Instant Pot Models Comparison & Mini-reviews

As the former presenter in Instant Pot’s product videos,  I’m often asked by readers which Instant Pot they should get.  While most manufacturers retire an older model and only sell the newer one, Instant Pot still markets earlier models while introducing new ones.  Plus, whenever they make a new batch they sneak in some enhancements. This gives you lots of options, but it can be confusing. There is a dizzying collection of Instant Pot model names, numbers, and versions so the first thing you should know is what all those letters and numbers mean. Then, I’ll explain the differences between the models.

Decoding Instant Pot Model Names & Numbers

You probably already figured out that “IP” stands for Instant Pot so let’s get to the good stuff.

IP-LUX60 V3 The first three letters (LUX) indicate the functions, the numbers (60) indicate the size and if there are any additional letters after that, (ENW or V3) this indicates a partnership or version number.

The next three letters in the name indicate the functions of the pressure cooker, which I will detail below. At the time of this writing, Instant Pot has five models for sale, the LUX, DUO, SMART, ULTRA and GEM. Their very first model (CSG) has been discontinued.

The numbers indicate the size of the pressure cooker.  So the number “50” stands for a 5L pressure cooker, while the number 60 is for 6L and 80 is for 8L – not all models come in all sizes.  My rule of thumb is generally 1L per person.  So a 6L can cook for six people or less, and an 8L for 8 people or less. Don’t miss my detailed guide on how much you can fill the pressure cooker to see if the amount of food you feed your household matches to the size pressure cooker you need to buy.

See Also: Pressure Cooker FAQ: filling the pressure cooker – if it fits, pressure cook it!

Sometimes,  Instant Pot might tack on additional letters to the end of the model numbers to signify exclusive marketing relationships with retailers or version numbers. In 2018 Instant Pot decided not to just re-name existing models and two “unique” retail-specific models- NOVA for Costco and VIVA for QVC.

Main Instant Pot Models

I’m listing them in the order Instant Pot introduced them because each new model was an improvement over the preceding model (until GEM was introduced). In other words,  the next Instant Pot has the same functionality as the previous ones with a few snazzy additions.

The pressure multi cookers all pressure cook, slow cook and saute’.  They all also have a “manual” program, this is important because it means you can tap in your own pressure cooking time and pressure, (if available). All of the Instant Pots with pressure function come with a stainless-steel cooking surface and, most importantly, the same safety features.

LUX

Instant Pot LUXThis is Instant Pot’s second model.  It’s now their “Economy” offering. It’s a basic 6-in-1 multi cooker that can: pressure cook, slow cook, steam, make rice, saute’ and keep warm.

I wrote a detailed review of this pressure cooker and even used the LUX to test recipe and ingredient timing for electric pressure cookers for my cookbook.

The LUX does not have a “low” pressure setting, it does not make yogurt, it does not work with the Programmable Instant Pot SMART app.

DUO

InstantPot-IP-DUO

This is Instant Pot’s third and most successful model so far.  This is a 7-in-1 multi cooker and it can do everything the LUX can do plus make yogurt. Instant Pot listened to feedback from consumers and added a few nice touches such as two pressure settings (high and low), and there are also little slots in the handles so that you can rest the lid there instead of putting it down on your counter-top.

The DUO does not work with the Programmable Instant Pot SMART app.

SMART + app

Instant Pot SMART

I call this cooker is a million-in-1 multi cooker,  it can do everything the LUX and DUO can plus, a more informative screen with larger numbers, and a programmable app that connects to the cooker via Bluetooth.  The Smart app lets you dictate specific temperatures and duration of your recipes in unlimited sequences.

I wrote a review of this pressure cooker and you’ll see that with the app you can control exactly what temperature it reaches, how long it’s held, and whether to turn off the pressure cooker or move on to the next temperature setting using “recipe scripts”.

The app adds another layer of complexity to the whole multi-cooker idea (especially if you’re new to this type of appliance) but at the same time, it enables unparalleled control over the cooking process – unleashing your cooking creativity.

It is currently the only pressure cooker on the market that can pressure cook at any temperature sequentially.  This means that a script can be written to pressure cook for x minutes, slow cook for x minutes, turn off for x minutes, and then keep warm for x minutes – or really, any combination at an unlimited number of steps.

UPDATE: Since updating to a new phone (Android 7.0), I cannot get the SMART App to work, and despite my inside contacts with Instant Pot I have not gotten an answer on how or when this can be fixed. Because of this, and because Instant Pot is communicating through customer service that they will release a new model from the SMART track. I currently do not recommend purchasing an Instant Pot SMART.

DUO PLUS

Instant Pot DUO PlusThis is where Instant Pot breaks from their tradition of adding to their latest model.  The Instant Pot DUO Plus is actually a refresh of their previous most popular best-selling model, the DUO. It includes everything the DUO has plus a new “sterilize” function in addition to “egg” and “cake” programs (pre-set times and pressures).  They call this a 9-in-1 multi cooker – we’ll let Instant Pot figure out the math.  The display is completely modernized so the cook can easily tell if the cooker is heating, pressure cooking, keeping warm and if the beeping sounds are on or off. It also remembers the last cooking time and/or pressure setting (this could be good or bad – as this website receives numerous support requests on the how to make yogurt in the DUO v2 on a cooker that by default only remembers how to boil milk).  At this time I can’t advise on the utility of the “sterilize” setting as there are no official guidelines on how to sterilize or can using an electric pressure cooker (times, pressures, and methods).  However, Instant Pot has made it clear that this setting is not to be used for pressure canning low-acid foods such as meat. Here’s our preview of the Instant Pot DUO Plus.

ULTRA

Instant Pot ULTRAThis model brings a completely new interface to Instant Pot using the spin dial and allows a detailed level of customization not only for each program but also with the new “Ultra” program which is like a “custom mode” but on steroids. Not only can you choose the cooking time (from 1 minute to 6 hours), pressure level (high or low), set the delay timer and whether “keep warm” engages at the end of the program but you can also choose any temperature, one degree at a time, from 104-208°F. Although you can set the temperature in 1°F increments, this model has a thermostat that maintains the temperature plus or minus 5° – Instant Pot does not recommend this model for sous vide. Also, the “Steam” program also has the option to steam without pressure – a godsend for al dente veggie enthusiasts.This is the 10-in-1 multi cooker and it still includes the pre-programmed times and pressure introduced in the DUO PLUS (cake and egg) plus the unclear “Sterilize” setting (see critique in DUO Plus description, above).  It also has every cooking program and function found on the insanely popular DUO (Pressure Cook, Soup/Broth, Meat/Stew, Bean/Chili, Slow Cook, Saute’, Warm, Rice, Porridge, Multigrain, and Yogurt) plus the ability to customize and memorize settings for each- or not. Beginners can just choose a program and press the “Start” button without any further tinkering. Advanced cooks can spin and punch their way through additional options.   Don’t miss my detailed review of the Instant Pot ULTRA.

GEM

Instant Pot GEMThe GEM is a very confusing and surprising addition to the Instant Pot family. They broke with the tradition of gilding the cooking technology lilly to, instead, add their processor-run interface to a more primitive appliance.  The most obvious change is that GEM does not have any pressure cooking functions.  While it is a multi cooker, it’s closer in every way to a slow cooker than a pressure or rice cooker.  In fact, the GEM is a fancy slow cooker in that it can saute’ and brown right in the pot, and allows the cook to customize the cooking programs (via time and temperature adjustments).  This no-pressure multi cooker allows the cook to: Saute’, Slow Cook (two temps), Rice Cook, Bake, Steam, Roast and Stew.  It does not make yogurt, it does not pressure cook, and the inner liner is non-stick coating.

We haven’t tried it, but at the time of this writing, this appliance only had two reviews on Amazon – one noted that there was nothing “instant” about slow cooking. This appliance is an awkward fit in both the name and premise for “Instant Pot” in my opinion.  Instant Pot has recalled this model due to a manufacturing issue.

MAX

Instant Pot MAXThis model is slated to launch in the fall of 2018. It follows in the footsteps of ULTRA, with all the features there minus the custom program buttons (chili, soup, cake, egg, etc.) but with an automated pressure release on the lid and the ability to reach and maintain 15psi during the pressure program (until now the “high bar” has been 11.6psi). This higher pressure means the addition of a pressure canning feature – which is still not approved by NCHFP.  For more details, read our peek at the introduction of this model.  

VIVA – QVC Exclusive

Instant Pot VIVAThis model is a DUO V3 with an additional function.  It includes all the buttons and features of the original  DUO but with the addition of “cake” and “egg” programs (seen starting in version 3 of the DUO) with the “sterilize” setting of the DUO PLUS  9-in-1 cooker even though it technically only has eight functions: Saute’; Keep-Warm; Steam; Rice cook; Slow Cook; Yogurt maker; “Sterilizer” and Pressure Cooker.  You can find more information about this cooker on the QVC website.

NOVA PLUS – Costco Exclusive

This model is a hybrid of the DUO and DUO PLUS.  It includes all the buttons and features of the DUO but with the new display of the DUO PLUS.  The display clearly indicates if the cooker is reaching or containing pressure, plus there is the ability to turn off all the beeping sounds (just like the DUO PLUS). The NOVA does not include the ridiculous “sterilize”, “cake” and “egg” settings of the PLUS (see DUO PLUS  description above) yet for some reason, it is still being marketed as a 9-in-1 cooker even though it technically only has seven functions: Saute’; Keep-Warm; Steam; Rice cook; Slow Cook; Yogurt maker; and Pressure Cooker.  Instant Pot uses a proprietary fuzzy logic to come up with how many functions their cookers are marketed to have. At the time of this writing – there isn’t any listing for the NOVA the Costco website at this time.

Choosing a model

If you never eat yogurt, then the LUX might be for you.

If you want to experiment with making yogurt, and cooking at low pressure then the DUO and DUO Plus are going to be your best bet. Low pressure is useful for pressure cooking delicate foods such as eggs, seafood, and pasta. Don’t worry, you don’t need a special “egg” button to pressure cook eggs as long as you have a model that also lets you choose low pressure, you can just follow our instructions. The same goes for pressure cooking cakes.

If you want to do everything including the full set-it-and-forget-it experience, and you’re a little techie, then you’ll really enjoy the SMART – specifically, you can write a script with the app to choose the time, temperature/pressure of cooking plus additional cooking time, temperature/pressure combinations! If you still want to do everything, and don’t mind setting just one cooking time and temperature/pressure setting at a time (which, honestly, this is OK for most cooking situations) but don’t want to be bothered with using an app. then Instant Pot’s ULTRA will be a good fit for you.

If you want to upgrade your Slow Cooker, and the idea of pressure cooking does not entice you, GEM is worth a peek.

If all these options are starting to look the same, and you are overwhelmed by the similar offerings, the models I recommend the most to readers are the  DUO and DUO Plus – they are the “active” Instant Pots in my own kitchen.

Instant Pot Model Feature Comparison

The models in this table have been arranged by functionality - now that Instant Pot has introduced a new model for every retailer relationship, those feature listings have been moved next to the closest original Instant Pot model. In other words, these are not arranged by introduction date, but by feature -set. With the least amount of features on the left, and the most amount of features on the right.
 GEM
8-in-1
LUX
6-in-1
DUO
7-in-1
NOVA
9-in-1?
VIVA
9-in-1
DUO Plus
9-in-1
SMART
mil-in-1
ULTRA
10-in-1
MAX
Reaches and maintains "maximum pressure" (15psi)carotina
Automatically releases pressurecarotina
Self-closing Pressure Valvecarotinacarotina
Cooks at any temperaturecarotinacarotinacarotina
Makes Yogurtcarotinacarotinacarotinacarotinacarotinacarotinacarotina
Cooks at "Low" pressurecarotinacarotinacarotinacarotinacarotinacarotinacarotina
Pressure Cooks at "High" pressurecarotinacarotinacarotinacarotinacarotinacarotinacarotinacarotina
Saute' / Reducecarotinacarotinacarotinacarotinacarotinacarotinacarotinacarotinacarotina
Slow Cookscarotinacarotinacarotinacarotinacarotinacarotinacarotinacarotinacarotina
Steamscarotinacarotinacarotinacarotinacarotinacarotinacarotinacarotinacarotina
Makes Ricecarotinacarotinacarotinacarotinacarotinacarotinacarotinacarotinacarotina
Keeps Warmcarotinacarotinacarotinacarotinacarotinacarotinacarotinacarotinacarotina
Stainless Steel inner Potcarotinacarotinacarotinacarotinacarotinacarotinacarotinacarotina
Lid Rest in Handlecarotinacarotinacarotinacarotinacarotinacarotinacarotina
Cooks at different temperatures sequentially via scriptcarotina
"Sterilizes"carotinacarotinacarotina
Write, share or download recipe scriptscarotina
Available Sizes6 qt3,5,6 or 8 qt3,6 or 8 qt6 qt6 qt3,6 or 8 qt6 qt3,6 or 8 qt6 qt

I’ve personally used the LUX, DUO, SMART, DUO Plus and ULTRA and many of our readers have more than one Instant Pot so if you have any questions please post them below or in the Instant Pot forum!

Choosing a Size

Comparison between Instant Pot 3qt Mini and the 6 and 8 qt models.
Comparison between Instant Pot 3qt Mini and the 6 and 8 qt models.

Most Instant Pot models come in three sizes (3, 6 and 8 qt).  The 3qt size is also known as the “mini”.  For most households, my recommendation is to purchase a 6qt size – this size allows for cooking recipes for 1-6 people along with having the vertical space to try special stacking techniques where you can cook more than one recipe at once. For larger families, I recommend the 8qt size but I do not recommend the 3qt as the first pressure cooker purchase as it reaches a lower pressure than the other models which will require a novice to pressure cooking to do recipe adjustments- among other things.  For more specific information on exactly how much food will fit in each sized pressure cooker, please read the Pressure Cooker Capacity FAQ.

 

See Also: 5 Electric Pressure Cooker Buying Tips + 3 Recommendations

 

Note: This article was originally published 4/7/2016 and updated 7/20/2018 – we feel the need to emphasize this since our detailed content, recipes, and techniques are copied by other websites without credit.

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478 Comments

  1. Eric Wessing took all the words right out of my mouth and I am eagerly awaiting a reply to them. Am hopeing it is soon. Thanks for this article it has been VERY helpful in narrowing things down for me!

  2. Thank you so much for helping my confusion I am 82 and still do a lot of cooking for my family. They want to get a instant pot for me for Christmas. You have helped me decide on the Ultra. Thank you very much. Dawn

  3. Hi great read thank
    QUESTION…. Ninja has come out with some not sure if there actual insta pots or just a type of multi function cooker. What are your thoughts about them?

  4. HI,

    I am planning to buy Instant pot and want to know if I need to buy some accessories with it.
    Thanks

    Ash

  5. Thank you so much this was very helpful!

  6. Very detailed information. Helped me a lot in narrowing down..DUO 7 -in- 1 is what I am going for.
    Thanks

  7. I was planning on buying the instalit so confused. Need it mainly for pressure cooking soups stews saute want the highest pressure for preasser cooking wich would be the best not interested in usein an app thank you

  8. I’m debating on buying a 6Q IP but torn between choosing Duo 7 in 1, Duo 9 in 1 Plus or Ultra 10 in 1 models. I cook and bake a lot and I’m attracted to egg, cake and sterilizer buttons on the Plus and Ultra models. But are these buttons worth the extra money as eggs and cake be made in the regular Duo model by manually pressing other buttons? Are cakes or cheesecakes made in IP really just as good as cakes baked in oven? If not, then I will stick to baking my cakes and just purchasing regular Duo. I do like the attractive LED display and central knob of the Ultra. However, I read that all the many various customizing programming options can be confusing, some prefer press buttons over the central knob and some having issues with the added steam reset button on top…. Please help me decide!

  9. Oh my gosh, THANK YOU for this guide!! Exactly what I’ve been trying to find, and thank you for not trying to sell us on the fanciest or most expensive model. Your input has helped me make a decision, finally (and I enjoy your writing style)! Happy holidays!

  10. Thank you for your help! I love the way you just tell it like it is. I appreciate it. You have made me feel like I made the right choice with the Duov3. I love your videos – especially since this is my first ever pressure cooker and I was quite nervous to use one. Thanks for all your help!

  11. Hi,

    I noticed that the Viva Model is stated as only being available at QVC, however I purchased a VIVA 8qt at Sam’s and I was wondering if you could provide any feedback as to if these are the same models minus capacity size??

    Thanks

  12. I cook for 1 most of the time. I considered the 3 quart. I also don’t have a lot of freezer space. Is the 3 qt best for me or do you still recommend the 6 qt?

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