Right now, there are five different Instant Pot models to choose from. Rather than go over all the in-depth specifications that you can read about here, I’ll give you a quick rundown of what I see as the pros/cons of each model to help you decide which one is right for you.
Before we get to the fun stuff, let’s talk a minute about Instant Pot capacity. The three core models – LUX, DUO, and ULTRA – now all come in 3, 6, and 8 quart capacity. My recommendation is to figure out which size you need, then which model.
3 quart: This is a great option for a single person or couple who don’t typically need or want many leftovers, for kitchens that are really tight on space (or in an RV), or as a small second Instant Pot that’s used frequently for sides or things like yogurt that some folks eat a lot. While pot-in-pot meals aren’t impossible, they can be a bit of a challenge.
6 quart: This is the mainstay size, and also the default size for most recipes. This is perfect for an individual and couples who like leftovers or do meal prepping like I do, or a small family or a family with young kids. It’s large enough to do a 5-6 lb turkey breast, a whole chicken up to 6 lbs or so, or a ham of about the same size, and is perfect for pot-in-pot meals.
8 quart: The Mondo Instant Pot size is perfect for families with teens in their Godzilla-eats-the-fridge phase, larger families, or anyone who has to cook up a lot of food at at time (fire departments, big pot lucks, etc. immediately come to mind). You can easily cook a good size ham or modest size turkey, giant mutant chicken, etc.
If you’re caught in an infinite loop deciding which size to buy, go with the 6 quart. Unless you have a particular need for the 3 or the 8 quart, the 6 hits the sweet spot in terms of cooking capacity.
Instant Pot LUX 6 in 1 (LUX30, LUX60, LUX80)
The LUX series is the entry level among the current Instant Pot models. It has presets for Soup/Broth, Meat/Stew, Egg, Sauté, Rice, Porridge, Steam, Slow Cook, and Pressure Cook (which is as the same as the Manual setting on some of the other models). It now comes in 3, 6, and 8 quart sizes.
My Take: If you’re on a tight budget and every dollar counts, you can’t go wrong with the Instant Pot LUX. It will do most of what the more expensive Instant Pot models will. The major downside is that it only has a high pressure setting for the pressure cooking mode, rather than a high and low setting like the other models do, that significantly expands the flexibility of what you can cook. Check out the Instant Pot LUX on Amazon…
Instant Pot Duo DUO 7 in 1 [Highly Recommended]
If there’s a standard-bearer for the Instant Pot line, this is it! The DUO has been the most popular of the Instant Pot models – with well over 19,000 reviews and a 4+ star rating on Amazon – and with good reason. I own a DUO60 6 quart (and a DUO50 5 quart, which has been replaced in our kitchen with an Instant Pot ULTRA, below, with the DUO 5 quart going to our RV), and it’s been a workhorse for our meal preparation. It has more settings than the LUX model, but more importantly it offers both low and high pressure settings for the pressure cooking modes, which expands your cooking options. The settings are Keep Warm, Slow Cook, Sauté, Manual (pressure cooking), Rice, Yogurt, Bean/Chili, Poultry, Meat/Stew, Multigrain, Porridge, Soup/Broth, and Steam. The DUO comes in 3, 6, and 8 quart sizes
My Take: Unless you’re a total gadget freak who is seduced by the Instant Pot SMART’s Bluetooth capability or want the “I’ve just gotta have it all” feature set of the Instant Pot ULTRA, the Instant Pot DUO is the best value. It’s about $20 or so more than the LUX, depending on which size you want, but in my humble opinion you’ll easily make that up over time with the expanded cooking options it gives you. Check out the Instant Pot DUO60 on Amazon…
Instant Pot DUO Plus 9 in 1
The DUO Plus is basically a DUO60 on a moderate dose of steroids. In addition to the modes offered by the DUO Instant Pot models, it has settings for Cake, Egg, and Sterilize, while removing the setting for Poultry (note: that doesn’t mean you can’t cook Poultry, you just have to set the time and pressure under the Manual option). It also has a very nice blue LCD screen, and only comes in a 6 quart model.
My Take: The DUO Plus has a nice look with the LCD screen and a handful of extra preset settings (minus the Poultry setting, which strikes me as odd), so you’ll have to decide if it’s worth the extra $20 or so over the workhorse Instant Pot DUO. Check out the Instant Pot DUO Plus on Amazon…
Instant Pot ULTRA 10 in 1 [Highly Recommended]
The Instant Pot ULTRA, as its name implies, is the current King of the Mountain of the Instant Pot models in terms of features, and is available in 3, 6, and 8 quart capacity. It has the most preset settings, including Pressure Cook, Keep Warm, Slow Cook, Sauté, Rice, Yogurt, Bean/Chili, Meat/Stew, Multigrain, Porridge, Soup/Broth, Cake, Sterilize, Steam, Egg, Warm, and Ultra, which is the ULTRA’s setting for super fine temperature control. Again, there’s no Poultry preset – those poor, unloved chickens! While it’s not listed as a preset function, the Instant Pot ULTRA can also do Sous Vide cooking. Unlike any of the other models, the ULTRA sports a dial selector knob for its blue LCD display, which includes a graph showing the progression of the cooking cycle, which is cool. It also has some additional extra features, among which is an option you can use to set your current altitude, which is important for those living at higher elevations, as altitude can have a significant impact on cooking time. Last but not least, the ULTRA boasts 11 safety features, rather than the paltry 10 of the other models.
My Take: At about $50 more than the Instant Pot DUO, the ULTRA represents a greater investment to get what for some folks may be nothing more than some extra bells and whistles. On the other hand, for a total of $150 (for the 6 quart size), you’re getting a kitchen appliance that can do just about everything but clean up after itself (and I’m sure the good Instant Pot folks are working on that feature as we speak). I bought one because I decided it would be great to have a second Instant Pot, and because wanted the Sous Vide capability. You’ll have to decide for yourself if it’s worth the extra moolah over the DUO, but I would personally grab an Ultra, hands down. Check out the Instant Pot ULTRA on Amazon…
Instant Pot SMART
The Instant Pot SMART, which comes in a 6 quart size and is also the most expensive of all the Instant Pot models, has Bluetooth functionality that allows you to control what’s cooking through your iPhone or Android device using the Instant Pot Smart Cooker app. The SMART also allows you to download and create your own tailored scripts that control how the pot cooks whatever you put into it, in addition to the preset modes of the DUO models described above.
My Take: I’m a self-professed nerd and have the official Nerds United card to prove it (well, not really), but I personally wasn’t overly enthused with the gadgety glitz of the Instant Pot SMART’s script programming and Bluetooth features, even though it has temperature control capabilities similar to the ULTRA that should let you do sous vide cooking. I can’t honestly say that it really appeals to me more than the DUO, and certainly not more than the ULTRA, especially considering that the SMART is about $10 more than the ULTRA and about $60 more than the DUO60. That’s a lot of extra money for Bluetooth connectivity and the programming function, and more than one person has complained about connectivity issues. Also, the SMART is now only available on Amazon through third party sellers, and while it’s still listed on Instant Pot’s official site, I suspect they’ll be phasing it out. So, I’d recommend getting a DUO60 or an ULTRA and put the extra money into some accessories. But if you gotta have dat Bluetooth, check out the Instant Pot SMART on Amazon…
All righty, then! Now that you’ve chosen your Instant Pot, let’s get started…
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