Instant Pot Duo 60Source: iMore

The Instant Pot is probably something you've heard of at this point, and if you don't already have one it may be time to change that. Black Friday will bring discounts across the whole product line, so you're going to need to figure out ahead of time which model you're most interested in. The Instant Pot lineup is a bit confusing in all honesty. There are lots of options to pick from, so you'll want to do a little research before the big discounts hit.

Whether you have a small family and just need the basic model, or a large family and want the big 8-quart model, you'll need to consider all your options. Some of them have additional features like built-in sous vide, extra cooking modes, and more. Let's break everything down and help you get the discounted Instant Pot of your dreams.

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How do you pick the right size Instant Pot?

Opening lid on Instant Pot DUO60Source: iMore

Think about how many people you are cooking for. Right now, most Instant Pot models come in three sizes: 3-Quart, 6-Quart, and 8-Quart. However, you'll need to be careful with the model you're buying. While they all come in the standard 6-Quart size, not all of them are available in the smaller 3-Quart or larger 8-Quart size, so double check first.

The 3-Quart size is usually good enough for one person, making it a great addition to dorm rooms or one-person households if the person doesn't eat too much. But the 3-Quart size is also great for using to cook side dishes in addition to a larger Instant Pot in a multi-person household or family. Regardless, the 3-Quart is the smallest Instant Pot size, so if you want to use it for side dishes or don't plan on using it for more than one person, then the 3-Quart size is great.

The middle tier 6-Quart is usually the gold standard when it comes to Instant Pots. With a 6-Quart, you should be able to cook enough food to feed up to four people comfortably, and perhaps with leftovers (depending on what you cook). I know that with my 6-Quart Instant Pots, it's enough food for my husband and I for the next two days at least.

If you have more than four people in the household or family, or just prefer to make more food, then the 8-Quart is the go-to size of Instant Pot for you. It's definitely big, so you'll need more counter and storage space than the 3 or 6-Quart sizes, but the larger capacity holds more food. And if you plan on cooking things like whole chickens, then the 8-Quart size means more space to work with, so it's easier when it comes to flipping the bird inside the pot. It's also important to remember that while you can always cook less quantities of food in the 8-Quart, you can't cook more in the 6-Quart, so take that into consideration too.

Instant Pot Ultra vs. Duo vs. Max vs. Lux: What's the difference?

Instant Pot MaxSource: Instant Pot

The Lux is the entry-level model of Instant Pot. It comes in 3, 6, and 8-Quart sizes, and will do what the Duo models are capable of, but it does lack low pressure and the Yogurt preset button. If you don't plan on making yogurt (though there are workarounds out there) and don't need low pressure (most recipes call for high pressure anyways), then the Lux is a great starting point because of the price.

The Duo is the gold standard of Instant Pots, and is the most popular model for good reason. It has all of the basic functionality, including the Yogurt setting and you can switch between low or high pressure, and it comes in 3, 6, and 8-Quart sizes. Lately, Instant Pot has been introducing new variations of the Duo line, which include different LCD display panels that show temperature and cooking progress, as well as newer pressure release buttons, making the steam release part easier and safer for most people.

Instant Pot Ultra is one of the higher end models, and it can do everything that the Duo can do, along with a few more features, while coming in 3, 6, and 8-Quart sizes. With the Ultra, you get four more modes than the base Duo model: Cake, Egg, Sterilizer (for cleaning things like baby bottles), and Ultra. The Ultra model also has a dial for selecting modes, a pressure release button for safety, and displays cooking progress on the LCD display. You can also adjust altitude levels (this affects how some things cook), and the Ultra mode lets you adjust temperature and pressure for custom cooking.

The Max is the top of the line Instant Pot, and it is similar to the Ultra, except it is capable of pressure canning at 15psi, and it has a built-in Sous Vide setting, so you do not need a separate Sous Vide Immersion Circulator stick. Additionally, the Max has the option to program steam release, so you don't need to do manually release it yourself. Unfortunately, the Max only comes in the 6-Quart size.

What cooking modes does an Instant Pot have?

Pouring rice into Instant Pot DUO60Source: iMore

All models of Instant Pot will have the following: Pressure Cook, Slow Cook, Rice Cooker, Porridge, Bean/Chili, Meat/Stew, Soup/Broth, Multigrain, Sauté, Steam, and Warm. However, for most recipes, you can simply just use the Pressure Cook option with high pressure, unless the recipe states otherwise. Remember that for any mode besides Sauté, a thin liquid is required in order to create pressure. Thin liquids are like water, broth, and non-cream soups.

The other preset functions are more like preset cooking times for that designated food, and honestly, you likely won't be using them too much. Sauté lets you use the Instant Pot like a regular pan on the stove, and the Steaming function creates steam through pressure. Warm is the function that kicks in after your food is done cooking, or you can use it to warm up leftovers.

A good thing to note is that while an Instant Pot has the slow cooker feature, it doesn't work as well as a traditional slow cooker, such as a Crock Pot. This is due to the fact that the Instant Pot heating element is directly at the bottom and center, and it won't heat up the sides as well as a dedicated slow cooker. The heating element on the Instant Pot also defaults to "Normal" when it comes to slow cooking, which is equivalent to the "low" setting on a real slow cooker. You will need to turn it up to "More" on the Instant Pot to get the same kind of temperature with a Crock Pot.

Yogurt is a setting on the Duo and above. It lets you make your own yogurt at home, though you will need to have a yogurt "starter" in order to create your own (due to the live bacteria cultures). The Cake and Egg cooking modes on the Ultra are preset programs that are designed to act as shortcuts when making cheesecake and hard boiled eggs, for example. However, you can achieve the same result through standard Pressure Cook mode.

Sterilizer is a mode that is only available on the Instant Pot Ultra. This is great for parents with babies, because you can throw in baby bottles and other items and use the Instant Pot to sterilize them. If you need anything sterilized, then the Ultra is the one you want to get.

Ultra mode on the Instant Pot Ultra also lets you create custom cooking programs by allowing you to set things like temperature and pressure levels. It can also be used as a pseudo-Sous Vide cooking method, though there may be some discrepancies in the water bath temperature this way.

Sous Vide mode is available on the Instant Pot Max. This lets you heat up the inner pot evenly and provide a pretty accurate and consistent water bath temperature so you can cook food via the Sous Vide method.

The Instant Pot Max is the only model with the Canning mode. This allows you to pressure can food at a sustained 15psi (pound per square inch). Even though other Instant Pot models pressure cook, none of them have been able to do pressure canning until the Max.

What are the must-have Instant Pot accessories?

Instant Pot with accessoriesSource: Instant Pot

If you are going to use any accessories inside of your Instant Pot, it is highly recommended to use stainless steel or silicone items. While Pyrex glass could work in the Instant Pot, you must make sure that it is oven safe. Otherwise, the glass could explode under pressure and heat. So only use this as a last resort, and only if you are absolutely certain it is oven-safe.

There are a ton of accessories out there that you can use with your Instant Pot, but here are some of the must-haves for any Instant Pot owner.

A steamer basket (either stainless steel or silicone) is incredibly handy. This lets you easily steam veggies in the Instant Pot, such as broccoli, Brussel sprouts, and more. It's an easy and effective way to keep your food out of the liquid that you need to create pressure to steam with.

Another great item is a stainless steel or silicone trivet or rack stand. These simply go on the bottom of your Instant Pot to keep pot-in-pot inserts out of the liquid so it doesn't burn. Speaking of, stainless steel steamer insert pans are a great way to do pot-in-pot (PIP) cooking. This is when you cook your food in a small stainless steel pan on the trivet above the liquid, so that any sauce or seasoning is not diluted with water or broth.

Starbucks' Sous Vide Egg Bites are a popular item, and a lot of people seem to like to make their own egg bites at home. This is possible to do in an Instant Pot as well, as long as you have a silicone egg bite mold to create them in. Just pour your egg mixture in these and cook them to perfection! Most of these cook about seven at a time, and you can also use them for other things, like cake bites, if eggs are not your thing.

While we're on the topic of cake, cheesecake is another popular recipe for Instant Pots, and you're going to want to grab something like a Fat Daddio 6" Cheesecake Pan (with removable bottom) to create the perfect cheesecake for your guests, or yourself. Lasagnas (or cheesecake) are also possible with a typical springform pan.

Instant Pot also offers their own Non-Stick Ceramic Inner Pot, which has a non-stick coating, which is great for cooking foods like rice and mac-and-cheese. And of course, you will always want to have extra silicone sealing rings handy, because if something happens to the original sealing ring, the Instant Pot won't be able to seal, and that's no bueno!

Best Black Friday Instant Pot Deals

Instant Pot Lux

The Instant Pot Lux is the starting point for everything Instant Pot. If you don't need yogurt or low pressure, then this model should be good enough for the basics. It has high pressure and should be able to cook pretty much any Instant Pot recipe you find out there, and it comes in 3, 6, and 8-Quart sizes. If you want an Instant Pot for a bargain price, then the Lux is a good option for the essentials.

Affordable deliciousness

Instant Pot Lux 6-Quart

Instant Pot LUX is the most affordable Instant Pot model and comes in 3, 6, and 8-Quart sizes. It just lacks low pressure options and yogurt setting.

$64.99 $79.95 $15 Off

Instant Pot Duo

The Instant Pot Duo is one of the most popular versions of Instant Pot, and the one that you will see go often. Unlike the Lux below it, the Duo has the option of both Low or High Pressure, and it also has the Yogurt setting so you can make your own homemade yogurt without fuss. It also comes in 3, 6, or 8-Quart sizes and does everything you would need an Instant Pot for.

The gold standard

Instant Pot Duo 6-Quart

Instant Pot DUO is the most popular Instant Pot, and it comes with options for low and high pressure. Plus, you can make yogurt easily with this one.

$79 $99.95 $21 Off

Instant Pot Ultra

The Instant Pot Ultra is a great model to get if you are looking for more than just the basics. Ultra comes with additional Cake and Egg presets (though you can use standard Pressure Cook for those too), and the Sterilizer mode. With Sterilizer, you can use your Instant Pot to make sure that items like baby bottles are as clean as they can possibly be. The Ultra mode is also a customizable cooking program that you can use to set things like temperature and pressure levels exactly how you want them to be. In fact, this could be used for psuedo-sous vide cooking, though it's not quite as precise as dedicated Sous Vide immersion circulator sticks. The Ultra also has an improved pressure release button that is safer than turning the knob on the Duo and Lux lines.

High-tech cooking

Instant Pot Ultra 6-Quart

Instant Pot Ultra is the only model with Sterilizer mode. The Ultra program is also highly customizable to suit your needs when cooking.

$108.82 $149.95 $41 Off

Instant Pot Max

If you want the best of the best, with the most options in the kitchen, Instant Pot Max is the king of Instant Pots. This top-of-the-line model features a dedicated Sous Vide mode so you don't need to get a separate immersion circulator stick for cooking via the sous vide method. It can even pressure can at a sustained 15psi, something that has not been possible with any of the other Instant Pot models before. The only thing that is odd is that it is missing the Sterilizer function, which is only on the Ultra. And the Max also lets you program in the pressure release, so you don't even need to lift a finger once it's done cooking. It's the ultimate in terms of Instant Pot cooking. Unfortunately it only comes in the 6-Quart size

King of Instant Pots

Instant Pot Max 6-Quart

Instant Pot Max is capable of standalone Sous Vide and Pressure Canning at a sustained 15psi. You can even program in pressure release.

$149.99 $199.95 $50 Off

How to get the best Instant Pot deals?

Keep your eyes peeled on retailers like Amazon and Kohl's for the Instant Pot during Black Friday. These two are incredibly popular places that people have snagged Instant Pots for super cheap in previous Black Fridays, and it is likely to happen again this year. Amazon will usually have the models listed for less than normal, and Kohl's lets you use coupons and Kohl's Cash for even more savings. If you see the Instant Pot model and size you want for less than $60 or $100 (for higher end versions), then pick them up quick! They are bound to sell quickly, and it is not uncommon for certain Instant Pot models to be sold out by the end of the day.

If you can manage to find a super great deal on the Ultra or Max models, make sure to snatch them up. Those are sure to not last very long considering that they're higher up in price.

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