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Wondering which Instant Pot is best for a beginner? This handy guide will help you find the perfect multicooker to get rid of the cold-weather blues.
Senior Editor / Home and Kitchen
I live in Brooklyn where I write about food subscriptions, cooking, kitchen gadgets and commerce. Anything with sesame is my all-time favorite food this week.
It’s settled: the Instant Pot is not a trend. It’s here to stay! If you haven’t explored the world of Instant Pot cooking, now’s the time to explore. With minimal effort, you can make delicious soups, chilis, and even pulled pork for taco night. What does require a little more effort is choosing which Instant Pot is right for you. Luckily, CNET is here to help you out.
The popular line of multicookers started with one model, and now the brand has an entire fleet of Instant Pots: Over a dozen models exist. There are Instant Pots made especially for Star Wars fanatics. There are Instant Pots that air fry, others that sous-vide and even multicookers that connect to Wi-Fi to be controlled via a mobile device or integration like Google Home or . Most come in three sizes — 3, 6 and 8 quarts — each with distinct features, programs, cooking functions and price tags.
In terms of size, the 6-quart models are the most popular for families and perfect if you’re cooking for three to five people. For a single person or even a couple, you could easily get away with a 3-quart and save a few bucks while you’re at it. If you’re making food for a large group on the regular, you might consider the larger 8-quart cooker.
There are even Instant Pots made especially for Star Wars fanatics.
These handy kitchen cookers look similar on the outside, and they will all do the basic functions of pressure cooking, slow cooking, warming and sautéing. If you’re looking for an Instant Pot that performs specific food functions such as cooking eggs, making yogurt or even canning fruit, you’ll need to know which models can do that. Different models prove better for different kinds of cooking like precision programs, air frying, yogurt making and sous-vide cooking.
We’re here to help you figure out the best Instant Pot for your culinary needs. Here are our favorite Instant Pot models to help you find the perfect fit. We update this list periodically.
The Instant Pot Duo 7-in-1 is the company’s most popular series and for good reason. It’s super simple to operate and comes with seven versatile cooking functions: pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, steamer, sauté, yogurt maker and warmer. You can buy the Duo in three sizes: 3-quart ($68), 6-quart ($89) and 8-quart ($99).
It’s also the most affordable model with yogurt and poultry programs as well as the option to pressure cook on high or low.
Programs included: Rice, Bean/Chili, Poultry, Meat/Stew, Multigrain, Porridge, Soup/Broth, Steam, Manual or Pressure Cooking
What it doesn’t have: Cake, Sterilize, Egg and Canning
The Ultra series offers upgrades from the previous models. You can cook delicious dishes like Instant Pot chicken breasts, mac and cheese or mashed potatoes with high and low pressure for up to 6 hours, which is 2 hours more than the Lux and Duo series. It’s available in 3-quart ($99), 6-quart ($125) and 8-quart ($160) sizes. It’s the best Instant Pot for slow cooking.
The Ultra name comes from the added option to fine-tune parameters like temperature. You can specify temperature to a single degree from 104 to 208 degrees Fahrenheit. You can also dial in specific values for cooking time, pressure level and delay time.
Programs included: Rice, Bean/Chili, Meat/Stew, Multigrain, Porridge, Soup/Broth, Cake, Sterilize, Steam, Egg, Manual or Pressure Cooking, and Ultra
What it doesn’t have: Poultry and Canning
Yep. Just when you thought the Instant Pot couldn’t do much more, they invented one that air fries. The Duo Crisp has all the functions of your classic Instant Pot Duo but with a second air fryer lid for blasting fries, wings and more with super convection heat. If you’ve never air fried, it’s pretty habit-forming. The best part is you need very little oil or none at all to achieve fried-like goodness with a crispy outside and a moist inside.
If you already have an Instant Pot you like, you can buy the air fryer lid separately for around $75.
Programs included: Air fry, Roast, Bake, Dehydrate, Pressure Cook, Slow Cook, Rice, Yogurt, Steam, Sauté, Sterilize and Warm
What it doesn’t have: Cake, Egg, Porridge, Soup/Broth and Canning
The Instant Pot Pro is one of the more advanced models in the line, so it might not be the best choice for a first-time pressure cooker. That said, it’s still easy to operate with just a few more features like adjustable custom cooking programs and a precision temperature dial. The Pro also features a sous-vide cooking function — low and slow water bath — along with 28 other cooking programs.
This model has easy-grip handles on the inner pot, a large LCD display, an upgraded steam-release valve and an auto-sealing lid. The 6-quart Pro is $130 while the 8-quart version will cost you $150.
Programs included: Pressure cook, Slow, Sous vide, Sauté, Sterilize, Yogurt, Warmer, Cake and Steamer
What it doesn’t have: Air fry, Roast and Egg
This tech-forward multicooker connects to your phone’s Instant Pot control panel app for remote monitoring of your cooker, Instant Pot recipe customization and notifications. Instant Pot Smart Wi-Fi is also controllable via voice commands through both Alexa and Google Assistant. It’s important to note that this model is only available in a 6-quart size, so if that’s not a good fit for you, it may not be the best Instant Pot for your cooking needs.
Programs included: Rice, Bean/Chili, Meat/Stew, Multigrain, Porridge, Soup/Broth, Cake, Steam, Egg and Manual or Pressure Cooking
What it doesn’t have: Poultry, Canning, Ultra and Sterilize
Food-specific modes and options will make the difference when it comes to picking the best Instant Pot for your cooking needs. If you want to venture into making your own yogurt, or if you love hard-boiled eggs, it’s worth it to pay a bit more for an Instant Pot model that can do those things.
When it comes to choosing the right size, Instant Pot recommends a 3-quart model for one or two people. Families of six or fewer will likely be happy with the 6-quart multicooker. If you have a large household or host large groups often, consider springing for an 8-quart model.
There are options from other brands, too. We recently reviewed a great. It does more than Instant Pot’s Wi-Fi model and comes with an integrated scale, nonstick pot and helpful iOS or Android app. It costs $200, so if you’re not ready to graduate to a high-end model, Instant Pot’s more affordable options are great for beginners.
If you’re still not sure which model will be the best Instant Pot for your kitchen, take a look at Instant Pot’s product comparison chart or its guide to choosing the right cooker. At the end of the day, all of these models offer the basic pressure cooking and slow cooking modes Instant Pot is known for performing so well.