Thinking of buying an Instant Pot? Start here

Banu Ibrahim, CNN Underscored
Mon February 10, 2020

People love their food processors, coffee makers or rice cookers. But when it comes to the Instant Pot, they can be a little obsessed with it.

Since its debut in 2010, the Instant Pot has amassed a cult-like following, complete with a Facebook community of over 2 million members. Instagram is filled with over 90,000 Instant Pot recipes for everything from chili to cheesecake. The Instant Pot was Walmart's best-selling product of 2019 and an Amazon top seller for three years in a row.

Over the past decade, there have been 10 iterations of the programmable cooker, ranging from a Wi-Fi-enabled version that keeps you connected to your meals via a companion app, to a mini design that whips up hearty dishes for one. There's a wide range of accessories that help you up your Instant Pot game, and recently, Instant Pot unveiled a programmable blender and an electric kettle.

Clearly the Instant Pot has its fans: The device has nearly 50,000 customer ratings on Amazon alone, with an impressive 4.6 stars. But should you buy one? To help you decide, this Instant Pot review will take an up-close look at the version that is consistently a favorite among home cooks:

  • The Instant Pot DUO 7-in-1 Multicooker (starting at $49.99; amazon.com).

The Instant Pot DUO comes in three sizes (starting at 3 quarts for small servings and up to 8 quarts for large, family-sized meals). It replaces a variety of common kitchen gadgets and is said to cook meals 70% faster than standard methods. The DUO is frequently on sale during key shopping days, like Prime Day and Black Friday. So if you're looking for an affordable entry into the IP world, this is probably the model to keep an eye on.

But even at a great price, it's still an investment of space on your counter top or in your closet, and you don't want to buy yet another appliance that's going to gather dust. So the question remains: Is the Instant Pot DUO worth it?

It's the same question I asked myself time and time again before I splurged on the beloved cooker. By no means am I your typical Instant Pot user. I adore cooking, so much so that I'm happy to slave away over a stove for hours on end. So the concept of one-touch cooking isn't my thing, but a friend convinced me to take the plunge.

Flash forward to a few months of use (and a stellar Amazon deal) later, and I have to give my Instant Pot-loving friend credit: This kitchen appliance has completely transformed my weekday cooking, making meal prep hassle-free. Here's how the device completely won over a skeptic like me.

What makes the Instant Pot DUO so special?

Like most Instant Pots, the DUO can replace a variety of common household products. It does the work of seven appliances or kitchen gadgets: sauté pan, rice cooker, pressure cooker, slow cooker, steamer, yogurt maker and warmer.

It features 14 one-touch smart programs that make cooking common dishes — such as rice, poultry, soups or desserts — function on autopilot. Fair warning: It will take time and practice to fully understand all the buttons and setting options available on the Instant Pot, so give yourself time to read the instructions (and watch a few videos) before diving in, especially if you've never used a pressure cooker before.

This pressure-cooking technology means that many dishes (especially stews or roasts) can be complete from start to finish in a fraction of the time they'd normally take.

It's a time-saver

Remember how I love spending hours over a hot stove? My hectic schedule can get in the way sometimes. By the time I get home after a long day at work, the "hangry" hits, and I'll grab whatever is in the fridge no matter how healthy — or not.

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15 amazing Instant Pot recipes to try tonight: chili, pumpkin lasagna soup and more

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That's where I've found the most value in the Instant Pot. I now can have delicious dinners ready in 15 to 30 minutes from start to finish. I opted for a 6-quart design, which, depending on the dish, gives me leftovers for several lunches. What's more, I've become a big fan of cooking make-ahead meals in the Instant Pot and then freezing individual portions of meals for later, so I have dinners at the ready and don't need to order takeout as frequently.

Cleanup is a breeze

One word: dishwasher-safe. All the parts in the Instant Pot (with the exception of the cooker base) are dishwasher-safe, meaning the stainless steel inner pot, the lid, sealing ring and steam rack can all be thrown into the dishwasher post cooking. As someone who loves cooking but hates cleaning, I consider this one of the biggest highlights.

Many of the accessories (and there are many, from a steamer basket to hard-boiled egg insert) can streamline the need for additional pots and pans, further simplifying kitchen cleanup. We love this 28-piece set:

YXWIN 28-piece Instant Pot accessories kit ($38.99; amazon.com)

The Instant Pot DUO is often on sale

The DUO is regularly on sale during major shopping days such as Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Prime Day. And if you stay vigilant, sometimes you can spot a deal out of the blue on any given day. Right now, for instance, all sizes of the Instant DUO (3-, 6-, and 8-quart sizes) are on sale on Amazon. The 3- and 6-quart cookers are also on sale at Walmart:

Instant Pot DUO60 6-Quart 7-in-1 Programmable Cooker ($79, originally $99.95; walmart.com)

The downsides

The Instant Pot takes some getting used to, especially for pressure-cooking novices. If you're cooking something that doesn't have a preset button, you'll need to enter its pressure settings and cook time on your own. You also need to take care while the device is on, to ensure your dishes are completely depressurized before you open the lid. Sometimes this is done with a quick-release method (ideal for foods like broccoli or fish that are prone to overcooking), and sometimes with the natural-release method, which slowly lets steam out of the device. (IP has a handy guide here you can check out to let you know when to use which method.)

And contrary to popular belief, you can't simply throw in all your ingredients at once, for every single dish you make, and have it all come out tasting amazing. The Instant Pot works wonders, but it can't magically cook a variety of different ingredients (each requiring its own specific cook time and temperature) perfectly all in one go. To ensure you're not making certain ingredients mushy and leaving other ones raw, at times you'll need to prepare certain ingredients individually.

You'll also want to be sure you have enough liquid in your Instant Pot while cooking. If the liquid gets too low, the Instant Pot may stop cooking or give you an error message.

The final verdict

There's a lot of value in the Instant Pot DUO, both as an alternative to a variety of cooking gadgets and small appliances, and as a faster means of making dinner every night. While it might take some getting used to, there's no shortage of reading material, video content and food blog recipes out there to help you navigate the device along the way. Considering all of this, combined with its affordable price tag, our final verdict is that the Instant Pot DUO is worth every penny.

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