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!
Original Episode From October 2016
Update Episode From December 2018
Original Episode From October 2016
Update Episode From December 2018
The Question: The Best Instant Pot To 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 crockpot 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. For more info, check out the Pressure Cooking eBook & Video Package or our Pressure Cooking eCourse (the eCourse is included with all Traditional Cooking School memberships).
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, Smart, and Ultra models.
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). Read more about this model (6-quart size) here.
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. Read more about this model (6-quart size) here.
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. You can read more about this model (6-quart size) here.
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). You can read more about this model (6-quart size) here.
My Favorite Instant Pot Model
Of the 4 options, my favorite is the Duo.
I regularly use both the yogurt and low pressure (that are lacking on the Lux). 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.)
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 104F, while the low yogurt setting can go as low as 91F. 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.
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. 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 gallon 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 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…
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?
If your family is larger (4 or more persons), get the 8-quart. If your family size is 1 to 2 and you also do batch cooking, get the 8-quart. Or, if your family size is 1 to 2 but you rarely do batch cooking nor cooking of larger whole foods (like whole chickens or medium/large spaghetti squash), get the 6-quart.
Which Size Is My Instant Pot? (The Best Instant Pot For My Family)
In terms of model, I chose the Duo. It has the 7 functions, including yogurt and low pressure. I'm glad I have those (the Lux doesn't come with those). 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 (rather than the 5-quart). That was a no brainer.
Then the 8-quart 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 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 were 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.
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 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 Instant IP-Pot DUO80 (8-quart Duo model).
For More Information:
- 6-Quart DUO Instant Pot
- 8-Quart DUO 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
- 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?
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