Which Instant Pot should you buy?

Instant Pot Duo Nova on a kitchen countertop surrounded by dishes prepared in the multi-cooker
(Image credit: Instant Pot)

Home cooking can sometimes feel like a chore, but whether it's to save money or improve your health and wellbeing, there are dozens of reasons to make your own meals from scratch on a regular basis. 

One of the best Instant Pots can ensure that preparing meals yourself is easier and less time-consuming. However, there's a wide array of Instant Pot models to choose from, and knowing which Instant Pot to buy can be a bit daunting. 

Some offer as many as 48 presets ensuring can be used for a wide array of cooking methods. However, they will all pressure cook, steam, slow cook, and sauté. Pressure cooking can sound scary, but in actual fact, the Instant Pot makes it completely hands-free. 

You simply turn off the vent to allow the chamber to pressurize, and your meat will cook in record time. It's ideal whether you left it a bit late to defrost the chicken and have it cooked in time for dinner, or you love a slow-cooked brisket but don't want to leave your oven on for hours while it cooks.

While it's not a feature you'll find in all Instant Pots, higher-end models come with a lid to convert them into an air fryer. This will mimic the flavor and texture of deep-fried food, but with a lot less fat and mess to clean away afterward. 

Deciding on which Instant Pot is for you will depend on what you’re looking for. Consider the cooking methods you'll use regularly, and those you are unlikely to make use of, as well as the number of portions you want to cook at a time. 

For many people, keeping a budget in mind will also help but also take note of how big each Instant Pot is and how much space it will take up in your home. 

Which Instant Pot should I buy for modern features? 

The Instant Pot Pro is our top choice because it's packed with smart features to make your life easier. This includes the ability to assign five favorites as presets so you can quickly start cooking your preferred meals, and a total of 28 cooking modes. While you will still get full use of all modes, these saved presets will allow you to shortcut to any modes you use on a regular basis such as as pasta, or even sterilize. 

It calls itself a ten-in-one multi-cooker, and claims to take the place of a pressure cooker, slow cooker, sous vide, rice/ grain cooker, food warmer, cake baker, sauté pan, sterilizer, yogurt maker, and steamer. 

While it's not the cheapest Instant Pot available, it is immensely versatile. As well as all of the presets, you can adjust the temperature and cooking time for any recipe. We're keen on the sleek black exterior and the updated lid, which will increase pre-heating by 20% when compared to other Instant Pots. 

The Instant Pot Pro on a kitchen countertop

(Image credit: Instant Pot)

Which Instant Pot is the best for beginners? 

Instant Pot first-timers may want to keep it simple at first, with clear and easy-to-use presets front and center. We recommend the Instant Pot Duo Evo Plus for beginners. It's got an amped-up design to make steam release even safer, which is ideal for those who are intimidated by the thought of pressure cooking. The new plastic cover will prevent any splatters of steam from leaving the lid, and it also makes the process less noisy. 

Even for beginners, you'll want an Instant Pot that will allow you to experiment once you get to grips with it. The Duo Evo Plus is great for this. It has the classic settings such as Slow Cook, Sous Vide, and Pressure Cook available with buttons that line the display, so you won't have to get involved with the more specific presets for rice, stews, and even cheesecakes until you're comfortable. 

The Duo Evo Plus has 48 settings in total, and the digital display will keep you up-to-date with how your recipe is coming along. If you do want to get more experimental, there's also the Instant Pot app, although we did miss the inclusion of a recipe book when we tried it hands-on. 

The Instant Pot Duo surrounded by dishes that were preapred in the multi-cooker

(Image credit: Instant Pot)

Which Instant Pot should I buy on a budget? 

If you do want a more budget-friendly model, the Instant Pot Duo V2 7-in-1 electric pressure cooker is usually the best bet. It's got 14 cooking modes, which will be a little less complicated for Instant Pot beginners, and it's also a little lighter, which makes it perfect for lifting in and out of storage. 

There is no backlit display or touchscreen controls with this Instant Pot. It has buttons either side of the display for soup, beans, poultry, meat, rice, multigrain, porridge, and steam. The other programs include slow cook, pressure cook, yoghurt, and sauté. 

You can choose between a range of capacities when shopping: either three quarts, six quarts, or eight quarts. The price will go up with the size, but when we tested the six-quart model, it was the perfect size for batch-cooking. 

It's a cheaper model, but the Duo V2 7-in-1 will still let you master the art of one-pot cooking. You can sauté your onions and then add in meat and vegetables to pressure cook, locking in flavor in a short time. 

Which Instant Pot should I buy for air frying? 

The new generation of Instant Pots come with a second lid for air frying. This takes up some extra space, but will transform the way you use your air fryer. We love it for pressure cooking whole chickens and then switching them onto air fry, resulting in crispy skin and tender meat. 

For an Instant Pot that can also air fry, the Instant Pot Duo Crisp and Air Fryer is a great option. The air fry lid can also be used to bake and roast, meaning you could also use it to get a crispy top on a mac and cheese. 

The Instant Pot Duo Crisp and Air Fryer has a digital display, but it is more basic than other Instant Pots such as the Duo Evo Plus. Time and temperature can be adjusted with buttons either side of the display, and underneath, you will find modes to air fry, dehydrate, sauté, steam and more. The modes that need the air fry lid are grouped in one line to make it easy to pick the right lid for your preferred mode. 

Which Instant Pot alternative should I buy? 

If you're not dedicated to the idea of an Instant Pot, the Ninja Foodi Max 9-in-1 Multi-Cooker is a great alternative. While Instant Pots have become synonymous with multi-cooking, the Ninja Foodi multi-cooker is just as mighty. It will also be easier for some to use, too, with a less fussy display and very clear controls.

You can pressure cook, air fry, slow cook, grill, steam, sear, sauté, bake, and roast in the Foodi Max. It has an air fryer lid built onto the machine, so you need to lift it out of the way on the side hinge to use the pressure cooker. If you think you'll get more use out of the air fryer lid than the pressure cooker lid, you will enjoy being able to tuck it away when not in use. 

However, if you plan on pressure cooking and slow cooking predominantly, having to leave the air fryer lid up on its hinge will be a nuisance. 

Millie Fender
Freelance Contributor

Millie is the Kitchen and Small Appliances Editor at Livingetc, Homes & Gardens, Ideal Home, Real Homes and Gardeningetc. She reviews kitchen appliances and cookware, as well as the occasional pizza oven, and loves nothing more than putting a new air fryer or blender to the test. When she's not reviewing kitchen gadgets, Millie loves knitting and exploring London's vintage markets.