Instant Pot 3 Quart Guide and Review (2021)

Have you been thinking about buying an electric Instant Pot 3 Quart pressure cooker, but not sure which one? Here’s a comparison I put together to help you choose between the 3 Quart Instant Pot Lux, Duo, Duo Nova, Duo Plus and Ultra models.

When did you start having an interest in the Instant Pot? And now you’re starting to wonder if one can work for you and your cooking needs? Is this your first Instant Pot or are you looking for a smaller one for side dishes? I bought the Instant Pot 3 Quart because it works well for (usually) cooking for one person as well as kitchens with limited storage.

Instant Pot 3 Quart Side By Side Guide and Review (2019)

And one more note: this post contains affiliate links. This means I may receive a small commission if you buy through my link. You won’t pay any more if you use this link.

When I first purchased my Instant Pot 3 Quart Duo I only knew about the Mini Duo and Mini Lux. At the time I probably would have still bought the Mini Duo, because it was the right price to start experimenting with a new-to-me method of cooking. As any Instant Pot owner will tell you, the likelihood of picking at least one more is pretty high!

To help you choose, I put together the comparisons of the 4 Instant Pot Mini model options.

Appliances combined into each Instant Pot 3 Quart model

Each Instant Pot mini model combines multiple appliances into one electric pressure cooker. This is especially great if you have limited kitchen space (and also want to save money). While pressure cooking is a top reason to buy an Instant Pot, there are a bunch of other ideas for dishes to try beyond what you’re thinking.

For the Duo Nova, the Smart Programs and features are mostly the same. The Duo Nova Mini has a new updated display and a different set of accessories compared to its siblings.

 Mini LuxMini Duo & Duo NovaMini Duo PlusMini Ultra
Number of Combined Appliances 6 7 9 10
Pressure CookerYesYesYesYes
Slow CookerYesYesYesYes
Rice/Porridge CookerYesYesYesYes
SautéYesYesYesYes
SteamerYesYesYesYes
WarmerYesYesYesYes
Yogurt Maker YesYesYes
Sterilizer  YesYes
Ultra program   Yes

Instant Pot 3 Quart Duo Nova

And a quick note about the new Duo Nova 3 Quart Model. It is a new version of the Instant Pot Duo, a 7-in-1 electric pressure cooker. It looks to have the same programs as the original Duo model with updates coming to the display. It also has the auto sealing feature you see in the Mini Ultra. That’s one of my favorite features. From an accessory perspective, it comes with 2 sealing rings, a steam rack with handles, and the water measuring cup.

Instant Pot 3 Quart Smart Programs side-by-side

All of the Instant Pot 3 quart models have the pressure cook (manual) smart program along with the rice, meat/stew, porridge, and steam programs. The bean/chili, egg, sterilizer, ultra, and yogurt programs are available in certain models. All Instant Pot minis also include the sauté and keep warm features.

Before you purchase your Instant Pot Mini, double-check the smart programs included to ensure you buy the combination that you want. Keep in mind you can still cook the dish using the Pressure Cook (manual) button if your IP doesn’t include a particular program. And for yogurt, you’ll need to check out recipes for the cold start method.

Instant Pot 3 Quart Smart Programs for each Model

 Mini LuxMini Duo & Duo NovaMini Duo PlusMini Ultra
Built-In Smart Programs10111314
Pressure CookHigh Pressure
(up to 4 hours)
High Pressure
Low Pressure
(up to 4 hours)
High Pressure
Low Pressure
(up to 4 hours)
High Pressure
Low Pressure
(up to 6 hours)
RiceYesYesYesYes
Meat/StewYesYesYesYes
PorridgeYesYesYesYes
RiceYesYesYesYes
PorridgeYesYesYesYes
SteamYesYesYesYes
Bean/Chili YesYesYes
EggYes YesYes
Sterilizer  YesYes
Ultra   Yes
SautéYesYesYesYes
Yogurt YesYesYes
Slow CookYesYesYesYes
Keep WarmYesYesYesYes

A few additional differences between the Instant Pot 3 Quart Models

For all of the Instant Pot 3 Quart models, you’ll have pressure cooking at high pressure, the ability to keep your food warm, and have at least 10 safety features. Each 3 quart Instant Pot has a  700 watt heating element, and uses 120V~60Hz. In general, the Instant Pot Mini models are about 8 1/2 to 9 lbs. For dimensions, they’re approximately 11.5 x 10.5 x 11.2 (give or take based on specific model).

There are a few differences between the Instant Pot mini models that may sway which one you want to buy. Of course, the model prices increase with the additional features. Check for sales and discounts to help you buy a great deal.

Let’s take a closer look at the differences between the 3 quart Instant Pot models.

 Instant Pot Mini LuxInstant Pot Mini DuoInstant Pot Mini Duo PlusInstant Pot Mini Ultra
Lid Holder YesYesYes
Detachable 3 Prong Power CordNo
Non-Detachable

2 prong
YesYesYes
Safety Features10101011
Pressure Cooking LevelsHigh Pressure
(up to 4 hours)
High Pressure
Low Pressure
(up to 4 hours)
High Pressure
Low Pressure
(up to 4 hours)
High Pressure
Low Pressure
(up to 6 hours)
Keep WarmManual Keep Warm
(up to 10 hours)
Automatic Keep Warm
(up to 10 hours)
3 Temperatures
Manual Keep Warm
(up to 99 hours and 50 minutes)
Automatic Keep Warm
(up to 10 hours)
3 Temperatures
Manual Keep Warm
(up to 99 hours and 50 minutes)
Automatic Keep Warm
(up to 10 hours)
3 Temperatures + Custom Option
Manual Keep Warm
(up to 99 hours and 50 minutes)
Automatic Keep Warm
(up to 10 hours)

The lid holder can come in handy especially when you just finished cooking a dish and are awkwardly trying to figure out what to do with a hot lid.

On the Instant Pot Mini, the quick-release button being separate from the steam value is a great feature. The Mini Ultra also has an auto-seal feature so that you don’t have to worry about forgetting to put the steam valve in the right position.

The Mini Lux, Duo, and Duo Plus use push buttons to program your cooking and the Ultra uses a dial wheel to make your selections.

Is the Instant Pot 3 Quart Safe to use?

Instant Pot has built-in at least 10 safety features to ensure a safe cooking experience. As with any cooking method you should still take care to ensure you don’t burn yourself with the steam release or any hidden pockets of steam in your dish.

If you’re scared of using your new Instant Pot, start off with the water test that both ensures your Instant Pot Mini is working correctly along with giving you a feel for how the pressure builds and releases.

Should you buy an Instant Pot 3 Quart vs 6 Quart?

That’s a somewhat personal decision you’ll need to make based on what works for you. A few things to consider.

Most recipes are written for the 6-quart models so you’ll likely need to reduce the ingredients depending on the size of the original recipe. Tip: If the original servings are more than 4, you’ll probably need to scale the ingredients. Usually, you don’t need to change the cooking time.

The 3 quart model will come to pressure quicker than the 6 quart model and actually cooks a little cooler given the smaller heating element. So far I haven’t run into any issues, but you may hear that for thicker cuts of meat you’ll need to make a timing adjustment.

There are fewer accessories for the 3 quart models. Don’t worry, there’s still a bunch of things you can buy to cook interesting dishes in your Instant Pot Mini, just make sure the width doesn’t exceed 6 inches otherwise it probably won’t fit.

The Instant Pot 3 Quart models that I own

The first one I bought was the Instant Pot Mini Duo because I thought it was the right size and price when cooking for one. It’s a great model to start with! The second one I bought (almost a year later) was the Instant Pot Mini Ultra because I wanted to try a few added features.

In the Ultra I love the auto-seal feature and that the pressure release button is separate from the steam value. I like the dial selector on the Ultra, but have seen other reviews where people prefer the push buttons. I also found my Mini Ultra thanks to an awesome holiday deal.

My suggestion is to buy at least an Instant Pot 3 Quart Duo as it has 2 levels of pressure cooking, the yogurt program (if you’re interested in that), and the lid holder. At the same time, in reading in the groups people also love their Mini Lux. My ultimate advice is to find the one that works best for you!

Over to you. What else are you thinking about when it comes to choosing between Instant Pot 3 Quart models?

What is important to you when it comes to choosing your Instant Pot? Why are you considering a 3 quart model vs the 6 quart? Is there additional information that you need in order to make a decision?

Comparing the Instant Pot 3 quart mini models Side By Side Guide. And my review of the two I own.

6 Comments

  1. Hi Cara, so nice to have more info re: the Mini! I’ve just ordered my second IP (have v3 6 qt Duo we’ve finally started using and now I wonder it sat idle so long!) I was stuck whether to order another 6 qt, or min and which model. After watching the best selling cookbook author’s Mini videos on TwoSleevers blog today I chose the Mini. She gave good examples of dishes it would fit (up to db her Biryani, Korma or Buttter Chicken recipe and 4.5 cups raw rice! and the big pro of less counter space. Also triedtestedandtrue.com loves hers for sides and yogurt. (steamed veg, rice) What else made it hard to decide was the Nova on sale amazon.ca has the new lid (autoseals and separate release button) like the Ultra has, and progress indicator etc. I decided to go with the more programmable features of Plus (it did not yet have the new lid on amzon), and ability to change settings without cancelling and few more presets. Also Tom’s Guide showed it did better on some specific food results (egg, onions, slow cook.) Hope I’m happy with the tradeoff off the new id and smaller second pot for our family of 4. Two postsecondary students who come and go. Thanks for your site I plan to look at in more closely now!

  2. I bought the instapot mini duo. I’m doing something wrong (no manual) I am doing the test. I have 3 cups water in, have it on steam set for 10 minutes. Readout says on but it never starts counting down. Any suggestions.

    1. Hi Carol –
      3 cups of cold water takes a while to heat up enough to reach full pressure. If you haven’t already, try maybe 2 cups instead of 3. And double check the steam release is set to sealing and you have the sealing ring seated correctly. Good luck!

    1. Hey Edwin –

      Thanks for stopping by. I haven’t tried making a boneless turkey breast myself yet. You may be able to get to a recipe from a video for a suggested per pound cooking time guideline.

      The one thing to keep in mind, especially if it’s a 6-quart recipe is that a 3 quart will come to pressure faster, and NPR (natural pressure release) faster. You might need to adjust the cooking time slightly, or it may be fine. Good luck and please let me know how it goes!

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