The Best Instant Pot Models Of 2021 According To Kitchen Appliance Experts
Our side-by-side comparison of Instant Pots makes it super simple.
If youre thinking of jumping on the Instant Pot bandwagon but feel intimidated by the number of multi-cooker models available, we don’t blame you. While most Instant Pots are similar in terms of size options and wattage, the built-in heat and pressure levels along with the smart program settings vary from model to model.
Luckily, the Good Housekeeping Institute’s Kitchen Appliance and Technology Lab is here to help parse through those differences so you can find the best option for your household. We evaluate these multi-cookers for how well they pressure cook and slow cook a beef stew. We also evaluate their ability to evenly brown meat and make rice, including how quickly they came up to pressure and released pressure both quickly and naturally. We check each multi-cooker’s ease of use, including how intuitive and easy-to-read the controls are, the variety of settings offered, how easy it is to clean the cooking insert, and the clarity of the owner’s manual. Overall, our top Instant Pot recommendations are:
- Pressure cooks on low and high for more control
- No settings for sterilizing or making eggs or cakes
Best Instant Pot for Beginners
Instant Pot As A Lead
Generally, slow cookers have ceramic inserts that may contain lead. It is either added or comes in the raw materials used to make the ceramic cookware. I resolve to reduce exposure to heavy metals because they are bio-accumulative and persistent. It means that once ingested, they accumulate and stay in the body for a long time. That is why it is vital to own safe cookware. You can read more about it in my Safe Cookware Guide That Makes Sense.
We used to have a Cuisinart slow cooker. However, Cuisinart admitted that they had not tested their inserts for lead or cadmium because they knew they did not add them. It didnt sound very reassuring to me because these metals can be contaminants. In other words, the ceramic inserts of slow cookers may contain heavy metals.
Thus, though not perfect, stainless steel is better than ceramics. Therefore, I am really happy that the Instant Pot can serve as a lead-free slow cooker in my kitchen.
Best Replacement Inner Pot For Your Instant Pot In 2020
BestReplacement Inner Pot for your Instant PotiMore2021
The Instant Pot already comes with the stainless steel liner by default. The stainless steel is great, especially for browning meat, but it’s annoying when food gets stuck to it as you cook. For this reason, you may want to consider a secondary option. Plus, having a second pot readily available for your Instant Pot means you can transfer your food over if something gets burned in the first one, or if you want to cook two dishes back to back. Here are some options to expand your Instant Pot cooking abilities.
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Big Healthy Family Meals Fast
No matter how large your family, or how big your needs, the Duo comes in the right size for you. When preparing side dishes or cooking for 1 or 2 people, the 3L mini is the Duo for you. For families up to 5, go for the 6L and for larger families, parties, or full-week meal prep, the big 8L is the smart choice.
|steam rack without handles and spare sealing ring||steam rack with handles and spare sealing ring||Multi-level air fryer basket, broil/dehydrate tray, protective pad, steam rack with handles|
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Stainless Steel Inner Cooking Pot
Genuine Instant Pot inner cooking pot is stainless steel food grade 304 , with no chemical coating, 3-ply bottom for even heat distribution. The polished surface makes food stick less and easier to clean. Comes with inner markings at ½ and 2/3 for pressure-cooking safety. Having a secondary Instant Pot inner pot makes it convenient and easy when preparing multiple dishes with your Instant Pot cooker.
The Stainless Steel Inner Cooking Pot comes in three sizes for the 3, 5.7, and 8-litre Instant Pot® Models.
- Instant Pot stainless steel inner cooking pot, food grade 304 , no chemical coating
- Genuine Instant Pot pressure cooker accessory, dishwasher safe
- Having a second Instant Pot inner pot makes it easy and convenient to prepare multiple dishes
- 3-ply bottom for even heat distribution
- Polished surface for easy cleaning, food sticks less to surface
Why To Avoid Using The Instant Pot For Broth
Reasons to avoid using a pressure cooker like the Instant Pot for making bone broths and stocks. Three safe, truly inert alternatives to consider instead.
A common question for those who use an Instant Pot is whether it is safe for making bone broth or meat stock.
In my view, it is best to avoid pressure cookers for these types of dishes for two reasons, which I explore individually below.
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Steely Pan: Instant Pot Stainless Steel Inner Cooking Pot
Stainless steel cookware is durable and provides great flavor when it comes to browning your food, and it’s easy to use and clean. This official replacement pot from Instant Pot is made from tough 18/8 stainless steel and features a three-ply bottom for even heat distribution. As well as in your pressure cooker, this can be used on all kinds of hobs, including induction.
Does A Pressure Cooker Destroy Nutrients
Before I learned how a pressure cooker worked, I had concerns about the impact it had on the nutritional value of food. However, I discovered that it was not a problem for two reasons.
First, even though the boiling point is higher, the maximum temperature is still well below the cooking temperatures of conventional ovens.
Second, I looked into the scientific literature for answers and this is what I found.
This study concludes that broccoli loses 47% of its nutrition when cooked in a pressure cooker while it loses 66% when boiled, and 87% when microwaved .
These findings say that when water-soaked beans were cooked in a regular pan, the highest percentage of bioaccessible iron obtained was 8.92%, whereas when they were cooked in a pressure cooker without previous soaking, the highest percentage was 44.33%. It means that you will absorb over 4 times more iron from beans cooked in a pressure cooker versus a regular pan.
This study concluded that pressure-cooking of Bathua and fenugreek leaves results in better retention of beta-carotene and vitamin C as compared to open pan cooking. It means that pressure cooking is a good way of preserving the nutritional value of food.
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Go Beyond Pressure Cookers
Instant Pots range from the modest-sized 3-quart to the larger 6-quart and 8-quart, so you can prepare meals for just a couple of people or for a big event.
This one-pot cooker is great for classic slow cooker and pressure cooker meals like stew, pulled pork or casseroles, but the possibilities don’t stop there. It has settings for different food types and can sauté, steam, and it even makes yoghurt, it can automatically keep food warm after cooking is finished. Make ribs, salmon, paella, quiche, cornbread, French toast and even cakes.
The Instant Pot app has recipes by meal, cuisine and diet, so you’ll never be without inspiration and the tools to make it happen.
Whip up last-minute meals, extend your repertoire, and cook for a crowd with Instant Pot. Meet your one-pot cooker needs with an Instant Pot from London Drugs.
Eyeing That Instant Pot Why Stainless Steel Isnt As Safe As You Think
When I learned about the dangers of aluminum cookware and non-stick coatings, I was eager to find safe alternatives that I could use without the risk of exposing my family to dangerous heavy metals or toxic chemicals.
I began researching all the options: from stainless steel to glass, copper and ceramic. I made a lot of rice, so I wanted a rice cooker but it was very difficult to find a rice cooker that was not non-stick-coated aluminum.
I first began looking for rice cookers with stainless steel inserts, because I knew that was safe. My research, however, led me to the facts, which are not always as simple as we think.
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The Safety Of The Instant Pot Pressure Cooker Materials
There is a removable bowl inside the Instant Pot pressure cooker where the food goes. Pressure cooker bowls are normally made of aluminum, ceramic non-stick, or stainless steel. Out of these three, I recommend stainless steel. The Instant Pot inner pot is made of stainless steel and this is one of the main reasons I chose it.
Stainless Steel As The Instant Pot Inner Pot Material
The stainless steel used in the Instant Pot pressure cooker is 18/8 gauge. 18/8 stainless steel means that it consists of 18% chromium and 8% nickel, which is food grade stainless steel. Lets talk about the safety of stainless steel.
I use stainless steel as one of the safer cookware options available however, stainless steel is not perfect. Stainless steel leaches chromium, nickel, and iron into food during cooking. While iron and chromium are essential nutrients for which stainless steel may be useful, nickel is not. Moreover, some people may be allergic to nickel.
Here is something exciting. This study determined that the amounts of chromium and nickel significantly increase with longer cooking times. Since a pressure cooker significantly shortens cooking times, the study concludes that leaching is minimal. To take advantage of that, I recommend using the quick release method described in the instructions versus a natural release. Which reminds me: be sure to read all the instructions, including the safety instructions, very carefully before using your unit.
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The Prices Are A Bit Priceyunless They Are On Sale
Here is the thing. You can find cheap crock pots for about $30 on Amazon or at Costco but it only has one function. Slow cooking. And it takes too long to cook! Why cook slow when you can speed up the cooking process with equally if not better result? You can also find electric or stove top pressure cookers for as little as $50. However, none of them come with safe, durable stainless steel inner pot and the smart, easy to use pre-programmed functionalities as IP. And honestly, can you put a price tag on an easy, and healthy way to serve nutritious food fast to your family? I dont think so and so does Instant Pot® because the company regularly puts their appliances on great sales throughout the year on Amazon. I always buy a few to give as gifts and theyre always a hit.
I discovered pressure cooking before learning about IP but it wasnt until I started using IP that I really got into cooking with it regularly. Its so much faster than conventional stovetop cooking. In addition, the flavors are richer, the texture is more tender, and most importantly, it is more nutritious to cook in a pressure cooker. So what are you waiting for? You can purchase them on Amazon via my affiliate links above. P.S. You pay the same price but Id make a few dimes as commission.
Stainless Steel Is Safe Sometimes
As with everything else, manufacturers eventually will cut corners and produce inferior products that save them money in production and increase their profits. Stainless steel is no different.
Instant Pots are all the craze right nowand why not? They make cooking easy, quick and fun again! They dont heat up the house and they create delicious meals in minutes! Theyre programmable and they come in huge sizesperfect for any family! Most importantly, they are made of stainless steel, so they are completely safe!
Not so fast.
With every material, there is some kind of trade-offso its good to be informed as to the benefits and the risks associated with each material.
Im teaming up with Kara at Deep South Crunchy Mom and Sarah at Clean Living With Kids to bring you a series on truly safe cookware. We want you to have all of the information: risks and benefits, so you can decide for yourself what are the best materials for your family.
See Karas post about cast iron here,
And Sarahs post about glass here.
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Metals In Stainless Steel
How much leaching is actually happening when you cook with stainless steel? It appears under certain circumstances a substantial amount!
According to the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry:
After a simulated cooking process, samples were analyzed by ICP-MS for Ni and Cr . After six hours of cooking, Ni and Cr concentrations in tomato sauce increased up to 26- and 7-fold respectively, depending on the grade of stainless steel. Longer cooking durations resulted in additional increases in metal leaching, where Ni concentrations increased 34 fold and Cr increased approximately 35 fold from sauces cooked without stainless steel.
Cooking with new stainless steel resulted in the largest increases. Metal leaching decreases with sequential cooking cycles and stabilized after the sixth cooking cycle, though significant metal contributions to foods were still observed. The tenth cooking cycle, resulted in an average of 88 g of Ni and 86 g of Cr leached per 126 g serving of tomato sauce. Stainless steel cookware can be an overlooked source of nickel and chromium, where the contribution is dependent on stainless steel grade, cooking time, and cookware usage.
This leaching of heavy metals into food from stainless steel can continue even after years of use.
Cheap grade stainless steel would, of course, be even riskier.
Whats Wrong With Stainless Steel
At first glance, stainless steel seems like the perfect solution: its hypo-allergenic, it doesnt rust, it isnt breakable, and it doesnt have any heavy metal issues.
Upon closer examination, we will see that not all stainless steel is created equally.
Cheaper grades of stainless steel are not as pure as we have been led to believe, and they can leach nickel into our food. Nickel is a heavy metal, so this is not ideal. .
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Dream Steam: Instant Pot Silicone Steamer Basket
Made from FDA approved, food-safe silicone, this official steamer basket from Instant Pot is a modern version of the traditional bamboo steamer. It can be stacked two high on the steam rack in most models of the pressure cooker. It’s heat resistant to an impressive 450 degrees Fahrenheit and can go in the dishwasher after use. This has a flat bottom to maximize the space and accommodate larger food items like fish fillets.
How Do I Know If My Stainless Steel Is Safe
It can be very difficult to determine what grade of stainless steel you are using. and this is where it gets confusing. There are quite a few grades and classifications of stainless steel , and each grade is a different combination of metal alloys.
Manufacturers dont often disclose what grade of stainless steel they are using in the cookware that we buy at the store, but a general rule of thumb is: the more expensive it is, the higher grade it is.
In general, stainless steel cookware is either of the 300 or 400 series, and often you can see the grade stamped on the bottom of the pot. Usually these numbers look something like 18/10 , which indicates it is 18% chromium and 10% nickel.
To me, 10% is a lotespecially when it can leach into my food. So I try not to use this kind of stainless steel on a regular basis. I have one stainless pan that I use just for popcorn or for steaming things in a separate bowl inside of it.
Id be particularly wary of cooking anything acidic in low-grade stainless steel, as it would more readily leach the harmful nickel into your food, especially with high pressure or long cooking times.
Check your stainless steel pots and pans for this mark to see what grade your pots and pans are. They are likely this 304 18/10 grade, as that is the most common and most affordable. If you didnt pay $300 to $400 for each of your pans, its not likely they are a high enough grade that would eliminate the nickel .
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Stack And Rack: Stack N’ Cook Stackable Insert Pans
Available for three, six, and eight-quart Instant Pots, these two-tier stackable stainless steel insert pans allow you to cook a variety of foods at the same time. So, for example, you could steam proteins in one pan and veggies in the other. Perfect for pot-in-pot meals and recipes, these are made from durable, high-quality food-grade stainless steel and come with two different lids.