Instant Pot Lux 6-in-1 V3 review: Instant Pot's Lux beats back Crock-Pot with better flavor

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The Good The Instant Pot Lux 6-in-1 V3 cooks food quickly under pressure, low and slow, and also steams and sautes. Its stainless steel pot sears meat and creates deep flavors. It has 12 automatic cooking programs.

The Bad Cooked rice tends to stick to its steel pot. There's no chili preset. And you have to experiment with certain recipes to find the right cook times.

The Bottom Line If you want a good deal on an Instant Pot, the Lux 6-in-1 V3 is the way to go. But the Crock-Pot Express is better for novice cooks.

7.4 Overall
  • Performance 8
  • Usability 6.5
  • Design 7
  • Features 7.5

Instant Pot mania is at a fever pitch right now. The newest models of this trendy countertop pressure cooker cost $100 or more, if you can find one -- these popular appliances are in short supply.

You can still find older machines available and sold for less. Case in point: the $80 Instant Pot Lux 6-in-1 V3. Released six years ago but running updated software, this Instant Pot is affordable and capable. The Lux has numerous automated programs to steam, stew and simmer with a quick button press. A stainless-steel interior pot allows Instant Pot to sear meat particularly well and add deep flavor to dishes. 

Instant Pot comes up short when it comes to ease of use and cooking rice. A newer and cheaper competitor, the $70 Crock-Pot Express, actually trumps the Instant Pot in these areas and is a better appliance for casual cooks. But if you're patient and willing to tinker with recipes, the delicious capabilities this affordable Instant Pot are worth considering.

Read next: How to use your Instant Pot

Built for serious cooking

The Instant Pot Lux 6-in-1 V3 closely mimics the design of Instant Pot's other multicookers. It's squat, cylindrical and capped by a sturdy black-and-silver lid. The Lux lacks the thick "U"-shaped handle of its Duo and Ultra series models. Instead, its handle is recessed into the front of its lid. That translates to a lower overall profile.

Inside the Lux is a removable inner pot. The lining is stainless steel and has a maximum volume of six quarts. From browning and searing to soup-making, this is where all the cooking action happens. Crock-Pot's multicooker has a pot insert with non-stick coatings. It's easier to clean, but doesn't get quite as hot as the Instant Pot's stainless steel. 

The Instant Pot Lux comes with a stainless steel inner cooking pot.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

The outside of the Instant Pot is steel, too. Its surface is reflective, fingerprint resistant and crafted to match common kitchen decor. A panel on the front contains all of its many controls. There's also a cooking time display that glows in bright red LEDs. Around back is the Instant Pot's sole power source, a standard electrical cord and plug. The cord isn't detachable like those on the Instant Pot Duo line or the Crock-Pot Express.

Included with the cooker are a few extra accessories, including a metal wire rack for steaming, a plastic rice spoon, a soup spoon and a small measuring cup.

The exterior of the Instant Pot is mostly steel. Its controls eat up most of the appliance's front.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Pressure cook so many ways

True to its name, the Instant Pot Lux 6-in-1 offers six ways to handle food. The machine's primary function is heating ingredients under pressure. Place whatever you'd like to cook inside the pot along with some liquid. Make sure the float valve on top of the lid is set to "sealing" (vs. "venting"). You then choose one of the pressure cooking programs on the control panel. There are eight in all. These include common foods such as Soup/Broth, Meat/Stew, Rice and Multigrain.

A float valve on the lid seals in or vents out steam.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

There are a few modes to prep specialty items too. For instance, a Cake function pressure bakes batter. The Egg mode serves up soft-, medium- and hard-boiled eggs. And if you hanker for congee, the Porridge program can tackle that task. You use the Manual mode when you simply need to pressure-cook for a specific length of time.

Once I tweaked the Instant Pot's egg mode to my liking, I was handsomely rewarded. 

Brian Bennett/CNET

It's too bad the Instant Pot doesn't have a dedicated chili program. It's a popular dish among the slow-cooker and multicooker crowd. (The Crock-Pot Express has a chili button.) This is only a minor beef since there are plenty of official and fan-created Instant Pot chili recipes out there.

The Instant Pot also has a steaming function, which is the preferred way to prepare delicate items like seafood, vegetables and dumplings. The appliances' Slow Cook function allows it operate as a traditional slow cooker.

The Instant Pot Lux created lots of flavor in the meat it cooked.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Sear your heart out

One of the most impressive features of the Instant Pot is its Sauté mode. When you hit that button, the cooker kicks its 1,000-watt heating element into high gear. With a maximum temperature rated at 345 degrees Fahrenheit (174 Celsius), the inside of the Instant Pot gets good and hot.

That heat makes it easy to brown meats for stews and soups. You can also sauté vegetables and aromatic herbs in the same pot you'll simmer ingredients under pressure. The Instant Pot even did a decent job of searing steak, caramelizing my sample New York strip steak more than the Crock-Pot Express did.

Performance and taste

I tested the Instant Pot and the Crock-Pot with three single-ingredient dishes: brisket, rice, and beans. I also cooked one multi-ingredient chili. Here's what I found: