The 3 Best Instant Pots
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If there’s one appliance that’s reached celebrity status in the last several years, it’s the Instant Pot. The cooker is as versatile as a Swiss army knife, and it makes meal prep and weeknight dinners a snap. But if you still haven’t picked up an Instant Pot due to sheer confusion, you’ve come to the right place. I’ll guide you through the best Instant Pots to help you find a model you love.
Aside from some differences in the user interface, most Instant Pots operate similarly and can replace multiple appliances. First, consider cooking capacity. While the 6- or 8-quart models are great options for most homes, if you're cooking for one person a 3-quart model should suffice.
Next, decide what you're looking for in an Instant Pot. All models come pre-programmed with settings for preparing grains, stews, yogurt, soups, and even steaming. For most people, the cult-favorite Duo Mini is the best Instant Pot. That said, if you're looking for extra cooking functions, like air frying or sous vide, you may want to upgrade to an Instant Pot that can handle those tasks (more on this below).
Investing in one of Instant Pot's multi-cookers, like their Aura model, may be the right choice for you if you don't need the speed of pressure-cooking. This multi-cooker works slower than a classic pressure cooker, but offers more functionality, including the ability to use it for sous vide. On the other hand, if you want to prepare food that is perfectly crispy on the outside, you can upgrade to a model with air fry capability. Pressure cooking makes food tender, but doesn’t offer the sensory “crunch” that some people might seek out in an air fryer. Pick a model that offers the functions you think you’ll use most.
Ready to join the Instant Pot fan club? I’ve narrowed down the best Instant Pots below!
1. The Best Instant Pot For Most People
- Available in sizes: 3, 6, 8, and 10 quarts
With over 100,000 Amazon reviews, the Duo Mini is by far Instant Pot’s most popular model. It comes in a range of sizes from 3 to 10 quarts, and the model’s functions only grow as it gets larger. This 6-quart model has a user-friendly LCD screen for manually setting it pressure cook, plus 14 one-touch settings for cooking methods including slow cook, pressure cook, steam, soup/broth, yogurt, and sauté. You can even customize your unit to remember your most commonly used cooking settings. The machine makes a sound confirming when the lid has been sealed for cooking, and the pressure valve itself is placed centrally on the lid for easy use (take care when releasing the valve as steaming hot air will release, as well).
When removed, the lid fits conveniently in one of the pot’s handles so you don’t have to set it on your countertop. The Duo Mini can cook foods up to 70% faster than traditional methods, and the enclosed cooking chamber retains food’s natural moisture. For cooking inspiration, customers can download the Instant Pot app that has over 1,000 recipes.
Editor's note: I own the Instant Pot Duo Nova and love it for making all manner of meal — soups, savory meats, lentils, you name it. I find, when cooking 3-4 servings of food, the 3-quart model is sufficient for my needs.
2. The Best Instant Pot For Air Frying
- Available in sizes: 6, 8, 10 quarts
Pressure-cooking can break down tough meats into tender, juicy stews and roasts, but for food to have any crunch or caramelization, it needs dry heat. That’s where Instant Pot’s Duo Crisp comes into play, by offering two lids: one for pressure cooking, and another with a built-in heating element and convection fan for air-frying. Whereas the Duo Nova offers seven-in-one functionality, the Duo Crisp offers all the same cooking programs, as well as a suite of dry heat programs including air fry, bake, roast, broil, and dehydrate. The 8-quart capacity gives ingredients plenty of space so they aren’t crowded during cooking.
To get the most out of the Duo Crisp’s air fry functionality, a perforated basket is also included to allow hot convection air to flow evenly around ingredients. You can use it in conjunction with the Instant Pot’s other modes, or as a standalone air fryer. The one thing to consider is that the Duo Crisp requires just a bit more storage for the lid and air fry basket. But if you want to make tender and crispy food super quick, it’s worth it. Plus, it takes up a lot less space than a separate air fryer would.
3. The Best Instant Pot For Sous Vide Fans
- Available in sizes: 6 and 8 quarts
Rather than a locking lid that allows recipes to cook under pressure, the Instant Pot Aura’s lid allows some steam to release, and foods cook gently and slowly. The Aura is a lot more than a slow cooker, though, and its wide, precision temperature range allows you to safely cook on low heat for preparing sous vide recipes, as well as high heat for searing or sautéing on the pot’s heated surface. The Aura is programmed with 11 smart settings, including steam, roast, rice, and keep warm. An included steaming/roasting rack lets you create a range of healthy recipes, and the 8-quart capacity is ideal for making big batches of soups or chili. The Aura’s broad base also lets it function as a warming station or additional burner. Though slightly different in its functionality from Instant Pot's legacy pressure cookers, the Aura is another very versatile appliance from the brand.