Instant Pot Ultra vs Duo (Which is Best?)

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Instant Pot Duo is the classic model. It was one of their first and it’s a good yardstick to measure other models (and pressure cookers from other brands as well). That being said, Ultra is one of their premium models, but does it have enough features to justify the higher cost? We’re going to review Instant Pot Ultra vs Duo to see which is truly the best.

We’re going to compare and contrast Instant Pot Duo vs Ultra based on appliances, smart programs, accessories, and any other differences that we can find.

Read on to see which one wins the battle of the best pressure cooker.

Instant Pot UltraInstant Pot Duo

Instant Pot Duo vs Ultra: Appliances

While Instant Pots are called pressure cookers, that’s not entirely accurate. The truth is that they all include multiple appliances that you access through buttons on the control panel. Even standard models like Duo come with multiple appliances that make Instant Pot one of the most versatile kitchen appliances on the planet.

While Duo has a sizable selection of functions, Ultra has even more. Does it have enough though to make it worth getting? Let’s take a closer look.

The appliances you get with Ultra and Duo are:

Appliances

AppliancesInstant Pot UltraInstant Pot Duo
Pressure CookerYesYes
SteamerYesYes
Rice CookerYesYes
Slow CookerYesYes
WarmerYesYes
Yogurt MakerYesYes
Saute/SearingYesYes
Cake MakerYesNo
Egg MakerYesNo
SterilizerYesNo

Both of these cover the basics, but Ultra speeds ahead with three extra appliances. It comes with a built-in cake maker, egg cooker, and sterilizer (which is perfect for baby bottles, equipment, and anything else that needs to be germ-free).

While Duo can obviously make cake and eggs, it can’t sterilize. Not only that, but you’ll have to use the manual settings while Ultra allows you to do this with the push of a button.

Both are highly versatile, but the real winner here is Ultra. It comes with many more appliances and is more useful in the kitchen.

However, if you only care about more basic cooking methods (rice cooker, saute pan, slow cooker), then they are both even. We always like getting more, so we recommend Ultra over Duo.

Check Price: Instant Pot Ultra – >

Instant Pot Ultra vs Duo: Smart Programs

Smart programs are an Instant Pot innovation that they are incredibly useful. These are super convenient settings that make it easier than ever to cook delicious meals like soup, meat, rice, cake, and more.

While you can always play with the manual settings, smart programs access the Instant Pot’s microprocessor so that the computer watches over and improves your meal by making subtle changes. You won’t even notice these changes, but you will notice how your meal tastes much better than you expected.

So, does Instant Pot Ultra or Duo have more smart programs? Let’s compare them.

The smart programs you get are:

Smart Programs

Smart ProgramInstant Pot UltraInstant Pot Duo
Soup/BrothYesYes
Bean/ChiliYesYes
Meat/StewYesYes
RiceYesYes
MultigrainYesYes
SauteYesYes
PoultryNoYes
YogurtYesYes
PorridgeYesYes
SteamYesYes
Pressure CookYesYes
Keep WarmYesYes
Slow CookYesYes
EggYesNo
CakeYesNo
SterilizeYesNo
UltraYesNo

Once again, Ultra wins. Duo has a surprising number of smart programs, and it even has one that Ultra lacks, the poultry smart program. However, Ultra covers this with the meat/stew setting, and it has a far more flexible program that makes Ultra worth the extra cost.

You might notice that the final smart program is named after the pressure cooker: Ultra. What does this do? It’s an incredibly versatile program that you can set to nearly any temperature, appliances, or time limit. This ensures that the computer watches over your meal so that it’s perfect, no matter what you’re cooking.

In truth, only the Duo Evo Plus matches this versatility with its 48 customizable presets. If you’re curious, then check out our Instant Pot Ultra vs Duo Evo Plus review.

Not only that, but Ultra also comes with the sterilize, cake, and egg programs.

Duo has a lot of programs that will suit many users, but Ultra comes with way more and we think it’s worth the extra cost. This is the best pressure cooker for the home chef and it really shows.

Check Price: Instant Pot Duo – >

Instant Pot Duo vs Ultra: Sizes

Some models only come in one size, but many models come in multiple sizes that you can choose from. You might be wondering what the best Instant Pot size is and what sizes these models come in.

Don’t worry, we’ll answer both questions.

Instant Pot sizes range from 3 quarts, 6 quarts, 8 quarts, and 10 quarts. As of this writing, Duo Nova is the only model that comes in 10 quart. The other models come in one or more of the other sizes.

While there might be some difference based on how much you like to eat and prepare, but the general rule is that the 3 quart Instant Pot is good for 1-2 people, 6 quart Instant Pot is good for a family of 5, and the 8 quart Instant Pot is good for 6+ people and parties.

That being said, which pressure cooker has the right size for you?

The sizes you can choose from are:

Instant Pot Ultra Sizes

  • Instant Pot Ultra 3qt
  • Instant Pot Ultra 6qt
  • Instant Pot Ultra 8qt

Instant Pot Duo Sizes

  • Instant Pot Duo 3 qt
  • Instant Pot Duo 6 qt
  • Instant Pot Duo 8 qt

That’s right, they both offer the exact same sizes. This is fairly rare, but it just shows the popularity of both models that they decided to offer as many sizes as possible. Once again, the only model in the entire lineup that offers more variety is Duo Nova (which you can learn more about with our Duo vs Duo Nova review).

Also, keep in mind that the smaller 3qt Instant Pot both in Duo and Ultra has fewer features than the other larger sizes. This is common across the board. However, you still get all the main appliances and features to enjoy.

Instant Pot Ultra vs Duo: Accessories

Accessories are great because they give your pressure cooker some more functionality, but we don’t believe that anyone buys these models exclusively for the accessories. To be honest, Instant Pot could do better in this category in general, but we’re thrilled with what we do get with the appliances and smart programs.

That being said, which accessories do these models come with?

The Instant Pot Duo accessories include a steam rack with handles and an extra sealing ring.

Instant Pot Ultra accessories include both the steam rack with handles and sealing ring, but you also get several other accessories. You get a rice paddle, measuring cup, soup spoon, and condensation collector.

Duo accessories are pretty good because the steam rack is very useful, and who doesn’t want an extra sealing ring? However, the Ultra accessories include these and several other pieces that make it even more useful.

The winner here is obvious. While Duo is OK, Ultra is great.

What’s the Difference Between Instant Pot Ultra and Duo?

We’ve covered a number of differences between Instant Pot Duo and Ultra, but you might still be unsure which one is right for you. You might also want to know if there are other differences that we haven’t covered yet.

If you’re curious to see how others fared, then check out the other reviews in this series:

Let’s look first at the other differences.

We’ll start with the control panel. Both have simple control panels that anyone can use. However, Ultra has an easy-to-read LED display while the Duo model looks archaic by comparison. It doesn’t stop here.

Ultra has the convenient and safe EasySeal lid. This lid is much easier to seal than the traditional Duo lid, plus it’s safer because it ensures that steam doesn’t escape while cooking. Speaking of cooking, Ultra has a cooking progress bar that shows you how far along the meal is.

Having a hard time finding a smart program that meets your needs? The Ultra smart program is entirely customizable for your needs. It even offers altitude adjustments. When you’re done, you’ll find the Easy Steam Release makes it easier and safer to relieve the pressure.

Duo does have one advantage that some people might prefer. It’s more affordable, which might be good if you’re more budget conscious. While you will save money with Duo, we think the real value is with Ultra. You’re getting much more and the extra cost is justified.

Instant Pot UltraInstant Pot Duo

Final Thoughts

With all that said, which is better with Instant Pot Ultra vs Duo? Duo puts up a good fight, especially since it’s much older than Ultra. It costs less, comes with many of the same appliances, has a surprising number of smart programs, and is very versatile.

However, it’s a knockout for Ultra. You get even more appliances, smart programs, the customizable Ultra program, better safety features, and so much more. Yes, it costs more, but think of the value.

When you consider what you’re getting for the cost, there’s really no contest here. Instant Pot Ultra wins by a landslide.

Instant Pot Buying Guide

  • Appliances: Perhaps the most important aspect of choosing an Instant Pot would be the appliances. Every model comes with multiple appliances, but which model has the ones you’re looking for? Ultra has more here, but Duo covers the basics. 
  • Smart Programs: These make it more convenient to cook whatever type of meal you want. Not only does the computer ensure that your meals turn out perfect, but this makes it easier than ever to cook meat, veggies, and more. More smart programs is always better.
  • Size: You want to make sure that you can get the size you want. Some models only come in one or two sizes, but thankfully both Duo and Ultra come in three sizes. The only model that beats them would be Duo Nova with four sizes.
  • Extra Features: Consider the extra features, like safety features or the cooking progress indicator, that you’re getting with your purchase. Ultra comes with lots of extra features while Duo is fairly simple by comparison. While you don’t always need these features, they are nice to have.
  • Accessories: These give you a few extra tools at your kitchen disposal, and who doesn’t like getting something for free? While no Instant Pot is fantastic with the accessories, Ultra clearly wins the battle here. Consider what you’re getting with your purchase and consider buying the one with the most accessories.

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