Before you run out to buy an Instant Pot, you must read this! Super helpful info on the 6 quart vs 8 quart comparison, how fast the Instant Pot really cooks food, hacks to make it work for you and so much more! Plus some of my go-to recipes, like Instant Pot whole chicken and Instant Pot beans.
I put off buying an Instant Pot for at least two years because I honestly thought it was just a craze.
However, they don’t seem to be going anywhere and readers keep asking me for Instant Pot recipes… so I bit the bullet and I finally bought the 8 quart Instant Pot DUO.
But the biggest question is, should YOU buy an Instant Pot? Here is EVERYTHING you should know before buying an Instant Pot.
First, what is an Instant Pot?
Most people think the Instant Pot is a pressure cooker, which is true. But the Instant Pot is an electric pressure cooker that is ALSO capable of performing the functions of a:
- slow cooker
- electric pressure cooker
- rice cooker
- yogurt maker
- saute pan
Basically, it’s a multi-cooker – a kitchen appliance that can replace MANY of your other kitchen cooking appliances by being 7 tools in one.
2 BIG Things to Know About the Instant Pot Before You Buy
1. No recipe is truly “instant.”
Pressure has to build inside before the appliance actually starts cooking, and then the pressure has to come back down once the set cooking time has ended.
This means that when a recipe says to cook for 20 minutes, you have to add time before AND after to allow for this. The amount of time depends on how full the Instant Pot is. (See the “hacks” section below for a way to make the Instant Pot build pressure faster!)
2. The size of the Instant Pot matters.
For safety reasons (and so it operates correctly), the Instant Pot should be filled no more than 2/3 full. That means if you buy the 6 quart Instant Pot (which is the most popular), you can only safely put 3 1/2 quarts of food inside. If you buy the 8 quart Instant Pot, you can put 6 quarts of food inside.
This may not be a big deal, but I know that one batch of chicken stock in my 6-quart slow cooker gives me a full gallon worth of stock. I would have to make multiple batches of stock in a 6-quart size Instant Pot to get the same yield.
10 Pros to Buying an Instant Pot
- You can saute in your Instant Pot. If your recipe calls for browning and then moving to the appliance, you can do that all in the Instant Pot.
- The Instant Pot CAN save TONS of time. From start to finish, you can make Instant Pot chicken stock and Instant Pot beans and Instant Pot whole chicken, each in about an hour. Ordinarily chicken stock would take 24 hours, dry beans would take 4 hours and a whole frozen chicken would take several hours to thaw, and then an hour to cook.
- The Instant Pot uses less energy than a slow cooker. The Instant Pot is on for a shorter amount of time, so it uses less power overall. It’s also insulated much better than a slow cooker, which contributes to less heat loss and quicker cooking of food.
- The Instant Pot doesn’t heat up the house.
- You can delay the cook start time. For example, if you want hot soup when you come home but don’t want mushy vegetables, you can set the recipe to start at 4 pm. It’ll come to pressure, cook for the time you specify and release pressure naturally. Come home to a soup that just finished cooking with perfectly al dente vegetables.
- You don’t have to babysit the Instant Pot. Liquid levels don’t have to be checked, and you don’t need to stir your food with the Instant Pot, as you may with a stovetop or slow cooking. You can literally walk out the door and leave it be. You’ll come home to dinner done, with no burning, no scorching (because the liquid is gone) and the only stirring you’ll do is right before you serve.
- The Instant Pot can turn off when it’s done. You can turn off the “warming” function on the Instant Pot, so food doesn’t continue to receive heat. It will stay warm, however, since the pot is sealed, but it won’t be “cooking” per se.
- The flavor is AMAZING! I think it’s how everything stays inside – the ingredients, liquid, aromas – that makes the flavor of foods so concentrated. Everything I’ve made has come out SO GOOD. It’s like good food, on steroids.
- You don’t have to convert recipes if you have a different sized Instant Pot. Some might think that you have to convert 6 quart recipes to fit in the 8-quart model, or the other way around, but you don’t! You just have to be careful that you: A) don’t exceed the max fill line, and B) the ingredients for the recipe will fit in your Instant Pot.
- The Instant Pot insert is stainless steel. There was a point in time when many slow cooker crocks were made with lead. Fortunately, the Instant Pot insert is made with stainless steel, so you don’t have to worry about heavy metals leaching into your food or your family getting sick.
2 Cons to Consider Before Buying an Instant Pot
- While the HOUSE doesn’t smell like whatever you’re cooking, the inner seal of the lid might. The inner seals transfer flavor, but there’s a great solution to this problem: buy a second seal! Several vendors on Amazon make “sweet and savory” seals, with the idea being one seal is for sweet things, and the other is for savory. This is a great idea if you plan on using your Instant Pot more than a few times each week AND/OR for more than just dinner.
- The Instant Pot isn’t ALWAYS faster. Whether or not you save time depends on the recipe you’re making. My Instant Pot chicken noodle soup, for example, would take just as long on the stove as it would in the Instant Pot. (However, see pro #2 above.)
Tip: Earn Amazon gift cards via Swagbucks so you don’t have to pay for this out of pocket. I’m saving up to buy a set of colored seals – this set of tri-color three seals is the best deal I’ve found so far.
6 Hacks to Make You Love Your Instant Pot
1. You can get a second insert!
Sometimes dinner needs a few different components… maybe you’re making kung pao chicken and you’re going to serve it with rice. Or maybe dinner is in one pot AND you’re serving from it… which means you can’t use the Instant Pot for dessert until dinner is over AND the insert is washed.
Here’s the solution – get a second insert! You can buy a second insert (available for both the 6 quart and 8 quart sizes) and you’ll be able to make things back to back (to back!).
2. Turn your 8 quart Instant Pot into a serious ONE-POT-COOKS-ALL machine.
I was looking for a beef and broccoli recipe and what I found was either people were eating mushy broccoli (because it was put in the pot at the very beginning) OR they were steaming the broccoli separately (which in my mind, seems counterproductive to cooking dinner in the Instant Pot).
The fix is to use a 6 quart insert INSIDE the 8 quart pot.
Basically, you put the meat and sauce directly in the 8 quart liner (that comes with the 8 quart Instant Pot) and follow the recipe directions. When it’s done, you put the 6 quart liner ON TOP of the cooked meat, inside the Instant Pot and make steamed broccoli in it using the trivet. The extra few minutes of cooking won’t hurt the meat, and you truly can cook your entire dinner in the Instant Pot! The only downside is that this only works for the 8 quart Instant Pot…
(Here’s a step-by-step on my own Instant Pot beef and broccoli recipe.)
3. Speed up the “coming to pressure” time by using the saute function.
A little expansion of pro tip #1 above. Yes, you can saute in your Instant Pot, but you can also use this function to speed up your “come to pressure” time.
Pour any liquids of the recipe in first, hit saute, and let it warm up while you prep the rest of the ingredients. This will reduce the time it takes for the Instant Pot to come to full pressure for your recipe.
4. You can use the Instant Pot to reheat food – for real!
I was kind of skeptical on how you could reheat food in the Instant Pot at first. I mean, if you’re reheating stew or soup or something else that’s okay to touch the cooking surface, I can see how it would work. But what if it was a casserole… or shredded chicken… wouldn’t that make a mess? Or ruin the leftovers?
Solution – steamer insert pans. These pans fit in 5, 6 or 8 quart Instant Pot and allow you to put food inside while putting water or something else on the outside. The Instant Pot heats the water, and the water reheats your leftovers. Done!!
5. Take it with you on vacation!
How much do you spend on eating out when you’re on vacation? What if you took that money and invested in an Instant Pot instead? Odds are it would pay for itself in one or two dinners!
Instead of going out to eat EVERY night, bring the Instant Pot with you and plan for “one-pot” meals you know your family loves, like pot roast or chili or even a whole chicken. You’ll save money AND invest in a kitchen appliance that will quickly become one of your favorites (tied with the stand mixer and blender, of course!).
6. The Instant Pot comes with built-in handles.
You know those little “edges” on the lid? If you stick those into the holes inside the handle of the Instant Pot itself, you don’t have to put a (wet) lid on the counter!
In terms of function, which Instant Pot should you buy?
Different models offer different capabilities. Some LUX models have cake and egg functions, the DUO has the yogurt, bean/chili, and poultry functions, and the SMART model is blue-tooth compatible. Then there are the ULTRA and NOVA and DUO PLUS models to consider too.
Personally, you can cook almost anything with the basic Instant pot. As long as you have the manual button and a pressure release valve, I think you’re good to go.
Which Instant Pot is Best for a Family of Four? Or for a Large Family?
I have a family of four and I personally wouldn’t buy the 6 quart Instant Pot.
My slow cooker is 6 quarts and there have been plenty of times where my recipe barely fits (like when I use a larger cut of chuck roast for slow cooker pot roast). If I bought the 6 quart model, there’s NO WAY that recipe would fit because I could only safely put in 4 quarts worth of food!
So then, what is the best Instant Pot to buy?
Taking it all into consideration – both the functions AND the max 2/3 full aspect AND the size of my family – I ended up purchasing the 8 quart DUO 7-in-1 Instant Pot (because of the yogurt setting) on Amazon and I couldn’t be happier! It is perfect for my family of four.
Here are some of my favorite Instant Pot recipes:
- Instant Pot Vegetarian Chili
- Instant Pot Honey Garlic Chicken
- Instant Pot Beef & Broccoli
- Instant Pot Chicken Noodle Soup
- Instant Pot Hard Boiled Eggs
Would it be safe to use the 6 qt stainless steel cooking pot in the 8qt instant pot cooker? Not pot in pot.
Hi Kreger! I’m not sure, but my gut says the 6 quart inner pot won’t fit for proper cooking in the 8 quart machine.
This article is very helpful!
I still have a question though, you used 6 QT inner on top of meat with 8Qt pot. Would it be okay to use only 6 Qt Inner if I have to cook less in 8 QT pot.
I’m not sure I understand the question Shilpa. You can use a 6 qt pot in an 8 qt pot because the 6 quart is smaller in size. It’s a “cheat” way of cooking pot-in-pot and it doesn’t rely on the amount of food you have in either pot, so long as you can close the lid!
I’m waiting for my 8qt Duo80 to arrive. There’s only hubby and me but I wanted the larger size for hams and larger roasts.
I’m thinking of getting the 6qt insert only and using that for everyday meals. But question, do you put the liquid required in the 8qt insert or the 6qt insert? Or both depending on recipe?
Never had one of these before, just the ancient stove top pressure cooker.
I’m not sure if I’m following you Barb. Whatever insert that comes with your pot is the one you should use, and that’s where you put the liquid. It’s okay to make a smaller recipe in an 8 quart pot – you don’t need a separate insert!
Wondering what size to buy. I’m a family of four but I wouldn’t be cooking meat in this. I would be doing beans, squash, soups etc. What size would you recommend?
Hi Andrea! Honestly, I’d go for the 8 quart. I cook all of these things and a spaghetti squash *just* fits. I can also finagle 2 acorn squash cut in half, but neither would be possible if I had a 6 quart!
I am intrigued, however I have NO recipes and my kitchen is like a puzzle-ABSOLUTELY no room to put this. And my basement is full! I only eat chicken and never make soups or yogurt, so I’m not sure it would be worth it for me. What is your opioin?
Hi Karen! It really depends. If you spent any amount of time cooking, over the stove, or even baking, it’s worth considering. You will need a place to store it though, so maybe clear a space first and then revisit!
I got rid of my crock pot and rice cooker. I use mine for silly things to avoid heating my kitchen. Baked potatoes, hard-boiled eggs from farm-fresh eggs, beans, forgot to thaw my chicken meals. Don’t know if that helps.
You may not need one if you can’t think of ideas to try. I pruchased my 8qt instant pot from a friend who had her slow cooker eoutine down. She couldn’t get into it.
I got one tonight on Black Friday 2018. I am single but I got the 6 quart ultra based on your recommendation of size. I should be good to go for just me or maybe a friend.
Most definitely Rodney – congratulations!
I’m a wanna be. I’ve been preparing by saving tons of recipies and organizing them according to beef, chicken, pork, fruits & veggies, etc. also lots of beginner recipie books.
I’m all set to get the one you have on Black Friday (also Bed, Bath & Beyond coupons). You won’t believe my greatest concern,
Where the hell will I store this thing? I’ve got a small kitchen and not great counter space. I can’t leave it out because my wife will kill me. I may have to keep it in the basement ( or in the middle class f my dining room table, lol) , which means up and down the stairs every time. I need the 8 qt.
Thanks for your great tips.
LOL!! It’s definitely a larger appliance. Is there room in the pantry? Hall closet? Worst case, you get some exercise before and after dinner! 🙂
My biggest concern with the instant pot is the notoriously bad wrap pressure cookers have for being dangerous. Of course in all honestly I am referring to the bad wrap they had 40 some years ago when they first came out. If yo didn’t allow enough time for pressure release it could cause serious. Injury to the user. Does the instant pot have an idiot light that lets you know what it is safe to open?
In a way, yes! There’s a little button that pops up when its under pressure, and pops down when it’s not. You also have to turn another lever (to seal/unseal the pressure) in order to open the pot. So worst case scenario, the button hasn’t gone down and you have to unseal to open the lid… but then steam will immediately start coming out the top and you’ll know you can’t open it yet!
I have an Instant Pot. Do I still need a stock pot? Or rather, would YOU get a stock pot?
They’re really two different pots Cindy. I have both, and although I don’t use my stock pot often, nothing can really replace it. Given the choice, I’d purchase the IP first, then the stock pot later if/when there was a need.
1. Some things will cook faster on a stove pressure cooker because they cook at 15 pounds/square inch. For technical and marketing reasons, the instant pot cooks at 11 pounds/square inch. (Would have cost three times more.)
2. You can cook pot within pot with six quart pot by using a mixing bowl that fits inside.
Where can you buy them
Here you go Robin: http://amzn.to/2yYH6zQ
Good tips! But if you look in the manual, I think you’ll find that the max fill warning is only for things that will foam up during cooking. 🙂
Hmmm… I’ll go back and look!
Do you know how hot it gets the yogurt? I like to keep my yogurt below 110F. Thanks!
Hi Beth! I haven’t tested myself, but a quick Google search says that the IP keeps the yogurt between 106 – 113 F as it cultures!
Funny, my sister was just telling me how much she loves hers! I had thought about getting one a while back (last year, when they seemed to be so trendy), but I just wasn’t sure it would be worth the investment. I keep hearing really good things about them, though!
(As an aside, I currently culture my yogurt with my dehydrator – I put the jars into a large pot and set my dehydrator lid on top.)
Ooh – nice hack with the dehydrator! What kind do you have?
I bought my Duo 60 Instant Pot last year on Black Friday, and even my husband loves it! It is used almost every day. One hint to get rid of a smelly seal is to ‘cook’ water with a couple Tbsps of cinnamon mixed in.
Thanks to my Instant Pot and my Thermomix, I have only 2 appliances on my counter now. I was able to sell my KitchenAid, Vitamix, steamer, crockpots, juicer, food processor and mini blender. I’m loving the extra space 🙂
Ooh, I’m curious – how did the IP replace your Kitchen Aid, food processor, and Vitamix?
It’s Thermomix replace Kitchen Aid, vitamix, etc..
This is interesting to hear that an IP works in tandem with your TM. I have a TM and wasn’t sure whether it’d be doubling-up to get an IP… I will now closely consider the IP. Thanks.
I’m def leaning towards getting an Instant Pot. But the 8 qt is HUGE and at 35.6 cm tall — 14 ” — there is no place to put it (except out) in my smallish kitchen.
I see now that I can replace my pressure cooker and toss the rice cooker once it’s useful life has ended — next year for sure. That makes this appliance more attractive.
So help me out here. How big is that chicken and brisket you’re cooking in the IP? The birds I buy for broth are 1 kg — 2.2 lb. One bird yields about a scant quart of broth. At most I’d buy a 1.5 kg bird (or roast). That’s about 3 lbs. That’s plenty for 3 or 4 meals.
You’re not recommending the 6 qt based on feeding how many people at one sitting? I’m just feeding myself. Is that the only issue you see with the smaller IP?
Also for those of you who have the Instant Pot and are on Facebook, they have a few different groups that share recipes, tips and hints for using the pot. Pretty interesting.
Hi Barbara! In that picture, those are 3 organic chicken breasts. The pot roast I’m referring to is about 3 pounds. I wouldn’t buy the 6 quart FOR ME because yes, I’m feeding 4 people and two will be teenagers in the future. For families of just 1-2, I’d go for the smaller one for sure. In fact, I was just talking with my aunt and mom, both of whom are just feeding 2, and suggested the 6 quart for both of them!
Thanks for such a thorough review. I keep going back and forth about getting one. They make them seem like such a life saver, but there are always pros and cons. I don’t have a ton of kitchen space, so mine would be in the basement with my Kitchen Aid. I would just be dragging it up and down the stairs. I will keep thinking about it. Thanks again for an honest review.
You’re most welcome!
I live in a 5th wheel with 3 children and my sweet hubby. With that said there was no way I was going to follow the crowd and buy and Instant Pot. What a bunch of Hooey I thought. I rolled my eyes when my daughter bought one. She had previously purchased a multi cooker at her local thrift store. So she offered it to me. My first thought was where am I going to put it. Alas I sucked it up took it. Just to prove her wrong mind you. Her husband tried to use it and burned rice. So of course rice was my first choice. It was perfect. Second attempt late evening 3 starving children. Best choice mac and cheese. Amazingly easy, kids loved it. I have used it almost every night since. Hubby is happy. He hates slow cookers. Remember when I began I said I lived in and RV which is always a no space issue. This little goodie my daughter paid 12.99 for btw. Sits on my beautiful little apartment sized antique stove in my 5th wheel. I made oatmeal just an hour ago my little ones loved it. I made space for mine. I will be buying a new Instant Pot this weekend. It will be invaluable in the summer heat. I think my daughter will roll her eyes lol. Good luck with your decision.
I live in the UK and we have a tiny kitchen with very little counter space, but I’ve made space for my Instant Pot and a Soup maker/blender and I use both several times a week! Everything else including a vertical blender goes under the counter. I find my gas hob needs less cleaning because I don’t use it a lot….besides, it’s ‘cleaner’ energy.
I agree. I don’t own most of those appliances it would be “replacing” , except the crockpot, so it seems like a space consideration. And the crockpot makes yogurt quite well.
I love my Instant Pot! I bought mine four years ago, back when they were a cult classic, and I totally felt like a hippie. Now I’m a trend setter! Lol! Mine has easily been my most used appliance, and I pull it out several times a week. You’ve hit many of the big items. I will add that if you out a dishcloth over the vent during a quick release you can safely catch most of the steam coming out of the vent. I love the pressure cooker as much as anything for its versatility. Soups and meats are what it’s famous for, but I’ve also had miraculously success with hard boiled eggs, cheesecake, and squash. (Pie pumpkins turn to mush in less than fifteen minutes under pressure!) Also, while the IP is great for forget-about-it cooking, you can do more precise cooking much faster in a stove top. Instant release is less than two minutes under running water, so I can have black beans and rice from dry to on the table in a literal thirty minutes. I cooked two corned beef briskets the exact same size, one in the IP and one in a stove top, and the stove top won by two hours. In short, I love and use both, and if you are at all interested in a pressure cooker, GET IT!
Great feedback Julie the Trendsetter 😉 Thank you!!!
You said the stove top method won by 2 hours. Does that mean the stove top method cooked 2 hours faster than the IP?
I think she means a stove-top pressure cooker.
Are you able to ask for clarification? I thought Julia meant conventional cooking.
Hi Tiffany – would you say you can get rid of a slow cooker and rice cooker and totally replace them with the Instant Pot? Any other appliances that it totally replaces? I’m considering an Instant Pot, but I don’t want to add yet another small appliance to my kitchen. Thanks!
Hi Dani! I’d say yes, with a caveat. I’ve heard scuttlebutt (heresay of heresay) that if you want something done in the slow cooker, to just use a slow cooker. But personally, if/when my slow cooker dies, I’m not replacing it – I’ll just use the IP instead! Without a doubt it can replace a rice cooker, a steamer, and a yogurt maker for sure!
I’m so glad you mention that you can get an extra insert! The idea that I like to make a stew or curry AND rice for the same meal made me think I would still want to keep my rice cooker (which I use multiple times a week), I think you just save me a foot of storage in my tiny kitchen….
Thanks Tiffany, was completely unaware of the existence of the Instant Pot which, with it’s versatility, can eliminate many kitchen clutter items… And, your timely post may save me mucho dinero with Black Friday upon us… Happy Thanksgiving to you & yours!
Thanks Steve! I’m glad it was helpful!! Happy Thanksgiving!
I finally bought the Crock-Pot multi-cooker which equals an instant pot. I waited till prices came down and got a really good deal on it. So far it’s done pretty well. I have fixed shredded pork and a pot roast a couple of times. It does a good job. I am happy I waited to get one though.
When wash my Instant Pot after use I remove the rubber seal. When storing my Instant Pot I put the lid on the Pot upside down and lay seal on top. So far I haven’t had any problems with smell carryover.
Great tip – thanks Linda!
2/3 of 6 quarts is 4 quarts.
2/3 of 8 quarts is 5 1/3 quarts.
Just bought my first instant pot. Got the 3qt.
Duo. Im the only one home most of the time and I can use it in the motorhome. Looking forward to giving it a try tommorow.
Brittany @ Team Crumbs
How exciting! Instant pots are such a great investment! Thank you for sharing.