The Instant Pot entered the small appliance market by storm, and while it initially seemed too good to be true, the multicooker has proven to be one of the most popular small kitchen appliances around. That’s for good reason: it sets out to accomplish what it promises to do in spades, functioning as a multicooker that can pretty much do it all, from pressure cook to slow cook, steam to sauté, cook everything from rice to chili to oatmeal using preset buttons, and even air fryer with an optional lid attachment.
But since the original was released, the company Instant Brands, now owned by Corelle Brands, has come out with numerous different models to replace old ones and suit differing family and individual needs. The cult brand, which was actually started in Canada, has also expanded into new categories, like air fryers, sous vide circulators, rice cookers, blenders, coffee makers, and milk frothers. How do you choose the right one? We’re here to break things down with this handy Instant Pot buying guide.
Instant Pot buying guide quick reference handout
Table of contents
- What is the Instant Pot and what would you use it for?
- Advantages of using an Instant Pot
- The most popular models and their differences
- What to consider when choosing an Instant Pot for your home
- Uses cases for the Instant Pot
- Useful accessories for the Instant Pot
What is the Instant Pot and what would you use it for?
As noted, the Instant Pot is defined as a multicooker, able to perform many different common cooking functions you might otherwise use a separate device and/or an oven or cooktop to do. The main ones include pressure cooking, slow cooking, sautéing, and steaming. Every model also has preset buttons for one-touch cooking of common dishes like rice, chili, and oatmeal. See our Instant Pot tips and tricks for some ideas on what you can make in an Instant Pot.
It consists of a circular appliance that resembles a standard pressure cooker with a food-grade stainless-steel inner pot, twist and click on lid (that makes a distinct sound when put in place) with pressure cooking valve on top (this is what whistles when cooking and once the pressure is released), and a large LCD front panel with touch-enabled buttons for the cook settings, pressure levels, and other functions.
There’s a built-in timer that will show the process as the Pot comes to pressure (when pressure cooking), then countdown cook time and beep when done. If you choose to turn on the Keep Warm function, it will then proceed to keep the food warm inside, displaying a counter of the time the food has been keeping warm.
Every Instant Pot has some main cook features.
1.High pressure cooking – this is likely the most commonly used function of an Instant Pot. It’s designed to help you cook dishes that might otherwise need to be slow cooked or take a long time in the oven or on the stovetop in a fraction of the time. This can include everything from beef short ribs to chicken breasts. One of the advantages is that food can even be cooked directly from frozen within the same cook time but with a few extra minutes for the Pot to come to full pressure.
2.Low pressure cooking – This is not as often used in recipes, but it’s an option to consider as an alternative to boiling something under medium heat. You might find that pasta dishes will turn out well when cooked under low pressure in the Pot, though many opt for reducing the cook time and using high pressure to take full advantage of the Pot’s capabilities.
3.Slow cooker – While some claim the slow cooker option on an Instant Pot doesn’t work well, it’s important to understand that it can in fact work beautifully with one catch: keep the temperature on high. The low temperature slow cooker option on an Instant Pot is equivalent to keeping something warm on the stove. So while it can come in handy for that (though Instant Pots also have a dedicated “Keep Warm” function), you likely won’t find a flank steak fully cooked unless you put it on Slow Cook, High.
4.Saute – A great option for one-pot meals, you can do things like saute ground beef right in the Pot before adding noodles, mushroom soup, and other spices and ingredients for a delicious beef stroganoff. Or saute a whole chicken (yes, an entire chicken) in the Pot before adding liquid to cook it under high pressure for melt in your mouth chicken.
There are additional specialty cook features you’ll find only in some Instant Pots.
1.Yogurt – a special feature found in many Instant Pot models, you can use this button to follow detailed instructions and use whole milk and a spoonful of starter (typically just store-bought yogurt or a spoon from a previous batch of homemade yogurt) to turn it into yogurt.
2.Sous vide cooking – cook food in a Ziplock bag, removing the air and placing in liquid for a deliciously healthy protein that retains all the nutritional value and will come up sumptuous and moist.
3.Sterilize – use this function to sterilize things like baby bottles, pacifiers, glass jars, and more without having to opt for a boiling pot of water on the stove.
Many Instant Pots also have Smart Touch customizable programs for cooking common food items. Similar to microwaves that have one-touch cook buttons, these are simply button “favourites” that are pre-programmed with preset temperatures, cook types, and times for quick and easy one-touch operation. These commonly include:
- Boxed cake
What are the Instant Pot sizes?
Instant Pots come in three main sizes:
3-quart – The smallest of the bunch, the 3-quart Instant Pots are ideal for single individuals or couples who want to make a single meal each time, without loads of leftovers or to feed a larger group or family. A lot of fans also have a 3-quart in addition to a larger model that they can use for secondary cooking, like side dishes, vegetables, and more.
6-quart – The most popular size, a 6-quart Instant Pot is ideal for both small families with enough for leftover as well as larger families with up to six mouths to feed each meal. If you want to make large batches of food like chili, sauce, or yogurt, or even make food for larger gatherings, a 6-quart will suffice.
8-quart – The 8-quart Instant Pots are quite large so you don’t want to opt for one of these unless you have the counterspace to accommodate it. For those who make big batches often, such as for weekly meal planning, who entertain often, have especially large families, or want to cook large-sized items (think a couple racks of ribs or eight cobs of corn), the 8-quart will provide that extra room. But for more, a 6-quart models will do just fine.
Advantages of using an Instant Pot
Why would you use an Instant Pot? The reasons are plentiful with many advantages, some of which a lot of buyers don’t even consider or realize until they have one in their kitchen.
1.Get meals on the table faster – the most significant advantage with an Instant Pot is that you can get meals on the table faster, and cook things you might otherwise not have time to cook, like pulled pork or roast chicken. Consider, for example, that a roast chicken can take upwards of two hours to do right in the oven. In an Instant Pot, cook time is about 25 minutes plus about 10 minutes to come to pressure, 10 minutes to naturally release pressure, and 5 minutes to saute first for a crisp skin. That’s still under an hour. For busy families, features like Keep Warm and Delay Start mean you can have dinner ready with minimal effort, and if you’re running late, you don’t have to worry about it because the food will be kept warm until you’re ready to eat it.
2.Cook right from frozen – it’s common for fresh meat, poultry, and fish to reach the best before date, leading to families stocking up the freezer with items to ensure they don’t go bad. Or nowadays, with the price of groceries on the rise, buying in bulk is popular. But most families don’t have time to wait for the defrost phase, which can be anywhere from a few hours to 24. And defrosting in a microwave means losing some flavour and nutrients. The Instant Pot can cook food like sausages, chicken breasts, and fish right from frozen. You simply make the recipe as indicated and use the same cook time. The Pot will take longer to come to pressure, but the food will cook just as well.
3.Use Keep Warm function when running behind schedule – as noted, the Keep Warm function is a really handy one for allowing you to make items ahead, like side dishes. If you make dinner in the Pot and run behind because a toddler is throwing a tantrum, the softball game went into overtime, or there’s traffic on the way home from work, the meal will be kept in the Pot until you’e ready to eat it.
4.Simple to use for beginners – while there are plenty of ways to experiment with the Instant Pot for pro home cooks (think chocolate lava cakes, homemade yogurt, and cheesecake, the Instant Pot is a great device for novices. There’s a wealth of recipes online specific to the Instant Pot: search any item you desire with the words “Instant Pot” after them and loads of results will come up. Make things that might otherwise be daunting, like balsamic pork tenderloin, or throw items in for a simple, one pot recipe for everything from creamy mac and cheese to shredded chicken and salsa for tacos.
5.Plenty of creative options for pro cooks – as noted, pro cooks can truly experiment with the Pot once they get the hang of it, using a variety of accessories (see below section) to make things like homemade cakes, scalloped potatoes, sous vide egg bites, and one-pot meals using the trivet, steamer basket, or other accessory. Explore online and you’ll find tons of creative things fans have made in the Pots, from homemade vanilla extract to lemon curd and even wine.
6.Sanitize items – some models have a sanitize button that can be used to sanitize items like baby bottles and pacifiers, breast milk bottles, and other items. This means new parents have one less small appliance to buy and don’t need to rely on the pot of boiling water on the stove method. The same appliance that can steam vegetables and fruits for homemade food once the baby is ready for solids can also sanitize their bottles when they’re still drinking breast milk and/or formula, keeping them clean and free of bacteria.
7.Generate less heat, save energy – especially in the summer months, using the Instant Pot instead of the stovetop and oven will lead to less heat generation in the house. This means you won’t have to crank up the air conditioner to compensate or find yourself sweating in the kitchen while to make a meal for the family. Over the long run, this will save you money on both electricity bills and cooling.
8.Replace multiple small appliances – rather than have a slow cooker, steamer, pressure cooker, and even sanitizer, an Instant Pot replaces all these devices in one, small package that can sit atop your counter. You can make everything you would have made in multiple small appliances in one, helping to reduce clutter and further saving you money.
9. Contains smells and spills – cooking can lead to pungent smells in the kitchen, especially with a pot on the stove and a fan running low. With the Instant Pot, all the smells are contained inside until you open the lid. When the steam is released, there isn’t much odour either. Thus, you won’t find your kitchen smelling like curry for a week after you make a batch or won’t have to clean the stovetop of all the pasta spills from your delicious homemade sauce.
10. Easy clean up – Speaking of which, easy clean-up is a huge advantage of the Pot. It’s just one stainless-steel insert that can be used to saute, pressure cook, and more. It’s simple to clean using a scouring pad or strong-bristled brush. The lid can be periodically rinsed or even cleaned in the top rack of the dishwasher (the insert is also top rack dishwasher safe). For cleaning around the perimeter of the seal, remove the rubber seal and clean with warm water and dish soap. Use an old toothbrush or wrapped up paper towel to run along the inside and remove any built-up gunk and food particles. That’s it!
What are some of the most popular models and their differences?
As noted, Instant Brands has launched several Instant Pot models over the years, with each new model replacing older ones that you might still be able to find. But when it comes to the most popular options right now, here’s a rundown.
Popular Instant Pot models at a glance
Duo Plus 9-in-1 Duo V5 7-in-1 Duo Crisp + Air Fryer Zest Plus Rice And Grain Cooker Pro Star Wars Basic Modes Yes Yes (with optional lid) Yes No Yes Yes Extra Modes Yogurt, Sous Vide, Sterilize Yogurt Air Fry, Dehydrate Rice, Grain-Specific Modes Yogurt, Sous Vide, Sterilize Yogurt Sizes 3-quart, 6-quart, 8-quart 3-quart, 6-quart, 8-quart 8-quart 20 cups 6-quart, 8-quart 6-quart Standout features Upgraded lid None Comes with air fryer lid, basket Specialized rice and grain modes Faster heating, gentler steam release, new customization options, Easy Grip handles, easier-to-read display Star Wars-themed design
A detailed rundown of some of the most popular Instant Pot models
Instant Pot Duo Plus 9-in-1 – This model adds sous vide capabilities and a sterilize option. It also has the yogurt button that some owners swear by. It features an upgraded lid as well that can neatly store vertically in a groove on the side of the Pot and, is easier to open, and has a valve that’s more easily secured in place. The Instant Pot Duo Plus 9-in-1 comes in 6-quart and 8-quart sizes.
Instant Pot Duo V5 7-in-1 – This model has all the usual suspects when it comes to cook modes and options, along with yogurt making. You won’t get cook modes like sous vide and other niceties like sterilize, though. In addition to the most popular 6-quart size, you can also get this model in a larger 8-quart option.
Instant Pot Duo Crisp + Air Fryer – As the name implies, this Instant Pot model comes with air frying capabilities built in thanks to the included lid and air fryer basket. It comes with a unique style lid with a wavy form that’s distinct from the standard Instant Pot lid.
The Instant Pot Duo Crisp + Air Fryer is ideal for air frying everything from chicken fingers and wings to French fries and battered fish. It can also dehydrate fruits and vegetables using the included broil/dehydrating tray. You can buy the regular lid separately to use with this version of the Pot and enjoy six main cooking functions: pressure cook, saute, steam, slow cook, sous vide, and keep warm. You won’t, however, get others like yogurt nor the preset cook buttons.
Instant Zest Plus Rice and Grain Cooker – one of the newer models in the line once Instant Brands expanded beyond standard Instant Pots, this one is a specialized unit designed specifically for cooking rice and grains. Thus, all of its programmed are focused on those two items, with 14 in total. It does also have a steam option and keep warm.
Instant Pot Pro – For pro-level cookers who want to go all out, Instant Brands released the Instant Pot Pro model, which comes in 6- and 8-quart sizes and offers faster pre-heating times, a gentler steam release, and some new customizable programs. This model effectively has everything but the kitchen sink along with other improvements like Easy Grip handles, a larger, easier to read display, and an auto-sealing lid.
Star Wars Instant Pot – It’s pretty obvious who would covet one of these Instant Pots: it’s a must-have for any Star Wars fans who loves to cook, or lives a busy lifestyle and could make good use of the faster cooking capabilities of an Instant Pot. It’s a version of the Instant Pot Duo model that has seven functions, including yogurt and 13 built-in smart programs. There’s no sous vide or sterilize function, though. Around the perimeter of the appliance are images of the Child, a.k.a. Grogu, from the popular Disney+ show The Mandalorian. There’s also a version in blue and white with patterns and designs to celebrate R2-D2 from the original Star Wars films.
What to consider when choosing an Instant Pot for your home
Before opting for an Instant Pot and deciding on which model and size to get, there are a few questions to ask yourself. This will help narrow down the choice until you end up on the perfect model to suit you and your family’s needs.
How big is your family?
For families with anywhere from one to four people, a 6-quart Instant Pot would likely be the best size. If you’re a single individual or couple, you can consider a 3-quart. But having a 6-quart will not only allow you to cook more to keep leftovers for the week or following day, it will also help when entertaining. Plus, the larger size allows for accommodating bigger items, like baked potatoes, corn on the cob, and whole chickens. An 8-quart model is ideal for larger families, those who have big gatherings often, or if you like to make big amounts at a time for freezing or weekly meal planning.
How busy is your schedule?
An Instant Pot is a great small home appliance to have for those who are busy. If you have a lot of free time, you might enjoy the experience of cooking large meals on the stovetop and in the oven every night. But if you find that at least for a few days of the week, your schedule is “go, go, go,” an Instant Pot can be a great way to get a healthy, nutritious home-cooked meal on the tablet without having to rely on take-out or fast food.
How often do you cook?
If you cook often, an Instant Pot can help simplify some tasks. It might even just be useful for tackling those side dishes that often take longer to cook and/or lead to more pots and pans to wash. You could cook potatoes for mashing and steam broccoli, for example, in half an hour with very little prep. But consider also that if you don’t cook that often, having an Instant Pot might encourage you to do it more since you can follow step-by-step recipes and cook-time guidelines, which helps take the guesswork out of cooking for novices who feel overwhelmed or intimated by standard stovetop and oven cooking.
Do you like to experiment?
Certain Instant Pot models are great for experimenting, namely with the homemade yogurt function. With a simple starter (usually just a spoonful of store-bought yogurt) and whole milk, you can have fun making and jarring your own homemade yogurt, adjusting with new flavours and additions each time. Some people love making mini cakes, unique homemade egg creations, homemade jam, and more. With experimentation when it comes to the Instant Pot, the world is your oyster.
What are some use cases for the Instant Pot?
Rushing to get a meal ready
Only have a short amount of time for dinner or breakfast? Pop a pre-made recipe or pre-portioned ingredients in the Pot and let it cook while you tend to other chores. By the time you’re done, a full meal is ready to eat.
Making big batches
From homemade jam to sauce, chili to yogurt, the Instant Pot lets you cook large batches of items without using up so much energy from your stove and having the burners available for other tasks. The 6- and 8-quart models are as large as some Dutch ovens, so it’s amazing how much you can fit inside to cook at once.
Secondary cooking appliance for big gatherings
When you’re cooking for a big group, chances are you have every burner going and the stove on, whether it’s to cook, simmer, or keep food warm. The Instant Pot can be used as a secondary cooking device as well as a second device to keep something warm if the oven is already busy baking that pie or souffles for dessert.
The most useful accessories for the Instant Pot
Once you have an Instant Pot, you’ll realize that you can get so much more out of it with a variety of accessories. They expand the possibilities of what you can do, from being able to cook two dishes in one to making a cheesecake. There are also extra official Instant Pot accessories worth getting.
One great accessory you’ll realize you don’t know how you lived without is the Instant Pot Air Fryer lid, which fits atop most 6-quart models (check compatibility before purchasing). It comes with a steamer basket and tray, allowing you to use the Pot to air fry small portions of food, like chicken fingers, French fries, pork chops, and more. It’s small but for making kids’ lunches for school in the morning, for example, or if you have the time to fry small batches at a time, it’s perfect.
Extra silicone sealing rings are a good idea for the Pot: one thing you’ll notice is the rings do pick up the odours of items you cook, and it’s tough to get out. Getting different coloured ones is useful so you can use one colour for savoury meals, for example, and one for desserts. Instant Pot also offers a nice glass lid that you can use when cooking on any mode but pressure, great for making popped corn, slow cooking beef, and more, so you can watch the cook inside.
Silicone egg bite molds are a favourite among Instant Pot fans, who swear by the process of boiling eggs in the Pot. But with these molds, you can mix up your own morning egg bite recipes that will rival any local café. Add bacon, turkey, vegetables, and more, pour the egg mix into the cups, and pressure cook. These molds can be used for other dishes, too, like mini cakes, muffins, and even mini meatloaves.
For making cakes, you’ll want a non-stick, stainless-steel cake pan that will fit inside the Instant Pot. You’ll need to stick with a 6-inch pan for the 6-quart Instant Pot and a 7-inch for the 8-quart (some 8-inch pans might fit as well). It needs to be perfectly round. If the pan has handles, that is ideal since you won’t be able to maneuver your hands, especially with oven mitts, on either side to lift it out. A useful trick if it doesn’t have handles and won’t be sitting on a trivet: take a piece of foil, fold it until it’s a 2-inch wide long strip, then place it under the pan like a sling.
Speaking of pans, if you want to make things like mini custards and cakes, having a set of mini baking dishes is a good idea. These can usually be stacked in the Instant Pot with three on the bottom and two staggered on top (or more). Just make sure to choose ones that are rated for extremely high heat if you’ll be pressure cooking.
Take the next step
Ready to take the plunge and buy the perfect Instant Pot for your family? We have you covered with a wide selection of Instant Pot models at Best Buy Online, along with plenty of accessories you go along with it once you get the hang of things.
I would recommend the Instapot DUO60 6 Qt 7-in-1 Multi-Use Pressure Cooker. It’s a great value because it can do so many different things. You can use it as a pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, and more.