Are Instant Pots Worth It? Ultimate Buyer’s Guide!

Instant Pots seem to be everywhere lately. Even people who had no idea what a pressure cooker was before, now sing their praises.  But for those who haven’t tried one, the first question is always are Instant Pots worth it?

Here’s what I know from owning mine now for about a year:

Instant Pots sell for as little as $70 but can replace several small kitchen appliances. They can saute, slow cook, pressure cook, bake & even make yogurt, so it’s no wonder they have created raving fans in just a few years. But most importantly they can save you a ton of time. So yes, they are totally worth it!

But that’s just a nutshell glimpse of what the Instant Pot can do and why hundreds of thousands of people clearly think it’s worth it.

So let’s keep exploring the who, what, how, when, and why of Instant Pots!

People love their InstantPots so much that they have an almost cult-like following. Their Facebook Community Page has almost 272,000 members.

The InstantPot Duo machine, the one I bought, has more than 65,000 ratings on Amazon (just click to see them on Amazon).

Many reviewers wondered how they ever survived without it, saying that it has changed their life.

Life-changing, really?

You’ve been hearing the praise, and now you’re considering getting one for yourself?

But it is really worth it? Are InstantPots really “life-changing?”

Keep reading to find out!

What is an Instant Pot and how do they work?

The Instant Pot was one of the first brands of electric pressure cookers to be sold in North America. (source)

But it’s more than just a pressure cooker. It is a multicooker that can perform a variety of cooking tasks. From making yogurt to slow cooking, sauteing or cooking rice. They also have a timer with various settings to make sure cooking is simple.

Instant Pots are made up of three main components – the inner pot, the cooker base, and the lid.

The inner pot is where your food goes for cooking. The cooker base is what holds the inner pot. It’s also where all of the electronic components and the heating element are housed. The lid contains a locking mechanism, preventing you from opening it while under pressure.

Instant Pots work by creating pressure under a tight seal.

The temperature gets much higher than boiling, creating steam that can’t escape. The steam cooks food much faster than traditional stovetop or oven cooking.

So things that might take hours to cook can be cooked in just minutes using an Instant Pot.

How do different models compare?

Click any of those links to see them on Amazon. All have a pressure cooker function and a keep-warm function, so those are not listed:

Model Saute? Steam? Slow Cook? Air Fryer? Rice cooker? Yogurt maker? Egg/Cake Option? Alexa? Size Base Price 
Instant Pot Duo Nova 3-10 Quart Under $80
Instant Pot Duo Crisp Basic bake function only 3-8 Quart Under $150
Instant Pot Duo Evo Plus Basic bake function only 3-10 Quart Under $150
Instant Pot Duo Plus 9-in-1 3-8 Quart Under $150
Instant Pot Smart WiFi 8-in-1 Cake only 6 Quart Only Under $130

What makes an Instant Pot so great?

Pressure cooking, especially with an Instant Pot really can be a time saver.

In fact, it reduces cooking time by up to 70 percent! (source)

Why? Because food cooks much faster when under high heat and pressure.

Instant Pots can also replace a lot of the other appliances in your kitchen. They can be used as a slow cooker if you like. But Instant Pots can also be used as a rice cooker, yogurt maker, or steamer.

Luckily, they have lots of different models to choose from. So if you are cooking for just yourself or a large family, they have a size to meet your needs.

One of my favorite things about the Instant Pot, though, is that I can cook straight from the freezer. If I forget to pull the roast out of the freezer, that’s OK! I can just toss it in my Instant Pot.

Yes, it will take a little longer to cook, but I don’t have to wait all day for it to thaw.

They are also super easy to operate. Most recipes will tell you what setting to use and how long to set the timer. All you have to do is toss in the food, put the lid on, and choose your setting.

Then just set the timer and walk away. It’ll turn itself off when it’s ready so you don’t burn your food. Easy peasy.

Pressure cooking isn’t all roses and sunshine, though.

If you want to read about the disadvantages of pressure cooking, just read this recent article where I break down all the pros and cons of pressure cooking.

What really surprised me was how using them in higher altitudes affects the cooking times! Just click that link to read it on my site.

How long do Instant Pots last?

Being among the first electric pressure cookers on the market, Instant Pot has had plenty of time to perfect its design.

They are heavy, sturdy machines made out of quality materials.

Instant Pot offers a limited one year warranty against defects and workmanship for normal, residential use. Other than that, there’s not much indication of how long Instant Pots are expected to last.

The silicone ring that lines the lid probably has the shortest life span of all the parts of the machine. It goes through the most wear and tear and is designed to be replaced every couple of years.

Luckily, replacement sealing rings can be had on Amazon for under 10 bucks.

The inner pot is stainless steel, and as such, will last for a very long time. These robust parts are indicative of an expected long life span.

While Instant Pot doesn’t actually give an expected life span of their products, I would expect your Instant Pot to last five to ten years. But I’ve had Crock-Pots last twice that long, so it’s entirely possible Instant Pots could last that long too.

Follow the manufacturer’s care instructions to get the most life out of your machine.

Is an Instant Pot the same thing as a pressure cooker?

Yes and no.

The Instant Pot is a multi-cooker that happens to be really good at pressure cooking among other things. It is essentially an electric pressure cooker.

It is NOT the same thing as the traditional stovetop pressure cooker your parents used.

Stovetop pressure cookers are much less intuitive to use. They are a heavy-duty stainless steel pot. It can be used as an ordinary stockpot. They have locking lids and a red pop up timer in the lid, not unlike a turkey timer.

Stovetop pressure cookers are used for canning and cook at higher heat and pressure than their electric counterparts. They are much less expensive and can’t do all of the other things an Instant Pot can do.

Stovetop pressure cookers are also more difficult to use.

They require more babysitting, and you can’t just push a button or two and walk away. Remember, though, even with Instant Pots, you will need to be there to release the pressure. So while it’s hands-off, you shouldn’t leave the house as you would with a slow cooker.

They are great for more advanced cooks. Not so much for the typical home cook.

Because stovetop pressure cookers don’t have electric or computer components, they will last much longer than electric pressure cookers.

If properly cared for, the Instant Pot may last for a decade. Your stovetop pressure cooker is likely to last generations.

Of course, the old-school pressure cookers are also known for some safety issues.

But, while Instant Pots are much safer, that doesn’t mean they don’t make noise and don’t have safety concerns. Luckily, I break all that down for you in a recent article.

Just click that link to read it on my site. 

Can an Instant Pot replace my Crock-Pot?

Funny story. I have both the Instant Pot and a Crock-Pot. I just can’t seem to get rid of my Crock-Pot.

However, Instant Pot does have a slow cooker function.

And according to Consumer Reports, the Instant Pot does a fine job of slow cooking. The same article says that it may take a little longer in the Instant Pot, but that is the nature of slow cooking. It’s slow.

One of the best things about slow cooking is walking into a house that smells delicious in the afternoon. If you don’t care about this, you’d probably prefer to use the Instant Pot to slow cook. The locking lid prevents any smells from permeating your house.

If you want to use your Instant Pot for slow cooking, and really like that food smell, you can purchase the glass lid. Just use it instead of the locking lid.

Additionally, shape matters.

If you have an oval Crock-Pot, you may not want to use the Instant Pot as a slow cooker. It doesn’t come in an oval shape, so you won’t have as much room for cooking large pieces of meat.

The bottom line is that it comes down to personal preference. If you are running out of storage space, you can certainly replace your Crock-Pot with your Instant Pot.

I prefer to keep mine.

What are the best foods to cook in an Instant Pot?

Instant Pots can cook just about anything. But they are really great at cooking foods that typically take a long time to cook.

Tough cuts of meat, chicken, mashed potatoes, and even yogurt can be made in the instant pot.

As a beginner user of an Instant Pot, it can be a little intimidating. You should start with the recipes you are comfortable with and already enjoy making.

Also, a word of caution. With Instant Pots, it can be easy to overcook stuff!

I once put brussels sprouts in. The recipe called for pressure cooking for 2 minutes. I thought, surely they will be too tough, so I set it for 3 minutes.

Guess what turned out totally mushy? So follow recipe cook times and look for recipes with 4.5 stars or better, ideally with dozens of reviews.

Pulled Pork is delicious in the Instant Pot.

Pork shoulder or butt is inexpensive. It typically has a decent amount of fat that would usually require a lot of time to render out. An Instant Pot will cut down on the cooking time, and leave you with delicious flavor in a relatively short amount of time.

I also love making mashed potatoes in the Instant Pot.

Just peel some potatoes and quarter them. Add some water and salt to the inner pot. Place the potatoes on the metal trivet and set the time for 10 minutes.

No more waiting for water to boil. No more water boiling-over all over my stove. When the potatoes are done, I just drain the water and add my favorite mashed potato ingredients.

Defrosting hamburger meat is just as easy.

Just Google around. You’re bound to find tons of recipes that are easy and delicious.

What are the worst foods to cook in an Instant Pot?

Even though Instant Pots are great, there are definitely some things you shouldn’t cook in your Instant Pot.

Pasta is one.

Pasta can overcook so quickly, especially in an Instant Pot. I tried this once with penne pasta. I thought it would be robust enough to stand up to just a few minutes of pressure cooking. It came out mushy. Gross.

You shouldn’t use an Instant Pot for canning, either.

Canning needs to be done at a precise temperature. Electric pressure cookers can’t be set to a particular temperature. This means that you can’t guarantee the elimination of harmful bacteria. Canning should be saved for that stovetop pressure cooker.

Food that sputters a lot doesn’t do well in a pressure cooker. Ingredients that sputter can clog the release valve, creating too much pressure.

Things like cranberries, applesauce, rhubarb, and split peas sputter when cooked under pressure.

It doesn’t mean that you can’t cook with them. It just means you have to be careful. Don’t overfill your pot and be sure to carefully follow the recipe you are using.

What else can an Instant Pot do aside from pressure cooking?

Instant Pots can do lots of things!

You can even bake. Yep.

You can bake cakes, brownies, and even cookies in your Instant Pot.

To read more about the dry foods you can and cannot cook in your Instant Pot, just read this recent article on my blog. What amazed me was how good cheesecake turned out in the Instant Pot!

Just click that link to read it on my site.

Instant Pots are truly multi-functional devices. It can slow cook, it can make yogurt and it can cook rice.

It is a big saute pot and steamer. Many recipes will have you saute vegetables or brown beef in the pot before you pressure cook your meal. It’s a nice way to have a truly one-pot recipe.

You can make soups and even drinks in the Instant Pot!

I love making apple cider in my Instant Pot. It’s completely hands-off and done in 15 minutes.

This recipe is not only beautiful to look at, but it’s also delicious!

But, the Instant Pot isn’t just for soups and roasts. You can also “hard boil” eggs.

Making hard-boiled eggs in the Instant Pot is hand-off and simple. And they are super easy to peel when done in the Instant Pot.

You can also steam veggies in just a few minutes. Again hands-off and simple.

I feel like there is a theme going here…Instant Pots make cooking hands-off and simple.

What is the best Instant Pot for a beginner?

Luckily, all Instant Pots are all pretty easy to use.

With more than 17 models of Instant Pots on the market, it can be hard to figure out which one is the best one for you.

If you want to try out an Instant Pot, but you are not interested in spending a ton of money, the most basic model is the Instant Pot Duo Nova (click to see the current price on Amazon).

In fact, even Instant Pot says it’s the “Best for Beginners.” It comes in four sizes ranging from 3 quarts to 10 quarts.

It does all of the basic things that you would expect; they pressure cook, slow cook, saute and steam. Heck, it even makes yogurt if that’s your thing.

If you’re ready to go all-in on this Instant Pot thing, you might want to spring for the Instant Pot Duo Plus 9-in-1 (click to see the current price on Amazon).

This one has all of the bells and whistles, including its very own “egg” feature and even a “cake” feature!

All of their models are relatively affordable. If you are a beginner but aren’t interested in spending the money to upgrade later, you might want to consider just buying the “bells and whistles” model.

Before I bought my Instant Pot I had all kinds of questions. Many of them revolved around safety.

I saw pictures and read stories on social media about Instant Pots exploding. And it honestly made me a little nervous.

Fear not dear reader, I did the research and wrote about whether they could explode in this recent article.

Just click the link to read about the safety of Instant Pots on my site.

Despite urban legends and lawyers clamoring for liability cases, Instant Pots are much safer than the pressure cookers our parents used on their stovetop.

How do different models compare?

I listed this helpful table above, but I think it bears repeating. 

Click any of those links to see them on Amazon. All have a pressure cooker function and a keep-warm function, so those are not listed:

Model Saute? Steam? Slow Cook? Air Fryer? Rice cooker? Yogurt maker? Egg/Cake Function? Alexa? Size Base Price 
Instant Pot Duo Nova 3-10 Quart Under $80
Instant Pot Duo Crisp Basic bake function only 3-8 Quart Under $150
Instant Pot Duo Evo Plus Basic bake function only 3-10 Quart Under $150
Instant Pot Duo Plus 9-in-1 3-8 Quart Under $150
Instant Pot Smart WiFi 8-in-1 Cake only 6 Quart Only Under $130

Did I answer everything you wanted to know about InstantPots?

In this article, I talked about all things Instant Pot and what makes them great additions to your kitchen.

I explained what an Instant Pot is and how it works. But I also talked about the best and worst foods to cook in your Instant Pot.

Then I explained the differences between a traditional pressure cooker and the Instant Pot. I talked about how long Instant Pots last and whether it can replace your Crock-Pot (yes!).

But most importantly, I answered the question about whether Instant Pots are worth it. Do you have an Instant Pot? How has it improved your life?

 

Jeff Campbell

Jeff was a leader for Whole Foods Market for over 2 decades and is now a recovering foodie. When he's not spending time in the kitchen, he can usually be found with his wife & 3 daughters, he can usually be found practicing martial arts, making music, or blogging on his other sites. Click to learn more about me

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