What's the best Instant Pot to buy? – CNET

This year marks a decade since Instant Pot's founding, and the popular multicookers have skyrocketed to the top of the kitchen appliances market. With so many cooking functions, seemingly endless one-pot recipes and a cultlike following online, you might be thinking it's time to jump in. We're here to help. 

Read more: The best gas grills of 2019The best coolers you can buy this summer

One of the first things you'll notice is that there isn't just one Instant Pot. Counting different Instant Pot models and size options, there are more than a dozen variations on the market (17, to be exact). How do you decide which of the Instant Pot models is right for you?

While these appliances all look overwhelmingly similar on the outside, all instapots aren't created equal. If you're looking for an Instant Pot that performs specific food functions like cooking eggs, making yogurt or even canning fruit, you'll need to know which models can actually do that.

Let's take a look at what each Instant Pot series has to offer. Two models not included below are the Nova, made exclusively for Costco and the Viva, made for QVC. Prices listed are Instant Pot's MSRPs, but retailers like Amazon, Target and Walmart often have sales on these models.

Read more: Does the Instant Pot destroy nutrients in your food while cooking? | The best paleo Instant Pot recipes

Disclosure: CNET may get a share of revenue from the sale of the products featured on this page.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Contrary to its name, the Lux V3 series is the most basic Instant Pot when it comes to features. It includes a pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, saute, steamer and warmer. You can buy it in 3-quart ($65), 6-quart ($80) and 8-quart ($110) sizes. 

With the Lux, you can cook food on high pressure for up to four hours and keep meals warm for up to 10 hours manually or automatically. However, there is no low pressure option for this cooking model. It's also the only model without lid holders (those handy slits in the left and right handles that can support your lid upright). 

The Lux is a base model, to be sure, but if you're on a budget it has plenty of capability to create easy meals in minutes. 

Programs included: Rice, Meat/Stew, Multigrain, Soup/Broth, Steam, Manual or Pressure Cooking, Porridge, Cake and Egg

What it doesn't have: Sterilize, Ultra, Canning, Bean/Chili and Poultry

Lowest price to date (8 qt.): $59.00 at Amazon (Nov. 23, 2018) 

Instant Pot via Amazon

The Instant Pot Duo 7-in-1 is the company's most popular series and for good reason. It comes with seven functions: pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, steamer, sauté, yogurt maker and warmer. You can buy the Duo in three sizes: 3-quart ($80), 6-quart ($100) and 8-quart ($140). 

It's the most affordable model to sport the yogurt and poultry programs as well as the option to pressure cook on high or low. 

Programs included: Rice, Bean/Chili, Poultry, Meat/Stew, Multigrain, Porridge, Soup/Broth, Steam, Manual or Pressure Cooking 

What it doesn't have: Cake, Sterilize, Egg, Ultra and Canning

Lowest price to date (8 qt.): $69.99 at Amazon (Nov. 23, 2018)

Instant Pot

The Duo Plus series steps it up by taking all the features of the Duo series and adding a few more. You'll get a pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice/porridge cooker, yogurt maker, cake/egg maker, saute/searing, steamer, warmer and a new sterilizer option for cleaning things like baby bottles. 

Like the Duo series, the Duo Plus 9-in-1 comes in three sizes. The $100 Duo Plus Mini 3-quart, the $130 Duo Plus 6-quart and the $160 Duo Plus 8-quart. 

Programs included: Rice, Bean/Chili, Meat/Stew, Multigrain, Porridge, Soup/Broth, Steam, Cake, Sterilize, Egg, Manual or Pressure Cooking

What it doesn't have: Poultry, Ultra and Canning

Lowest price to date (8 qt.): $89.95) at Amazon (Dec. 18, 2018)

Instant Pot

The Ultra series offers upgrades from the previous models. You can cook delicious dishes with high and low pressure for up to six hours, two hours more than the Lux and Duo series. It's available in $120 3-quart, $150 6-quart and $180 8-quart sizes. 

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

Lowest price to date (8 qt.): $119 at Amazon (Feb. 27, 2019)

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Some of you may remember the first smart Instant Pot, the Instant Pot Smart, powered by Bluetooth. The company discontinued that model and replaced it with the $150 Instant Pot Smart Wi-Fi. This multicooker connects to your phone's Instant Pot app for remote monitoring of your cooker, recipe customization and notifications. 

If you're looking for a multicooker with some tech-forward options, this model is your only choice right now. Instant Pot announced plans to bring Google Assistant compatibility to this model earlier this year, but no word on a specific date. It's also important to note that this model is only available in a 6-quart size, so if that's not a good fit for you, I'd reconsider. 

Programs included: Rice, Bean/Chili, Meat/Stew, Multigrain, Porridge, Soup/Broth, Cake, Steam, Egg, and Manual or Pressure Cooking

What it doesn't have: Poultry, Canning, Ultra and Sterilize

Lowest price to date (6 qt.): $89.95 at Amazon (Nov. 26, 2018)

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

The $200 Instant Pot Max takes a different approach than the models listed above. Aimed at anyone wanting to experiment and do more with their multicooker, it comes with a higher cooking pressure (a max 15 psi versus the 11.6 psi of other models), as well as the ability to sous vide and can foods.

It also features an automatic steam valve that will release the pressure either quickly or naturally, whichever you select. However, those enticing upgrades come at a price. 

There are several things you won't get. Popular presets are missing from this model, including Bean/Chili, Meat/Stew, Cake and Egg, and there aren't any volume markers inside the pot itself as on other models. The Instant Pot Max is also only available in a 6-quart size and is the heaviest model at 13.25 pounds.  

We tested this model when it was released, but didn't love it as much as previous models. Read our full review of the Instant Pot Max to hear all about that. 

Programs included: Rice, Soup/Broth, Manual or Pressure Cooking and Canning

What it doesn't have:  Bean/Chili, Poultry, Meat/Stew, Multigrain, Porridge, Cake, Sterilize, Steam, Egg and Ultra

Lowest price to date: $149.95 at Amazon (Dec. 6, 2018)

Which one is best for you?

Food-specific modes and options will be the difference maker when it comes to picking the one you'll be able to use the most. If you want to venture into making your own yogurt, or if you love hard-boiled eggs, it's worth it to pay a bit more for an Instant Pot that can do those things. 

When it comes to choosing the right size, Instant Pot recommends a 3-quart model for one or two people. Families of six or fewer will likely be happy with the 6-quart multicooker. If you have a large household or host large groups often, consider springing for an 8-quart model. 

If you're still not sure which model will be the best fit for your kitchen, take a look at Instant Pot's product comparison chart or their guide to choosing the right cooker. At the end of the day, all of these models offer the basic pressure cooking and slow cooking modes Instant Pot is known for performing so well. 

How to clean an Instant Pot: Best care and cleaning tips for your pressure cooker

Why you should own an Instant Pot: 5 reasons, plus recipes and tips

What's the best Instant Pot to buy?     - CNET

Now playing: Watch this: Instant Pot Smart Wifi connects your pressure cooker

1:41

CNET Smart Home

Top stories

You may also like...