Instant Pot Size Comparison – Which Is Best For You?

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In recent years, Instant Pots have exploded in popularity, and for good reason! These versatile kitchen gadgets really do have it all. They’re space-saving, time-saving, economical, easy to use, and convenient!

But when it comes to choosing an Instant Pot, the options are seemingly endless!

When it comes to size, which is the best Instant Pot to get? Instant Pots come in a range of different sizes, from a dinky 3-quart pot up to a huge 10-quart pot. The right one for your family will be able to fit in a full one-pot dinner to feed you all, with a bit of room for expansion if you have friends over!

Whether you don’t have an Instant Pot yet, or you’re interested in learning about different sized pots, we’ve got the ultimate guide to Instant Pots for you!

What Is An Instant Pot?

If you’re not already an Instant Pot fan, you will be by the time you have read this article! Many of us have become familiar with different types of cookers over the years.

There aren’t many kitchens that don’t boast a crockpot or pressure cooker, but where does the Instant Pot come into all this?

The Instant Pot is a relatively recent invention, first manufactured in 2009. The creators aimed to make a device that would perform many kitchen functions, and with this idea in mind, they developed the first multicooker on the market.

The basic concept of the Instant Pot was that it combined a crockpot with a pressure cooker. Now, these are two very different cooking methods, so let’s find out a bit more about them:

Pressure Cookers

A pressure cooker is a fast and energy-efficient cooking method. It works by creating a tight seal around the lid of the pot, which prevents steam from escaping.

This creates a very high pressure inside the pot, as well as holding in the heat.

The high-pressure steam is infused into the food, drastically cutting down the time it takes for food to cook. This is very convenient if you need to whip up a quick family dinner after a long day at work!

Crock-Pot (or Slow Cooker)

At the opposite end of the spectrum, we have the crockpot, also known as a slow cooker. These are also very energy efficient and work by cooking food slowly over a long period of time.

A crockpot normally consists of a large ceramic pot that sits inside an electrical unit.

This is gently heated at a very low temperature, just enough to create a slight simmer. Food is cooked slowly and gently, giving a delicious tender meal with a rich and intense flavor.

Multifunctional Instant Pots

So, the Instant Pot cleverly combines these two cooking methods. This means you can pick and choose which to use depending on your requirements.

In a rush to get dinner ready after the school run? Pick the pressure cooker setting. Want to prep dinner before you leave for work in the morning? Use the slow cooker function. Clever stuff!

However, it doesn’t end there! The original Instant Pot multicookers were marketed as 6-in-1 devices, with settings including slow cook, pressure cook, sauté, and keep warm.

But since then, the Instant Pot team has got really creative, and you can now purchase a multicooker with up to 11 different functions!

One of the most versatile Instant Pots on the market at the moment is the Instant Pot Duo Evo Plus, which can cook using all of these methods:

  • Pressure cooker
  • Sous vide
  • Sauté pan
  • Slow cooker
  • Rice cooker
  • Food warmer
  • Yogurt maker
  • Cake maker
  • Stock pot
  • Steamer

How versatile is that! One of these pots could replace many of your other kitchen gadgets, and the simple program settings mean that they’re foolproof to use.

Before we go onto the different sizes, there are two other new and innovative Instant Pot functions we are very excited about!

The first of these is that some of the new models come with WiFi capability. This means you can control your Instant Pot remotely, turning it on to cook or reheat your dinner from your car, office, or school. How cool is that!

The second exciting Instant Pot development is that they now do a range of Instant Pots which can also be used as an air fryer.

The Instant Pot Duo Crisp can do everything listed above, and will also create perfectly fried or roasted foods. We really can’t think of anything else we’d need a multicooker to do, apart from cleaning itself of course!

What Can Instant Pots Be Used For?

Even the most basic Instant Pot can be used as a slow cooker, pressure cooker, and to reheat cooked food.

The pressure cooker function is great for anything which normally takes a long time to cook. Most people use it for stews, casseroles, tougher cuts of meat, beans, lentils, soup, potatoes, and even a whole chicken.

And what about the slow cooker? Well, it does exactly the same! The low and slow heat of a crockpot will tenderize even the toughest foods, but over a much longer period of time than the pressure cooker.

One thing these two Instant Pot settings are not great as is vegetables. If you want your greens to be fresh and crisp, not soft and mushy, then use the steamer setting instead.

Depending on the type of Instant Pot you buy, you may also be able to use it to cook rice, pasta, yogurt, cakes, stock, and a huge range of other cooking techniques. 

In fact, the possibilities are endless! People use their Instant Pots to prove bread, create puddings and desserts, make jams, chutneys, and marmalades, and even cook eggs!

Have we got you hooked on the idea of an Instant Pot yet? If so, the first decision you need to make is what size pot you will need. Let’s take a look at Instant Pot sizes and find the perfect one for you!

What Sizes Do Instant Pots Come In?

Instant Pots come in four different sizes. These range from a mini 3-quart pot, up to a giant 10-quart pot.

If you are struggling to visualize how big these might be, here is a handy guide:

SizeVolume (liters)Volume (pints)Average HeightAverage Width
3 Quart2.8611 inches11 inches
6 Quart5.61212.5 inches13 inches
8 Quart7.51614 inches14 inches
10 Quart9.52016 inches16 inches

It is important to remember that the actual dimensions do vary according to the type of Instant Pot you buy, so check these carefully if the overall size is a big priority for you.

The last thing you want is an Instant Pot which takes up most of your worktop space!

Also, if you pick an air fryer model it will come with a separate lid for frying, which is much taller. You will also need a place to store the air fryer lid and any other accessories.

How Much Food Can You Prepare In An Instant Pot?

To figure out what size Instant Pot to buy, you first need to know how much food you can fit into each one. This is not always an easy thing to describe, so to simplify it we’ve given examples of what would fit in each size pot:

  • 3 quart—a full dinner for 2 people, such as a casserole of stewing steak, potatoes, and vegetables. 
  • 6 quart—a whole medium-sized chicken, or a joint of meat up to 2 pounds in weight
  • 8 quart—a larger joint of meat, or a batch-cooked meal big enough to feed a small family 2-3 times.
  • 10 quart—a huge batch of soup, step, or casserole! We estimate you could get 4-5 family-sized dinners from this giant Instant Pot.

Obviously, these are all just estimations, and you will need to judge for yourselves how much food you could put in your Instant Pot. These pots also have a fill line, so it is important to remember not to overfill them.

This is particularly vital when using the pressure cooker functions with the vent closed.

How To Choose The Best Size Instant Pot For You

We would suggest that, as a guide, you should opt for an Instant Pot which is big enough to cook a full one-pot dinner for your whole family, with a bit of extra space if possible.

So, if you think you’ll only ever use your Instant Pot to cook for yourself and perhaps one other person, then you might consider getting the smallest 3-quart pot.

You would be able to fit a 2-portion casserole or stew in this model, and perhaps a very small cut of meat or a few baby back ribs.

We’d suggest that the 3-quart pot is perfect for places with limited room or storage space. It can be used to cook for 1-2 people but isn’t big enough for batch cooking or bulky meals.

If you have more than one Instant Pot, then a smaller one like this would be handy for cooking side dishes.

However, if you look at the external dimensions, the 6-quart pot is twice the cooking volume of the 3-quart model, but only a couple of inches bigger in size.

We’d suggest upgrading to this size if you can, and then you can use your Instant Pot to cook for friends or make larger batches of food to store in the freezer.

The 6-quart Instant Pot is considered to be the perfect size for a family of 4. You can fit a small joint of meat or whole chicken inside this pot, and it will make large batches of soup or casserole as well.

Most people find that they can cook enough food for 6 people in a 6-quart pot.

If you are a larger family or like to cook in bulk, then the 8-quart pot might be a better option. This pot would also be great for someone who likes to cook in batches for the freezer!

The 8-quart instant pot will easily hold a medium to large joint of meat, or a larger whole chicken.

However, if you want to cook just one meal in your pot, this would probably be too large for most small or medium-sized families. Expect to have some leftovers, which is no bad thing!

The 10-quart Instant Pot is for seriously big families or people who love to cook in bulk. They are great for catering for parties, dinners, and events such as summer fairs and Halloween.

The 10-quart pot also comes into its own if you want to keep a large amount of food at the perfect temperature for eating, such as soup or a casserole.

Not many people opt for a 10-quart instant pot, as it does mean you are committed to making a larger meal every time. Yes, you could underfill the pot, but then it does not work as efficiently, and your food may not cook evenly.

So, which is the best size Instant Pot? Most people opt for a 6 quart or 8-quart pot. The former is perfect for smaller families, while the latter is great if you have a larger family or enjoy batch cooking.

We’d only suggest getting the 3-quart Instant Pot if you only ever intend to cook for yourself and maybe one other person. At the other extreme, the 10-quart version is ideally suited to huge families or seriously committed batch cookers!

Related Questions

Now that we’ve gone over what you can use an instant pot for, let’s take a look at a few related questions on the subject!

What happens if you fill an Instant Pot too full?

One vital thing to remember when it comes to Instant Pots is to never fill them too full. The maximum fill line is there for good reason, so ignore it at your peril!

If an Instant Pot is overfilled it may result in food that is unevenly cooked. This is at best annoying, and at worst could result in food that is unappetizing and even potentially inedible.

Another problem caused by overfilling an Instant Pot is overspill. These may be liquids that splatter over the edge of the pot, creating a mess and potential burns.

Overfilling with rice or other expanding foods may cause them to become welded to the lid, and they will also not cook through properly.

What happens if you underfill an Instant Pot?

If you underfill an Instant Pot the food will cook too quickly, and potentially burn.

Most Instant Pots have pre-set programs intended for a specific amount of food, and reducing the amount will cause your ingredients to be overcooked and potentially inedible.

Another problem caused by underfilling an Instant Pot is insufficient water. To avoid burning, you need at least one cup of liquid in your recipe.

Reducing the portion size too much will reduce the overall liquid content, creating the potential for a burnt dinner!

The rule of thumb is to aim for a pot that is two-thirds full if cooking soups, stews, or casseroles. If cooking rice, pasta, beans, or other expanding foods, then half full is perfect.

What happens if you open an Instant Pot under pressure?

This is an experiment that we definitely do not want you to try at home! When in the closed-vent pressure cooking mode, steam builds up under enormous pressure inside your Instant Pot. 

If you were to open the lid at this point, then your food—and boiling hot steam and liquid—would explode upwards into the air!

This would not only end up with your dinner splattered everywhere but potentially also cause serious burns and scalds.

This is why many Instant Pots have a locking system, which means it is impossible to open it whilst under pressure. The vent must be opened and steam allowed to escape before the lid is opened.

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