Instant Pot Sizes – Which One Should I Buy?
You’ve read the articles and watched the videos, and know that having an electric pressure cooker is a great way to save time in the kitchen. Choosing one of the instant pot sizes available can be a daunting task, though.
If you haven’t used one before, it’s hard to gauge before you buy one exactly how you’ll be using it. What types of meals, quantities of food, whether you’ll store it on the counter or in a cabinet and how you’ll go about cleaning it after each use are all considerations.
We’ve taken a look at the different instant pot sizes available, and have put together this guide to save you time and make the choice an easier one.
Are you looking for the best pressure cooker for batch cooking? The best size for every day cooking for one or two people? Do you want to make your own healthy, homemade yogurt? Whatever your family size or cooking style, we’ve got you covered.
Where to Start When Choosing an Instant Pot Size
Depending upon the brand and model, a wide variety of pressure cooker sizes are available. You can find anything from a relatively petite 3 quart model to the largest instant pot size at a whopping 14 quarts. How on earth is a person supposed to choose?
Here are 3 key considerations to help you choose the best pot capacity for your household:
1. Food Quantities and How You Cook
The first thing to take a look at is how many people you usually cook for. For these purposes, a small group is usually considered to be 1-3 people, and a large one 4 or more.
The second thing is to analyze your cooking style. Do you like to cook every day? Do you want to have leftovers, or just enough for one meal? Have you embraced instant pot freezer meal cooking and want your freezer fully stocked?
If you like to cook small amounts more frequently, and are cooking for a small group, a smaller model is the way to go. Unless you’re cooking for just one or two and don’t like leftovers, the 3-Quart size will probably still be too small for this, but a 6-Quart model could suit your needs perfectly.
Cooking for groups or batch cooking?
If you’re cooking often for a bigger group, or want to cook freezer meals to stash away, you’ll want to go with a larger model. Consider an 8-Quart to be the starting point for this, and if you’re cooking for more than 6 people, you’ll certainly want to think about even larger sizes.
2. Your Pot Needs Room
An important point to remember in this is that you can’t fill your instant pot cooker all the way to to the rim. There needs to be room for steam to build up the pressure that is key to cooking this way. You also need to make sure that the food doesn’t expand and block the quick release valve. For most foods this is about 2/3 of the way up the pot, but for denser, dryer things like rice or beans, you need to stop filling it about halfway to ensure you’re cooking safely. If you plan to take full advantage of your electric pressure cooker’s abilities, and want a large batch of these foods, plan to get a larger size than you might otherwise need.
3. WHAT You Cook Factors in Choosing Your Instant Pot Size
The next thing to think about is WHAT you’ll be cooking. Mostly stew or curry with bite-size pieces of meat and vegetables? Or are you looking for a fast way to cook pot roast with baby potatoes? Whole chickens to make delicious homemade soup?
It’s not just the total amount of the food you’ll be cooking, but the size of the pieces that are going in. Buying large cuts of meat is a great way to save money, but you might be surprised by how quickly large pieces will stack up inside even a large instant pot. Sure, you can break them down yourself into smaller chunks, but that adds to your time in the kitchen, which you were trying to cut down on. If you’re going to buy large cuts, do yourself a favor and get the next size up when you buy your cooker.
Costs: Can you save with a larger pot?
Price is certainly a variable you’ll notice when you look at an instant pot sizes comparison. Generally, the larger the cooker, the more expensive it will be. However, you do have to consider the longer term costs as well.
If you buy a smaller cooker, you might end up using it twice as often to cook the same amount of food you could have fit into a larger model. In the long term, between the increased electricity use and your time in the kitchen, you may well save money by buying a larger cooker up front. You can find more information on prices and features in our instapot review of the best selling models.
Cleanup: Size does matter
Another factor to consider is cleanup. While most of the inner cooking pots used in these instant pots are dishwasher safe, depending upon the layout of your dishwasher, anything over a 6 or 8 quart may not fit. Hand washing the pots usually isn’t terribly difficult, but do take a look at the size of your sink and think about whether you feel up to wrangling a wet and soapy 14 quart pot and getting it rinsed thoroughly on a regular basis.
If you don’t want to deal with washing a larger pot, but still want to be able to cook larger quantities, you might consider buying two smaller cookers. For instance, if you got both a 6 and an 8 quart, you’d have the option to cook 14 quarts at once, divided between the two pots. Better yet, you’d also have the option to cook two different things at once. This might sound excessive now, but once you start using your new cooker and loving how easily you can make things you couldn’t before, you might very well find yourself wanting a second one!
Location, Location, Location
Travel with a smaller size instant pot…
Think about other places you might want to cook, too. Some of us think the best part of vacation is not having to cook every day, but on longer trips this can get awfully expensive. Especially if you’re taking a road trip, consider leaving some room in the car for your instant pot. You can bring some staples from home, but also consider finding a local grocery or farmer’s market so you can sample the local produce. You can prep in the morning, and when you get back from sightseeing at the end of the day, your dinner will be ready and waiting. Visiting family for the holidays is another great time to bring your cooker, since all too often every available burner and square inch of the oven is in use. Help take the pressure off the host chef and put it into the cooker where it belongs!
Is portability for you?
Using your instant pot won’t heat the house up nearly as much as turning on your stove or oven to cook your recipe the classic way. However, some people like to take theirs outside onto the porch on the hottest summer days, to cook a great meal without heating the house up at all. If this sounds like an idea you’d like to try, do be sure to consider whether you have a safe outdoor outlet to use and a place where the cooker won’t get hit by the sprinkler while it’s running. Think about how sturdy your outdoor table is, and how large a cooker you’d want to carry outside, especially if you fill it up in the kitchen. A fully loaded 14 quart instant pot would be a lot to haul outside!
If you’ll be traveling with your cooker frequently, or doing a lot of patio cooking in the summer, consider a medium-sized 6 to 8 quart cooker for this. You can always buy a bigger one for permanent kitchen use, if you find that the smaller cooker isn’t enough for your batch cooking projects.
Other Uses for Your Instant Pot
As you’ve been doing your research while thinking about instant pot sizes to buy, you may have noticed people are using theirs for a lot of things besides cooking dinner. Many models come with presets specifically for different foods. If you like hot cereal for breakfast and want to cook with truly whole grains, rather than cracked or rolled, consider cooking a large batch overnight. Think about how many you’re cooking for, and how many days in advance you’d like to have it prepped. Be sure to remember that you have to reduce the amount you put in when cooking grains. This useful function alone may help you decide to go with a larger multicooker.
Many people have also started making homemade yogurt using their electric pressure cooker. Some models even have a button to keep your yogurt at the perfect temperature while it cultures. Yogurt makes a great healthy breakfast or snack, and you can save a lot of money by making it at home. You can even strain your finished yogurt to make your own homemade Greek style yogurt. If you choose a 6 quart instant pot size, you can make 4-5 quarts of yogurt at a time. This sounds like a lot until you think about how much yogurt a family with growing kids can go through in a week. If you’re straining out the whey to make a thicker finished product, you’ll lose quite a bit of volume. Choosing an 8 quart model that will let you make 6-7 quarts of (unstrained) yogurt at once could be a better choice for you.
Besides cooking things directly in the cooking pot itself, you can also use your instant pot to hold other containers and cook in them. For instance, if you prefer to make yogurt in smaller, reusable “to go” containers, think about what size you want to use. Consider how many less of them will fit easily into a 6 quart, compared to an 8 quart. Other things you might cook this way include custards and homemade jam. You can even use your instapot like an oven to make muffins or cakes.
Many DIY-ers have also started using their instant pots in place of hot plates or double boilers. The slow cook and yogurt settings can be used to help you infuse herbal oils, make your own lotions, salves, and much more. Since you’d be using smaller containers within the cooker for these as well, think about how many different types you’d want to make at once, and plan to buy a pot big enough to fit your jars. It’s easy to make the switch from double boiler to instant pot if you’re experienced, but you can also start with recipes that are already instant pot tested.
When you’re thinking of other uses you’ll put your new multicooker to, do be sure to check out the differences between models, as well as the actual instant pot sizes. Two cookers within the same brand may have the same size pot, but not necessarily the same functions built in. Some have an easy to use built-in yogurt or hot cereal setting, while others don’t.
Instant Pot Sizes – 8 Quart vs 6 Quart
Two of the most popular sizes of instant pot are the 6 and 8 quart. 6 quarts is often considered the average, and is available in virtually every model. It’s a great size for cooking for a small to medium family, and certainly large enough to do some batch cooking in. The inner pot fits easily in most dishwashers, and the cooker doesn’t take up a huge amount of space on your counter.
Advantages of an 8 Quart Instant Pot
This is all wonderful, and for many people, it’s all the cooker they’ll ever want. What’s the real benefit to consider bumping up to an 8 quart cooker, then? One reason would definitely be if you’re cooking for a larger group. It’s not just the number of people, though. Many parents will also know that teenage boys with hearty appetites might count for two (or more!) average eaters. Do the kids bring friends home for meals often? Do you like hosting dinner parties? If any of these apply to you, consider an 8 quart, even if only three people live in your house permanently.
Another good reason to consider upgrading to an 8 quart is if you’ve started doing batch cooking and making freezer meals. If you want to prep enough chicken for several week’s worth of meals, consider that a 6 quart will likely be able to cook one chicken, while you could cook two at once in an 8 quart. Know that it will take a fully loaded 8 quart instant pot a little longer to come up to cooking pressure than a 6 quart, but it’s still much faster than cooking two separate batches.
With a little time and thought, we’re sure you’ll find the perfect instant pot (or two) for your lifestyle.