What’s the Difference Between All the Instant Pot Models?

updated Oct 7, 2020
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(Image credit: The Kitchn)

Thinking about finally getting an Instant Pot? You will most likely be able to find at least one model on sale tomorrow or Tuesday, during Amazon Prime Day (and a half). So, while we wait for the official shopping holiday to begin, let’s take a minute to go over the differences between the various models.

This way, you’ll know what you should get!

First, Which Size Instant Pot Is Best?

The first thing you’ll notice is that the Instant Pot comes in 3-, 6-, and 8-quart options. For most of you, 6 quarts will be just fine. It’s the capacity you’ll need to make a batch of beef stew or chicken soup. If you find you often double up on the chili recipe so you can stockpile meals for weeknights or you have a large family, spring for the bigger 8-quart model. We’d say avoid the mini unless you’re cooking for one or two and are already comfortable scaling down recipes.

(Image credit: Amazon)

What’s the Difference Between All the Instant Pot Models?

The original and least expensive option, the Lux only has one pressure option: high. But that’s OK. We know it’s often tempting to go for more features, but in our opinion the chief benefit of the Instant Pot is its ability to make dishes like country-style spareribs and brisket so quickly that you can serve them up on a school night. And to do that all you need is high pressure. If your budget is tight, this is likely your best choice. It does have slow-cook, sauté, rice, and steam settings, so you can still play around with what else the Instant Pot can do.

Buy: Instant Pot Lux, from $60

As you move up to the Duo, you get a low-pressure setting in addition to the high-pressure one. The gentler pressure level is best for things like custards, cakes, or even veggies. But ask yourself this: Are you really going to “bake” a cake that won’t brown, or pressure cook your broccoli when you can microwave it in just five minutes? One valid reason to step up to the Duo: It can double as a yogurt maker. Just don’t be swayed by that unless you’re serious about making your own yogurt.

Buy: Instant Pot Duo, from $80

Here you get everything the Duo has plus sterilize, egg, and cake settings. (We can’t vouch for its ability to truly sterilize.) It’s designed with a larger screen that shows you the status of the cooker when it’s operating and makes it easy to adjust the settings mid-cook.

With the Duo Plus, you also get the benefit of being able to keep food on warm for an entire day, but do you really need to have your jambalaya simmering longer than the 10-hour max that’s standard on the Lux and Duo?

Buy: Instant Pot Duo Plus, from $100

Invest in the Ultra and you get the ability to customize your own settings. Before you get too excited, have you ever figured out how to program your coffee maker to automatically start brewing when your alarm goes off or are you still wandering into the kitchen bleary-eyed to switch it on every morning?

If you don’t love tinkering with the appliances you already own, chances are you won’t want to adjust your Instant Pot settings. After all, isn’t the fact that it figures out the cooking time and temp automatically one of the chief reasons you’re buying it? If you actually want to tinker, go for this option.

Note: It does come in the 3- and 8-quart option, but the 6-quart is easier to find.

(Image credit: Instant Pot)

Our Suggestion for the Best Instant Pot You Should Buy

Get the 6-Quart Instant Pot Lux for $80. It’ll do everything you want it to and you won’t pay up for features you don’t need. Once you get it, try making a dish like short ribs (that would ordinarily require you to hang around the kitchen, adjusting the heat and stirring the pot for upwards of two-and-a-half hours) and you’ll be sold.