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The multi-cooker, all-in-one gadget known as the Instant Pot makes an appearance on every list of must-buy kitchen equipment. Its popularity has led amateur chefs, both veterans and newbies, to simplify their culinary efforts into one-pot meals and make pressure cooking trendy again. The electric Instant Pot’s ability to regulate its own heat is its advantage over older stovetop pressure cookers. This means whether you want to quickly whip up a batch of beans or a week’s worth of egg bites, you can literally set it and go about your business. There’s also a multitude of other features, like slow cooking, yogurt making, and air frying, to explore.
If you’re ready to take the plunge with your own Instant Pot or are looking to upgrade from an earlier generation, here’s a comprehensive roundup of the six best Instant Pots.
Best Overall: Instant Pot Duo 7-in-1 Electric Pressure Cooker
The Instant Pot company makes a wide range of multi-cookers, but its consistent bestseller comes in the form of the Instant Pot Duo. This classic workhorse model provides the best representation of what multi-cookers have to offer. It’s efficient, it’s affordable, and it’s beloved by thousands of reviewers.
While the Duo also comes in 3- and 8-quart options, the sweet spot is the 6-quart. It’s big enough for meals feeding up to 6 people but small enough to easily store in a kitchen cabinet. All Duo Instant Pots come with 13 different functions, including a rice cooker, steaming, sautéing, a yogurt maker, and a warming device.
The third generation of Instant Pots has improved heating sensors and safety features. The stainless-steel body is resistant to smudges, and its attachments are safe for the dishwasher, making it a breeze to clean.
Best for Beginners: Instant Pot Duo Nova 6-Quart 7-in-1
If you’re totally new to the multi-cooker world, this innovative entry-level version of the Instant Pot Duo might be ideal for you. The Duo Nova includes all of the appealing features of the classic Duo. But it also has an automatic sealing lid, which takes some of the guesswork out of the process, and keeps you from accidentally leaving the steam valve open and making a mess of your kitchen.
The Duo Nova features 13 “smart” program options, which allow you to start your meal by just pushing a button. If you tend to get nervous about your dish as it cooks, its progress indicator will keep you updated in real-time. Duo Novas come in 3-, 6-, 8-, and 10-quart versions, but the 6-quart is just right for six people or less.
Best for Singles: Instant Pot Duo Mini 3-Quart 7-in-1
With the larger sizes, buyers planning to cook primarily for themselves may wind up with more leftovers than they’d prefer. That’s why the Instant Pot 3-quart Duo Mini—which packs all of the perks of the standard Duo into a compact package—is such a phenomenal choice for solo diners.
Measuring only 11.4 x 10 x 11.2 inches, the small size makes it simple to store no matter what size kitchen you have. But it doesn’t hold back on functions. It has all but two of the same program features as the larger Duos, and it’s just as easy to clean.
Best for Advanced Chefs: Instant Pot Ultra 6-Quart 10-in-1
Home cooks who idolize Michelin-starred chefs and scour the pages of top food sites in search of ambitious recipes may gravitate toward an Instant Pot with more advanced capabilities. If that’s you, the Instant Pot Ultra offers the flexibility to whip up a world-class meal using sophisticated culinary techniques.
In addition to the seven functions of the classic Duo, the Ultra has presets to cook eggs, bake cakes, and sterilize everything from unpasteurized dairy products to baby bottles. The Ultra features 16 easy program selections in total, including “Ultra,” which is a custom programming for pressure or non-pressure cooking. You can even use this model as a sous-vide cooker since it maintains a steady water temperature and includes enough space to easily fit sous-vide bags.
Best Smart: Instant Pot Smart WiFi 8-in-1 Electric Pressure Cooker
The benefits of smart technology center around convenience. With the push of one app icon or a verbal command to Alexa or Siri, you can accomplish a wide swath of tasks. And, if you decide to purchase a smart multi-cooker like the Instant Pot Smart WiFi model, then you can add “cooking a healthy and satisfying meal” to the list of easy-to-complete necessities.
The Smart WiFi line is fully compatible with Alexa, which allows users to program the pot and receive progress updates via their smartphones. It also gives you access to thousands of recipes and the ability to share cooker commands with friends and family. This Instant Pot can execute all of the classic Duo’s functions, along with cake-making capabilities.
Best Air Fryer: Instant Pot Duo Crisp + Air Fryer 11-in-1 (8 Quart)
Air fryers are here to stay. If you’re yearning for an air fryer, but hate the idea of packing yet another piece of kitchen equipment into your already overloaded cabinets, then a device that combines a multi-cooker and an air fryer will save valuable space. Luckily, Instant Pot designed a multi-cooker/air fryer hybrid, the Instant Pot Duo Crisp.
This model truly takes the Duo to the next level. The Duo Crisp performs 11 functions including sous vide, roasting, broiling, and dehydrating. It comes with two lids, the regular cooking lid with auto seal, and the air fryer lid. The 8-quart size provides enough space for air-fried foods to fully crisp up, and the included air-frying basket is specially designed to optimize airflow.
What To Look for in an Instant Pot
Multi-cookers may seem like glorified pressure cookers, but they actually have a lot of different functions. The difference between a pressure cooker and a multi cooker can be summed up as follows: All multi-cookers are pressure cookers, but not all pressure cookers are multi-cookers. A pressure cooker is a pot with a sealing lid that, when heated either over the stovetop or by electric power, builds up steam to cook food at a quicker velocity than traditional methods.
A multi-cooker includes pressure cooking as one of its functions, but it can typically also be a slow cooker, a rice cooker, and a yogurt maker. They can cook a frozen piece of chicken in 20 minutes and steam fish in less than 10. These are appliances with incredible flexibility.
Multi-cookers come in a number of different sizes, and the appropriate choice for you depends on your household size and your cooking goals. The 3-quart cookers work best for one or two people, generally. The 6-quart size is the most popular size for multi-cookers, as it provides enough space to prep meals for three to six-person groups or families. The 8-quart cookers are for you if feeding more than six people is a regular occurrence.
Different models of multi-cookers include different features. In terms of the Instant Pot line, the most basic models can pressure cook, slow cook, steam, sauté, keep food warm, and make rice and yogurt. More advanced models offer programs designed for cooking techniques like sous vide and air frying, as well as custom programming and Wi-Fi capabilities.
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Taylor Tobin is a freelance journalist who specializes in recipe testing and deep-dives into popular dishes and ingredients. She recently purchased her first Instant Pot Duo after extensive research on every available Instant Pot and multi-cooker model, and she’s already sure that it will claim a prime spot in her kitchen for years to come.