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Quick Answer: the 6-Quart Instant Pot IP-Duo Plus
Get the Instant Pot Duo Plus 6-Quart. It’s the best balance of price and features in the Instant Pot lineup. Trust me. You’ll love it.
Instant Pot Duo Plus 6-Quart [Amazon.com]
What’s that? Are you still here? Do you have more questions? You’re my kind of person – let’s get to the details.
Everything Else Is Just Details
I go into a lot of nit-picky details below. But, all the Instant Pots are great pressure cookers. They are more similar than they are different, and I’d be happy with any of them as my primary cooker. My first Instant Pot was a Lux 6-Quart that I bought back in 2012, and I’ve upgraded as Instant Pot comes out with new and improved models. There are some features I would miss if I had to switch back to the Lux…but I’d still be happy with it as a pressure cooker.
If Amazon has a great deal on an Instant Pot, don’t worry too much about the details. Even if I have some nit-picks about the cooker later on in this post (and I will), that’s OK. You’ll love your new Instant Pot.
Why you should buy the 6-Quart Instant Pot Duo Plus pressure cooker
Why should you get my favorite? Because it has the best balance of features to price in the Instant Pot line:
- Integrated lid holder in the base handles
- Great, informative LCD display
- “Pressure Cook” button (Instead of the confusing “Manual” button)
- Convenient size – easily fits in my kitchen island cabinet
The 6-Quart Duo Plus is my daily driver pressure cooker. It’s large enough to feed my family of five, with some leftovers for lunch later in the week. And the size is a little more convenient than the 8-quart – it’s smaller, lighter, and fits in the cabinet under my kitchen island.
Buy the Duo Plus if: You want the best Instant Pot for most people.
Instant Pot Duo Plus 6-Quart [Amazon.com]
What about the other Instant Pots?
Let’s compare them one at a time…while I reminisce about my history with Instant Pots.
Comparing the Instant Pot Duo Plus to the Instant Pot Lux
The Lux was the original Instant Pot, and the Pot that won my heart. But, the Instant Pot line has improved over the years, and the Lux is missing some of the design elements added to later models:
- No integrated lid holder in the handles
- A minimalist digital display
- No low pressure (OK, I never use low pressure)
The Lux was my daily driver for years. But I moved on to the Duo when it came out, and I never looked back. The Duo has a bunch of features that make it more convenient to use. (And the Duo Plus is the updated version.)
Buy the Lux if money is tight
The Lux costs about 60% of a Duo Plus – if money is tight, and you can live without some of the convenience, it is a great deal as an inexpensive pressure cooker.
Instant Pot Lux 6-Quart [Amazon.com]
Comparing the Instant Pot Duo Plus to the Instant Pot Duo
Next came the Instant Pot Duo. This is where the Instant Pot line came into its own. A bunch of design tweaks made the Duo a noticeably easier cooker to use than the Lux, especially the redesigned lid:
- Integrated lid holder built into the handles – tabs on the lid fit into holes on the base handles. Easy and ingenious.
- Easy-grab loop handle – keeps your hands away from the pressure valve
- New pressure release valve
That integrated lid holder is a design masterpiece. No more looking for empty counter space to put the lid down, and any steam on the lid drips into the drain around the cooker base, keeping everything clean. The integrated lid holder is why I can’t recommend the Lux. I’d pay whatever price I had to for that lid holder.
The differences between the Duo and the Duo Plus are much more subtle. The Duo Plus is the 2017 upgrade to the Duo. (It is right there in the name, after all.)
The Duo Plus adds:
- LCD display with icons to show you what’s going on in the cooker
- “Pressure Cook” button
The Pressure Cook button is what sold me on the Plus. I don’t have to explain to everyone that “Pressure cook on high” means “Push the Manual button” anymore. And, the new LCD display is much easier to understand.
Buy the Duo if: You can find a great deal
The Duo is usually a little less expensive than the Duo Plus. I don’t think the extra $20 or so is worth giving up the improvements in the Duo Plus. (Also, it looks like the Duo Plus is replacing the Duo – it’s getting harder to find the Duo in stock.) But, it’s easy for me to spend your money. If the extra $20 matters, the Duo has most of the features of the Duo Plus. If you find a great deal for the Duo, don’t hesitate – grab it.
Instant Pot Duo 6-Quart [Amazon.com]
Comparing the Instant Pot Duo Plus to the Instant Pot Smart Bluetooth
The Smart was the follow-up to the Duo, adding:
- An LCD display
- Bluetooth control (through an app on your smartphone)
In theory, I can control the Smart through a Bluetooth connection to my phone. In practice, the Bluetooth only had a range of a few feet – if I left the kitchen, I lost my connection, and had to shut down the cooker to re-connect. My dreams of checking the pressure cooker time on my phone while I sat on the sofa in the living room were dashed.
The improved LCD display is nice, and if it the price was close to the Duo, it might have been worth buying. But the Smart was a LOT more expensive than the Duo.
Then, when I compare it to my recommended Duo Plus?
- Both have LCD displays – but the Duo Plus display is better
- The Smart has the Bluetooth connection – but I don’t find it useful
- The Duo Plus costs a lot less
Buy the Smart if: Don’t. Just don’t.
Well, OK, that’s a little strong. If you can get a deal on the Smart – say, at Lux prices – grab it. (If you can find it – I think Instant Pot has retired the Smart.) Otherwise, move on to the Duo Plus.
Instant Pot Smart Bluetooth 6-Quart [Amazon.com]
Comparing the Instant Pot Duo Plus to the Instant Pot Ultra
The Ultra is Instant Pot’s current top of the line cooker. It has some significant design changes from the Duo Plus:
- The user interface is driven by a control knob, leaving extra space for:
- Huge LCD display with a lot more information
- New lid with auto-close pressure valve – closing the lid closes the pressure valve
I want to love the Ultra. The LCD is gorgeous – by removing most of the buttons there is plenty of space for more information, and the “cooking progress” graph is a great way to show where I am in my cook. The new lid fantastic; the auto-closing pressure valve eliminates “What’s that hissing….oh crap, I forgot to close the pressure valve.”
Then I use The Knob. It feels good – a little weight to the spin, nice clicks – I like the knob feel. But it is hyper-sensitive. One spin and it zooms hours ahead. I have to turn the knob slowly. One. Click. At. A. Time. If I get impatient and spin just a little too fast…I zip around the horn and wind up with a 5 hour and 30 minute cooking time. The knob spin makes me long for the buttons on the Duo Plus. The buttons are not amazing…but they work consistently.
Duo Plus vs. Ultra is the hardest choice on this list. The lid and display on the Ultra are clear winners over the Duo Plus. But, because of that knob, and the extra cost (the Ultra is about 20% more expensive), I still recommend the Duo Plus for most people. I keep waffling back and forth between the Plus and the Ultra. When I use the Duo Plus, I want the display and lid from the Ultra; when I use the Ultra, I want the buttons back from the Duo. Right now I have them both under my kitchen island, and I tend to reach for the Ultra a little more often…but it’s not a clear winner.
Buy the Ultra if: You don’t mind paying for the best. (And you can relax and think calm thoughts while you spin the knob.)
If you prefer the top-of-the-line, cutting-edge, fanciest option, get the Ultra. I hope they fix the knob spin in the next version; if they do that, the Ultra becomes my clear favorite.
Instant Pot Ultra 6-Quart [Amazon.com]
Should I get the 6-quart or 8-quart size Instant Pot?
Summary: The 6-quart size is best for families of 5 or less. If you need to cook for larger groups, get the 8-quart size.
Details: Ah, the devil is in the details. I didn’t think my Instant Pot Duo 6-Quart vs 8-Quart post would be controversial, but all it did is generate more “What ifs”:
- What if I batch cook?
- What if I like extra leftovers?
- What if I occasionally need a bigger cooker?
- What if my family of four has big eaters/teenagers/hordes of locusts that descend on my kitchen and eat everything in sight?
If you have a “What If” of your own, get the 8-quart size. Or, do what I do – I have both the 6- and the 8-quart sizes. (I own -too many- a lot of pressure cookers.) The 6-quart is my daily driver, which I use 95% of the time. The 8-quart only comes out when I need the extra space:
- Cooking a big batch of chili for the super bowl
- Making turkey stock after Thanksgiving
- Lamb shanks cut extra-long, making them hard to fit in the 6-quart
But when I need the 8-quart, I really need it. Mostly, it’s for the extra-wide pot more than the total cooking volume; I have something that won’t fit in the narrower 6-quart pot. Breaking up a turkey carcass to fit in the 6-quart is a lot of work, but that same carcass fits just fine in the 8-quart.
The other question I get a lot: Do I have to change a 6-quart recipe if I cook it in my 8-quart cooker?
No. Both are cooking at the same pressure (12psi), so they cook at the same temperature (242°F). Cooking time is determined by how long it takes to cook the individual ingredients, usually the largest piece of meat, so the 6- and 8-quart Instant Pots take the same amount of time to cook the same recipe.
The exception – if you use the larger cooker to fit a larger piece of meat. If you’re cooking a stew, or chili, or something where the meat is cut into the same size pieces, but you’re just cooking more of it, the cooking time is the same. (Again, cooking time is determined by the size of the thickest part of the meat, and 1-inch cubes of beef cook for the same amount of time, no matter how many there are.)
But…if you use the larger cooker to fit a larger piece of meat – say, replacing a 3 pound, 2-inch thick roast with a 6 pound, 3-inch thick piece of roast – then the cooking time will increase. How much? It depends…I’d guess about 15 minutes per inch of thickness, but I’m still testing that. (And,that’s why I cut larger roasts into chunks in my recipes.)
About Pressure Cooker Sizing
Another question I get…or, should I say, an accusation leveled against me: “Hey, this rip-off pressure cooker says 6 quarts on the box, but the max fill line is only 2/3rds of that. What gives?”
The standard measure for pressure cooker size is the total volume of the cooking pot, not the usable space under pressure. Pressure cookers need headspace to build pressure – about 1/3 of the pot. Every pressure cooker I’ve owned says “do not fill more than 2/3rds full”, and most have a max fill line marked on the pot itself.
What does that mean for sizing?
- 6-Quart Instant Pots can pressure cook up to 4 quarts of food
- 8-Quart Instant Pots can pressure cook up to 5.33 quarts of food
It is just assumed by the pressure cooker industry that you are getting the total volume, and know how much space is usable. Is that a good assumption? Not according to some of the angry emails I get…
What about the Instant Pot Mini or 3-Quart models?
Personally, I think 3-quart pressure cookers are too small. The max fill line is only 2 quarts, and that’s not enough when I’m trying to make a soup or a stew. Now, If you only cook for two…and you’re light eaters…and you never want leftovers…then maybe you should get the 3-quart. Me? I’d still get the 6-quart. It works fine for cooking smaller amounts of food.
What about the extra functions? The Ultra goes to 11!
I don’t use them. I love my Instant Pots because they make pressure cooking easy – lock the lid, set it to pressure cook for a specific time, and it takes care of the details, bringing the cooker up to high pressure and shutting off when the cooking time is done. Maybe I’m old school, but that’s all I want my pressure cooker to do. The only Instant Pot modes I use:
- Pressure Cook (on the Duo Plus and Ultra) or Manual (on the Lux and Duo). Set the cooking time for high-pressure cooking. That’s all I need to make almost every pressure cooking recipe ever written.
- Sauté – For browning meat or sautéing vegetables before pressure cooking, or for simmering after pressure cooking.
- Keep Warm – for when I can’t get to the cooker right away
- Slow Cook – For potlucks and reheating the food. Slow Cooking in the Instant Pot has some issues – see here and here for details.
And yes, I know the Ultra has ten modes – I couldn’t help myself.
But…but…what about Soup/Poultry/Meat/Stew/Bean/Chili/Rice/Multigrain/Yogurt/Congee mode?
I have heard good things about the rice cooker mode – but I use Pressure Cook mode to make rice. I’m repeating myself, but…I use the Pressure Cook button and set the cooking time instead of using the mode buttons. If you really love programming modes – and you know who you are – then go ahead and use them! But they’re not for me. I’m an experienced pressure cook1. I tell the Instant Pot what to do; I don’t press a button and hope it knows better than I do.
Why not both?
My answer to the “which one” question? All the Instant Pots. I get them all. I’ve passed the Lux, Smart, and Duo 6 quart on to family members after years of use. My current lineup is the 6-quart Duo Plus, 6-quart Ultra, 8-quart Duo, and 8-quart Duo Plus. (What, I’m the only one with a shelving unit in the basement dedicated to a pressure cooker collection?)
Kidding aside, I like having both a 6-quart cooker and an 8-quart cooker. The 6-quart gets more use; it’s a convenient size. I have the 8-quart when I need the extra space. And if I’m cooking for a party, I pull them both out, double up on my Instant Pot Duos, and cook for a crowd.
A note for savvy shoppers: The Instant Pot is usually on sale at a big discount on Black Friday and Amazon Prime Day (July 11th). If you can wait until late November or mid-July, you can usually get a great deal on one of the Instant Pots. You might not get exactly the cooker you want, but the price is right.
What about the Instant Pot Max?
Instant Pot is releasing the Instant Pot Max, the first electric “full pressure” cooker shortly. (I’ve heard Spring 2018 and Summer 2018, so…soon?)
What does full pressure mean? Electric pressure cookers (like the Instant Pot) cook at 12psi of pressure; stovetop pressure cookers use 15psi. That extra pressure in a stovetop pressure cooker means it cooks about 20% faster, and that’s why recipes have different stovetop vs. Instant Pot timings.
I’m going to get one, of course, because I have a pressure cooker -problem- collection, and I will report back when I get it. Should you get one?
I would get one of the current Instant Pots. They are great and will be less expensive. That said, If you are the kind of person who has serious FOMO, or loves pressure cookers like I do, of course you should get the Max!
That said, my gut says the Max review will be like the Ultra review – if you demand the top of the line, get it, but dollar for dollar the Duo Plus is a better value. But, we’ll see once it is released – maybe it will be priced close to the current Instant Pots.
My other concern about the Max is another gut feeling: will it work reliably? I have not seen a major brand of electric pressure cooker work at 15psi; they all top out at 12psi. It’s the biggest argument against electric pressure cookers – they can’t do “full” high pressure. So why hasn’t someone fixed this already? Is 15psi too much pressure for the current electric pressure cooker design? I trust Instant Pot, and assume they have resolved any issues, but…why hasn’t someone else made one yet? I’m going to get an Instant Pot Max. I can’t wait! But if you don’t want to live on the bleeding edge of technology, maybe you should hold off to see how they perform.
What do you think?
Other questions2? Anything I missed? Ask about it in the comments section below.
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