Have you been considering buying an Instant Pot? The fact that you can put the food in, close the lid, push a couple of buttons, and then walk away, even out of the kitchen makes this a must-have appliance in today’s kitchen. It’s just so easy to use. But what size Instant Pot should you get?
Maybe you already own one and you’re thinking of buying another one and you’re not sure which size you should get. Well, I took the three main sizes of Instant Pots – 8 qt., 6 qt., and 3 qt. and compared them to help you have a better idea of which one is right for you?
UPDATE: Amazon Price Specials on Instant Pots (02/11/20)
(Some links in this post are affiliate links. See my disclosure policy here.)
Three years ago during Amazon Prime Day, I purchased a 6 qt. Instant Pot that was on sale. And I quickly realized what a great addition it was to my kitchen. The first thing I made was a continuous beef bone broth. I cooked the bones and water under pressure and then switched to slow cooking and kept it going for several days. We were having cups of delicious and healthy bone broth every day and I simply added additional water each day to replace what we had taken from it.
The next year when Amazon Prime Day came (July 10-11) I wanted to get my daughter her own Instant Pot as she was getting married that fall. The one that was on special was the 8 qt. size. When it arrived we realized how much bigger it really was than the one I already had.
Then just a few days later my sister told me about the newest Instant Pot that was a 3 qt. size. I immediately began thinking of ways that this size would be helpful. When it arrived we were instantly struck by how small and cute it was!
Now one thing about Instant Pots is that even though they are called Instant they really aren’t instant. They still need to come up to pressure to cook and that can take several minutes or more. But would the smaller Instant Pot come to pressure quicker and make my meals a little faster? Which one would work best for everyday use?
So I decided to test and compare them and see which one I liked best. I compared their sizes inside and out and how fast they came to pressure.
Let’s start with how tall are Instant Pots?
Starting out let’s look at their general size. The little 3 qt. is just adorable and lightweight. It would be easy to find a place on your counter for it.
The 6 qt. is a nice moderate height. I have an old farmhouse and the upper cabinets in my kitchen come down low so not very many appliances actually fit under my cabinets. But this one does! I always pull it out when I cook with it so when I release the steam it doesn’t go directly on the cabinets.
The 8 qt. is definitely a big girl. She isn’t going to be tucked away anywhere. She’s going to be a show stopper and take up her fair share of the space.
What’s the diameter of Instant Pots?
The inside of each pot is where the real action is going to be happening and how much can fit in it.
There are several things to think about when looking at the diameter. A frozen roast of good size isn’t going to fit in the 3 qt. If I’m going to be doing any freezer cooking where I place a frozen meal in the pot to cook I’ll need to be sure to freeze the meal in a container that will be slightly smaller than the diameter of the pot.
Also, the “pot in pot” method should be considered too. The “pot in pot” method is cooking foods inside the pot in smaller pots, like ball jars, ramekins, or stackable pans. This method would work in all three sizes but will be limited with the smaller 3 qt.
To give a comparison of the size of each I placed this large steamer basket inside each one.
The 3 qt. has room for the steamer with the sides straight up.
The 6 qt has room for the steamer with the sides spread out about halfway.
The 8 qt. has room for the steamer to spread the sides out about 3/4 the way.
Of course, you can close the sides on the steamer and enclose what is being cooked and even layer this above another dish, but this way you can get a feel for the size difference.
What comes with an Instant Pot?
All three of these Instant Pots come with a wire rack, a measuring cup, two spoons, and a little cup that attaches to the back of the pot to catch condensation. They each come with a recipe book, general instruction book, and a quick look sheet.
How fast does an Instant Pot come to pressure?
The things that you can cook in the Instant Pot is endless. To that end, I have several links at the end of this post featuring delicious recipes that would be just the tip of the iceberg.
So I wanted to cook something that was common and that I had success with already with my 6 qt. pot. I decided to make the brown rice recipe that is included in the recipe book that comes with each Instant Pot. I put the 2 cups of brown rice in each pot. Added in 2 1/2 cups of water and closed the lids. Made sure the steam valve was closed and set the pots on Manual/Pressure Cook for 22 minutes.
As soon as they started I set that timer and watched the pots. I was ready to jot down the time that it took for each one to come to pressure and then begin to do actual 22 minutes of cooking at pressure.
Which one would get to pressure first. I thought that the 3 qt. would be the first, but I was wrong. The first to come to pressure was the 6 qt.
The 6 qt. took 8:47 minutes to come to pressure.
The 8 qt. took 9:46 minutes to come to pressure.
The 3 qt. took 11:15 minutes to come to pressure.
I was really surprised.
When the pots were all done and the pressure had been released the surface area of the pots did seem to make a difference in the final outcome of the rice. All the pots of rice were perfectly cooked, but the width of the pot of the 8 qt. seemed to make the rice cook a little more and almost was sticking to the bottom of the pot in a few spots. The 3 qt. rice was the fluffiest and prettiest and there was no sticking at all. The 6 qt. seemed somewhat in the middle, nicely cooked, no sticking, but not as fluffy as the 3 qt.
I really thought the 3 qt. would come to pressure quicker and make the total cooking time less, but the wattage is not as strong on the 3 qt. and it did make a difference in cooking time.
Which Instant Pot do I like the best and my recommendations
The 3 qt. didn’t make my rice cook any quicker, but it’s so cute and handy I think I’ll be using it a lot as an additional helper. Plus it’ll be perfect to cook sides in or when cooking for 1-2 people. My sister loves to use this size to keep her cheese dips warm during parties. She likes it better than using a slow-cooker as the sides don’t get overcooked or hard.
The big 8 qt. will go with my daughter when she gets married, but I have a feeling I’m going to miss it. It can hold a lot. Cooking for a larger family? This would be the one to go with.
The 6 qt. will probably always be out on my counter ready to go. Is it just right? It’s pretty close, but if I had a growing family I think the 8 qt. would win out. And if my cabinets were just a little higher. Overall, if you are cooking for 2-5 people I think this would be the best size.
Instant Pot Accessories
There a lot and I mean a lot of accessories that you can use in your Instant Pot to make your cooking experience even easier. Here are a couple that I recently purchased that I can see myself using frequently.
The pan on the left is a 6″ x 3″ cheesecake pan. When I found out that my future-son-law loves cheesecake I decided I needed to get one of these pans. I’m planning on making Carey’s Cheesecake for him and then I’ll need to find a good dairy-free recipe for us girls. If you know of any please leave me a link in the comments below. This pan fits inside all three sizes of the Instant Pots.
The 3 qt. wire mesh container on the right is great for cooking things like a whole chicken, well actually anything with bones in it and you can pull it right out without having to fish around for them or pour through a strainer. It also came with two handles on the sides and I popped them off so it would easily fit in the Instant Pots. You could bend them straight up, but when I did that part of one side popped off, so I decided to just take them off. This strainer does not fit in the 3 qt. Instant Pot– it’s basically the same size.
And then there’s this glass lid that my sister bought for her Instant Pot. This is the 8 qt. size. This is would be very handy for serving food to guests from your Instant Pot. That way they wouldn’t have to navigate the pressure lid as it can be a little tricky getting on and off if you’ve never handled it. There is also a glass lid the 6 qt., and a glass lid for the 3 qt.
Tips for Adjusting Recipes for 8 qt, 6 qt, and the 3 qt Instant Pots:
The Instant Pot website says that you do not need to adjust cooking times between the three sizes. That stays the same. But you do need to adjust the liquid that you add to the pot to bring the food to pressure.
- For the 6 qt, it calls for 1 cup liquid to be added to the pot.
- For the 8 qt, it calls for 2 cups liquid to be added
- And the 3 qt calls for 1/2 cup liquid to be added.
Except for foods that absorb the liquid like rice, pasta, or oatmeal. You leave the liquid amount the same.
MamaShire Instant Pot Recipes:
Farmhouse Beans & Sausage
Easy Instant Pot Vegetable Soup
Instant Pot Potato Soup (Dairy-free)
Gluten-Free Creamy Hamburger Soup (Dairy-Free)
How to Cut and Cook a Spaghetti Squash
Dairy-Free Zuppa Toscana (Gluten-Free)
Traditional Beef Stew (Gluten-Free)
UPDATE: Amazon Price Specials on Instant Pots (02/11/20)