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
Absolutely awesome info. Thank you so much. Enjoy your holidays.
I’m looking at buying a 10 quart Duo Nova as my first ever Instant Pot. I cook big quantities and freeze the leftovers for later. I’m considering a 10 quart as it’s just slightly larger than the 8 quart. Does anyone have any input on the 10 quart?
Kyare - Team Crumbs
We often suggest the 6 and 8 quart Instant Pots which are both fabulous. I am sure it will be just as great!
I am looking into taking the plunge to buy an IP. In fact I got a 6qt (unopened yet) but after researching more, I’m thinking about upgrading to 8qt. However I don’t see myself using the bigger pot for e.g. making yogurt. You mentioned using 6qt inner pot inside the 8qt one for you beef and broccoli recipe. I am assuming this would be safe for yogurt as well. Do you have experience with this for other recipes? Thanks!
SJ - Team Crumbs
Both sizes work great. It depends on how big your family is. If you will be baking multiple cups of dishes, we recommend the 8 qt because it’s less likely to spray when you quick release the pressure. But if you are only cooking for 1-2 people a 6 qt is great!
What a wonderfully informative article! I bought an 8 qt Instant Pot Duo Crisp + Air Fryer because it could replace other appliances thus saving lots of space, and it was a great Black Friday sale price. Two questions however: I really want to be able to make yogurt and it doesn’t have that function on it. Can someone explain to me how to use it to manually make yogurt with it? Also, what is the reason why you would want to steam your broccoli on top of your beef if you would have to buy an additional 6 qt liner and trivet to use the saute function, when you could just steam it in your microwave? Is there any harm associated with microwaving it?
I love all of your your wonderful articles full of such helpful advice! Thank you!
SJ - Team Crumbs
Hi Carolyn, Here’s our info on how to make yogurt in your IP: https://dontwastethecrumbs.com/how-to-make-your-own-yogurt/. Steaming your broccoli on top in the IP can help you save on dishes!
I just brought home a 8 qt. IP because it was almost 1/2 off the usual price. It is so big I could bathe in it. There are only two of us so I am considering returning it and paying $20 more for the 6 qt. Opinions? I cook every night, but am not sure I need anything that big.
Kyare - Team Crumbs
Keep it and make double batches to freeze or eat the next day. Sounds like you got a great deal!
I have had a Cuisinart 6 qt electric pressure cooker for years now. It has low &high pressure, browning, saute, simmer and keep warm functions. I use it quite often for soups, brown rice, beans, ribs, a d much more. My question is, do you think there is enough of a difference to purchase an Instant Pot?
Kyare - Team Crumbs
Arlene, I prefer the Instant Pot however if the Cuisinart has worked well for you and is in good condition there is not a reason to spend the extra money.
This is an older post so who knows if you will see my comment. I agree the 8 is enormous. My experience with it was as follows:
Too big for any cabinet in my kitchen. Too big to put on a shelf over the washer. Too heavy to lift overhead. But the biggest issue we experienced other than no counter space after hauling it inside was that we eat primarily separate foods. By that I mean we don’t mix our entrees all into a pot with the sides. If we cook a steak like a flank steak I get a big one and grill it and save the leftovers for lunch next day. I may cook a bag of teeny potatoes and save leftovers of those but we eat a salad every night and a cooked veg every night such as broccoli, asparagus, green beans and chard. Chard, being huge took up the whole instant pot! But I can cram it into my 6 just as easily. I returned the 8 the last possible day!
The other thing I want to say is I hate the ultra. I’ve had it two yrs and I still fumble with the stupid knob. My BFF got the cute Pioneer Woman version in teal with push buttons. At her home helping fix veggies I found it so much easier. Then my granddaughter got a regular one – maybe a duo, I’m not sure, and at Christmas I cooked green beans as my contribution to a potluck. It’s so much easier to just turn off keep warm with a single press.
I wouldn’t trade mine for the world though. Not for the stupid controls but the convenience. However that said, I have to bang on the lid occasionally when it hisses and the fake chrome top trim is bubbly and peeling. I bought new seals but it still need a push. And the beeper is the wimpiest thing I’ve ever heard. I can’t hear it from ten feet away if there’s any noise at all in the house. And my hearing is excellent. I heard a raccoon breathing under my deck with the doors closed. He probably smelled the meatloaf.
Regarding meatloaf, I find that once the laborious process of assembling it is complete there’s not much else to do and I don’t like it using the IP for 45 min when it gets nice and brown in tge oven or even in an oval crockpot.
Anyway these are my thoughts. I’m happy with the 6 for two adults. I do have two crocks as well, a big oval and a smaller round one. They fit on my shelves since they are shorter.
Hi Liane–I also got the 8qt (because the 6qt was out of stock on Black Friday) and considered returning it for the smaller model. One thing I’ve found in my research is that the 8qt is perfect for the Pot-In-Pot method. This way you can time your main dish and side dish to cook at the same time. You can do some of the PiP recipes in a 6qt, but you have to be a little more careful of the height of your inner pots so you can still close the lid properly.
I have a 3 qt. that I use for doing yogurt & hard cooked eggs. It does both amazingly well. I have an 8 qt. that I use for everything else. I have an Instant Vortex oven & I recently purchased an Instant Ace Nova blender. I had massive dental surgery on September 30th. so everything I eat has to look baby food or smoothies. The Ace Nova has been a remarkable tool for me. I can throw raw ingredients in it & in under 13 minutes I can have 46 oz. of chunky soup. In under 14 minutes I can have creamy soup. There is also a puree button that cooks as well. The temperature gets the food up to 212 degrees & shows you in real-time what the temperature is currently at.
Kyare - Team Crumbs
Myrna, sounds like you get a ton of use out of your Instant Pot and its accessories!
Love your site!
Karen @ Team Crumbs
Thank you! And thank you for visiting! 🙂
Thanks for the buying guide for insta pot, it was very helpful to me.
Karen @ Team Crumbs
You are very welcome. 🙂
Hi, I’m a beginner at cooking and I need to know how large the meals will be and if they can safely fit into the instant pot I’m using when using your recipies. I’d appreciate it if you could give an idea of the volume of your dishes because it’s not intuitive for some people. Thanks.
Also, I’m cooking for one and probably don’t need more than four meals a week. I find meal planning honestly intimidating, working with portions and quantities. I don’t know if you would be open to extrapolating on that a bit more and making your cooking advice beginner friendly. If you have recommendations for somewhere I could go to get this assistance I would appreciate it. I’m also looking for something whole food plant based and vegan. Let me know if you can help at all.
Hi Sarah! In terms of volume, this might help: “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.”
6 quarts of food is the equivalent to 2 pounds dried black beans + water for cooking, or a 3lb pot roast + veggies. It’s hard to give more examples, because volume depends on what you’re actually cooking.
I’m missing something or your math is bad: 2/3 of 6qts is 4 qts and 2/3 of 8qts is 5 & 1/3 qts.
Veda H Zuponcic
A few thoughts: Many of us have overhead cabinets, and the short cord on the Instant Pot is deliberately short. That means that when the steam is released, it is scorching your cabinets, and certainly spraying food on them. I haven’t figures out how to remedy this, since all of my outlets are under the cabinets, on the backsplash.
Second: The warm up time is quite long…..you can’t just start cooking. Many times, I could have been done with the dinner before this even completes the pressure cycle. The only advantage for me is making relatively small amounts of soup–you don’t have to watch the pot. BUT you can’t skim it, either. You won’t get clear chicken soup if it is all in that pot getting cooked into the broth. Sometimes I don’t care–but if I’m making chicken soup for company, I want it to be skimmed and clear.
Third, for sauteing meat, you don’t have a big enough surface to really do a good sear on very much–after you move ingredients around it is swimming in liquid. For me, not completely useful.
Hi Veda! I use my IP on a countertop that isn’t under a cabinet, so I’ve never thought of that before! Perhaps the table might be better for this?
I’ve had my IP for about 10 years. I always put a folded dish towel over the steam escaping so it doesn’t spew everywhere. Cheers!
You won’t stream your cabinets if you use a spoon as a diverter, simply aim the steam in another direction.
Like Teena, I purchased a 3 quart because I was cooking just for me (Lux Mini) and use it often, but have occasionally wanted a larger IP for cooking a whole chicken, etc. A family member just bought me an early Christmas gift of a 6-quart Duo, so now I have lots more cooking room! The IP has changed my life; cooking in my tiny kitchenette in my studio apartment was annoying and discouraging, and I was to the point where I was living mostly on sandwiches and prepared foods. I bought the IP because maybe that way I would eat healthier, and that has indeed been the case! I can’t store the IP in my kitchenette, but I have it just a few feet away in my dressing area. I often sing the praises of my IP to anyone who will listen; if you’re on the fence about buying your first IP, get off the fence and buy one — you’ll be glad you did!
Hilary Van Wagenen
I love my instant pot! But recently I’ve been getting burned by it. Not literally, but for some reason I can’t seem to rely on the pot coming to pressure and sealing. I’ve had several situations where I walked into the kitchen to check it and the seal has been leaking and I haven’t been able to get it to go into the pressure mode. That’s obviously very frustrating and torpedoes my dinner plans! I’m not sure how to check to be sure it has actually sealed until it comes to temperature and it either seals or Starts steaming. Does anyone have any tips for this? Sometimes if I wipe off the rim and the seal I’m able to get it to work, but it’s usually really challenging. I still like it though, and I wish I had the 8 quart!
Oh bummer! I haven’t heard of this, Hilary. Have you tried contacting IP customer service to see if they can troubleshoot?
HI I RECENTLY PURCHASED MYFIRST IP WITH ENCOURGEMENT FROM MY DAUGHTER WHOIS RETIREDED AND JUST ABOUT COOKS EVERYTHING INHER 6 QT AND 8QT SHE SWEAS BY IT, MY QUESTION TO YOU IS THIS, IAM 87 AND A LITTLE LEARY THAT I MAY GET BURNED FROM THE STEAM BY ACCIDDENT. MY HUSBAND AND I ARE FROM THE OLD SCHOOL AND COOKING ON THE STOVE TOP IS SECON NATURE TO THE BOTH OF US, IM RETIRED AND HE IS WORKING PART TIME. I WOULD LIKE TO HAVE A HOT MEAL OR HIM WHEN HE COMES HOME TIRED SO WE WONT HAVE TO OR I SLAVE OVER THE STOVE FOR A FEWHOURS PREPARING A DINNER MEAL., I NOW. I YET TO SAY ANYTHING TO MY YOUNGEST DAUGHTER RSEGARDING MY CONCERNS Thank you kindly
SJ - Team Crumbs
It’s a valid concern! You can use a kitchen towel to open the valve or a long utensil like a spoon or tongs without issue. It’s easy to move so you don’t need to be directly over it.
One of the main reasons I love my instapot is that is keeps the meal warm for a long time and it doesn’t dry out like in a slow cooker. We are at the stage of life when our family sometimes eats diner at different times and I can cook rice at 3pm and it will be nice a warm for me at 8pm when I get back home. People just eat what they want, close the lid and it stays nice and warm for rest of us.
You’re so right Lenka! Love the IP!
I’m considering getting one to replace my slow cooker and just to use in general, but I’m wondering if anyone who has used both has noticed the same weird flavour undertone that I get with my slow cooker meals when they use their Instant Pot? I’m finding that I don’t use my slow cooker for many things at all anymore because of the flavour.
I got the Instant Pot Mini. (It’s just me.) Get the 6 or 8 quart size. Love my Pot, but would like to cook more at once for leftovers, although I still have leftovers with the small one. It does take less space, and the weight is an issue for me. So I probably made the correct choice overall. Storage is not an issue. It stays on my counter because I use it constantly!
Well, ok! this might be the time to buy. I’ve been waffling for nearly a year, and now, three things are pushing me over the edge. One, friends of mine have an instant pot and when I’m there for dinner they use it and the results are delicious. Two, my rice cooker has one foot out the door and another on a banana peel — I may be able to coax it along until the fall but it will probably fail before then. Three, I’ve come to realize that my pressure cooker is actually too small to be valuable. I can cook red sauce for 4 meals, but anything with beans or meat, I’m back to 2 meals per session. No bueno.
Thanks for your advice. I think I’ll buy the 6-quart model — cooking for one and gosh, where is that “no room in the freezer” meme? You should evaluate stand-alone freezers next. Thanks.
Take the plunge Barbara, you won’t regret it!
I beg to differ with you on size. I am a retired single older man and an 8 quart would be over kill for me. I almost bought a 3 quart. To pressure cook you need a min. of 1 cup liquid in a 6 quart and in an 8 quart you need a cup and a half which would be too much for many of my recipes.
Hi Bob! I’ve been using 1 cup of water in my 8 quart without a problem for well over a year now!
Wow, these comments are concerning to me. I’ve only had my 8 qt for four months and the directions say to use 2 cups of liquid. What is safe? It’s true that it’s too much liquid for some recipes.
SJ - Team Crumbs
The IP will give you an error if there isn’t enough water to come to pressure and 1 cup has always sufficed for me.