Instant Pot buying guide: Find the one that's right for you

Banu Ibrahim, CNN Underscored
Updated Fri October 18, 2019

You've heard about them, you've seen them, and if you have foodie friends in your circle, you know just how helpful they can be. Yes, we're talking about the cult-favorite appliance, the Instant Pot.

The Instant Pot is a versatile multi-cooker that replaces the need for other appliances or kitchen tools, including rice cookers, pressure cookers, saute pans and steamers. Plus, the device is programmable, meaning you can toss in your ingredients, hit a few buttons and sit back while the Instant Pot roasts, stews and steams your meals. You can even preset the Instant Pot so that it begins cooking while you're out and you can come home to a hot dinner.

But the proverbial cherry on top is that the Instant Pot works fast — read: really fast. Dishes that traditionally take a few hours to prepare can be done in a matter of minutes.

With so many features, you might think that the Instant Pot would have a steep price tag, but for what you're getting, it's relatively affordable (Pro tip: it regularly goes on sale, especially during major shopping holidays). Options start as low as $59.

With all of this in mind, it's no surprise there are millions of Instant Pot devotees, and after adding one to your kitchen arsenal, you might call yourself one, too.

It's important to note that not all Instant Pots are created equal. Some are better for large families, others for those who are more design-minded. To help find out which version of the Instant Pot — whether it's the Aura, Lux, Mini and more — is right for you, we've compiled this handy breakdown.

The best Instant Pot for small kitchens: The Instant Pot LUX Mini 3 Quart 6-in-1 Programmable Cooker ($64.95; amazon.com)

Counter space is precious real estate in your house, meaning the more petite the Instant Pot, the better. Meet the Instant Pot LUX Mini. It's half the size of the standard Instant Pot, but doesn't skimp on the features. Like the larger iterations, it can combine six appliances into one (a pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, saute pan, steamer and warmer), and with its advanced pressure cooking technology, your dishes can be prepared up to 70% faster than traditional cooking methods, according to the brand. This version, in particular, has received high praise from Amazon customers (it has a 4.6 out of 5 star rating from over 5,000 customers) and is a No. 1 bestseller on the site. Who is this Instant Pot good for? Those who have small spaces, like tiny apartments or dorm rooms, or those who are cooking only one to two servings at a time.

The best value Instant Pot: Instant Pot DUO60 6-Quart 7-in-1 Programmable Cooker ($79; amazon.com)

Think of the Instant Pot DUO60 as the perfect entry-level model. It has one more function (yogurt making) than the LUX Mini, and its 6-quart size is the standard in the Instant Pot market. Plus, it's not as complicated as other models, making it easier to navigate. This design monitors pressure, temperature and cooking time, and constantly adjusts the levels of heat so that you can have the best possible result, and unlike the LUX, it can easily go back and forth from low pressure cooking to high. For the size and functionality of the DUO60, the $79 price tag is relatively small, making it one of the best value Instant Pots.

The best Instant Pot for large families: Instant Pot DUO 8 Quart 9-in-1 Programmable Cooker ($139.95; amazon.com)

You're feeding the masses, and a 3- or 6-quart design just isn't going to cut it. An 8-quart design, which is one of the largest capacity cookers around, is right up your alley. The Instant Pot DUO 8 Quart 9-in-1 cooker fits the bill, and comes with even more cooking settings than other models. Breakfasts, lunches, dinners and desserts are easily made in size XL with this device, complete with additional functions like egg cooking and baking. And because the last thing you want to do is clean up after cooking, all parts of this appliance (except the cooker base) are dishwasher safe.

The best Instant Pot for techies: Instant Pot Smart Wi-Fi 6-Quart Multi-Use Cooker ($133.21; amazon.com)

The rest of your home has smart capabilities, so why shouldn't your Instant Pot? This advanced iteration can be synced with your Amazon Alexa for complete hands-free control of your cooking. For those who don't have an Alexa device, the Instant Pot can also be controlled via the Instant Pot app. When you need inspiration on what to make, the app will showcase over 1,000 programmed scripted recipes, and once you've landed on a meal, the device will send alerts to your mobile device. Pretty genius, right?

The best Instant Pot for sous vide lovers: Aura Pro Multi-Use Programmable Slow Cooker with Sous Vide ($149.99; amazon.com)

Sous vide (or under a vacuum) cooking is a popular method that allows you to prepare proteins to their full potential. This type of meal preparation involves heating food (namely, meats) in a temperature-controlled water bath, which allows for juicier, more tender and fool-proof results (you can read more about sous vide here). The Aura Pro has an additional sous vide setting that makes this process even easier by eliminating the need for multiple pots and pans. And the noticeably wider design also allows for more space to prepare larger meals sans sous vide; it can easily fit a medium-size whole chicken or roast. It's important to note that unlike other Instant Pots, the Aura is not a pressure cooker.

The most design-friendly Instant Pot: Instant Pot DUO ($99.99; amazon.com)

Instant Pot recently released three colorful additions to its family. The Instant Pot DUO now comes in red, teal and white, providing vibrant alternatives to the black and silver standard. Like the traditional Instant Pot DUO, it comes with a variety of cooking features and is best suited for those who consider themselves Instant Pot newbies. It's also great for those who are more design conscious and want everything on their counters to add, not take away, from their kitchen's aesthetic.

Note: The prices above reflect the retailer's listed price at the time of publication.