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Instant Pot Duo 6-Quart Review: A Year Hands-On with a Basic Pressure Cooker

By Luna Regina | Updated
Our recommendations are made independently through research and testing following our review procedure. We may receive commissions from purchases made via our links at no additional costs to you.

When we bought our first Instant Pot Duo in June 2020, our chef, cooks, and in-house reviewers were all excited about it. The appliance has since been employed in our kitchen to cook a wide range of food, and for the most part, it gave us excellent results. 

In order to confirm the efficiency and convenience of the Instant Pot Duo, we tested it again last week, putting it through some common cooking tasks. We also conducted new safety tests to determine if the cooker remains safe after a year of heavy service.

Read on to find out what we discovered. 

Overall Verdict 

We tested an Instant Pot Duo over the course of a full year while we developed a whole collection of Instant Pot recipes. And after such a long period of heavy-duty use, we’ve concluded that this is the best pressure cooker to buy. It looks solid, works consistently, and is practical to use. In spite of the relatively low price, its quality holds up pretty well, giving it a deserved reputation as the most in-demand kitchen appliance.

Instant Pot Duo 6-Quart Review

Things We Like

  • Affordable 
  • Nice performance 
  • Various cooking options  
  • UL- and ULC-certified for safety 
  • Easy to clean 
  • Straightforward to use

Things We Don’t Like

  • Complicated lid 
  • Undrable silicone gasket 

Specifications 

  • Color: Black
  • Capacity: 6 Quarts (5.68 Liters)
  • Weight: 11.8 Pounds
  • Voltage: 120 Volts
  • Control Method: Touch
  • Controller Type: Push Button 
  • Cooking Presets: 13
  • Safety (UL/ULC certified): 10 Safety Features
  • Material: Stainless Steel
  • Weight: 10 pounds
  • Dimensions: 13.38 x 12.2 x 12.48 Inches
  • Wattage: 1000 Watts

Functions:  Soup, Meat/Stew, Bean/Chili, Poultry, Sauté, Steam, Rice, Porridge, Multigrain, Yogurt, Slow Cook, Keep Warm, and Pressure Cook.

Instant Pot Duo vs. Stovetop Cookware: Which Performs Better? 

For the performance tests on the Instant Pot Duo, we cooked Thai chicken curry, beef stew, and chicken soup. All of these dishes require different preparation, functions, and cooking times. The results were then compared to the same dishes made with traditional cookware because we wanted to see the differences between the two methods in terms of active and inactive cooking time. 

Plus, we checked how well each method worked by evaluating the food for flavor, doneness, and texture. Was the pot roast evenly cooked with tender, succulent meat, or did it end up with tough and chewy chunks? 

A quick note about definitions: 

  • Active time: The time you spend doing hands-on cooking, like stirring, tossing, and adding vegetables, from start to finish.
  • Inactive time: The time when the food is cooking without the need for you to monitor or supervise. 
  • Total cooking time: Inactive time + Active time. 

Thai Chicken Curry: The Instant Pot Cooks Faster and Retains More Nutrients

As we predicted, the pressure cooker’s talents weren't prominently shown in this test. The chicken was cooked and became fully tender quite quickly in both pots. 

However, at each cooking stage, we found that the pressure cooker did an excellent job in maintaining its ideal temperature range. As such, it took just 15 minutes to complete the dish, which was twice as fast as the stovetop method. 

Other than the shorter cooking time, the machine didn't make any substantial difference in the food's flavor and doneness. The chicken was perfectly cooked while the veggies were juicy and flavor-packed without any burnt edges. However, the gap in cooking time did create a discrepancy in the food’s color and nutritional value. As a general rule of thumb, the longer food is cooked, the more its color, texture, and nutritional value deteriorates.

Thai Chicken Curry Recipe
 Instant Pot DuoSaucepan
Active time8 mins10 mins
Inactive Time7 mins15 mins
Total Time15 mins25 mins
Detailed recipeDetailed recipe

Beef Stew: The Instant Pot Wins Hands Down

To create a pot of classic stovetop beef stew, we spent about two hours in the kitchen, nearly a half of which was active time. We had to check and stir the contents every 30 minutes. Otherwise, food might burn and stick to the pan’s bottom. 

Despite the extended hours of simmering, however, the stovetop beef chunks were still pretty tough to the teeth. In contrast, the veggies were too mushy and soggy, which meant their naturally sweet flavors were also impaired.  

That stood in stark contrast to the Instant Pot Duo which took only an hour and a half, most of which was inactive cooking time. The pot roast was full of beautiful aromas with fall-apart beef chunks, crisp-tender carrots, and creamy potatoes.

Beef Stew Recipe
 Instant Pot DuoSaucepan
Active time30 mins50 mins
Inactive time55 mins1 hr 10 mins
Total time1 hr 25 mins2 hours
Detailed recipeDetailed recipe

Chicken and Rice Soup: The Instant Pot Ultimate Convenience    

This Chicken and Rice Soup is made with veggies, rice, and chicken simmered in a seasoned broth. For a smooth and creamy texture, it was then pureed in an immersion blender for five seconds. 

In this test, both the cooking methods produced delicious pots of soup. However, because the Instant Pot turned out more tender and succulent food, its soup was easier to purée and didn't retain any residual solids. Stovetop soup, on the other hand, didn’t look smooth, although it was blended with a similar immersion blender.

Chicken and Rice Soup Recipe

What really impressed us was this pressure cooker’s exceptional convenience, since up to two thirds of its total cooking time was inactive time. We didn’t have to constantly stir the mixture to prevent burnt-on food as demanded by the stovetop. 

Best of all, the Instant Pot allows us to prepare an entire meal in just one pot, eliminating the need for a standalone rice cooker. When we cooked rice on the stovetop, we had to stand by and check it every ten minutes until it reached the right texture. Otherwise, the rice would be overcooked or become too mushy. 

Who wants to spend every spare minute of their busy day staring at the stovetop when there is a tool that can leave you with more time for other activities? Not us.

 Instant Pot DuoSaucepan
Active time10 mins22 mins
Inactive time17 mins28 mins
Total time27 mins50 mins
Detailed recipeDetailed recipe

Safety Tests

There has been some controversy over the safety of pressure cookers; some unreliable models have the potential to explode, resulting in scalding burns while you’re cooking. So, even though the Instant Pot Duo’s safety mechanisms meet UL & ULC requirements, we still did a little hands-on testing of our own. This could have been dangerous for us, but that makes it safer for you.

Lid Position Detection Test

This safety function is designed to prevent the cooker from starting its pressure-cook program if its lid is not in a safe position. In our own testing, we found this claim to be partly accurate. 

When we put the lid in the right position but didn’t lock it, the board showed the “lid” warning and the machine didn’t allow cooking to begin. 

Lid Position Detection Feature

When we positioned the lid improperly and didn’t get an airtight seal, however, our device still began to cook without any warnings. This cannot cause explosions but will prevent the cooker from building the pressure necessary to cook quickly. 

Overheat Protection Test 

We began our test by letting the pot operate on a “Steam” setting without food inside. After a few minutes of building pressure, the display showed a “Food Burn’’ message. We also heard an alarming sound from the multi-cooker, but the volume was too low to be helpful.

In another test, we cooked rice with too little water to determine whether overheating may occur when the pressure cooker is operated without sufficient cooking liquid. The pot showed its excellence in this test.

The display did flash a “burn” message after we activated our cooker, then went back to “On,” indicating that the cooking would continue once the pot was wholly preheated. Although the machine didn’t turn off on its own after the burn error, it did automatically lower the heat output to keep the rice from being overcooked. We didn't even see a layer of burnt rice at the pot’s bottom; the rice was merely too dry.

Depressurization Process: Safer and Extra Convenient 

Many pressure cooker accidents have been linked to steam release valves, where highly pressurized steam escapes and can potentially cause severe burns. That’s why we really appreciate the Instant Pot Duo steam release handle.

Steam Release Handle

For a quick depressurization, we simply turn the handle to the “Venting” position on the lid; a jet of steam will then escape through the top of the handle. This is a departure from some models featuring quick release buttons that must be held down continuously until all internal pressure has been released. We appreciate being able to get our hands far away from the superheated steam and any spatter that may come with it.

That said, letting the pressure out is still a bit scary since the Instant Pot can produce a loud and forceful geyser of steam, especially after cooking lots of food for an extended period. For optimal safety, we often use a wooden spoon to turn the handle. 

Lid: Space-Saving Design but Difficult to Close 

The stainless steel lid is removable for thorough cleaning, so our cooks never fret about the cleanup process. Plus, even after a year, the lid is still in great condition. It doesn’t show any damage or excessive wear that might lead to leakage or explosion. 

The biggest drawback is that the lid is pretty challenging to close, especially for beginners. For the first few attempts, we struggled to figure out how to align it properly. The positioning marker is not easy to see clearly, so we may have a hard time.

There is a little fin on each side of the lid, allowing it to slot into a bracket on the base. Should any condensation drip down, a little plastic cup that clips to the back will catch it, keeping your countertop clean. We like this particular design because it resolves an ever-present problem; there’s no need to clear counter space for a greasy lid this way. 

As a bonus, when you open or close the lid, the cooker will play a little jingle. All the precautions are printed on the lid too; you probably don’t even have to consult the manual.

Control Panel: Not Fancy but Rather Intuitive 

The control panel with red LED display is not the sleekest, but it works and could not be easier to use. As long as you have good recipes on hand, its simplicity means there isn’t much of a learning curve. We even figured out how each program worked before reading the user manual. 

Peel-Off Buttons

The keypad is responsive and the buttons don’t demand much pressure to activate. Some other cookers’ controls may not respond so well after a year of use, but the Instant Pot Duo is a trooper. So far, all its keys work fine (though the printing on a few has begun to peel off  due to daily use). 

Inner Pot: Not Non-Stick but Easy to Clean

Made of stainless steel, the cooking pot is relatively thick, but it’s still best  not to drop it. Impacts can put dents in the metal, causing uneven heating and cooking.

Not-Nonstick Inner Pot

As with all Instant Pot pressure cookers, the pot doesn’t have a non-stick surface. This will become especially apparent after sauteing. However, cleaning isn’t particularly challenging; soak it for a while and burnt-on food will come right off.

Keep Warm Function: Great Performance 

Instant Pot’s advertisers insist the Duo can hold food at its serving temperature for up to 10 hours without degrading the meal’s quality. Many appliances, however, actually slow-cook the food to a slight degree when they are set to warm. They dry the food out over time.

Therefore, to make sure this isn't an exaggerated advertising claim, we set a warming timer to five hours after the machine had finished cooking our beef stew. At “Normal” warming temperature, the food still stayed juicy. We used a thermometer to check food temperature and noticed that everything remained in the safe-temperature zone. Heat was distributed so evenly that there weren’t any cold spots.

Cleaning: All the Removable Parts are Dishwasher-Safe 

Cleaning has never been a point of tension since all the Instant Pot Duo’s removable parts can be put in the dishwasher. And even though the base cannot be immersed in water, it is very simple to hand-wash. Clean the outer body with a damp cloth or sponge.

We will note that discoloration may occur after machine washing certain parts because of the abrasive nature of dishwasher detergents, but this will not impair the cooker’s safety or performance.

The main drawback is, well, funk. Upon opening things up, we were hit with some lingering scents from the carne asada we’d made ten days before. This likely wasn’t the result of improper cleaning, but rather the sealing ring. It absorbs intense aromas and certain flavors after long-term use. 

The Instant Pot manufacturers state clearly that extra rings are good to keep on hand to limit the transfer of disparate aromas and flavors, but they only include one ring in the package.

Instant Pot Offical Recipes: Should be Improved 

Of all the brands we’ve played with hands-on, Instant Pot’s user manual is the most understandable. Rather than text-heavy content, it has both a written guide and full-color images which make it impressively informative. We got the most out of our cooker because its functions are so clearly explained. 

The online recipes left much to be desired, though. With more than 1,000 official recipes, we appreciate the manufacturer's effort in helping their users to take the guesswork out of healthy meals. However, some recipes seem not to be kitchen-tested while others weren’t even designed for this pressure cooker.

Bad Recipe Instructions

We’ve tried to prepare a fudgy chocolate cake following this particular recipe on the Instant Pot official website, and the result wasn’t what we expected. The cake turned out so mushy that it wouldn’t retain its shape and we couldn’t really cut it. 

How the Instant Pot Duo Compared Against Other Versions

We haven’t tested other models from the Instant Pot pressure cooker collection, but we’ve spent several days going through hundreds of customer reviews and testimonies from retailer websites so as to give you the best answer. 

Instant Pot Lux: We don’t recommend this model as its exterior often gets hot while cooking. Plus, it only operates on “High” pressure setting, so we suspect it may not be a good tool for preparing hard-boiled eggs or seafood dishes. 

Instant Pot Ultra: This version doesn’t perform better than the Instant Pot Duo, but it has more capabilities such as the “Sterilize” and “Cake” functions. With an easy-to-rotate dial, its fancy display also provides a greater degree of control and customization. That said, because the center dial is made of plastic, it may be more likely to deform from the heat and then get stuck after extended use. 

Instant Pot Smart: This pressure cooker is unique in that it allows you to control it remotely using your smartphone. This is a nice feature, but we chose not to test this model as we thought only a handful of people would find it that valuable. Plus, it’s pricey, costing roughly twice as much as the Duo, while not including any new features. 

Instant Pot Max: Capable of reaching a higher pressure than any traditional electric pressure cooker, the Max is supposed to cook even more quickly, but it doesn’t. It doesn’t do a very good job of sous vide cooking, either. All things considered, we don’t think this model is worth the extra cost. 

Instant Pot Duo Crisp: This model may serve you well when roasting, crisping, and air-frying, but we think most people find its small cooking capacity limiting. It can only accommodate about two servings at a time. Plus, the air-fry basket is poorly-made; the coating starts to chip off after only a few uses. Its nonstick coating also doesn’t work well enough even when it’s in pristine condition. So, we think the Duo Crisp is not actually a great deal, especially given its high price tag. 

Is the Instant Pot Duo Worth the Money 

After evaluating all the test results, we’re confident that the Instant Pot Duo is entirely worth the price. 

It’s a fantastic product for any food lover given its convenience operation, speedy cooking, and consistent performance. Whether you’re new to pressure cooking or looking to upgrade your single-function stovetop pressure cooker, this is a nice item that really can’t steer you wrong. 

It is the best option for those short on counter space, too. Since it is multi-functional, combining a rice cooker, slow cooker, and pressure cooker into one machine, it reduces buying cost and keeps your kitchen clutter-free. 

Should You Buy the Instant Pot Duo? 

Instant Pot Duo is a basic, medium-quality pressure cooker, but it looks solid, does a good job of pressure cooking, and is simple to operate. While there are other models with greater versatility, it is efficient enough to make short work of your cooking.

As a pioneer in the field, the Duo cannot compete with its successors in terms of advanced features. However, as far as standard pressure cookers and multi-cookers go, it comes with everything you will need. We highly recommend it! 

About our Review and Why Trust Us

We purchased The Instant Pot Duo of our own accord and have tested it right in our kitchen. We didn’t judge the product based on sponsorship or donations. Its pros and cons are reflections of our actual hands-on testing and our experience as actual users. 

Plus, this entire year served as a long-term test run that involved not only kitchen tool enthusiasts, but also a professional chef and multiple cooks with many years of experience in the culinary industry. Our recommendation comes from a place of true experience.

Luna Regina

A writer and entrepreneur, Luna’s day doesn’t start at the computer keyboard, but in the kitchen. Half of her working hours are spent on mixing ingredients for her recipes. The other half involve working with the tech team to research and test the tools and appliances that promise to make kitchen work effortless and mess-free. From a kitchen knife or water filter to the Instant Pot, if it can help save time and effort for the home cook, Luna and her team are on it. Luna’s extracurricular pastimes include camping, travel, and photography.