All Instant Pots are the same, right? Not really! There are a few differences in cook times for the 6 and 8 quart Instant Pot, but once you know your pot you’ll be all set. Some of the Instant Pot cooking differences are time to come to pressure, release time, water needed, and wattage.
*This article was updated on August 6, 2021
Do different sizes of Instant Pots cook differently?
I’m sticking by my statement that each Instant Pot is different. This is so true when you hear people talk about how long they cook their hard boiled eggs.
In addition to each pot being different, everyone has preferences about their hard boiled eggs, and how old your eggs are makes a difference too. There are a lot of cooking variables to consider.
With regard to noodles, I have realized that I like my noodles overcooked a little rather than undercooked. After making a few recipes in my IP, I know that if I am cooking a dish with noodles I’ll always add a minute.
You can make changes to recipes you find online to get the best possible results when you make them at home. Like I said, every Instant Pot is different. It is always going to take some trial and error to figure out how your own pot differs from others, and understand what your cooking preferences are.
These tips and tricks will show you some common Instant Pot cooking differences and how to adjust your timing, pressures, and liquid in order to avoid a flop!
General information about size differences
Let’s start out with some general information about Instant Pot wattage, diameters, and elevation.
Instant Pot Wattage for 3 qt, 6 qt, and 8 qt
- 8 Quart Models are 1200 Watts
- 6 Quart Models are 1000 Watts
- 3 Quart Models are 700 Watts
The wattage of your Instant Pot makes a difference because it will determine how quickly your pot can come to pressure and the amount heat it produces.
Diameters of the inner Instant Pot liners:
- 8 Quart Models have an inner pot diameter of 9.25 Inches
- 6 Quart Models have an inner pot diameter of 8.5 Inches
- 3 Quart Models have an inner pot diameter of 7 Inches
For those of you who like to use all the Instant Pot accessories that can make cooking fun and exciting, these measurements come in handy for determining if certain accessories will work in your pot. It’s also great to know for sizing batches of whatever meals you are cooking or baking.
Instant Pot Elevation Adjustments:
Elevation effects cooking in any pressure cooker–the IP is no different.
If you haven’t had a chance to check out my post on how elevation or altitude impacts pressure cooking you can see it right here —> High Altitude Cooking Time Adjustments <— this post has lots of great info on how to adjust for different altitudes.
How to adjust the elevation settings on some Instant Pots:
It’s a pretty simple process:
- Return the cooker to the ‘Standby’ mode by pressing ‘Cancel.’
- Press and hold the dial until the cooker beeps and enters into the settings change.
- Rotate the dial to ‘Alt’ and press to select and rotate to the desired altitude units in feet or meters.
- When the altitude unit is selected, press the dial to enter the ‘Altitude’ adjustment mode, spin the dial to make the changes.
- Once the adjustments are made, press the ‘Start’ key to save the system-level settings changes and exit
Why do different size Instant Pots take more time to come to pressure?
The difference in times it takes to build pressure and release pressure in electric pressure cookers are significantly different between the 3 quart, 6 quart, and 8 quart models. This is not surprising because they are all different sizes (see the Instant Pot diameter sizes above). The 8 quart pot will take the longest to build and release pressure because there is more space to fill and empty.
That being said, I would always assume that recipes you see online are built for the 6 quart model unless it’s noted otherwise. That means you have to adjust for cooking times and the amount of liquid added in the other sized models: more on this below.
How much water do I need to add to my Instant Pot?
We all know that different sizes of pots need different amounts of water in order to cook food properly. After all, they’re using steam and pressure to cook things quickly. Here are the breakdowns of water needed in order for each size pot to function correctly.
- The 8 Quart Models need 2.5-3 cups of liquid
- The 6 Quart Models need 1.5-2 cups of liquid
- The 3 Quart Models need .75-1 cup of liquid
- these numbers came from the Instant Pot website. The numbers have changed over the years and as of 8/2021 they are what I can find directly from Instant Pot.
I’ve mentioned it before and I’ll mention it again, your Instant Pot is going to be at least a tiny bit different from every other one out there. Do your own test to see how much water your pot needs in order to come to pressure and hold for 5 minutes. Use the amounts above as a general guideline.
What kind of liquid should I add to my Instant Pot?
When we say that you need water or liquid for your pot to come to pressure, know that liquid can also come from the food in your pot. Vegetables usually release a lot of liquid when cooking–think about zucchini.
Also, frozen chicken releases a lot of liquid when it’s cooking, which is why it’s great to use when cooking dry beans and rice like in my Instant Pot Burrito Bowl Recipe.
Can I use thawed meat instead of frozen meat in an Instant Pot recipe?
It’s not advised to use thawed chicken in a recipe that calls for frozen chicken without considering the dry ingredients that would need extra time and liquid to cook.
Instant Pot Cooking Times
How long will my Instant Pot take to come to pressure?
While it may take longer for the 8 quart to come to pressure than the 3 quart and the 6 quart, once it comes up to pressure your cooking times should be the same. You might not notice any significant Instant Pot cooking differences when it comes to cooking times though. They should be relatively spot on no matter which pot you are using.
It takes an average of 5-10 minutes for my 6 quart Instant Pot to come to pressure, depending on how much food is in it and if that food is frozen. An Instant Pot with frozen food takes longer to come to pressure than one with refrigerated food.
Note: Technically the cook times should be the same. If you want to see how crazy different cook times can be, head over to the Instant Pot Facebook group and ask how long it takes to make hard boiled eggs in the Instant Pot. You’ll quickly see what I mean by every pot and every size being different.
You can safely assume that unless noted otherwise, every Instant Pot recipe online is made for a 6 quart size. If you’re using a 3 quart size or “mini” Instant Pot, divide the recipe in half and the cook time stays the same. If you’re using an 8 quart Instant Pot, you can easily double the recipe you’re cooking and the cook time stays the same.
Common problems with Instant Pot cooking:
What is the Instant Pot BURN Warning?
The Instant Pot can alert you when the food inside is starting to burn, your screen will show the words BURN. Personally, I notice that I get the BURN error more when using the 8 quart recipes when I know the recipes have worked fine in the 6 quart.
This is a personal note, it’s something I’ve experienced issues with. You might not see this issue but don’t be surprised if you do!
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What should I do if I see the Instant Pot burn warning?
When I see the Instant Pot BURN warning, I consider what is in the pot. If it’s hard boiled eggs that get the burn warning, I can bet that all of the water has evaporated and I should have added more (I always add extra water to hard boiled eggs now). If I have something in my Instant Pot with tomato sauce, I can bet it’s that because tomato products tend to burn in the Instant Pot.
If my pot has just come to pressure and still has some time to cook, I’ll release pressure and stir the contents. I’ll also add more liquid to the pot to get rid of the burn warning. I’ll then start the pot again, after reducing the cooking time (since the Instant Pot is actually cooking while it is coming to pressure, your food will already be cooked a little).
Sometimes I see the BURN warning towards the end of the cooking cycle. If I see that, I’ll release the pressure and stir the contents. Especially if I have noodles in the pot, I can usually put the lid back on and let them finish cooking without adding additional time to the pot.
Other Instant Pot Resources
Which Instant Pot is right for you? A post and printable chart that talks about the different models–Instant Pot DUO, Instant Pot Smart, Multi Cooker, and more. Which have a yogurt maker, which can sous vide, which have a slow cooker.
Healthy Instant Pot Recipes All of my favorite healthy recipes, with directions for the slow cooker, stovetop, and electric pressure cooker.
How long to cook vegetables in the Instant Pot A free printable to help you cook perfect veggies.
How long to cook meat in the Instant Pot Another free printable with instructions for cooking your meat perfectly.
How to remove odors from your Instant Pot sealing ring This is such an issue with owners–but the good news is that there are some great tips in this post and in the comments!