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Small Appliances

What's the best Instant Pot to buy?

Confused about which model is best for you? We've got the ultimate guide to what makes each Instant Pot unique.

Josh Miller/CNET

This year marks a decade since Instant Pot's founding, and its multicookers have since skyrocketed to the top of the kitchen appliance market. With so many functions, seemingly endless one-pot recipes and a cult-like following online, you might be thinking it's time to jump in. 

Read more: The best gas grills of 2019The best coolers you can buy this summer

One of the first things you'll notice is that there isn't just one Instant Pot. Counting different models and size options, there are more than a dozen variations on the market (17, to be exact). How do you decide which one is right for you?

While they all look overwhelmingly similar on the outside, all pots aren't created equal. If you're looking for an Instant Pot that performs specific functions like cooking eggs, making yogurt or even canning fruit, you'll need to know which models can actually do that.

Let's take a look at what each Instant Pot series has to offer. Two models not included below are the Nova, made exclusively for Costco and the Viva, made for QVC. Prices listed are Instant Pot's MSRPs, but retailers like Amazon, Target and Walmart often have sales on these models.

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

Disclosure: CNET may get a share of revenue from the sale of the products featured on this page.

Instant Pot Lux 6-in-1(V3)

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Contrary to its name, the Lux V3 series is the most basic Instant Pot when it comes to features. It includes a pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, sauté, steamer and warmer. You can buy it in 3-quart ($65), 6-quart ($80) and 8-quart ($110) sizes. 

With the Lux, you can cook on high pressure for up to four hours and keep things warm for up to 10 hours manually or automatically. However, there is no low pressure option for this model. It's also the only model without lid holders (those handy slits in the left and right handles that can support your lid upright). 

The Lux is a base model, to be sure, but if you're on a budget it has plenty of capability to create easy meals in no time. 

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

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

Lowest price to date (8 qt): $59.00 at Amazon (Nov. 23, 2018) 

See at Walmart

Instant Pot Duo 7-in-1

Instant Pot via Amazon

The Instant Pot Duo 7-in-1 is the company's most popular series and for good reason. It comes with seven functions: pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, steamer, sauté, yogurt maker and warmer. You can buy the Duo in three sizes: 3-quart ($80), 6-quart ($100) and 8-quart ($140). 

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

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, Ultra and Canning

Lowest price to date (8 qt): $69.99 at Amazon (Nov. 23, 2018)

See at Amazon

Instant Pot Duo Plus 9-in-1

Instant Pot

The Duo Plus series steps it up by taking all the features of the Duo series and adding a few more. You'll get a pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice/porridge cooker, yogurt maker, cake/egg maker, sauté/searing, steamer, warmer and a new sterilizer option for cleaning things like baby bottles. 

Like the Duo series, the Duo Plus 9-in-1 comes in three sizes. The $100 Duo Plus Mini 3-quart, the $130 Duo Plus 6-quart and the $160 Duo Plus 8-quart. 

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

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

Lowest price to date (8 qt): $89.95) at Amazon (Dec. 18, 2018)

See at Amazon

Instant Pot Ultra 10-in-1

Instant Pot

The Ultra series offers upgrades from the previous models. You can cook with high and low pressure for up to six hours, two hours more than the Lux and Duo series. It's available in $120 3-quart, $150 6-quart and $180 8-quart sizes. 

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

Lowest price to date (8 qt): $119.00 at Amazon (Feb. 27, 2019)

See at Amazon

Instant Pot Smart Wi-Fi

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Some of you may remember the first smart Instant Pot, the Instant Pot Smart, powered by Bluetooth. The company discontinued that model and replaced it with the $150 Instant Pot Smart Wi-Fi. This multicooker connects to your phone's Instant Pot app for remote monitoring of your cooker, recipe customization and notifications. 

If you're looking for a multicooker with some tech-forward options, this model is your only choice right now. Instant Pot announced plans to bring Google Assistant compatibility to this model earlier this year, but no word on a specific date. It's also important to note that this model is only available in a 6-quart size, so if that's not a good fit for you, I'd reconsider. 

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

Lowest price to date (6 qt): $89.95 at Amazon (Nov. 26, 2018)

See at Amazon

Instant Pot Max

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

The $200 Instant Pot Max takes a different approach than the models listed above. Aimed at anyone wanting to experiment and do more with their multicooker, it comes with a higher cooking pressure (a max 15 psi versus the 11.6 psi of other models), as well as the ability to sous vide and can foods.

It also features an automatic steam valve that will release the pressure either quickly or naturally, whichever you select. However, those enticing upgrades come at a price. 

There are several things you won't get. Popular presets are missing from this model, including Bean/Chili, Meat/Stew, Cake and Egg, and there aren't any volume markers inside the pot itself as on other models. The Instant Pot Max is also only available in a 6-quart size and is the heaviest model at 13.25 pounds.  

We tested this model when it was released, but didn't love it as much as previous models. Read our full review of the Instant Pot Max to hear all about that. 

Programs included: Rice, Soup/Broth, Manual or Pressure Cooking and Canning

What it doesn't have:  Bean/Chili, Poultry, Meat/Stew, Multigrain, Porridge, Cake, Sterilize, Steam, Egg and Ultra

Lowest price to date: $149.95 at Amazon (Dec. 6, 2018)

See at Amazon

Which one is best for you?

Food-specific modes and options will be the difference maker when it comes to picking 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. 

If you're still not sure which model will be the best fit for your kitchen, take a look at Instant Pot's product comparison chart or their 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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