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
Is A 6 Quart Instant Pot Too Big For My Family
It is a common question and I understand the concern.
But remember this when cooking in an Instant Pot or any pressure cooker, for that matter, you only really fill it about 2/3 of the way full.
You need to leave space for the pressure to build up and the boiling of the liquid or whatever else you might be making.
So, 2/3 of 6 quarts is 4 quarts which is equivalent to one gallon.
If you are worried that a 6 quart Instant Pot will be too big, then remember that you can always make less food in a larger size Instant Pot you don’t have to fill it up.
Do You Need To Double The Cook Time For A Double Recipe
If you would like to double an Instant Pot recipe, you may double the ingredients . You do not need to double the cook time.
However, you may need to adjust the cook time based on the size/width of meat and vegetables. For example, a small 8 ounce chicken breast will cook faster than a large 12 ounce chicken breast and a small sweet potato will cook faster than a large sweet potato. Read all recipes and directions carefully to determine how long to cook your food.
Don’t Miss: Instant Pot Yogurt No Yogurt Button
Test : Searing And Pressure Cooking
The test: To test how well the Instant Pots could sear and pressure cook, I made five batches of this recipe for chunky beef chili. I documented the sear on the beef from each model and timed how long each machine took to pressurize. I tasted each sample to evaluate the tenderness of the meat and overall flavor of each chili. One Instant Pot model, the Duo Pro, has a special inner pot that can be used on the stovetop, so I used this pot directly on the burner over medium-high heat to sear the beef. With the other four models, I used their sauté modes.
Heres what happened: The big reveal is no big reveal. Each chili tasted pretty much identical, which may be more of a testament to the quality of the testing of that recipe than the machines I used to make it. None of the five chili samples had bitter notes or off flavors. All of the meat was tender the meat cooked in the Ultra was almost too tender, losing its cube form and shredding a bit too much. There was, however, a clear winner for pressurizing timethe Duo Pro was remarkably fast, taking just over 5 minutes. The Duo Plus was the next quickest, taking about 6 minutes, and since it has a slightly larger inner pot, there was more surface area available for searing. The Duo 7-in-1, Ultra, and Max each took about 8 minutes.
Why You Should Trust Us
Serious Eats has long promoted the benefits of stovetop and electric multi-cookers, but we are not Instant Pot evangelists. I personally have now been living with these five machines for over a monththey have taken up residence in my life, and we are currently in an intimate and complicated relationship, sprawling across every inch of my kitchen counter.
I am a seasoned cook and pretty darn familiar with following a recipe. I went to both culinary and pastry school and developed and tested recipes at Americas Test Kitchen for five years . I’m able to use my trained culinary background to recognize good outcomes and know what matters in the kitchen, and my Instant Pot agnosticism makes it easy to assess the usability of these machines.
Read Also: Instant Pot Says Food Burn
Rice Cooker Vs Instant Pot Which One Should I Get
The electric cooking device market has seen a lot of innovative products over the last few decades. Now, there are many options available for preparing meals. And the same thing applies in the case of cooking rice too.
There are many electrical appliances available that are making the task of cooking rice much more manageable. Among them, instant pot and rice cookers are two of the most popular ones. They are the two devices that most people fall into a dilemma with. And that is why cooker vs instant pot is a common topic nowadays.
Well, if you have also fallen into the same dilemma, you need not have to worry anymore. We are going to provide you enough details about both of them. Hopefully, by the end of this article, you will be out of the predicament that you are in right now.
Editors Recommendation: Top 5 Rice Cooker vs Instant Pot
The Instant Pot Ultra
The Instant Pot Ultra was introduced in April 2017 and is considered the newest product from the family. The main thing youll notice is its large LED display, one dial, and two small buttons. Very sleek interface. It is a 10-in-1 cooker, with more versatile functions than the DUO. It includes egg, sterilize, cake, and ultra cooking programs. Ultra cooking program allows you to control every part of the cooking process , which 9-in-1 Duo Plus does not offer.
Also Check: Instant Pot Inner Pot Dishwasher Safe
Do You Need To Upgrade Your Current Instant Pot Model
If you already have the Instant Pot Duo, I dont think its necessary to get a brand new Ultra. Unless if you see yourself doing a lot of cooking which requires the custom setting for pressure, temperature, or cooking time, then an upgrade would be a worthwhile investment. I like that Ultra offers 3 saute temperatures and also allows me to set a custom temperature, which is similar to having a stovetop. After all, theres always someone you can hand down your Duo to.
Here are some useful Instant Pot links
What Can You Cook In An Instant Pot
You’d be amazed at what you can cook in an Instant Pot with a little creativity. Most people will use the Instant Pot to make chili or stew. That’s just the beginning. Instant Pot cooking can be healthier since you don’t use much oil. You can steam rice, cook a whole chicken, boil eggs, sauté vegetables, make spaghetti and cook nearly anything you can think of. The best part is that cooking in an Instant Pot means faster cooking times and far less mess. Most recipes are ready in 30 minutes or less and make cleanup easier.
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Instant Pot Air Fryer Lid
If you are looking to turn your Instant Pot into an air fryer or comparable to the Ninja Foodi, these lids are compatible with most 6t quart models. With the air fryer lid you can turn your Instant Pot into a 6 in 1 air fryer that can roast, air fry, bake, broil, reheat, and dehydrate.
The lid is detachable and easy to use. Its simple to clean and store as well. The Even-Crisp technology makes sure that you get the crunchy, golden, perfect finish that youd expect from an air fryer!
According to the Instant Pot website the Air Fryer lid comes with a multi-level air fryer basket, a dehydrating and broiling tray, and a protective pad to sit it on when its hot! When you are storing the lid this protective pad also acts as a storage cover.
Its easier to list the posts that are not compatible with this list so Ill do that below:
- Smart WiFi 60
- Duo SV 60
- Duo SV Max 60
The air fryer lid is also not compatible with ceramic inner pots. It works with the stainless steel inner pots ONLY.
Best For Slow Cooking: Instant Pot Ultra 10
The Ultra series offers upgrades from the previous models. You can cook delicious dishes like chicken breasts, instant pot mac and cheese, mashed potatoes and more with high and low pressure for up to six hours, two hours more than the Lux and Duo series. It’s available in 3-quart , 6-quart and 8-quart sizes and is the best Instant Pot for slow cooking.
The Ultra name comes from the added option to fine tune parameters like temperature. You can specify temperature to a single degree from 104 to 208 degrees Fahrenheit. You can also dial in specific values for cooking time, pressure level and delay time.
Programs included: Rice, Bean/Chili, Meat/Stew, Multigrain, Porridge, Soup/Broth, Cake, Sterilize, Steam, Egg, Manual or Pressure Cooking, and Ultra
What it doesn’t have: Poultry and Canning
Also Check: Sear Meat In Instant Pot
Is An Instant Pot Worth It
For me, our Instant Pot is worth every penny: it frees up space in our kitchen, minimizes our dirty dishes, and allows us to cook meals quickly and with less planning. However, for some people, it might not be.
If you prefer to do most of your cooking in the oven or barbecue and dont use a pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, steamer, or any of the other appliances Instant Pots replace, chances are, an Instant Pot will just languish on your shelf, and you might as well spend the money on a great Dutch oven or a new cookware set. But for myselfand 23,000 5-star reviewers on Amazonthe Instant Pot is most certainly worth it.
How Fast Does An Instant Pot Come To Pressure
The things that you can cook in the Instant Pot is endless. To that end, I have several links at the end of this post featuring delicious recipes that would be just the tip of the iceberg.
So I wanted to cook something that was common and that I had success with already with my 6 qt. pot. I decided to make the brown rice recipe that is included in the recipe book that comes with each Instant Pot. I put the 2 cups of brown rice in each pot. Added in 2 1/2 cups of water and closed the lids. Made sure the steam valve was closed and set the pots on Manual/Pressure Cook for 22 minutes.
As soon as they started I set that timer and watched the pots. I was ready to jot down the time that it took for each one to come to pressure and then begin to do actual 22 minutes of cooking at pressure.
Which one would get to pressure first. I thought that the 3 qt. would be the first, but I was wrong. The first to come to pressure was the 6 qt.
The 6 qt. took 8:47 minutes to come to pressure.
The 8 qt. took 9:46 minutes to come to pressure.
The 3 qt. took 11:15 minutes to come to pressure.
I was really surprised.
I really thought the 3 qt. would come to pressure quicker and make the total cooking time less, but the wattage is not as strong on the 3 qt. and it did make a difference in cooking time.
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Where Do I Find Recipes For The Instant Pot
The instruction manual and recipe booklet in the box are a great place to start. The recipes there are limited, but we found the cooking time tables to be pretty helpful in the beginning. Hip Pressure Cooking lists recommended times and pressure levels for many foods. You can also try a recipe from NYT Cookings Instant Pot editors collection, or check out the super-simple recipes that Wirecutter staff members cook in their Instant Pots.
There are hundreds of Instant Pot cookbooks out there, including many tailored to specific dietary concerns . Melissa Clark, food reporter for The New York Times and an Instant Pot enthusiast, has written her own cookbook, Dinner in an Instant. She told us that two of her favorites are Urvashi Pitres Indian Instant Pot Cookbook and Coco Morantes The Essential Instant Pot Cookbook.
The Quickie Risotto Experiment
Match-up: Instant Pot vs. pressure cooker
Instant PotTotal time: 30 min
Assessment: With the Instant Pots pressure cooker function, it took 10 minutes longer than the pressure cooker to finish the risotto . The final taste and texture were very comparable, giving you a risotto with great al dente bite.
Verdict: If youre skipping a traditional stovetop risotto, the Instant Pot gets the job done .
Also Check: How To Steam Kale In A Pot
Instant Pot Duo Crisp + Air Fryer
The ability to make crispy and dry foods was one of the most significant features the original Instant Pot lacked. One of the more innovative new instant pot models checks all the boxes, though. The 8-quart Instant Pot Duo Crisp is an air fryer and a multifunctional pressure cooker. It does everything the Instant Pot does pressure cook, sauté, steam, slow cook, sous vide, and keep warm and more. Its additional features let you roast, bake, broil, and dehydrate foods.
Lets say you decide to pressure cook a rotisserie chicken in the Duo Crisp. You can also crisp the skin in the same appliance. Making crispy foods like French fries is also easy. Not to mention, its healthier than heating a vat of oil.
Instant Pot also has an air frying lid that you can purchase separately and attach to most 6-quart Instant Pots. The Instant Pot air fryer lid is compatible with most six-quart pots, just not the Smart Wi-Fi 60, Smart Bluetooth, Duo Evo Plus 60, Duo SV 60, Max 60, or any model with a ceramic inner pot.
A pressure cooker and an air fryer are two of todays kitchen must-haves, and theres nothing better than a multitasking kitchen appliance. Instant Pot has been breathing new life into the pressure cooker for a while now, but the company has only recently forayed into the air fryer business. Were grateful that they did, even if it took them a bit.
Comparing The Instant Pot Duo Plus To The Instant Pot Smart Bluetooth
The Smart was the follow-up to the Duo, adding:
- An LCD display
- Bluetooth control
In theory, I can control the Smart through a Bluetooth connection to my phone. In practice, the Bluetooth only had a range of a few feet – if I left the kitchen, I lost my connection, and had to shut down the cooker to re-connect. My dreams of checking the pressure cooker time on my phone while I sat on the sofa in the living room were dashed.
The improved LCD display is nice, and if it the price was close to the Duo, it might have been worth buying. But the Smart was a LOT more expensive than the Duo.
Then, when I compare it to my recommended Duo Plus?
- Both have LCD displays – but the Duo Plus display is better
- The Smart has the Bluetooth connection – but I dont find it useful
- The Duo Plus costs a lot less
Buy the Smart if: Don’t. Just don’t.
Well, OK, that’s a little strong. If you can get a deal on the Smart – say, at Lux prices – grab it. Otherwise, move on to the Duo Plus.
Also Check: Broccoli In Instant Pot With Steamer Basket
Instant Pot Models And Sizes
Instant Pot has various models but not all sizes are available in all models. Models and sizes come and go. The 5-quart has been discontinued, although Instant Pot may supply some retailers with a limited supply for Black Friday sales. Check out the quick reference table below for models sizes and servings.
- Jiu Niang
Lets talk about just a few of the other foods you can prepare in a multi-cooker. Soft and hard-boiled eggs, various beans black, pinto even lentils. Cooking from frozen is a real benefit.
You use the 14 built built-in programs to prepare these and any other of your favorite recipes your favorite dishes are as easy as pressing a button.
Also for ultimate convenience is the 24-hours delay cooking timer. After the cooking time has lapsed the automatic keep-warm feature keeps your dishes at temperature until ready to serve.
Whats The Big Deal With Instant Pots Anyway
Instant Pots are multifunction, programmable electric pressure cookers. Think of them as little cooking robots.
If youre not familiar with pressure cooking, the entire point of an Instant Pot can be confusing.
The big sell here is pressure cooking is up to 70 percent faster than other ways of cooking. Pressure cookers reach higher temperatures because their lids lock into place without steam escaping, which creates a pressurized environment inside the pot. In this environment, the cooker reaches 250°F .
With pressure cooking on a stove, you have to keep a close eye on the cooker because you regulate the heat source. But with an electric Instant Pot, the cooker regulates its own heat via sensors. Thats the other win. Program the Instant Pot and once its going, youre free to go for a walk, vacuum the living roomyou get the idea.
Instant Pots can do other things besides pressure cook, too. With the lid off, you can sauté ingredients before pressure cooking. You can also use it as a slow cooker or for making yogurt. Were not going to worry about doing those things here, though. This guide is all about pressure cooking.
Also Check: Instant Pot Tamales Steam