Theis a holiday and birthday wishlist mainstay, but if you haven’t invested in one yet, you may still be wondering what all the fuss is about. These multi-use pressure cookers promise to replace other kitchen gadgets, including (but not limited to) slow cookers, yogurt makers, rice cookers, steamers and air fryers, depending on the model.
Pressure cooking is a technique that prepares beans, meats, stews and more under high-pressure conditions. That pressure cooks food much more quickly than a similarly shaped slow cooker. Instant Pots come with safety features, such as overheat protection and a safe-locking lid, making pressure cooking seem like — well, a low-pressure endeavor.
Here’s a breakdown of the most popular Instant Pot models, so you can find your perfect match.
The original Instant Pot experience: Instant Pot Duo
If you’re seeking the classic Instant Pot experience, pick up the Instant Pot Duo. It offers seven appliances in one: an electric pressure cooker, rice cooker, slow cooker, yogurt maker, steamer, sauté pan and food warmer. The model also has 13 smart-touch customizable programs for pressure cooking dishes on autopilot, from ribs to yogurt. The lid, inner pot and accessories are dishwasher-safe for easy cleanup.
Pick from three sizes. The 3-quart size, for example, is ideal for small kitchens. The 6-quart is the most popular size. And the 8-quart size is ideal for families or meal preppers; it can serve up to eight people.
Instant Pot for the beginner: Instant Pot Duo Nova
The Duo Nova, which is ideal for beginners, is similar to the Duo, but comes with a lid that automatically seals your Instant Pot and a quick-release button to let out steam. It’s priced slightly higher than the Duo. Pick from four sizes.
Instant Pot for the intermediate user: Instant Pot Duo Plus
If you’re ready for more features, opt for the Instant Pot Duo Plus. This 9-in-1 model, like the 7-in-1, functions as an electric pressure cooker, rice cooker, slow cooker, yogurt maker, steamer, sauté pan and food warmer. But you also get a sous vide option and a sterilizer.
The Duo Plus is available in 3-quart, 6-quart and 8-quart sizes. All sizes are currently on sale at Amazon. The 6-quart is marked down to $80 from $120, for example.
Instant Pot for the seasoned cook: Instant Pot Pro
Like the Duo Plus, the Instant Pot Pro is a pressure cooker, slow cooker, sous vide, sauté pan, sterilizer, yogurt maker, food warmer, rice/grain cooker and steamer, but it’s also a cake baker, offering 10 uses in 1.
There are also 28 program settings for essential meals, and five programmable settings for your own favorite recipes. This model has an upgraded gentle steam release switch with a diffusing cover, to reduce noise and prevent splashing on your countertop. It’s available in 6-quart and 8-quart sizes.
Instant Pot with extra features: Instant Pot Ultra
The Instant Pot Ultra is also a 10-in-1 product. It has updates such as altitude adjustment and a steam-release reset button. It’s available in 3-quart, 6-quart and 8-quart sizes.
“Even if you don’t cook a lot or have a wide range of cooking skills, the LCD panel really takes the mystery out of the pressure cooking cycle which is not available on the Duo or Lux models,” reviewer T. Mackel says. “Maybe the extra settings will entice novice cooks to try new things.”
Instant Pot that air fries: Instant Pot Duo Crisp
This is the Instant Pot Duo, but with an additional ability to air-fry. That’s the trendy cooking technique that uses, in this case, 95% less oil than deep frying. It comes with a multi-level air fryer basket, and a dehydrating and broiling tray. It’s available in 6-quart and 8-quart sizes.
“I didn’t realize that stand-alone air fryers are rather expensive, so this machine being able to do both pressure cooking and air frying for us for less than the cost of a big air fryer has been amazing,” reviewer Lisa M. says. “I cannot recommend this machine enough!”
Instant Pot that serves the whole family: Instant Pot Pro Crisp
This is the Instant Pot Pro with an air-fryer attachment. It comes in the 8-quart size, which can accommodate a whole chicken. Its fry temperature goes up to 400 degrees. You can use this Instant Pot to reheat french fries, experiment with a healthier version of fried chicken, and so much more.