Which Instant Pot should I buy?
December 22, 2018 3:15 PM   Subscribe

I am reading reviews, but maybe you can help me with personal experience. This is from the better-later-than-never club ... I am shopping for a Christmas gift. It is going to be either an Instant Pot or one of its competitors (multi-function electric pressure cooker, etc.)

From what I have read so far, the Instant Pot Duo was recommended. But that was some time back and didn't directly compare against other brands.

Do you have recommendations for or against any brand or model? My budget is $100 or less. It is OK to give recommendations a little over $100, in case it is on sale in town.

I am also debating between the 3-quart and 6-quart sizes. The gift recipient lives alone, enjoys cooking, works full-time, I think does little or no entertaining, and tends to eat healthful foods. She uses a bread maker, in case that's helpful.

Thanks for your insight.
posted by maurreen to Food & Drink (20 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I got the Instant Pot DUO60 6-Quart which I adore and use often. It is right now $76 on Amazon (I bought it for $86) which includes shipping.

The reviews I read before purchasing said that all of the various electric pressure cookers are generally the same, that the Instant Pot was more expensive than it needed to be (that was when it was $100+, the price seems to have gone down), but that the huge community behind the Instant Pot means that beginning pressure cooker users can more easily find recipes.

The 6-quart is bulkier than the 3-quart, obviously, but I justified it by getting rid of my rice cooker (which it replaces) and knowing that I can do bulk-cooking. Many of the recipes I see are for a 6-quart, too, so I don't have to worry about filling it too full.

If the gift recipient likes Indian cooking, steer her towards the Butter Chicken Lady's Instant Pot recipes -- you could even get her a spice grinder and some whole spices, two things that, when combined with an Instant Pot, have completely revolutionized my Indian cooking!
posted by rogerroger at 3:30 PM on December 22, 2018 [7 favorites]

Definitely the 6 quart so she can do pot-in-pot cooking. At a glance, I must have the duo. I like the customer service for the Instant Pot brand, it’s A++
posted by jbenben at 3:35 PM on December 22, 2018 [3 favorites]

I have the 6 quart duo and it's the right one for my family of 4. I wouldn't get anything smaller. Most recipes are sized for the 6 qt. Worst case, she'll be making 2-3 meals worth of food rather than one.

(I also would not get the larger 8 qt, because recipes sized for the 6 quart won't fill it up the same way and you risk scorching (I see this complaint a fair bit in the IP groups I'm in.))

One caveat: "healthful" foods can mean a lot of things. The IP is excellent for meat: beef, dark meat chicken in particular. One of the things I love about it is that I don't need to plan ahead by taking meat out of the freezer in advance - I can usually cook straight from frozen; or if not, it's still much easier and faster and hands-off than any other method I've tried. I eat keto, so pressure cooked meats are great for me. But if your friend eats mostly vegetables, an IP is probably not the most efficient use of her counter space.

Agree a spice grinder would be a lovely companion gift!
posted by fingersandtoes at 3:41 PM on December 22, 2018 [2 favorites]

There are only 2 of us in my family & I have the 6 quart Instapot. I wouldn't get any smaller. If you want to do a pulled pork or ribs that's the size you're going to need. But you don't have to fill up a bigger one to have it still work, where as you can't squeeze more into a smaller cooker if you know what I mean. Also if you're going to batch cook beans in it the extra head space is handy as beans foam up.

I think it's worth the extra money over other brands as it was designed in Canada & something I'm going to have under a lot of pressure I'd worry about if it was a cheaper copy. But I'm old enough to remember cheap stove top pressure cookers exploding being a thing. That's just my personal feelings on it.
posted by wwax at 3:47 PM on December 22, 2018

Definitely the IP Duo 60 (6 quart). If you went with a smaller one, I think she'd have trouble using a lot of recipes available online because the cooking times would change. Most of the ones I've used are aimed at a 6 quart pot.
posted by belladonna at 3:59 PM on December 22, 2018

I have the 3 quart, and it can do pot in pot cooking (just smaller pots). I use instant pot recipes all the time, and cook times are the same. I cook for just myself, and always have plenty of leftovers. I’d judge 2-3 large servings from most things I make and I rarely meet the Instant Pot’s capacity. It also takes up less room than the standard size. I replaced my rice cooker with it, also.
posted by loriginedumonde at 4:14 PM on December 22, 2018 [2 favorites]

I have the eight quart, and there are currently five people living in my home. Sometimes smaller families benefit from the larger model if they are in the habit of cooking two meals at once and freezing the second. I keep hearing that rice is possible in the instant pot, but it feels like it's not going to be as easy as the dedicated rice cooker. Also, I am fully converted to the instant pot, but there is a fine line between a slow cooker, instant pot, and sous vide. I can say that the instant pot, because it is 20% easier and you don't have to watch it, gets used more than my analog pressure cooker ever did. On the other hand, even with the big instant pot, the dream of browning ingredients in the same pan and then pressure cooking them seems like a cruel myth, like capitalism or American exceptionalism. The surface is too small to brown all of those boneless chicken thighs or onions at once, and the leftover gunk will scorch later. Two sleeves butter chicken may offend purists, but it is so good. And if you use red curry paste in lieu of all the dry ingredients it's even easier to slap together. I just realized that if I held a community education class on using your new Instant Pot (IP University?) it would sell out in minutes. That's all I've got.
posted by mecran01 at 4:39 PM on December 22, 2018

I got the Duo Plus, which seemed to me to have the right level of items. I live alone, got the 6 quart and am happy -- but I really like to make one dish to last 4-5 meals. This is just under $90 on Amazon, $10 more than the slightly lower end Duo. I looked at this chart when deciding which features I wanted -- I'm unlikely to use the egg or cake features which are the difference between the Duo and Duo+, but I'm vaguely curious about making jam and since that's a high acid food it's pretty safe to try in the sterilize function.
posted by jeather at 5:38 PM on December 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

I have the 3 quart.... I use instant pot recipes all the time, and cook times are the same.

Good to know! We have both the 6 quart & 8 quart versions and I've run into some timing issues, so I'd assumed a smaller one would have similar problems. I'm happy to hear I was mistaken.
posted by belladonna at 5:44 PM on December 22, 2018

We are a family of 2 and I use the 6 qt Instant Pot Duo. Even for one, I would lean towards the 6 because you get a larger surface area to brown with and that’s one of my favorite differences of the multi cooker.
posted by advicepig at 6:21 PM on December 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

We have the 3 qt Instant Pot Duo for a family of two and love it. I'm mostly vegan and cook a lot of bean or lentil dishes. We will only eat leftovers for maybe one meal and like that when filling the 3 qt pot halfway, it will give us about 4 servings.

I second the Two Sleevers blog and Indian cookbook. The recipes are pretty easy and delicious. One of my favorite is Kunde.
posted by source.decay at 7:17 PM on December 22, 2018

I am single and cook a lot, quite often in bulk for the week. After a year of owning the 6 qt instant pot, I gave it to my friend and got the 3 qt duo. I just could not justify the bulk of the machine for a single peron’s use. But I use the duo more, and even just picked up some inserts so I can make multiple things at once in it, like I used to do in my rice cooker.

But... your friend’s situation may be different. I don’t have a large freezer, and certainly I might make larger pots of soup, etc., if I could freeze them.
posted by greermahoney at 7:38 PM on December 22, 2018

Not to abuse the edit window: I’m a vegetarian, so I don’t have to worry about fitting whole sides of beef in it or whatever.
posted by greermahoney at 7:43 PM on December 22, 2018

The nice thing with the 6 quart is that you can fit a whole roast or a whole chicken in there, two things we cook a lot. I had a full sized crock pot as a singleton and cooked similar things so I think it’s a good recommendation. I enjoyed having several meals from one go at cooking. The minimum is 1 cup of liquid so they can always cook smaller amounts. I’d go for the 6 quart.
posted by notheotherone at 11:02 PM on December 22, 2018

We have an 8 quart model and for just two of us it is too large. It works ok but is definitely oversized for our needs.
posted by Dip Flash at 12:30 AM on December 23, 2018

I would advise against getting an off-brand. I got an IP knock-off from Aldi last summer because everyone I knew raved about how great Instant Pot is, but I didn't want to pay $100+. Followed some recipe that called for the saute function before starting pressure cooking, and it felt like the base never heated up -- it was cool enough to touch briefly, and the onions never actually cooked. Eventually I gave up and threw it out (the onions, and the pot.)

On a bigger level, the appeal of something like Instant Pot is the combination of batch cooking and not having to stand over a stove. Personally, I like being able to see what I'm cooking and season as I go -- that's the whole appeal of cooking for me. IP style cooking is much more set-it-and-forget-it, if that's your recipient's style.
posted by basalganglia at 3:23 AM on December 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

I got the eight-quart Instant Pot specifically for making stock and it is great for that. However, it's heavy and a pain in the ass to get out of the cupboard. For a single person, unless she wants to make stock, I'd go with the three quart.

I agree the idea of sauteing in the pot is cracked. It doesn't have the heat and it is much better to pull out a frying pan and saute on the stove then toss it into the pot. Also, there are a lot of recipes around for the instant pot that Just Don't Work or are not any faster than on the stove. Like rice (not faster) or caramelized onions (should be called Tan Onion Paste). But Big Search Engine is engaged in an Instant Pot Coverup.

One thing it works surprisingly well for: tamales. We're making them for the second Christmas in a row this year and they only take around 40 minutes (plus the hours of drudgery putting them together...).
posted by Gilgamesh's Chauffeur at 8:22 AM on December 23, 2018

I bought the smart instant pot, because I figured maybe Bluetooth connectivity would be cool and it was supposed to be possible to set up complicated cooking times for certain recipes (e.g., cook on high for x minutes, then rest, then go to yogurt setting or whatever). I’ve never used any of those features and I probably use the instant pot once a week.
posted by leahwrenn at 9:18 AM on December 23, 2018

One thing to look at is the type of internal pot. Most of the competitors have non-stick coatings, while the InstantPot and one or two of the others have a stainless steel one. The coatings have a reputation for flaking off even if no metal utensils are used.

Another thing to know is that almost all of the recipes found on the internet are written so that they use the manual setting and don't use the preset buttons, so that you can use them with any brand.

Personally I find that the InstantPot is well suited to crockpot recipes that you want to have done in 1 hour instead of 4-6.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 9:20 AM on December 23, 2018

I gave her the 6-qt. Instant Pot Duo, and she seems happy with it. It was a good surprise.

Besides the relative merits of the different sizes posted here, I figured that if I gave her the 6-qt. and she wanted a smaller one, she could easily exchange it for the smaller size. But if I gave her the 3-qt. and she wanted a larger model, she would have to pay.

Thanks for all your input. It was helpful.

Hope everyone is having a great holiday!
posted by maurreen at 6:43 AM on December 26, 2018 [2 favorites]

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