The Differences Between the Five Best Instant Pot Models

the best instant pot models of 2022, according to testing
The Best Instant Pots of 2022courtesy

We updated this article in November 20222, based on extensive testing done by the Good Housekeeping Institute, to name a new best overall pick, replace discontinued models with more innovative versions.

If you’re even the slightest bit interested in cooking, you’ve likely heard of the beloved Instant Pot, an electric multicooker by Instant Brands that can pressure cook, slow cook, brown, saute, steam and more — some can even act as an air fryer. But shopping for one isn’t as straightforward as you may think — the brand offers five different models with varying functionalities and features, all in a variety of different sizes. While they all pressure cook, the control panel and various settings/features vary from model to model. Some have digital buttons; others have a more traditional touchpad. Some can air fry; others can't.

We at the Good Housekeeping Institute Kitchen Appliance and Innovation Lab are here to help parse through those differences, so you can find the best option for your household. Since 2010, our experts have tested nearly 50 different pressure cookers and multi-cookers and slow cookers, including many different Instant Pots. We evaluate these multi-cookers for how well they pressure cook and slow cook a standard beef stew recipe. We also evaluate their ability to evenly brown meat and make rice. We also test each multi-cooker for ease of use, testing how easy the machines are to program and how intuitive the controls are.

These are the best Instant Pots you can buy in 2022, according to extensive testing and by Good Housekeeping experts.

Our top picks:

You can read more about how we evaluate Instant Pots and other multi-cookers in our Lab — plus learn all about how to shop for your appliance — at the end of this guide. We also weigh in on some of the most frequently asked questions about Instant Pots.

The Instant Pot Duo may be the brand’s overall best-seller (more on why below), but our Lab pros selected the upgraded Instant Pot Duo Plus as our top pick. It offers everything that the bestselling Duo does — and then some — without much additional cost. In addition to the settings offered by the basic Duo, this souped-up model also has settings for making more delicate foods like cakes and eggs. Another key feature of the Duo Plus is the upgraded display: It’s bigger and has brighter LED backlighting than the Duo. So if you ever find yourself straining to see the readouts on your appliances (like, say, in the middle of the night when you're heating up a bottle), look no further.

The Duo Plus also lets you edit the cook time and pressure level while the machine's in use (versus the Duo, which forces you to cancel the cooking program to change settings). It also gives you the option to silence its alarms. Other conveniences include a “whisper quiet” steam release, an anti-spin design so the inner pot won't move around while you're sautéing and 25 customizable smart programs with step-by-step instructions to help guide beginners through a variety of recipes.

The Duo offers all of the standard Instant Pot features with an extra setting for making homemade yogurt. It comes in 3-, 6-, and 8-quart options and claims to replace seven common kitchen appliances including a pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, sauté, steamer, yogurt maker and warmer. The inner pot is made of stainless steel, and it boasts a three-ply bottom for even heat distribution.

It also features a "delay start" tool and a "keep warm" function. There are two pressure cook settings (low and high), so you’ll have more control over the cooking temperature of delicate foods like soups and lentils, which may ultimately prevent them from overcooking into mushy oblivion. In our tests, the Duo was one of the only models that made rice that was well-cooked and tender rather than mushy.

Another reason we love the Duo is that, despite the lower price point, you get all of the same great user-friendly features other machines have — a large handle on top that makes opening and closing it quick and easy, extra slots on both side handles that can be used to prop up the lid when it's not in use. It also has a detachable cord, which you'll love if you're planning on storing your new toy in a tight cabinet.

If you're looking for an Instant Pot with more advanced settings and some nice-to-have bells and whistles, check out the Pro. This version of the beloved multi-cooker has 10 pre-programmed functions including pressure cook, slow cook, steam and sous vide, among others. This model, which offers two pressure levels (low and high), also gives you the option to pre-program five of your own recipes — perfect if you have a go-to beef stew or chicken fajita recipe you cook often. Perhaps one of its biggest claims to fame, though, is its upgraded inner pot. It has an extra-thick 3.5mm aluminum layer for faster, more efficient heating. It’s also compatible with electric, ceramic and induction cooktops, as well as ovens up to 450º F (just note: It's not nonstick.) The pot also has silicone handles, so picking up a hot pot is easier and safer.

In our testing, we found the Pro came to pressure quicker than most other models in just 27 minutes. It had some trouble with the natural pressure release, but the quick-release button sped things up, allowing the device to release pressure in just over four minutes. This version of the Instant Pot also has a stainless steel base that our testers said was super simple to clean — stuck-on food wiped off effortlessly.

Appliances can add bulk to your countertop, so you can save some of that precious real estate by combining an air fryer and an Instant Pot with the Instant Pot Duo Crisp Ultimate. While the newcomer may be the most expensive model on offer, it’s certainly the most functional (and likely cheaper than buying two separate appliances).

This 6.5-quart model works 13 different ways: as a pressure cooker, air fryer, slow cooker, steamer, sauté pan, food warmer, roaster, mini oven, broiler, dehydrator, yogurt maker, sous vide and bread proofer. Switching between the different cooking methods is seamless — just add the air fryer basket and switch the lids. What’s more, the appliance offers step-by-step cooking instructions on a large LCD display to eliminate guesswork. Cleaning is easy, too. We like that the protective inner cover keeps the air frying element clean and safe from splashes during pressure cooking and the cooking pot, steaming/air frying rack and pressure cooking cover are all dishwasher safe.

If you love all of the latest and greatest tech for all of the convenience it affords, don’t sleep on the Instant Pot Pro Plus. It’s a fully connected multi-cooker that can be controlled wirelessly via a compatible smartphone app. You’ll get access to a robust catalog of more than 800 recipes; just select the one you want and then follow on-screen prompts to walk through the entire process from start to finish. You can also wirelessly release steam or program a quick or delayed steam release at the end of a cooking program.

The inner pot included in this model is a step above the more basic Instant Pot Duo, too. It’s stovetop-safe and induction compatible, plus dishwasher-safe for quicker cleanup. (The pressure cooking rack and pressure-cooking lid are also dishwasher-safe.)

How we test Instant Pots

When the experts in the Good Housekeeping Institute Kitchen Appliances and Innovation Lab assess multi-cookers, including Instant Pots, we put each to the test in a variety of ways. We check overall functionality by filling the device with water to ⅔ capacity, then activate the high setting and set a timer. We watch and listen — once the cooker comes to pressure, we note the time. Then, we maintain pressure for 15 minutes and release the pressure, timing how long it takes for the pressure to drop.

Next, our pros get cooking. We mix all of the ingredients for beef stew in the pressure cooker, cover, record how long the pot takes to come to pressure, cook for 20 minutes and record how long the pot takes to release pressure. Then, we evaluate the final product: Is the beef tender? How were the veggies cooked? What’s the overall flavor like?

Finally, our pros cook a batch of rice in each device, combining all of the ingredients in the multicooker and cooking according to the manufacturer's instructions. We then evaluate the rice: What’s the texture like? Is any rice stuck to the bottom of the cooker?

Our testers also consider ease of use, evaluating each product for how intuitive and clear the controls are, how many settings are offered, how simple cleaning is and the clarity of the owner's manual.

What to consider when shopping for an Instant Pot

✔️ Control panel: All Instant Pots currently on the market have relatively large control panels. It makes sense, given how multi-functional these kitchen gadgets are. But while they’re all rather comprehensive, the more sophisticated models offer sleeker, more digital control panels, including features like a dial to click through varying cooking functions and added guidance like “OK to open lid.”

✔️ Cooking pot: Though all Instant Pots have a stainless-steel (18/8) inner pot with a tri-ply bottom for sauteing, more advanced models have additional benefits. The Instant Pot Pro comes with an added layer of extra-thick 3.5mm aluminum for faster, more efficient heating, while the Instant Pot Pro Plus has an inner pot that’s stovetop-safe and induction compatible.

✔️ Pressure levels: On some models, there is only one pressure option: high. On others, you can choose from high or low pressure levels. And still others, you can even choose a “max” pressure level. High is perfectly suitable for most recipes, while low is good for slower cooking or things that you want to make more tender over a longer period of time, like beef stew, as well as foods that are delicate like rice, fish and even cakes. Machines with the extra-high pressure level will yield the fastest results and also make a really good and concentrated bone broth.

✔️ Functions: While all Instant Pots are multi-cookers with impressive functionality, the breadth depends on which model you select. Some do all the more basic tasks — pressure cook, slow cook, steam, saute and more — while others have even more impressive cooking prowess doubling as sous vide, air fry and dehydrating machines.

✔️ Size: There are three different sizes of Instant Pots: 3 quarts, 6 quarts and 8 quarts. The most popular — and the one favored by our Lab and test kitchen pros — is the 6-quart option. It’s big enough for a decently-sized batch of stew or protein, but it won’t overtake your counter.

Which Instant Pot is the best?

The best Instant Pot is the one that has all of the features you need. The brand currently manufactures five different models with varying features and functionality, from basic models to advanced models with built-in air frying capabilities. In general, the Instant Pot Duo seems to be the most popular, because it offers excellent value — it’s the most affordable model but still cooks seven ways and has basic, intuitive controls. There are two new additions to the lineup: the Instant Pot Duo Plus, a model that’s very similar to the Duo but has quiet release technology and an upgraded digital control panel, and the Instant Pot Crisp, which doubles as an air fryer.

What's the best size Instant Pot?

Our Kitchen Appliances and Innovation Lab evaluates 6-quart models because we think it's the most practical option. It’s big enough for a decent-size batch of chicken soup or chili, but it doesn’t hog too much counter space. That being said, the 8-quart model is great for large families or for those who love to meal prep.

Where can I find the best Instant Pot recipes?

If you need recipe inspo for all the fuss-free meals you can make in your new Instant Pot, check out Good Housekeeping's Instant Pot Cookbook. In addition to a primer filled with all the how-to info you’ll need to know, it features 60 delicious dishes, including Weeknight Tuscan Ragu, Vegan Black Bean Soup, Spicy Sesame Rice Bowls and Korean Pork Lettuce Wraps.

Why trust Good Housekeeping?

Nicole Papantoniou is the director of the Good Housekeeping Kitchen Appliances and Innovation Lab. She oversees all of Good Housekeeping's content and testing related to kitchen appliances, tools, gadgets and gear. She is trained in classic culinary arts and is a professional recipe developer, plus has been testing kitchen appliances professionally since 2013. Nicole oversaw the most recent testing of multi-cookers in August 2022.

Brigitt Earley is a freelance writer and editor with nearly 15 years of experience testing and writing about consumer products, including Instant Pots and other kitchen appliances and gadgets. She holds a degree in Professional Culinary Arts from the French Culinary Institute (now Institute of Culinary Education).

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