There are a lot of Instant Pots out there, but no currently available Instant Pot has as many useful features as the Instant Pot Ultra.
When deciphering what one Instant Pot does and another doesn’t, the first thing to do is zoom in on the control module on the front of the device. Look at all the buttons you can press — “cake,” “meat/stew,” “porridge,” etc. — and understand that, for the most part, these are all preset cook cycles. If you ignore the preset cook cycles, you’re left with the functions of the machine at a broader level (“pressure cook,” “sear” and so on). Until you get to the Ultra, which is the most premium Instant Pot model (until the Max releases), the Instant Pot is fairly restricting in that no other model allows you to customize cook times, pressure levels and temperature yourself.
This feature — accessed on the “Ultra” button — is what sets the Ultra most apart from other Instant Pots. So instead of pressure cooking a rack of ribs for the same time, temperature and pressure as everybody else, you’re allowed room to experiment.
The Ultra is also the first Instant Pot to sport a full LCD display (though it isn’t a touchscreen), the first to automatically adjust cook times and temperatures to your altitude level (this is a real problem with less pressure cookers) and comes with a nice, slightly safer pressure release function.
The 8-quart Ultra, the largest of the model, is on sale on Amazon at 33 percent off its retail price.