What's the best Instant Pot to buy for you and your family?
Everyone's talking about the Instant Pot and you're fairly certain you need one, too. Right?!
Only… what model and what size do you get?
Deanna is asking this as well: “Everyone I know has an Instant Pot! I know I want one, too, but the trouble is… when I go to order one, I get overwhelmed by which model to choose and whether I should get a 6 or 8 quart? Can you help?”
I understand; this is a big choice. You'll see if you keep reading that it wasn't easy for me, either.
Yet now… I've been around the block with our Instant Pot. And we have 2 different sizes in our home, so I'm happy to share my advice and from my experience to help you choose the model and size for you and your family.
That's what's on tap for today's #AskWardee!
Both the podcast and video replay of this week's show are below. Enjoy!
Original Episode From October 2016 (Podcast)
Updated Episode From December 2018 (Podcast)
Updated Episode From January 2020 (Podcast)
Original Episode From October 2016 (Video)
Updated Episode From December 2018 (Video)
Updated Episode From January 2020 (Video)
The Question: What Size Instant Pot Should I Buy?
Everyone I know has an Instant Pot! I know I want one, too, but the trouble is… when I go to order one, I get overwhelmed by which model to choose and whether I should get a 6 or 8 quart? Can you help?
And after I originally created this episode, Carmen followed up with these questions:
Could you open both of the pots [6 qt and 8 qt] and actually hold them up together (the inner/liner pots) side by side? And talk about the dimensions and space required for each, the weight, etc…. And show some of the foods you were talking about like the chickens, spaghetti squash, etc.Would you please consider amending episode #048 to include you showing the inner pot liners side-by-side? And getting more into the differences of the physical attributes and space required to store the 8 quart? Not everyone has the type of kitchen space you did your presentation in and it makes it extremely difficult to assess how I could store the 8qt in an apartment sized kitchen w/o more visual/physical handling of the pot…Would really appreciate it if you would.
My Answer: Which Instant Pot Is Best?
So you want an Instant Pot but don't know which model or size to choose. I'm happy to help!
What Is The Instant Pot, Anyway?
It's a multi-purpose electrical appliance. Think like a Crock Pot or slow cooker, except it can also do other things — it's a pressure cooker, a yogurt maker, and more. What features you get depends on what model you choose.
In other words… it's a plug-n-play machine that can replace a bunch of your kitchen appliances! And it's amazing!
We have 2 Instant Pots and use them both multiple times each day. In fact, I love it so much that we have an entire class on pressure cooking featuring the Instant Pot.
Yet I use the Instant for much more besides… like it's my favorite way to reheat leftovers which you can learn about here. Or if you want to see 11 creative (and surprising!) uses for an Instant Pot, go here. They're fun!
What About Other Brands?
Often people ask me to compare the Instant Pot to other brands. I'm sorry; I'm not familiar with other brands.
The Instant Pot won me over because of its high ratings, the stainless steel insert, all the recipes out there written for Instant Pot (including mine), its safety features, and friends' recommendations. I chose it and have not been dissatisfied in the least, nor inclined, at this point, to test out any others.
So, while I can't comment on other brands, I do know the Instant Pot in and out and can highly recommend it. I don't think anyone could regret choosing it.
When you choose your Instant Pot, you need to select both the model (Lux, Duo, Smart, or Ultra) and size (5-quart, 6-quart, or 8-quart). Let's go over the choices now.
Which Instant Pot Model Should You Choose?
The Instant Pot (currently) comes in Lux, Duo, Duo Evo Plus, Smart, and Ultra models.
#1 — The Lux
The Lux boasts 6 functions (Pressure Cooker, Sauté/Browning, Slow Cooker, Rice Cooker, Steamer, and Warmer).
It lacks both the yogurt function (which I love — see my recipe here) and its pressure cooking function offers only high (not high and low).
#2 — The Duo
The Duo boasts 7 functions (Pressure Cooker, Slow Cooker, Rice Cooker, Sauté/Browning, Yogurt Maker, Steamer, and Warmer) — all the ones that the Lux has PLUS the yogurt setting.
Additionally, its pressure cooking setting allows you to choose low or high. The low pressure is handy with more delicate foods.
#3 — The Duo Evo Plus
The Duo Evo Plus boasts 9 functions (Pressure Cooker, Slow Cooker, Rice Cooker, Sauté/Browning, Yogurt Maker, Steamer, Warmer, Sous Vide, and Bake) — all the ones the basic Duo has plus the sous vide and bake.
Its pressure cooking settings allow you to choose low or high. And it has 48 customizable programs, a step up from the 14 in the basic Duo.
#4 — The Smart
The Smart model has the 7 functions of the Duo, plus additional downloadable recipe programs and 3 temperature choices on the Keep Warm function.
The main draw on this model is the “smart” BlueTooth functionality that allows you to run it from your phone or tablet. It has other things as part of the “smart” features, too.
#5 — The Ultra
The Ultra has some extra features that the others do not have: nearly unlimited programming via a dial that allows you to set the temperature and time you desire (high and low pressures), essentially creating your own programs, a dial interface to navigate through all the options and then you push to select, a screen that shows you more what's going on inside the machine and where it is in the “program”.
It also has new sterilize, cake, and egg settings (bringing the 6 or 7 functions up to 10 total), a settings “memory” that remembers what you did last time, a self-closing weighted valve, ability to turn sounds off, altitude adjustment, dual sensors for more accurate temp and pressure readings, and 11 safety settings instead of 10 that the other models have (it has a quick-release button so you can avoid scalding yourself when releasing pressure).
Update: What About The New Duo Evo Plus?
Here are the bullet points of why the Duo Evo Plus beats out the Duo. Watch the “January 2020” update video above to see all these features in action!
- overall faster and easier to use
- it's a 9-in-1 over the Duo's (7-in-1) because it has two additional functions… sous vide and bake (more coming on the programs when Vickilynn and I do an indepth review for TCS premium members)
- it has 48 customizable settings (as opposed to the Duo's 14)
- the pre-heating time is up to 70% faster; due to the 1200w heating element which reduces preheating time, allowing you to make meals faster (Duo has 1000w heating element)
- the pressure release time is shortened with updated “quickcool” technology
- the screen dialogue shows you the stages of pre-heating, program/cycle, and then warm time/pressure release time afterward
- the insert pot has a flat bottom so you can evenly brown foods (the Duo's insert pot is slightly curved, preventing even heating and browning)
- the insert pot has handles! — they fit right into the base to lift the pot in and out easily
- the handles have cool-to-touch easy grip handles… no need for a potholder!
- the insert pot's handles fit into the base so the post doesn't spin around when stirring (a common issue with the Duo)
- the insert pot is an upgraded “cookware grade” 18/10 stainless steel… it's dishwasher safe and can be used on your stovetop, too!
- the lid automatically sets to sealing position when lid is closed (see photo below of the “sealing” and “venting” positions)
- the steam vent and cover are separate from the venting switch… so no worries of getting a steam burn when flipping the switch
- the condensation cup is larger… which is helpful if you've ever overfilled one before!
- you get a clear and a red silicone ring… making it now even easier to tell which one is for your sweet and which one is for your savory dishes
- the glass lids from the Duo still fit on this machine, too!
I only have 4 cons:
- the new manuals have reduced the amount of water for rice… I prefer to go with my old amounts of 1 cup grain to 1.25 or 1.5 cups water. 1:1 is not enough!
- the Duo Evo Plus more expensive than the Duo — the 6-quart is $20 more and the 8-quart is $40 more (at this time)
- the steam rack is designed differently and I like the wider one from the DUO best… but the handles are still both as tall for easy lifting and insertion
- no insert pots sold separately at this time
Update: What About The New Ultra Instant Pot?
From reading about the ULTRA, while I could see myself choosing it if I didn't already have machines, I am not sure I could justify the additional expense.
Although it boasts that you can “dial in” any temp setting you want, the available range only goes down to 104 degrees Fahrenheit, while the low yogurt setting can go as low as 91 degrees Fahrenheit. So if I needed a low culturing temp, I'd just choose the low yogurt setting which the DUO already has.
I would also LOVE to be able to turn the sounds off… but would I spend nearly double for that feature? Probably not.
And anyway, the version 2 of the LUX and DUO allow you to turn the sound off by pressing the + or – key for 3 seconds. – turns sound off, while + turns sound back on. (You know you have version 2 of these machines if your machine “remembers” your last cook time on any given program.)
If I lived at high altitude, I might seriously consider the ULTRA, even though Laura at Hip Pressure Cooking says the adjustment algorithm uses “fuzzy logic”.
The self-closing lid? This reminds me of self-parking cars!
It appears that it's helpful for people who might otherwise forget to close the sealing valve on the other machines and therefore the machines won't ever come to pressure. On the flip side, it appears that releasing pressure takes longer and is harder to achieve because of this self-sealing mechanism.
This would annoy me. I'd rather train myself to check that the value is sealed each time I run the cooker… which I have and it's not a problem. 🙂
(I see on Laura's Hip Pressure Cooking Ultra Review that Instant Pot has updated the wording/directions on the lid so it's more clear how to release pressure now.)
I don't need the new programs, especially since I hardly ever use the programs on the DUO as it is.
Here's what I use: High and Low pressure, Slow Cook, Saute, Keep Warm, and Yogurt. If I don't already use what I've got and I don't feel the lack of anything essential, then I don't think it's worth it to upgrade.
My Favorite Instant Pot Model
Of the 5 options, my favorite is the Duo Evo Plus, pictured just above — the machine that's “lit up” in front of me.
(Formerly, my recommendation was the Duo, and I still recommend that machine, but the Duo Evo Plus is better — see the January 2020 update video or the bullet points above for details.)
I regularly use both the yogurt and low pressure (that are lacking on the Lux). The Duo Evo Plus works better than the Duo for all the reasons stated above, though the Duo's functions are perfectly adequate for my needs.
I stay away from Smart appliances… I'm home all the time, I prefer to be hands-on with my appliances, and I just find no need to spend extra money on bells and whistles like this. (My opinion.)
So… it really comes down to the Duo and the Duo Evo Plus.
Because of the actual functional and design differences of the Duo Evo Plus — better browning, the handle on the insert pot, the additional durability of the insert pot, the auto sealing valve, the faster pre-heating and pressure release time, and the way you can SEE what the pot is doing by the progress meter — I prefer it over the Duo.
Agree Or Disagree?
At least now you know the main differences between the models. 🙂
Moving on… which size???
Which Size Instant Pot Is Best For You?
Ok, this part is not as cut-and-dry as the model choices. You'll have to follow some gut instincts. 🙂
I went around and around for many months before buying my second Instant Pot, simply because I didn't know whether to get another 6-quart or to get a larger 8-quart.
Let's talk through it.
First of all, keep in mind that as with any pot that's advertised as holding a certain volume, you cannot use all of it. Advertised 6-quart volume means up to the top of the pot.
Which of us ever fills a pot to the top? No one… at least not if we don't want a mess!
You need room for expansion, boiling, stirring, putting your foods up on a rack, etc.
Once I bought a stainless steel pot for making cheese and I made a mistake. I wanted to make cheese with 3 gallons of milk, so that's the size of pot I bought.
Then it arrived and I realized my error. I couldn't use the entire 3-gallon capacity; I could use only 2-1/2 to 2-3/4 gallons or so. Oops.
I sent it back and got the 4-gallon stainless steel pot. And now I use it to about the 3-1/2 gallon capacity.
See what I mean? Your pot needs more capacity than you'll use.
Same thing with the Instant Pot. If you're pressure cooking in the Instant Pot, you cannot overfill it or you'll have a problem. The max fill line is a little more than 3/4 full.
…when you're choosing your Instant Pot, choose a higher volume capacity than you think you need. You probably won't regret bigger (unless it's just waaaayyyyyy too big), but you certainly will regret too small.
It Helps To Consider What You'll Be Cooking
I know it's hard to think of what a 6- or 8-quart Instant Pot can hold. Let me give you some examples.
(By the way, I'm not discussing the 5-quart option because in my opinion, it's too small and a no-brainer to get the 6-quart when cooking whole foods, even if you're family of 1 or 2.)
Whole chickens — The 6-quart will fit a 5 to 6-pound whole chicken comfortably. The 8-quart fits (2) 5 to 6-pound whole chickens comfortably side by side.
Yogurt — The 6-quart will make 4 to 5 quarts of yogurt comfortably (see my recipe here) while the 8-quart will make 6 to 7 quarts of yogurt comfortably.
Spaghetti squash — A medium-size or 2 smaller will fit in the 6-quart Instant Pot; 2 medium or even a large spaghetti squash (depending on how long it is) will fit in the 8-quart.
Batch cooking — If you batch cook at all, whether rice, beans, pre-cooked chicken, etc., you will fit more in the 8 quart, making your efforts stretch farther.
Accessories — Many of the accessories I chose (cheesecake pans, stackable pans, etc.) fit in both the 6-quart and 8-quart Instant Pots. An exception is the stackable pans I showed you in the second video above. Those ONLY fit the 8-quart Instant Pot. However, there is a greater capacity for stacking and using larger containers inside the 8-quart Instant Pot. Wondering what I'm talking about? Like making this sourdough cornbread in a 7-cup Pyrex bowl — it will fit in either size Instant Pot.
See the second video above for real-life examples of how these foods fit in the 6-quart or 8-quart Instant Pot!
If you'd like more ideas for using your Instant Pot, be sure to check out 11 Creative & Surprising Things To Make In The Instant Pot. I think some will astound you!
Back To Size, Though…
6qt vs 8qt Instant Pot
Let's draw out some of these criteria and help you apply them to your family and needs:
What are you cooking?
No matter what your family size is if you batch cook or cook larger sized whole foods, get the 8-quart.
How big is your family?
Which Size Is My Instant Pot? (The Best Instant Pot For My Family)
In terms of model, I chose the Duo Evo Plus (formerly, I recommended the Duo).
The Duo Evo Plus and the basic Duo's functions include yogurt and low pressure, which are musts for me. I'm glad I have those (the Lux doesn't come with those).
In terms of the operating functions (browning, pot behavior, ease of use, etc.), the Duo Evo Plus wins. I have no need or desire for “smart” functionality or the additional features of the Ultra.
Size, though? This was tougher for me!
When I purchased our first Instant Pot, the 8-quart wasn't even available. So I chose the 6-quart Duo (rather than the 5-quart). That was a no-brainer.
Then the 8-quart Duo came out. I knew I wanted to get another Instant Pot, but I hemmed and hawed for months because the 6-quart was working pretty well for me.
My thought process was: Should I get another of the same size so they match? Should I even get another one? Should I get a bigger one? (And they don't match? Matching is kind of important to me — perhaps too important sometimes!)
Anyway, finally, I decided I would get the 8-quart Duo as my second Instant Pot. I don't regret it in the least! I'm so happy to have the larger one! In spite of them not matching. 😉
If I knew then what I know now, and I was purchasing my first Instant Pot all over again, I would actually choose the 8-quart because the extra room makes a significant difference in batch sizes for batch cooking or large family cooking.
And even with normal size meals, there's not much extra room in it. Which means it's not too big.
So… bottom line for us I'd pick the 8-quart no matter what.
(Update: I purchased another 8-quart Duo and gave my first 6-quart Instant Pot Duo to my daughter Haniya! And I've since purchased the 8-quart Instant Pot Duo Evo Plus… which is hands-down my favorite!)
Bottom Line — My Picks, My Opinion
You need to choose the best Instant Pot for you, and that's a very personal choice. Still, you're here and wanting my opinion, so here it is:
My pick for the small family that does not do batch cooking or cooking of larger whole food items: the 6-Quart Duo Evo Plus Instant Pot. If you want to save $20 (while losing some nice operating features), get the Instant Pot IP-DUO60 (6-quart Duo model).
My pick for the small or larger family who does batch cooking or cooking of larger whole food items: the 8-Quart Duo Evo Plus Instant Pot. If you want to save about $40 (while losing some nice operating features), get the Instant IP-Pot DUO80 (8-quart Duo model).
For More Information:
- 6-Quart DUO Instant Pot
- 8-Quart DUO Instant Pot
- 6-Quart Duo Evo Plus Instant Pot
- 8-Quart Duo Evo Plus Instant Pot
- Instant Pot Raw Milk Yogurt
- 11 Creative & Surprising Things You Can Make In The Instant Pot
- 7-cup Pyrex Bowl
- TCS Pressure Cooking eBook & Video Package
- TCS Pressure Cooking I and II eCourses
- Free Instant Pot Sourdough Cornbread Recipe
- Use code 10OFF4WARDEE to get 10% OFF these stackable pans from seller Me'n Lily
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Which Instant Pot is best for YOU? Which size Instant Pot do you have? Are you happy with it? Do you have more than one Instant Pot?
This post was originally published and written by Wardee Harmon on 10/26/16. It was updated and republished on 12/5/18, then again on 1/8/20.
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