Here’s a cooking hack that may have escaped you: Consider adding an Instant Pot to your arsenal. Apparently, it will change your life. At least, that’s the resounding feedback from thousands of home cooks who have purchased the item with a cult-like following. From prepping rice and making homemade yogurt to peeling peaches (it’s true!), the Instant Pot is the all-in-one appliance that seems too good to be true.
We’ve tested through the entire range to find the best Instant Pot for every kind of home cook. Our methodology included three tasks. First, the standard Instant Pot water test, in which pressure is measured in a three-minute cycle to gauge the seal of the cooker and to ensure that the machine is working properly (the high-pressure setting reaches a maximum of about 12.5 psi). Then we conducted a rice test, in which white jasmine rice was cooked for five minutes on the high pressure setting. Finally, we conducted a chicken wing test for the models containing an air-fryer, in which six chicken wings were cooked to test the machine’s crisping features.
We also solicited guidance from New York Times food columnist Melissa Clark, who wrote Dinner in an Instant: 75 Modern Recipes for Your Pressure Cooker, Multicooker, and Instant Pot. Here’s how to find the perfect model for you.
Features to Keep in Mind
Instant Pot models are available in three sizes: 3-quart, 6-quart, and 8-quart. “Our largest size, the 8-quart, is great for cooking up to eight portions, perfect for families, meal prep, and big-batch cooking,” says Tracy Fadden, vice president of marketing for Instant Brands. The 6-quart, Fadden says, can serve up to six and can also be used for meal prepping and batch-cooking. The 3-quart, she adds, is “perfect for students or singles in a dorm or small apartment, small family portions, and cooking side dishes.”
Some Instant Pots come with over a dozen one-touch cooking programs to automatically cook foods like soup, stew, pasta, and chili. Other features include a user-friendly control panel, easy-cleaning inserts, and a foolproof steam release. “It is a stand-alone appliance that you can plug in and program, like a Crock Pot,” says Clark. “But unlike a Crock Pot, it cooks things quickly under pressure, rather than slowly.” Some of the appliance’s best uses, Clark says, are making beans, soups, stews, and braised meats.
Our Top Picks
Best Overall: Instant Pot Duo Plus Multi-Use Pressure Cooker
The Instant Pot Duo is a 9-in-1 pressure cooker, rice cooker, slow cooker, yogurt maker, steamer, sauté pan, food warmer, sous-vide machine, and sterilizer for canning. Its 6-quart capacity can feed a crowd. Fifteen customizable programs can be used for one-touch meals, and the inner pot and lid are even dishwasher-safe. A stainless-steel steamer rack is also included with this Instant Pot for whipping up your favorite steamed vegetables. No wonder this flexible, useful, and adequately sized model was our pick for the cook who needs a little bit of everything.
This Instant Pot 6-quart is an incredible value for those looking to spend a little less on a model that still has plenty of bells and whistles. This model has seven distinct functions and 13 customizable cooking programs for one-touch meals. It can accommodate up to six people, has a dishwasher-safe lid and inner pot, and offers safety features like overheat protection and a safe-locking lid. In an Instant Pot comparison between the 6- and 8-quart, the models are virtually the same, but the 6-quart costs about $20 less, making it one of the least expensive full-sized Instant Pots available.
Best Multi-Purpose: Instant Pot Duo Crisp + Air Fryer 8-quart Multi-Use Pressure Cooker
The Instant Pot Duo Crisp + Air Fryer brings more to the party than the original seven functions offered by the entry-level models. This 11-in-1 machine is an Instant Pot pressure cooker, steamer, sauté pan, food warmer, sous vide machine, air fryer, roaster, mini oven, broiler, and dehydrator. It boasts two removable lids, which convert it fully to an air fryer to make seriously crispy vegetables and restaurant-quality chicken wings. It also has 11 customizable one-touch meal programs, an auto-sealing pressure cooking lid for easy venting, and an 8-serving capacity. This Instant Pot also comes with a stainless-steel rack, multi-level air fryer basket, and a protective pad and storage cover. It’s the perfect appliance for those who want to intelligently consolidate their appliances.
Best Large-Capacity: Instant Pot Pro 8-quart Multi-Use Pressure Cooker
To feed large groups, consider the Instant Pot Pro 8-quart Multi-Use. This innovative machine has 28 smart cooking programs, five favorite program settings, and a large and easy-to-read LCD display. (Smart cooking programs are pre-programmed settings with set times for certain foods, while favorite program settings are for inputting users’ own homemade recipes). The 10-in-1 Instant Pot functions as a pressure cooker, slow cooker, sous vide machine, sauté pan, rice cooker, sterilizer, yogurt maker, food warmer, cake baker, and steamer. A slight upgrade from the Instant Pot Duo, this machine will allow you to serve eight people comfortably, with all the attendant options.
Best Small-Capacity: Instant Pot Duo Plus 3-quart Mini Multi-Use Pressure Cooker
Tiny kitchen owners, unite: This is the machine for you. This countertop-friendly 3-quart Instant Pot Duo Plus Multi-Use Pressure Cooker is also a slow cooker, yogurt maker, sterilizer, warmer, rice cooker, steamer, and sauté pan. Thirteen customizable programs make dinner for one, two, or three a cinch. It’s ideal for small spaces—or for those who prefer to cook for just a handful of people. It can also keep food hot for an astounding 10 hours, should you want to get dinner going in the morning.
Instant Pot’s Star Wars cookers are endlessly fun to look at. Of the three available models, the Darth Vader model, featuring the series’ signature villain, is the sharpest. It looks just like the iconic character, brought to life on your counter to act as your sinister sous chef. This 6-quart unit has seven functions: a pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, steamer, sauté pan, yogurt maker, and warmer. It also has 13 built-in programs, a large LED display, and delay settings that allow you to set it and forget it. As an added bonus, this Instant Pot comes with a stainless-steel steam rack with handles, a condensation collector, rice paddle, soup spoon, and measuring cup.
This top-of-the-line model will do absolutely anything your cook’s heart desires. The 11-in-1 model operates as a pressure cooker, slow cooker, steamer, sauté pan, food warmer, sous vide machine, air fryer, roaster, mini oven, and even food dehydrator. It comes with two removable lids, which transform it into an air fryer, as well as a stainless-steel steamer rack, multi-level air fryer basket, dehydrating tray, protective pad, and storage cover. With 11 customizable one-touch programs, this machine is the crème de la crème of Instant Pots.
Ask the Experts
How is an instant pot different from a pressure cooker?
An Instant Pot is a pressure cooker, but with many more bells and whistles. “Though it can also cook things slowly, most Instant Pots have slow settings meant to emulate a Crock Pot,” says Clark. “The more you understand about cooking in general, the more options you have for using it.”
Beans, stews, stock, and braised dishes are no-brainers, but the Instant Pot can also be used for simmering down sauces on the sauté setting, making yogurt, and steaming puddings. While beginner cooks will benefit from recipes, experienced cooks, she says, can adapt their own.
The Instant Pot is an essential kitchen appliance that can easily replace the Crock Pot, air fryer, and steamer basket in your life. Whether you have a big kitchen or small kitchenette, a massive family or a household of one, there is an Instant Pot that’s perfect for you.
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