The Instant Pot Ultra 6 Quart was my daily driver pressure cooker for the last couple of months, and I Have Thoughts I Must Share.
I expected the Ultra to be my new favorite pressure cooker, pushing the Instant Pot Duo Plus from kitchen island down to the shelf of backup cookers…but in the end, the Ultra wound up on the shelf, and the Duo Plus is still in my kitchen, my everyday cooker.
Why? Well, let’s get to the review.
FCC Notice: This is not a paid review. I bought these cookers with my own money. I am an Amazon Affiliate, so if you buy anything through the Amazon links on my site, I get a small commission from Amazon. Thank you!
It’s an Instant Pot!
The Ultra’s strengths are same as the rest of the Instant Pot family. It has all the features that I love: a stainless steel inner pot, gasket holder built into the lid, lid holder built into the handle, and easy set-it-and-forget-it pressure cooking. It’s an Instant Pot, and that makes it a darned good pressure cooker.
A new pressure release design in the lid
Let’s start with my favorite new feature, the lid with an auto-closing pressure valve. Older Instant Pots come with a weighted pressure valve with a handle on it - pressure is released by turning the valve, which manually sits it on a little shelf that holds it open. It’s simple, and it works...except when I forget to close it before I start cooking. Part of my pre-pressure routine is “make sure the valve is closed” right after I lock the lid.
New pressure release button
The Ultra has a weighted pressure valve, but no handle and no shelf. Instead, it has a system built into the lid. There is a lifting tab under the pressure valve, controlled by a spring-loaded pressure release button. Push the button, and the tab lifts the pressure valve, releasing the pressure. I like the added safety of a separate pressure release button - there’s less chance of scalding myself with steam this way.
Auto-closing pressure valve
Even better, the system automatically closes the pressure valve when the lid locks. Rotate the lid, and the pressure valve closes. No more forgetting to check the valve, no more wondering why the cooker is hissing instead of coming up to pressure. I love this feature - it’s another simple design innovation by the Instant Pot team.
The new, larger display is also pretty. Its best feature is an animated heating curve, showing the pressure cooker’s progress - pre-heating, cooking at pressure, or keep warm. It is a lot easier to see where the Ultra is in its cooking cycle.
What about all those extra functions?
It's a 10-in-1! The Duo Plus is only a 9-in-1! Take that!
What's that? What’s the extra function? Um…hang on…let me look.
I never use the extra functions. I use the Pressure Cook and Sauté modes, occasionally Keep Warm, and very occasionally Slow Cook. They can add all sorts of custom programs; I’m going to keep ignoring them. (If you use them and love them, great! Keep using them! I’m going to stick with Pressure Cook and changing the timer.)
OK, OK, if you insist. The new function is “Ultra”. From the Instant Pot website:
The Ultra program provides the user with complete control of pressure and non-pressure cooking. You can adjust the different settings based on your desired results.
What does that mean? I’m not sure. Like I said above, I never use it. Sorry…
About that knob…
I love the idea of the knob as a control. (It makes me think of the volume knob on my stereo back in college.) The Ultra has good knob feel (as they say in the biz) - it is solid and satisfying to spin and push.
Unfortunately, the knob causes my two complaints about the Ultra.
The knob is overly sensitive. If I spin the knob too quickly, it jumps from changing minutes to changing hours. And “too quickly” for the knob is painfully slow. I have to slow myself down and deliberately turn the knob, click by click, waiting for the beep before I turn again. If I lose focus for even a minute, I spin too fast, and I jump past my target time. It’s not “set and go,” it’s “Set…whoops, too much, go back. Darn, missed it again. OK, gently, one…two…three. There.“
[Update 2018-02-09: I accidentally the Instant Pot support email. Adding it back in:]
The knob was so jumpy that I wondered if my unit was defective. According to Instant Pot support, no, it's just very sensitive:
The selection dial is indeed quite sensitive! It certainly does have the propensity to jump around in cooking times. I apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.
(Email from Instant Pot Support)
Controlling a pressure cooker with a knob is also more complicated. Let’s walk through my pressure cooker workflow. I do the following tasks almost every time I use my pressure cooker:
- Sauté mode to brown the meat and cook the onions
- Everything in the pot, lock the lid
- Cancel Sauté mode and start Pressure Cook mode.
On my IP Duo Plus, to do those tasks, the steps are:
- Press Sauté button. Wait for the beep.
- (Do pre-pressure sauteing and browning)
- Press Cancel button to stop Sauté mode
- Lock lid and check pressure valve
- Press Pressure Cook button
- Press Plus/Minus buttons to adjust time. Wait for the beep. Pressure cooking starts.
Total: Three button presses (Sauté mode, Cancel, Pressure Cook mode), and a handful of Plus/Minus button presses to adjust cooking time
On my IP Ultra, the steps are:
- Spin knob to highlight Sauté mode (carefully)
- Press knob to select Sauté mode
- Press Start
- (Do pre-pressure sauteing and browning)
- Press Cancel button to stop Sauté mode
- Lock lid (Don’t have to check pressure valve - it auto locks.)
- Spin knob to highlight Pressure Cook mode (carefully)
- Press knob to select Pressure Cook mode
- Press knob to select Pressure Cook Time
- Spin knob to adjust Pressure Cook Time (carefully)
- Press Start button
Total: Three button presses (Start, Cancel, Start), three knob presses (Sauté, Pressure Cook mode, Pressure Cook Time edit), and three twitchy knob spins, maybe more if I lose focus and turn too fast.
My wife is my “new user” tester. (I monopolize the pressure cooker - “Sorry, dear, I have to test another recipe!” - so she only gets to use it occasionally.) She knows how to operate the Instant Pot Duo, but she couldn’t figure out the Ultra. I had to walk her through it. And then walk her through it again (over the phone the next time) because she couldn’t remember the sequence. That's...not good.
Summary: The Instant Pot Ultra is a good pressure cooker, but I went back to my Instant Pot Duo Plus
I used the Ultra as my daily driver for a few months. I got comfortable enough with the interface that I did not overshoot too often, or turn clockwise when I needed to go counter-clockwise. It was fine. But, after finishing this review, I switched back to my Instant Pot Duo Plus.
Why get an Ultra? The auto-locking lid is fantastic, and almost enough for me to stick with the Ultra. The Ultra looks pretty - the large digital display, no-button interface, and shiny silver knob are more stylish than the button-covered Duo Plus. If you’re the kind of person who has to have the newest and most expensive, this is the top of the line for Instant Pot. It’s 10-in-1, and that’s one better than 9-in-1, so it must be better. (I own 6…no, 7 pressure cookers right now, so I have no room to judge your buying decisions.) Underneath it all, it is an Instant Pot and a very good pressure cooker. If it is your only pressure cooker, you won’t regret owning it.
But the Instant Pot Duo Plus is back to being my daily driver. I miss the fancy display a little, and the auto-locking lid a lot. (A whole lot.) I traded them both to go back to the reliable push-buttons on my Duo Plus.
Recommended with reservations
Instant Pot Ultra [Amazon.com]
Instant Pot Duo Plus [Amazon.com]
What do you think?
Questions? Other ideas? Leave them in the comments section below.
Which Pressure Cooker Should I Buy?
Review: Fagor Lux 8 Quart vs Instant Pot Duo 8 Quart
Longer Term Testing Notes: Instant Pot Duo 6 Quart vs 8 Quart
My other Pressure Cooker Recipes
My other Pressure Cooker Time Lapse Videos
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