It’s no surprise that the Instant Pot is as popular as it is today, since the main claim is that it can cook food in a fraction of the time. You simply set it, and then walk away until your food is ready. That makes the Instant Pot a perfect solution for when you want to get a home cooked meal on the table fast.
It has all the advantages of using the slow cooker, but it takes a fraction of the time. One reviewer aptly said, “It’s like a slow cooker on steroids.”
If you’re not quite ready to buy one and give this modern take on pressure cooking a try, this post might help make up your mind. Will you end up loving it, as so many other people already have? Read on to discover the pros and cons of the Instant Pot.
What Is An Instant Pot?
While our mothers and grandmothers were comfortable using a stovetop pressure cooker, most women of this generation are intimidated by the hissing and potential safety issues. Because of this, pressure cooking fell out of favor for a while. All that has changed with the arrival of the Instant Pot.
The Instant Pot is a self-contained, electrical pressure cooker that’s controlled through a digital interface and built-in safety features. It sits on your counter top and plugs into an outlet. It takes up about as much space as a rice cooker or slow cooker.
You tell it how long you want to cook your meal under pressure, set the timer and you’re good to go. It automatically brings up and holds the pressure at a safe level and will not allow you to open the pot while it’s pressurized. This makes it as easy to operate as a microwave.
As an added bonus, there are dozens of things you can do with the Instant Pot. It’s not limited to soups and stews. All you need is a few extra accessories and your Instant Pot can cook just about anything.
What Can an Instant Pot Do?
There are many uses for an Instant Pot. It’s not just used for pressure cooking, although that’s its primary function. You can also use it as a slow cooker and rice cooker, or to bake, make yogurt, and even do some canning. See the list below for a complete list of what the Instant Pot is capable of.
Some of the uses vary by model, so if you’re set on doing one particular thing, you’ll want to make sure you get the appropriate model.
- Pressure cooker
- Slow cooker
- Rice cooker
- Sauté Mode
- Keep food warm
- Make Yogurt
- Make cakes
- Sous Vide
Is An Instant Pot Worth The Money?
Let’s take a look at the instant pot and whether or not it’s worth the money. Depending on the time of year, and what kind of deal you can find, the average Instant Pot will set you back anywhere from $70 to $150.
While it’s not the cheapest kitchen appliance on the market, it does have multiple uses and can take the place of other expensive appliances you might need.
You can purchase a stove top pressure cooker or slow cooker for around $25. Does that mean the Instant Pot is overpriced, or something you shouldn’t consider buying? I don’t think so.
- A stove top pressure cooker will do you no good if you’re too intimidated to use it, or end up keeping it in the back of the cabinet because you don’t have the time and patience to keep an eye on the pressure and adjust the stove top as needed. If you have young children underfoot, you may not be comfortable using a traditional pressure cooker. That’s where the Instant Pot is a great solution.
- The Instant Pot can quickly become one of your most valued and often used appliances.After purchasing my first Instant Pot, and seeing how easy it was to use, plus how fast it cooked things, I started using it nearly every day. I can’t part with it now. It’s invaluable to me.
- The Instant Pot is worth it if it keeps you from going out to eat, or picking up food on your way home. If you know you can get dinner cooked in 45 minutes without having to stir pots, it becomes a lot easier to go home and start that pot of chili, or pot roast, and relax while it cooks.
If you aren’t sure if you’ll actually use it, the Instant Pot may be a waste of money. On the other hand, you’ll end up using it quite a bit if you keep it on your counter and use it as your pressure cooker, slow cooker, and rice cooker.
I’ve found that those who purchase an Instant Pot and then promptly put it in a cupboard and never look at it again are the ones who say it’s not worth it. The first step is always the hardest.
If you vow to use it at least once or twice when you first receive it, it will be an investment that’s well worth it. After I used mine the first few times, I couldn’t put it away. I was using it every day.
Look through some recipes, borrow a friend’s Instant Pot if possible, and see if this seems like the type of appliance that will work well for you and your lifestyle.
Instant Pot Shortcomings
While there are a number of great reason to own an Instant Pot, you should know that this device also has a few shortcomings.
The biggest shortcoming of an Instant Pot is that it doesn’t really only take five minutes to cook your food. While the manual tells you an ingredient only needs five minutes to cook, but that doesn’t account for the 10 to 15 minutes required for the machine to build pressure. And it doesn’t include the time it also needs to release the pressure once the cooking time is over. Suddenly, a food that’s suppose to cook in 5 minutes has taken 20 minutes.
As a rule of thumb, if something takes 20 minutes or less to cook on the stove or in the oven, go that route instead.
It’s also not great for cooking things that need to have a crispy texture. This is because the Instant Pot uses steam to cook. So any food that needs to have a crispy skin or that you don’t want to steam cook, doesn’t come out well in the Instant Pot.
What About Safety Features?
Traditional pressure cookers have safety features built in, but the newest generation of electric pressure cookers, like the Instant Pot, are designed with a slew of self-regulating safety features that make them safer to use than ever.
The safety features on an Instant Pot include:
- Sensors to monitor the unit’s temperature and pressure.
- Lid close detection
- Leaky lid protection
- Lid lock under pressure
- Anti-blockage vent
- High temperature warning
- Extreme temperature and power protection
- Pressure regulator protection
All of those features are designed to protect you from burning yourself, having the machine blow up, or scorch and burn.
Which Instant Pot Should I Buy?
When you go to buy your Instant Pot, you’ll discover that there are quite a few different models available. They come in different sizes, with different functionality. Let me quickly run you through the most popular models and sizes so you can make an informed decision on what to get.
Let’s start by talking about size. The size of meals you want to cook, or even the size of your family will determine what Instant Pot is the right size for you. Most come in the following sizes:
- 3-5 quart: works well if you are mainly cooking for 1-3 people. It works great for dorm rooms, and is a must have in a small apartment.
- 6 quart: the most versatile and also the most popular. Some of the models available will only come in this size. It’s perfect for the average family and will fit all your pressure cooking needs. If in doubt, go with this size.
- 8 quart: a good fit for larger families, or if you know you’ll be cooking a lot of large meals for family gatherings, church dinners and such.
There are many versions of each of these sizes. However, they are all fairly close to the same footprint, so if you choose a 6-quart, there’s no need to worry about the size of the model you choose. They’re all very similar.
With size decisions out of the way, let’s take a quick look at the different models available. There are three different main models with a couple of variations thrown in to keep you on your toes. Here are the main models.
- Lux – lowest cost, budge model
- Duo & Duo Plus – Most popular, starter model
- Viva – Similar to the Duo Plus
- Ultra – Adds custom temperature options for saute and slow cook, plus a cake maker, egg cooker, and sterilizer option. Also has a center dial to make adjustments
- Smart – Adds unlimited programmable settings, ability to use it with a smart phone app to track progress. Does not include the extra “ultra” capabilities, and has 2 delay start timers.
- Max – Most expensive model. Unlimted programmable settings and smart built-in programs, additional safety mechanisms, custom temperature options for saute and slow cook; Includes a sous vide option, 1100W (compared to 1000W in other models).
Each of the models have increasingly better and more robust features. If you’re just looking for a base Instant Pot without all the bells and whistles, you can pick up the popular DUO for around $80. The Max retails for around $150.See more info
This is the basic Instant Pot model and the one I recommend for most people new to pressure cooking. You may also hear as this one as the 6-in-1 model. It’s a pressure cooker, slow cooker, steamer, rice cooker, with sauté and keep warm functions as well for a total of six different ways of cooking.
- 12 built-in programs
- 11.53 lbs
- No lid holder
- Only high pressure (no low pressure option)
See more info
The Instant Pot Duo is the most popular of the versions. It can do everything the Lux can, but is also a yogurt maker. If making your own yogurt at home is on your list of things you want to do regularly, spring for the duo, otherwise, go with the basic lux model and save a few dollars.
- 14 built-in programs
- 11.53 lbs
- No lid holder
The major difference I’ve found on the Nova is the digital display that gives more information on the screen than the Duo. The Nova also has a new EasySeal lid that gives you one less thing to worry about because it automatically seals your Instant Pot. The two retail for the same price.
See more info
This model has 9 functions, instead of 7. It can perform the following: pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, grain maker, steamer, saute, yogurt maker, sous vide, bake, and warm. It retails for about $20 more than the base Duo model. And it comes with 48 customizable program modes. You’ll also notice that there is even more information given on the display screen.The Evo also has the following newly improved features:
- 15 built-in programs
- Includes sterilize and yogurt
- 11.84 lbs
- Lid holder
See more info
The Instant Pot Ultra has a central dial with a simple turn and press mechanism that provides added precision in program selection and adjustment.It’s a newer model with new features like altitude adjustment, a cooking indicator, and a steam release reset button. It also has an “Ultra” button for custom programming. The new features include sterilize, cake and egg programs.
- 16 built-in programs
- Ultra button
- Custom temperature control for saute and slow cooker
- 11.84 lbs
See more info
The Instant Pot Smart will do everything the previous two models do and more. The digital interface on the pot itself and the app that connects to your instant pot, allow you to control temperature and cooking durations for your meals as you see fit. If you like gadgets, prefer the ease of being able to save your favorite recipes and instant pot settings on your smart phone, and love full control over your pot, this is the model to get.
- Unlimited programs
- 13 built-in programs
- 12.20 lbs
- Can be used with wifi and the smart app
See more info
The next level Instant Pot is the Max. It adds the ability to do home canning inside the pressure cooker. And it gives the option of unlimited programmable settings and increased security.
- Unlimited programming options
- Max, high and low pressure options
- Added canning and sous vide feature
- Custom temperature control for saute and slow cooker
- 13.25 lbs
How to Choose the Right Instant Pot for You
If you’re on a budget, go for the Lux model. If you want to be able to make yogurt, but don’t need the fancy settings, consider the Duo.
When choosing one of the higher-end models, you should base your decision on what feature you most want to be able to use. The smart app is a great reason to choose the Smart. The center dial is a great reason to buy a model with that feature.
If you want to use it as a sous vide machine, buy the Max. If you want to use it as a canning system, also buy the Max. To be perfectly honest, it’s hard to go wrong no matter what model of instant pot you choose.
I’ve had a Duo Plus for a long time and I love it. There could be additional features, but they aren’t necessary and don’t stop me from cooking whatever I want.
How To Find Instant Pot Recipes
Now that you’re comfortable using this new electric appliance, you’re ready to branch out and start to look for some other fun recipes to try.
There are plenty of home cooks who share their favorite recipes, tips, and adaptations on blogs and popular Instant Pot Facebook groups. We have our own collection of Instant Pot recipes on this site. When you join our mailing list, we also have a free Instant Pot Cookbook to share with you.
Since the Instant Pot has been so popular for the past few years, there are plenty of traditional cookbooks (along with eBook versions) being published. Browse through your local bookstore, or head on over to Amazon.com to see what’s available right now.
Blogs And Google Searches
If you’re looking for something specific, doing a quick Google search is always a great idea. You’ll be able to find just about any type of Instant Pot recipe through a Google search.
Along the way, you’ll likely come across all sorts of different blogs where fellow Instant Pot users share their experiences and recipes. Bookmark them, or simply browse around when you come across them for plenty of fresh recipe ideas. Try the recipes as is, or use them as inspiration to come up with your own take on a dish.
Go Social With Pinterest And Facebook Groups
Last but not least, don’t forget about social media. Pinterest is a great source of Instant Pot recipes. Do a quick search and follow a few Instant Pot boards for plenty of new recipe ideas in your Pinterest Feed.
By far my favorite way to come across new recipes to try or get suggestions for recipe adaptations, is Facebook groups. There are several good Instant Pot specific groups you can join and participate in. You’ll find a wealth of information in these groups along with all sorts of helpful tips and ideas.
With these suggestions, I’m sure you’ll find more Instant Pot recipes than you’d ever get a chance to try. Cook up the ones that look good or sound delicious and start to build up your very own library of family favorite Instant Pot recipes.
Looking for more kitchen gadgets? Check out 21 Kitchen Gadget Gifts Everyone will Love.
If you’re still wondering if you should buy an Instant Pot, I’d definitely encourage you to give it a try. We make all kinds of great dishes in our Instant Pot every day, like baked potatoes, bone broth, and even whole chicken.
I’ve bought Instant Pots for my mother and sister as gifts and they have come to love theirs as well. It’s an indispensable tool to have in the kitchen.
Laura is a home cook who loves making new recipes and finding new favorite things to eat, whether at home or abroad. She also runs a popular travel blog and spends a lot of her time traveling for food.