Which Instant Pot is right for you? (includes latest models ULTRA & DUO Plus)
As the presenter in of 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.
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 three main models for sale, the LUX, DUO, SMART and ULTRA. 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.
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.
Main Instant Pot models
So it really comes down to just four main Instant Pot models. I’m listing them in the order Instant Pot introduced them. That’s because each new model was an improvement over the preceding model. In other words, the next Instant Pot has the same functionality as the previous ones with a few snazzy additions.
BTW, they 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 also have a stainless-steel cooking surface and, most importantly, the same safety features.
This 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.
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.
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
This is Instant Pot’s latest model. 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”.
It’s these scripts that can tell the pressure cooker to slow cook something on “high” for an hour, then slow cook it on “low” for six and then keep everything warm for as long as you like until you get home. I’ve personally written scripts for making yogurt, ricotta cheese, rising bread and fermenting kefir (all the temperatures are listed in the review). Of course, you can write your own, too.
The recipe scripts are also handy for pressure cooking. I’ve written scripts for many of the recipes on this website so the cook doesn’t have to remember which pressure release to use. I write it in the script and the cook can just open the pressure cooker when the SMART beeps and the display says “Done”.
The SMART had a bumpy start, in that the first batch was recalled and the early versions of the app were difficult to use. Instant Pot has fixed all of these issues. BTW, did you know that you can also download and install the smart app on your phone for free even without the pot? It’s a great way to see what else it can do.
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.
This is where Instant Pot breaks from their tradition of adding onto 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 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 things in a 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 .
This 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. Instant Pot calls this a 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, nd 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 further tinkering. Advanced cooks can spin and punch their way through additional options. Also, the “Steam” program has the additional option to steam without pressure – a godsend for al dente veggie enthusiasts. Don’t miss my detailed preview of the Instant Pot ULTRA.
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 or 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 latest model the ULTRA will be a good fit for you.
Instant Pot Model Feature Comparison
|Write, share or download recipe scripts|
|Cooks at any temperature|
|Cooks at different temperatures sequentially via script|
|Cooks at "Low" pressure|
|Pressure Cooks at "High" pressure|
|Saute' / Reduce|
|Stainless Steel inner Pot|
|Lid Rest in Handle|
|Self-closing Pressure Valve|
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!
In addition to models, Instant Pot also makes several versions. They do this so they can include incremental improvements in the next batch they manufacture without having to give it a new model name. Instant Pot doesn’t keep manufacturing older versions– when those are sold out they are replaced with a new batch with a new version number. So, when shopping and comparing Instant Pots keep an eye out for the latest version (not all models have versions). Here’s an overview of the additions from the base version (get the fully detailed tech specs):
- Version 1 – This is the first production of the model and just signifies the basic model – there is actually no “version 1” it’s just the basic model.
- Version 2 – This was the first “version” they produced and it’s not easily identifiable externally. This release coincided with Instant Pot’s partnership with Walmart and may sometimes be identified with the partnership code “-ENW” but they were also sold on Amazon without this name change.
- Pressure cooking time in all programs is extended from 90 minutes to a max 240 minutes.
- Slow cook temperature adjustment.
- The ability to turn off the sound (beeps) Audible beeps on/off.
- Ability to disable Keep-Warm when programming the cooker
- Memorization of previous custom program settings: time, pressure, temperature.
- Ability to reset the pressure cooker to factory default by pressing a button.
- Version 3 -In addition to the enhancements in Version 2, they replaced two buttons on the front control panel adding an “Egg” and “Cake” programs – these do not add any additional functionality. They are simply pre-set recommended times using “high pressure”.
Note: This article was originally published 4/7/2016 and updated 4/11/2017 – we feel the need to emphasize this since our detailed content, recipes, and techniques are copied by other websites without credit.