be making up your own recipes? Remember that Instant Pot recipes seem to be most commonly created for the most popular and prevalent 6-quart size, so if you like just grabbing a recipe and going with it (without tinkering with proportions and number of servings), then you might want to choose the 6-quart size for sheer, no-brainer simplicity.

Knowing what types of recipes you plan to cook with your Instant Pot can help you make your decision about which Instant Pot to buy.

Are You a Techie? – If so … then you might enjoy the functionality of the Smart WiFi model. If you aren’t, though, then messing around with an app, and with downloading scripts, might be more hassle than you really need to spend money on.

What About Other Brands? – Did you know there are actually several other brands of multi-function electric pressure cookers? Instant Pot certainly isn’t the only brand to throw their hat into this super-popular ring. If you peek at Amazon’s electric pressure cooker offerings, you’ll see lots of other brands, like Cuisinart, Mueller, COSORI, Chefman, and GoWISE. I could probably write nearly an encyclopedia trying to compare all those brands and their functions – and that’s way, way beyond the scope of this article (or my expertise). If you’re really interested in broadening your electric pressure cooker search beyond just the Instant Pot line, here are a couple of articles I found particularly useful: The 9 Best Pressure Cookers to Buy in 2018 and also a Serious Eats write-up about The Best Pressure Cookers and Multi-Cookers (these articles both also look at non-electric, stovetop models).

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The Bottom Line: Which Instant Pots I Bought

For Myself (with a family of 4) – Back in January 2017 (after doing A LOT of research), I decided to buy the Instant Pot Duo60 6-quart. I needed something bigger than the 3-quart, but wasn’t sure I needed to go so huge as the 8-quart. Plus, I like that the 6-quart is the most common size, so the majority of recipes other people write are geared toward it, and – as a recipe developer myself – I’ll be testing recipes in the size that most of my readers will be using when they make the recipes I create.

The Instant Pot Duo60 is probably the most popular of all the instant Pot models.
This is my Instant Pot – the Duo60 6-quart. You can see it in action in my recipes for Carolina-Style Instant Pot Shredded BBQ Chicken Sandwiches and  Family-Favorite Instant Pot Sweet Potato Soup

If I had it to do over again today, I’d probably still make the same choice, with the possibility that I’d go one notch higher to the Duo Plus (which wasn’t available when I purchased my Duo), just because, as a food writer, I’d like to experiment with the additional functionality. For me, the fine-tuning capabilities of the Ultra model and the wireless capability of the Smart WiFi model just sound like overkill for how I know I’ll personally be using this. And, I’m just not sure the Max is worth the money.

For My Mom (with a Family of 2) – When I later picked out an Instant Pot for my mom (with her help), we ultimately decided she’d be happiest with the Instant Pot Duo Plus Mini 3-quart. I honestly think she could have gone with the 6-quart size, but she really wanted the smaller “Mini” 3-quart size because it takes up less space.

Which one should you buy? There are so many options, functions, models and sizes to consider! The Instant Pot Duo Plus or the Ultra? The 6-quart or the Mini? We break it all down to help you decide which is right for you and your family, walking you through an Instant Pot buyer’s guide that includes specific points you should consider before buying. | #InstantPot #pressurecooker #pressurecooking #buyingguide | www.TwoHealthyKitchens.com
This is the one I chose for my mom – the Instant Pot Duo Plus, in the Mini 3-quart size.

In deciding between the Duo and the Duo Plus, we finally settled on the Plus, only because she thought it might be fun to play around with some of the enhanced canning capabilities of the Plus (although, if you’re considering this, remember that you still can’t use even the Plus for pressure canning – you can read more about that in my article on what you can do with an Instant Pot and what you can’t).

In a side-by-side comparison, it’s easy to see the differences between the Duo and the Duo Plus, and between the Mini and 6-quart sizes.

Whew! That’s a lot of info!

I hope it helps demystify some of the ins and outs of all the different Instant Pot models and sizes, and helps you figure out which Instant Pot to buy … the one that is really and truly best for you! If all my hours researching what I wanted to buy can help you out a bit, too, then it’ll definitely feel extra-worth-it!

Which Instant Pot to buy? There are so many options, functions, models and sizes to consider in making that decision!

57 thoughts on “Which Instant Pot to Buy”

  1. I have owned a 6 quart and A 3 quart a 6 quart can easily feed 5 to 10 people depending on what you cook and a 3 quart can easily feed three or four people depending on what you make. When I make chili in the 3 quart I use about 1 1/2 pounds of meat along with the other ingredients and I usually get four servings out of it. You can make a lot of food with the 3 quart. I was actually surprised. Also a 3 quart only requires a minimum of a half a cup of liquid so I find the dishes come out less watery then I would if I use the 6 quart. I live by myself and it makes plenty of leftovers know if your family of two to four 3 quart will do just fine

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