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Best Instant Pots for 2021

Wondering which Instant Pot is also an air fryer? Or the best Instant Pot for a beginner? We've outlined what makes each model unique to help you find a perfect fit.

If you're wondering how to use an Instant Pot, look no further than our guide to using your Instant Pot. But first, you'll need to decide which Instant Pot to buy and that's another matter altogether. Don't worry, we've got your back with that too. The popular line of multicookers may have started with one model, but the brand now has an entire fleet of Instant Pot each with its own distinct features, programs, cooking functions and price tags. There are Instant Pots that air fry, others that sous-vide and even multicookers that connect to Wi-Fi to be controlled via a mobile device or smart home integration like Goole Home or Amazon Alexa. 

It's true. Over a dozen models exist in the Instant Pot family and that may seem like a lot to sort through especially if it's your first time buying a multicooker. We're here to help you figure out the best Instant pot one for your culinary needs. While these handy kitchen cookers all look similar on the outside, they aren't all created equal. All the Instant Pots will do the basic functions of pressure cooking, slow cooking, warming and sautéing. But from there, different models prove better for different kinds of cooking like precision programs, air frying, yogurt making and even sous-vide cooking.

If you're looking for an Instant Pot that performs specific food functions such as cooking eggs, making yogurt or even canning fruit, you'll need to know which models can actually do that. Here are our favorite Instant Pot models and what they do best to help you find the perfect fit. We update this list periodically.

Read more: Does the Instant Pot destroy nutrients in your food while cooking?

Instant Pot via Amazon

The Instant Pot Duo 7-in-1 is the company's most popular series and for good reason. It's super simple to operate and comes with seven versatile cooking functions: pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, steamer, saute, yogurt making and warmer. You can buy the Duo in three sizes: 3-quart ($68), 6-quart ($89) and 8-quart ($99). 

It's also the most affordable model to sport the yogurt and poultry programs as well as the option to pressure cook on high or low. 

Programs included: Rice, Bean/Chili, Poultry, Meat/Stew, Multigrain, Porridge, Soup/Broth, Steam, Manual or Pressure Cooking 

What it doesn't have: Cake, Sterilize, Egg and Canning

Instant Pot

The Ultra series offers upgrades from the previous models. You can cook delicious recipe dishes like chicken breasts, instant pot mac and cheese, mashed potatoes and more with high and low pressure for up to six hours, two hours more than the Lux and Duo series. It's available in 3-quart ($99), 6-quart ($125) and 8-quart ($160) sizes and is the best Instant Pot for slow cooking. 

The Ultra name comes from the added option to fine tune parameters like temperature. You can specify temperature to a single degree from 104 to 208 degrees Fahrenheit. You can also dial in specific values for cooking time, pressure level and delay time. 

Programs included: Rice, Bean/Chili, Meat/Stew, Multigrain, Porridge, Soup/Broth, Cake, Sterilize, Steam, Egg, Manual or Pressure Cooking, and Ultra

What it doesn't have: Poultry and Canning

Instant Pot

Yep. Just when you thought the Instant Pot couldn't much more, they invented one that air fries. The Duo Crisp has all the functions of your classic Instant Pot duo but with a second air fryer lid for blasting fries, wings and more with super convection heat. If you've never air fried, I'll tell you firsthand that it's pretty habit-forming and the best part is you need very little oil or none at all to achieve crispy outside, moist inside fried-like goodness.

If you already have an Instant Pot you like, you can buy the air fryer lid separately for around $75. Or just $50 if you catch it on sale like it is right now.

Programs included: Air fry, Roast, Bake, Dehydrate, Pressure Cook, Slow Cook, Rice, Yogurt, Steam, Sauté, Sterilize and Warm.

What it doesn't have: Cake, Egg, Porridge, Soup/Broth and Canning

Instant Pot

The Instant Pot Pro is one of the more advanced models in the line and so is perhaps not the best choice for a first-time pressure cooker. That said, it's still easy to operate only with a few more precise features like adjustable custom cooking programs and a precision temperature dial. The Pro also features a sous vide cooking function -- low and slow water bath -- along with 28 other cooking programs. 

This pot sports easy-grip handles on the inner pot, a large LCD display, an upgraded steam-release valve and an auto-sealing lid. The 6-quart Pro is $130 while the 8-quart version will cost you $150.

Programs included: Pressure cook, Slow, Sous vide, Sauté, Sterilize, Yogurt, Warmer, Cake and Steamer.

What it doesn't have: Air fry, Roast and Egg.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

You may remember the first smart Instant Pot, the Instant Pot Smart, which was powered by Bluetooth. The company discontinued that model and replaced it with the $150 Instant Pot Smart Wi-Fi

This tech-forward multicooker connects to your phone's Instant Pot control panel app for remote monitoring of your cooker, recipe customization and notifications. Instant Pot Smart Wi-Fi is also controllable via voice commands through both Alexa and Google Assistant. It's important to note that this model is only available in a 6-quart size, so if that's not a good fit for you, it may not be the best Instant Pot for your cooking needs. 

Programs included: Rice, Bean/Chili, Meat/Stew, Multigrain, Porridge, Soup/Broth, Cake, Steam, Egg and Manual or Pressure Cooking

What it doesn't have: Poultry, Canning, Ultra and Sterilize

Read our Instant Pot Smart WiFi review.

 

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Which one is best for you?

Food-specific modes and options will be the difference-maker when it comes to picking the best Instant Pot for your cooking needs, or the one you'll be able to use the most. If you want to venture into making your own yogurt, or if you love hard-boiled eggs, it's worth it to pay a bit more for an Instant Pot that can do those things. 

When it comes to choosing the right size, Instant Pot recommends a 3-quart model for one or two people. Families of six or fewer will likely be happy with the 6-quart multicooker. If you have a large household or host large groups often, consider springing for an 8-quart model. 

There are options from other brands, too. We recently reviewed a great Wi-Fi multicooker from ChefIQ. It does more than Instant Pot's Wi-Fi model and comes with an integrated scale, nonstick pot and helpful iOS or Android app. It costs $200, so if you're not ready to graduate to a high-end model, Instant Pot's more affordable options are great for beginners. 

If you're still not sure which model will be the best Instant Pot for your kitchen, take a look at Instant Pot's product comparison chart or its guide to choosing the right cooker. At the end of the day, all of these models offer the basic pressure cooking and slow cooking modes Instant Pot is known for performing so well.

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