If you enjoy cooking meals without the hard work, you’ll need one of the best Instant Pots. This multi-functional pressure cooker will offer the convenience to rustle up a range of tasty meals with just a touch of a button. In fact, the best Instant Pots can make home cooking more fun, offering plenty of functions for various recipes, including steaming, baking and yogurt making.
But, with so many different types of Instant Pot models available, it can be challenging to know which one will suit your lifestyle. First, what programs will you need? Instant Pots are primarily known for their exceptional pressure and slow cooking functions, but some can also bake, sauté and sterilize. There are even a few models with an air fryer function, if you prefer fried foods. Also, what size and quart-capacity do you need? If you're catering for a large family, it's ideal to buy an 8 quart size, while a 3 quart pot would suit a smaller household.
We've selected the best Instant Pots to suit every home, lifestyle and budget right now.
The best Instant Pots you can buy today
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The Instant Pot Duo 7-in-1 is one of the more popular and best-selling, entry-level Instant Pot models, and with good reason. It has a well-laid interface, making it easy to use the 13 one-touch programs - especially if you’re a newbie to the world of multicookers. Like most Instant Pots, it also comes with 10 safety features such as an overheat protection and safe locking lid. During our tests, it performed consistently across the main programs, such as Saute, Pressure Cooking and Rice, producing delicious and tender results.
While this model has somewhat fewer program settings than other models, it’s good for those who only need the essential programs for regular use. In addition, its compact size is ideal for a small family, so may not be sufficient for larger households. Overall, the Instant Pot Duo is a versatile, user-friendly and very affordable multicooker.
The Instant Pot Duo Nova is essentially the venerable Instant Pot Duo, but with an updated, large digital interface. It’s also worth noting that it’s the only model with a 10-quart option, making it the ideal capacity for large families or those cooking up a feast. It also has an updated steam release valve and a progress indicator that shows when the Instant Pot is coming up to pressure, when it’s cooking, and when it’s finished.
The Duo Nova comes with a stainless steel inner pot with sealing ring, steam rack and extra seal ring, which is handy as the silicone tends to pick up odors. The only downside is the inner pot doesn’t come with handles, like other Instant Pots, so you'll need to take care when lifting the pot after cooking.
During our tests, the Instant Pot Duo Nova performed well when pressure cooking meat dishes, stews and casseroles, with succulent and tasty results. We were particularly impressed by the saute function for onions and searing meat, which took less time than cooking in a conventional frying pan. Each program has three settings to choose from (low, normal, high), which also allows for preheat time, which you can see on the handy display progress bar.
However, results for cooking basmati rice, and steaming vegetables were not as consistent in quality. Despite having all the basic programs, one downside is the absence of a Bake setting. However, this isn’t a real deal breaker for those who just want ease of use, practical features, and a range of sizes to suit your needs. If you do have the 10-quart size, bear in mind this may be a little too big for your average dishwasher. However, the inner pot and parts are easy to hand wash with soapy water. Overall, if you’re after a simple, no-fuss multicooker, the Instant Pot Duo Nova is a good option, which is why it took home a Tom's Guide 2022 Award for Best Instant Pot.
Read the Instant Pot Duo Nova 7-in-1 Multi Pressure Cooker review here
If high design is important to you, the Instant Pot Ultra 10-in-1 is worth the price. Its sleek, modern look with a large, bright blue display boasts a a cooking time graph (so you can quickly see where the pot is in the pressure-building/cooking/releasing process). It has one feature we particularly love: a separate Quick Release button on top of the lid that keeps your hand away from the vent and its escaping steam. With the other models, you need to move the actual vent, which can be a little intimidating during the first few uses.
The Ultra's controls are digital (versus the analog buttons in many other models), with a large knob to switch among the features and a toggle button to adjust settings. However, the controls are a little confusing; you have to actually press Start after finding your program and timing (which is a different process from the other models, which start automatically). This model also has an Ultra feature to allow for complete customization of any setting, and it comes with an altitude-adjustment feature, which will be necessary if you're cooking at high altitudes.
The Ultra was the best model at replicating a slow cooker, so it should be easy to use this model without adapting recipes. However, the Egg and Rice functions didn't perform very well in our tests, which means you may have to play with custom programming to get the precise results you want for those foods.
If you lack space for several appliances, this pressure cooker and air fryer combo will save the day. The Instant Pot Duo Crisp comes with two interchangeable lids: one for pressure cooking, and one for air frying. In addition, it comes with a handy, heat-proof pad to place the air fryer lid on to protect your countertop. This comes in useful considering the Instant Pot Duo Crisp has a 1500W heating element, which gets the Instant Pot up to pressure in no time at all, and makes searing and sauteing a breeze.
Perhaps the main feature here is the air fryer function that quickly cooks frozen french fries in under 15 minutes, with crisp and tasty results. We were also impressed with the pressure cooking for meat stews, which produced tender and flavorful dishes each time.
Despite its 11 one-touch programs, there are no rice, stew or yogurt presets. Instead you would need to look up the correct time, pressure setting and program it manually. The Instant Pot Duo Crisp itself is very heavy to carry and slightly bulky for small worktops. However, if you’re after the sheer convenience of having a 2-in-1 air fryer and pressure cooker combo, this is a great space saver and great value for money.
Read the Instant Pot Duo Crisp and Air Fryer review here
If you have limited storage space and are looking for an appliance to replace your slow cooker, the Instant Pot Duo Plus 9-in-1 can't be beat. It performed well on all of our tests, except for the Rice program, and was easy to clean and program.
The Duo Plus sells at a more reasonable price than the Ultra, and you can rely on it to handle most of your cooking needs, including those that call for the bonus Egg, Cake, Yogurt and Sterilize features that the standard Duo doesn't offer. This cooker also did very well at slow cooking, which makes it a true multipurpose appliance for small homes.
The “Max” in the Instant Pot Max doesn’t refer to its size, but rather the fact that it can be pressurized to 15 psi, higher than the company’s other models, which means you can use it for canning. It also has a sous-vide function. However, it only comes in one size (6 quarts).
The Max’s touch-screen display is much sleeker than Instant Pot’s other models, and you can release the pressure using the screen, rather than sticking your finger close to the pressure-release valve—and all that boiling steam.
This smart Instant Pot Pro Plus is the latest addition to the company’s lineup, allowing you to control your multicooker at just a touch of a button. Simply connect via the Instant Brands Connect app on your smartphone or device to operate, program and monitor your cooking progress. If you didn’t want to use the app however, the touch-screen, LED display is straightforward, and you can set times with the handy dial. In addition, it has 11 safety features such as overheat protection, and heat-proof handles so you can safely lift out your inner pot after cooking.
It comes with 16 smart programs, which is fewer than other models, but it has advanced features such as NutriBoost to infuse flavors and enhance texture quality, aswell as the choice of three venting methods.
With a powerful 1500 watts, the Instant Pot Pro Plus heats up much quicker than other models we tested. This was evident while sauteing ingredients and searing meat: the beef was evenly browned before the pre-warming stage had even completed. Pressure cooking was impressive, producing tender, delicious stews in 45 minutes. We were also impressed with the fluffy texture and aromatic quality when cooking basmati rice, which was just as good as a conventional rice cooker.
Bear in mind, it’s only currently available in one size, but sufficient for a family of four. In addition, the app set-up can be a little tedious at first, but once you’re all set, you’ll have more than 800 recipes to browse for cooking inspiration.
If you enjoy cooking up a storm, the Instant Pot Pro will cater for every cooking need imaginable. This all-black, upgraded model not only looks sleek, but has 28 cooking programs and five new ‘favorite’ program settings of your choice. This means you’ll no longer have to spend time manually programming your special, homemade dishes. It also has easy-grip handles on the inner pot, making it easier to safely lift it in and out of the pot, and an upgraded steam release and diffusing cover is much quieter than other models. The sophisticated, LED display and progress indicator shows every option you need to monitor cooking, but can seem a little overwhelming.
In our tests, the Instant Pot Pro scored the best for searing meat, stews were consistently tender, aromatic and flavorsome, and steamed broccoli had the perfect crunch and texture. The only disappointment was the basmati rice’s overcooked, sticky texture.
Granted, it’s not the cheapest Instant Pot around, so if you’re only ever going to use a few programs, this may not be cost-effective for you. However, it's one of the best Instant Pots with premium power and the updated design will make a convenient and attractive addition to your kitchen.
Read the Instant Pot Pro cooker review here
What is an Instant Pot?
Instant Pot is a brand name for a number of pressure cookers, also known as a "multicooker." It's a countertop appliance that can be used for a variety of cooking methods, including pressure cooking, slow cooking, searing, steaming, and more. Instant Pots also allow for sautéing and slow cooking right in the same vessel, for true start-to-finish, one-pot cooking of often-complicated or time-consuming dishes. Some Instant Pot models also include programs for specific food preparations, like rice and egg cooking and even yogurt making.
How Instant Pots work
Instant Pots and other pressure cookers have unique lids that create an airtight seal. Once the lid is locked in place and the cooker is set, steam gets produced in the pot and can't escape.
The trapped steam increases the atmospheric pressure inside the cooker, increasing the boiling point of liquids and speeding up the time it takes to boil, braise or steam foods.
An Instant Pot should not be confused with an air fryer. Check out our guide on Instant Pot vs air fryer for more details.
How to choose the best Instant Pot for you
Here are the key things to consider when choosing an Instant Pot:
Features: Some Instant Pot models come with preprogramed cooking functions and even additional capabilities such as Yogurt Making and Sterilization. However, these preprogrammed functions merely mimic low- and high-pressure cooking, and you can re-create them manually. Additionally, we found that some preprogrammed functions were unreliable (with, for example, rice and eggs turning out imperfect).
Evaluate the kind of cooking you typically do before splurging on bells and whistles that you don't need. You should also realize that you may still need to adapt your cooking times to get the results you want. We frequently found that the more features an Instant Pot had, the more confusing the controls were.
Size/capacity: We tested only 6-quart models, as they're the most popular size on the market. However, many Instant Pots are available in 3-quart sizes, which are better for individuals or couples, and 9-quart sizes, which are better for larger families.
Price: It's surprising how widely the prices vary for Instant Pots, given that most of them offer the same basic features, give or take a few specifics. Your personal budget for cooking gear will influence your decision on which price is best.
Accessories: Every Instant Pot comes with a trivet (where you can cook eggs or rest baking dishes), a plastic rice scoop and a cookbook. You don't really need any other accessories, although you can separately purchase a myriad of them on Amazon. Options range from a glass lid to use when slow cooking to steamer inserts, additional sealing rings, egg holders, springform pans and more. Ease of use: It takes a little practice to get used to sealing an Instant Pot's lid, using the device's quick-release steam vent and setting the pot's cooking programs. There are only slight variations between models; the Ultra offers the most features, but it's also the most confusing to use.
Ease of cleanup: The stainless-steel insert and ring/locking lid of an Instant Pot are extremely easy to clean. However, some Instant Pots heat up faster and reach higher temperatures than others, resulting in scorching when you're searing, which can be a little difficult to clean.
Safety: Instant Pots have made pressure cooking extremely safe and nearly foolproof for home cooks. However, the lid of the pot gets extremely hot during cooking, and on all models but the Ultra, you need to get very close to the lid — and the hot steam — when quick-releasing the steam.
How we test Instant Pots
We lined up a range of Instant Pots for a side-by-side comparison in which we evaluated cooking capabilities, time, temperature, controls and the final cooked results. Although each model is available in multiple sizes, we purchased the 6-quart model of each to eliminate any variables related to volume.
We purposely selected these five cooking methods and their corresponding ingredients, as they represent the most common uses for Instant Pots.
- Soft-boiled eggs: to use the Egg program or Low Pressure setting
- Long-grain rice: to test the Rice program on each pot
- Diced onions: to test the Sauté setting
- Chicken thighs: to evaluate how the High Pressure setting worked
- Whole pork shoulder: to see how each Instant Pot would sear and braise on the Saute and then Slow Cook settings
Soft-boiled eggs using the Egg program
Cooking perfect soft-boiled eggs can be a challenge, so we evaluated the accuracy of the Instant Pots' Egg programs. For this test, we cooked four eggs set on the rack in the bottom of each pot with 1 cup of water, with the pot set on Egg and then Low or Less. (Note: The Duo model does not have an Egg setting, so we used Low Pressure for 3 minutes.)
Cooking soft-boiled eggs resulting in that perfect, runny yolk works in the Duo and Duo Plus Instant Pots. However, doing so in the Ultra will require some adjustments.
|Time to Reach Pressure (min:sec)||Total Cooking Time (min:sec)||Lid Temperature at End Cooking Time||Side Temperature at End Cooking Time||Results|
|Duo||5:10||8:10||217||88||All eggs perfectly runny|
|Duo Plus||5:45||8:45||200||89||All eggs perfectly runny|
|Ultra||4:39||7:39||210||96||Eggs were runny but not perfectly so. Some cooked egg around the edge|
Cooking long-grain white rice using the Rice program
Conventional recipes for cooking long-grain white rice call for a rice-to-water ratio of 1:2. The Instant Pot's sealed environment reduces this to 1:1.
Recommendations in the Instant Pot recipe book say you should rinse and then soak white rice for 15 minutes, which is not a time-saving approach. In our testing, we found that it was not necessary to soak the rice. Selecting the Rice button automatically sets the cooking time to 4 minutes. However, the Rice setting is only for cooking white rice. For other rice types — such as brown, jasmine and wild rice — you will need to select the Manual button and set the proper cooking time.
For each Instant Pot, we measured 1 cup of white rice and added 1 cup of water. For the Duo and Duo Plus IP, we selected the Rice program. The cooking time automatically defaults to 12 minutes for both the Duo and Duo Plus, but you can change the mode to Less (for al dente rice), Normal(for perfectly fluffy rice) or More (for a softer rice). In our testing, we selected Normal.
On the Ultra Rice program, the default cooking time is 14 minutes. You can adjust the time on each, but we used the default settings. After cooking, we allowed for a natural release and tested the doneness of the rice in each model.
We found some rice stuck to the bottom of each of the Instant Pots. (You can avoid this with a quick spray of oil to the bottom of the pot prior to cooking the rice.) Otherwise, cleanup was relatively easy. We were disappointed that the Ultra still failed to finish cooking the rice, even though this pot took much more time cooking (23 total minutes) than the other three models. It's not that much of a time savings compared to cooking on the stove top, but it is hands-off.
|Time to Reach Pressure (min:sec)||Total Cooking Time (min:sec)||Lid Temperature at End of Cooking Time||Side Temperature at End of Cooking Time||Results|
|Duo||5:20||17:20||212||95||Perfect, fluffy rice|
|Duo Plus||4:55||16:55||186||94||Partially uncooked rice|
|Ultra||9:00||23:00||235||93||Slightly undercooked rice|
Sautéed onions using sauté feature
The Sauté setting heats up the bottom of the pan and happens with the lid off, similar to traditional stove-top cooking.
On the Duo and Duo Plus, after selecting the Sauté function, you must choose from among three temperature settings: Normal, which best matches stove-top sautéing; Less,which drops the temperature to a low flame; and More, which raises the temperature to give you a sear. More is best-suited for browning meat and is not best for cooking a vegetable like onions.
The Ultra series Sauté function also asks you to choose a temperature; however, Ultra has different names for its settings, using Med for stove-top sautéing, Low for a lower temperature and High for browning meat.
In our onion test, we selected Sauté and then chose the Normal temperature setting for the Duo and Duo Plus series. For the Ultra series, we choose the Med temperature setting.
For all four Instant Pots, we waited 2 minutes and then added 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and heated the oil for 2 minutes. Next, we added 2 cups of diced onions and 1 teaspoon of salt. We cooked the onions for 8 minutes, stirring often and checking for sticking and for evenness of browning. We measured the temperature of the outside of the Instant Pot and found that none were above 99 degrees during sautéing.
All four Instant Pot models worked well as countertop sauté pans, allowing for one-pot cooking when sautéing vegetables or other foods before slow cooking or pressure cooking. The variations among the four were slight. You do have to use a long spoon to stir to avoid hitting the side of the Instant Pot insert, but as a side benefit, you won't have any splatters while cooking.
|Duo||Edges of the onions started burning and sticking before the centers got browned, meaning the Med setting is actually a pretty high heat.|
|Duo Plus||Second best, even caramelization and closest to stove-top results|
|Ultra||Most-even results, with great caramelization and browning and no sticking|
Boneless, skinless chicken thighs using pressure cooking
For this test. we placed 1 pound of boneless, skinless chicken thighs in the bottom of the Instant Pot insert and covered the meat with 1 cup of chicken stock. For all four Instant Pots, we selected the Pressure Cook button, set the Pressure to High and manually set the cooking time to 10 minutes. When cooking time was complete, we pressed Cancel and allowed the pressure to release naturally for 10 minutes.
All four Instant Pots produced extremely tender, moist and juicy chicken. Of all our tests, this one produced the least variation in results, except for that the Duo Plus had the lowest exterior and food temperatures when cooking.
|Time to Reach Pressure (min:sec)||Total Cooking Time (min:sec)||Lid Temperature at End of Cooking Time||Side Temperature at End of Cooking Time||Internal Chicken Temperature|
Pork shoulder using Sauté and Slow-Cook methods
For this test, we used a traditional pulled-pork recipe calling for a 2-pound boneless pork shoulder, trimmed of fatback and any excessive fat. We used an even amount of traditional spice rub on each pork shoulder, and the rub included some sugar to test for burning and sticking.
We next added 2 tablespoons of canola oil to each Instant Pot, set the device to Saute High and heated for 2 minutes. Then, we seared each roast for 5 minutes per side and deglazed with one-quarter cup bourbon.
Next, we added a mixture of 1 cup chicken broth and one-half cup BBQ sauce to each Instant Pot, returned the pork to the pot and set the device to cook on Slow Cook-Medium for 9 hours.
At the end of those 9 hours, the pork was still not tender (most slow-cooker recipes for a 2-pound pork shoulder indicate 8 to 10 hours on low). The temperatures of the outside of the machine, lid, meat and braising liquid at 9 hours varied slightly among the four pots (results below).
We then set the pots to Slow Cook-High for 2 hours and took measurements for outside, lid, meat and liquid. We tested the tenderness of each roast by pulling it apart gently with two forks.
Slow-cooked after 9 hours on Low
|Lid Temperature at End of Cooking Time||Side Temperature at End of Cooking Time||Internal Pork Temperature||Liquid Temperature|
Slow-cooked after 2 additional hours on high: Total cook time, 11 hours
|Lid Temperature at End of Cooking Time||Side Temperature at End of Cooking Time||Internal Pork Temperature||Liquid Temperature|
When adapting slow-cooker recipes for the IP, be aware that the cook time may be significantly longer with an Instant Pot. We were surprised that none of the pork roasts were done after 9 hours. We found that the Sauté High setting on the Ultra was clearly superior, with this pot heating the pork up faster than the other Instant Pots did. However, the Ultra also resulted in significant scorching on the bottom of the pan. The other Instant Pots had very little scorching and deglazed easily.
The Ultra resulted in the tenderest pork, as well as the easiest to pull apart. The Duo produced the least-tender pork of the Instant Pots, indicating that this pot may not be the best for slow cooking. The Duo Plus IPs resulted in pork that was slightly more fork-tender than what the Duo produced.
Cleanup for the Sear and Slow-Cooker method in the Ultra Instant pot required extra scrubbing, making this pot the most difficult and time-consuming one to clean. The Duo and Duo Plus were much less difficult to clean, requiring only some scrubbing.
Julie Hartigan is a professional chef and food writer who has developed recipes for publications including Weight Watchers, Saveur, and Real Simple. She has also appeared on CBS New York and The Chew. You can find more of her recipes at cookingwjulie.com.