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Published Sep. 7, 2021

Whether you’re new to adulting, have limited counter space, or you’re just anti-gadget in general, there are many reasons you might not have tried an Instant Pot yet. But now’s the time! These multicookers can saute like a pan, simmer like a pot, and slow cook like a… well, you know. But they can also cook rice, ferment yogurt, and—their main claim to fame—pressure-cook foods in a flash.

What’s pressure cooking? While most often used for processing jams and other canned foods, pressure cooking takes place in a tightly sealed pot where steam builds up inside, causing the temperature to increase higher than it would in a regular stovetop pot. This means you can enjoy a pot of creamy beans or a perfectly shreddable chicken (even if it was frozen!) in about an hour. Set it and forget it, with only one pot to clean up? We call that winning. 

How We Chose These Products

After a while, all multicookers start to look alike, and the eponymous Instant Pot (understandably) has the market cornered. No matter what you’re looking for, it seems Instant Pot has a model for you. For that reason, I looked at more than a dozen models to give a variety of options. I combed product roundups, the company website, and—most revealing—user reviews to find the unique features that matter most not only to everyday consumers but to me as a recipe developer. 

In my years in a test kitchen, I frequently worked with multicooker recipes where I had to figure out how to adapt a recipe to the pot. Like a Swiss army knife that can do everything but not any one thing exceptionally well, some multicookers can be unreliable when it comes to sauteing or slow cooking (they’re not a slow cooker, after all). My top factor, therefore, in selecting a multicooker is that it both slow cooks and pressure cooks—what many companies refer to as the fast/slow approach. I looked to those that could complete a slow cooker recipe in the allotted time, based on reviews. I also considered intuitive ease of use. Could a new user potentially get the machine going without consulting the owner’s manual? Capacity was also a factor, as was the ease of cleaning. After all, what’s the point of using one appliance when the cleanup is a pain? For me, the more I can toss in the dishwasher, the better.

The Best Instant Pots: Reviews and Recommendations

Best Instant Pot Overall: Instant Pot Duo Plus 9-in-1 Electric Pressure Cooker, 6-Qt

Multi-Purpose Dinner Slayer

A one-stop appliance from the OG of Instant Pots. Instant Pot

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Why It Made The Cut: All the best features of an Instant Pot with a few select upgrades.

Specs:

  • Stainless steel interior pot
  • Removable, easy-seal lid
  • 1-touch cooking programs with digital display
  • 6-quart capacity
Pros:Cons:
  • Stress-free steam venting
  • Smaller size 
  • Smaller size fits neatly on a countertop
  • Expensive
  • Anti-spin, stainless-steel inner pot
  • 9 simple-touch functions, including sterilizing and sous vide
  • As the original multicooker, Instant Pot could have rested on its laurels and continued to gain legions of fans. Instead, it continued to innovate. In addition to the features we’ve come to love, including delayed start and keep warm, the Duo Plus adds two functions and two cooking programs over its bestselling Duo series, making this unit more versatile. Whether you’re sterilizing baby bottles or trying to make a cake, this model has it all. It also includes a clear digital display with a new progress bar so you can see how far along your food is, and a lid rest, so you don’t have to set the lid on your countertop.

    Previous users of the Instant Pot will immediately recognize the best upgrade that comes in the new design of the inner pot. Made of dishwasher-safe stainless steel (for superior browning of foods), the anti-spin pot makes it easy to saute and stir foods while staying in place.

    New users will appreciate the easy steam-release switch that vents the pent-up pressure with a simple press. No more towel-covered fingers or wooden spoons to pop open the steam-release valve!

    While the size helps it fit on a counter or in a pantry, the smaller surface area of the pot means it will take more batches to brown things like veggies or stew meat. It might not be ideal for a family larger than three or four. And if this is your first IP, the price might be a deterrent.

    Best Value: Instant Pot Duo 7-in-1 Electric Pressure Cook, 6-Qt

    More Bang for the Buck

    Ticks all the boxes for ease of use, searing, and pressure- and slow-cooking. Instant Pot

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    Why It Made The Cut: A solid 6-quart pot that comes in at under $100 without losing the multi-functionality of more expensive models.

    Specs:  

    • 6-quart capacity
    • Lightweight
    • 7 functions
    Pros:Cons:
  • Push button surface with 13 presets
  • Less functionality
  • Lid-holding handle
  • Reliability
  • Exclusive recipe app with more than 1,000 recipes
  • Slow heat-up
  • Price
  • Check any Best-of list, and this pot’s likely on it. As the original Instant Pot, this is a great introductory multicooker at a great introductory price. Its easy-to-use preset buttons provide options for your most common dishes, from poultry to porridge and soups to steaming, making it one of the more intuitive models to use. The lid and inner pot are dishwasher safe, and the handle has a special notch to hold the lid, keeping your countertop clean. Like others in the Instant Pot family, it has key safety features, such as temperature and pressure monitors, an anti-blockage vent, and a leaky lid detector. 

    As the classic model, the Duo retains its 7-modes-in-1-appliance functionality. It doesn’t have some of the newer Instant Pot features, like egg cooker, sous vide, or sterilizer, which helps keep the price point lower. Some users have reported issues with components breaking or the unit not working altogether. But the chief complaint of many is that it takes a long time to heat up, which may make it less appealing to use for simpler dishes like rice or oatmeal.

    Best for Small Spaces: Instant Pot Ultra 3-Qt 10-in-1 Multi-Use Programmable Pressure Cooker

    Have Pot, Will Travel

    A versatile cooking appliance that takes up a fraction of the counter space. Instant Pot

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    Why It Made The Cut: No need to sacrifice function or utility for size. If any countertop appliance is worth packing for a trip, this is it.

    Specs: 

    • Includes clear glass lid with pressure lid
    • Automatic altitude adjustment
    • Stainless steel 
    • Large LCD display
    Pros:Cons:
  • Sized for apartments or travel
  • Limited capacity
  • Safe steam-release vent
  • Time to come to temp and depressurize
  • Energy efficient
  • Alexa-skill enabled
  • Great price
  • Who says you can’t take it with you? Whether you like your own perfectly cooked steel-cut oats while glamping or you’re sending a kid off to college, you can’t go wrong with any of the 3-quart models put out by Instant Pot. For this luxury version, they’ve upgraded from their 7-in-1 to include more functions. 

    Newer features include an altitude adjustment that automatically helps recipes turn out great, whether you’re in Denver or Detroit—or traveling in between the two! Enable the Alexa skill and access recipes, videos, and grocery lists no matter where you are. These features alone make this small unit the ideal pot for gifting a new college student (who will bring it home again in the summer) or for the empty-nesters RVing cross country. 

    Added features include a clear cooking-progress indicator, so you know how much time is left on your food, along with easy programmable buttons to customize your cook temp and time. The clear glass lid (generally sold separately but comes with this bundle) allows you to see your food, which is a great feature when steaming veggies. The stainless-steel interior pot can go in the dishwasher. 

    While this is a perfectly sized appliance for small spaces, it is only suitable for one or two people, making most recipes difficult to use directly out of a cookbook. With that in mind, some cooks might wonder whether it’s worth it to bring the cooker up to temp and then depressurize it for just one or two portions. Still, if you’re in a space without an oven, such as a dorm room or camper, this pot is ideal.

    Best Versatility: Instant Pot Duo Crisp 11-in-1 Electric Pressure Cooker with Air Fryer, 8-Qt

    One Pot to Rule Them All

    A single appliance that can perfectly pressure cook a chicken before it crisps the skin. Instant Pot

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    Why It Made The Cut: If you’re looking for bells and whistles, this all-in-one cooker could replace every piece of equipment in your kitchen.

    Specs:

    • Air fryer and dehydrator component
    • 8-qt capacity
    • Stainless interior pot
    Pros:Cons:
  • Large capacity
  • Cost
  • Easy-clean accessories
  • Hefty weight
  • Bakes, roasts, broils, dehydrates
  • Air fryer basket coating can chip
  • Make healthy fried foods 
  • Pressure-release button
  • Customers familiar with multicookers know to expect a lot from their appliances. And this one is no exception. Bake, roast, broil, steam, dehydrate, slow cook, pressure cook—the Instant Pot Duo Crisp 11-in-1 Electric Pressure Cooker with Air Fryer

    really does do it all, and users sing it pressure-cooking praises. Its large capacity can cook enough food to feed a crowd, all without turning on your oven. 

    The real bonus to this multicooker is the air fryer crisping lid. You can quickly “fry” anything from tater tots to chicken wings to fried fish with less oil—saving you fat, calories, and another countertop appliance. They’ve added a special alert when your food is ready to be flipped, so you don’t have to monitor what’s inside. The interior accessories are easy to clean and dishwasher safe. Intuitive one-touch settings and a clear digital screen make it user-friendly, as does the steam-release button.

    As an 11-in-1 appliance, it’s no surprise that it’s a hulk, weighing in at nearly 1½  pounds; many users note that it takes up a lot of physical space, and the air fryer lid requires more height clearance when attached. Users also report that the stainless-steel air fryer basket is coated in a nonstick material that wears off or chips, which can stick to food; it also doesn’t have handles for easy removal when the basket is hot.

    Best to Treat Yourself: Instant Pot Pro 10-in-1 Pressure Cooker, 8-Qt

    Next-Generation Upgrade

    The latest multicooker to combine your favorite fast/slow cooking methods while making life easier for the cook. Instant Pot

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    Why It Made The Cut: Perfect for long-time Instant Pot devotees who desire a sleek new upgrade, as well as the fancy home chefs who crave the latest tech with their gizmos.

    Specs: 

    • Inner pot handles
    • 28 preset cooking programs
    • Large capacity
    Pros:Cons:
  • Anti-spin inner pot with easy-grip handles
  • Expensive
  • Inner pot compatible with induction cooktops and ovens up to 450℉
  • Fragile
  • Updated steam release cover reduces noise and splatters
  • Lack of detailed manual
  • Extra sealing ring included
  • Faster preheat time
  • At last, an interior pot with handles! Instant Pot had a model called the Duo Evo Plus that included this fantastic feature, but the product was discontinued. They’ve retained the genius handles with the Pro, making the inner pot not only easy to take out without burning yourself, but the pot also stays put when stirring and sauteing. (While some people find the pot harder to clean with the handles, it remains dishwasher safe.) This durable pot is made from food-grade stainless steel that is oven safe (up to 450℉) and compatible with electric/ceramic/induction cooktops, should you want to put it through its paces. 

    Other upgrades include the steam release cover to reduce venting noise and prevent steam from spritzing all over your kitchen. In addition to the 28 preset programs, it enables you to customize your own settings for five of your favorite, most-cooked dishes. This model is said to preheat faster than previous versions, and it has an optional attachment (not included) that releases pressure faster—which means dinner on the table faster.

    As the crème de la crème of Instant Pots, it does come with unexpected price hike. Users report that this unit is a bit more touchy and fragile than earlier models, requiring replacement parts. Finally, this model doesn’t come with an owner’s manual, referring buyers to online instructions, which some users may not find helpful.

    Things to Consider Before Buying an Instant Pot

    Before you add a multicooker to your Amazon wish list, there are a few things to consider.  

    Price: Like any product, costs for multicookers vary widely, and a higher price point doesn’t necessarily mean a better product. The good news is that most mid-range multicookers cost less than $100, and any of those options will get the job done. Amazon routinely has sales, so keep an eye out.

    Cleanability: Products with attached lids can be more difficult to clean, as are exterior surfaces with knobs rather than push buttons. Durable, stainless-steel interior pots can have more stuck-on gunk that might require some elbow grease to remove, but this is often preferable to some of those with a nonstick coating that can become scratched and break down over time. Inserts that can go in the dishwasher are always a plus, as are those models that come with more than one sealing ring—they tend to absorb odors, so if you’re planning on making yogurt and pot roast in the same pot, your best bet is to switch out the ring.

    Functionality: Don’t feel the need to reach for the stars with your multicooker. Think of it like buying a pair of shoes that you think you might wear some day but in your heart you know you never will. If you know you’re never going to make yogurt, then don’t pressure yourself to find a model with that function. Or, are you really going to dehydrate apple chips on a rainy day? Similarly, you’re never going to haul out the multicooker to just saute veggies. If all you’re looking for is a slow cooker with the option of pressure cooking, then stick to the more basic 7-in-1 models. They’ll be easier to use overall. 

    FAQs 

    Q: What does an Instant Pot actually do?

    Instant Pot is the brand name of a certain type of multicooker. Its stand-out feature—and what sets it apart from a slow cooker—is that it’s an electric pressure cooker. Because the temperatures inside the pot, under pressure, can go much higher than they can in a regular stovetop pot, foods can cook at a fraction of their usual time (most brands claim 70 percent faster). Other typical features of a multicooker include steaming rice, sauteeing veggies or meats, slow cooking and/or warming stews and roasts. Newer-generation multicookers enable cake baking, egg cooking, yogurt making, sterilizing, even air frying and sous vide cooking.

    Q: Have any Instant Pots exploded?

    Many of us have experienced the stovetop pressure cookers used to process canning jars…along with tales of lids hitting the ceiling when too much pressure built up inside as well as steam burns. Because pressure cooking is just one of the features of a multicooker, they have several safeguards in place to prevent explosions, no matter the brand.

    Q: Is an Instant Pot really worth it?

    In short, yes. If you’re new to cooking or have limited appliance options, a multicooker can give you a lot more choices than you might normally cook with, especially with all the recipes available. If you’re a comfortable cook, an Instant Pot can make your life simpler by containing everything in one vessel. Prepare perfect rice, try your hand at making yogurt, whip up a coq au vin on a weeknight. And there’s no doubt that the quick cook times take nearly all that extensive meal planning out of the equation. Forgot to take the chicken out of the freezer or don’t have time to presoak beans for chili? Not a problem with an Instant Pot.

    Final Thoughts

    For the past decade, the Instant Pot has become ubiquitous with eating dinner faster. From the basic models to those with all the latest features, an Instant Pot can diminish, or in some cases eliminate, hands-on cook time. Whether you want to have dinner ready when you walk in the door, play around with making your own yogurt, or simply free up oven and stove space on a big holiday, the versatile Instant Pot is a one-time investment that can take the place of several smaller appliances and change your cooking routine for the better.

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