Instant Pot DUO Nova Review
Our Analysis and Test Results
In designing the DUO Nova, Instant Pot took an already user-friendly machine and added a convenient pressure release button.
The pressure release button is our absolute favorite thing about the DUO Nova's user experience. This button sits about two inches from the pressure valve and allows you to open that valve without actually touching it. Most pressure cookers force you to timidly bat at the pressure valve with a wooden spoon to release it without getting your fingers uncomfortably close to the jet of steam that suddenly bursts forth. Thus, having a button that makes this process quicker, easier, and safer is a welcome addition.
This isn't the only model available with a pressure release button. In fact, other machines place their buttons on the main control panel, even farther away from the assault of steam that accompanies depressurizing a pressure cooker. However, the DUO Nova is undoubtedly still in the minority, offering a pressure release button. And those machines that have those buttons farther away — they generally require wiring to run from the valve to the control panel, meaning the lid must be permanently affixed to the machine, making for a more complicated cleaning process.
The control panel makes navigating its multiple cooking features and settings quite easy. A dedicated button for each cooking presets make it easy to quickly dial in rice or soup settings. A large LCD clearly displays feedback if you want to cycle through some advanced features, such as adjusting the pressure level, programming in a delayed start, or adjusting the cooking time. We've always Instant Pot models because the lid can be stored upright in either of the handles on either side of the machine. This allows you to put the lid out of the way, no matter which hand you like to stir with, without setting it down on a potentially dirty countertop.
For the most part, we found the differences in cooking abilities to be minor between the models in our fleet. That being said, we thoroughly enjoyed the food made by the DUO Nova, with it earning superlatives in most of our cooking tests.
In what we've found to be the most differentiating of our cooking tests, the saute test; the DUO Nova performed wonderfully. It got hot enough to easily brown eve hearty veggies like carrots and made quick work of diced onions. We believe this ability is crucial; to effectively saute right in the pot vastly increases the number of meals you can make with only one dish to clean at the end.
We also had great luck prepping various grains, including rice and quinoa, in the DUO Nova. Things generally came out a bit more moist and sticky rather than fluffy, but we generally enjoyed the texture. It also performed well in our meat cooking tests, successfully rendering a tough brisket cut into a tender and enjoyable feast. If we really split hairs, there are other models we've tested that can create a bit more tenderness in meat, but the differences are minor and would likely only be noticed by the most discerning barbeques aficionados.
Additionally, we found many meat-based pressure cooker recipes suggest significantly longer cooking times than Instant Pot suggests for the same cut of meat. In those situations, we generally found Instant Pot's recommendations to be more on point, with the longer cook times bringing about slightly drier and tougher results.
Ease of Cleaning
Some of the design requirements of pressure cookers almost inevitably lead to some cleaning challenges. However, the DUO Nova navigates these challenges better than most, making its cleaning process about as easy as one could hope.
First off, the rubber gasket on the lid is easily removable, and the lid itself is a single piece. This makes cleaning and drying easier than some other models that use two-piece lids designs that introduce nooks and crannies where water and gunk can hide. The cooking pot itself is stainless steel. This makes it a bit harder to scrub clean than many of its non-stick counterparts but also means it can unequivocally go in a dishwasher. There is a bit of a debate about whether stainless or non-stick pressure cooker pots are easier to clean, and that debate largely centers around whether or not the non-stick pots can go into a dishwasher.
Many people, and some manufacturers, maintain that it's completely fine to put non-stick cookware in the dishwasher, while others find that blasphemous. On the other hand, stainless steel has a long and proven pedigree of being dishwasher safe and thus doesn't elicit the same debate. Instant Pot has come down firmly on the "stainless is better" side of the conversation, using stainless pots in all of their pressure cookers.
The one thing keeping the DUO Nova, and all of the other models we've tested, from getting a higher score in our ease of cleaning metric, is the gully between the actual pot and the body of the machine where the pressure lid latches. This gully almost inevitably gathers some crumbs or condensation or whatnot during the stirring and serving process and can be a bit difficult to clean. That gully is likely a necessity of a pressure cooker's functionality, but we're still waiting for someone to find an innovative solution to this issue before we award a higher score in this metric.
The DUO Nova provides most of the basic pressure cooking functions and some more advanced options. Essentially, unless you're looking for some specific specialty functions like air fry or dehydrate, it will likely meet your needs.
A Full List of The Instant Pot DUO Nova's Cooking Functions
Soup/Broth, Meat/Stew, Bean/Chili, Poultry, Slow Cook similar to what you'd experience in a top-ranked slow cooker, Saute, Rice, Multigrain, Porridge, Steam, Yogurt, Pressure Cook.
Should You Buy the DUO Nova?
Instant Pot is the most recognizable brand name among the best pressure cookers for a reason, and the DUO Nova delivers on that pedigree by offering exceptional performance at a reasonable price. There are very few situations where the DUO Nova wouldn't be our top pressure cooker recommendation. The first is for those that mainly want to cook meat, as we've found some other cookers that can retain just a bit more tenderness in specific cuts than this machine. However, those cookers also tend to cost a lot more. The other is for those that don't mind sacrificing one-pot-meal convenience by doing their sauteing on the stove instead of in their pressure cooker, and can thus save some money by getting a model without a saute function. It sets the standard for pressure cookers, offering a versatile list of cooking functions, well-designed controls, and convenient touches like a pressure release button. In the world of pressure cookers, the DUO Nova sells for a relatively reasonable price but leads the pack in terms of performance. Sure, you can find some models that sell for less, but those models generally lack a saute function and thus, sacrifice quite a bit of the convenience that makes pressure cookers so attractive. We believe this is one of the best values on the market.
What Other Pressure Cooker Should You Consider?
If you only need a cooker for one or two or don't plan to meal prep, then the Instant Pot DUO Mini can save you some money with the same functions and performance, just a smaller quantity. If you want the best option with a good capacity, then the Instant Pot Duo Plus 6 Quart is a higher ranking option that offers the same cooking performance that is easier to use.