First, we pressure -cooked boneless, skinless chicken breasts and noted which were the most tender and how easy each batch was to shred. Then we cooked long-grain rice under pressure and checked for fluffiness and made sure nothing stuck to the bottom of the pot.
We downloaded and tested apps (when relevant), read through all the manuals and washed every piece of equipment for each model as directed by the manufacturers. With the majority of Americans staying home to practice social distancing, there’s never been a better time to try something new in the kitchen.
Whether you’re looking to eat healthier or just want a multi-use appliance you can depend on to whip up staples like beans and oatmeal, a pressure cooker is a must-have kitchen tool that can get the job done. There’s a reason why pressure cookers, like the coveted Instant Pot, are now one of the most popular kitchen appliances on the market.
They’re great for home cooks who want to make everything from bone broth to cake without spending hours over the stove. “ Pressure cookers are an excellent tool for achieving consistent, delicious and easily manageable meals in a fraction of the time of conventional cooking,” said Barry Tomlinson, director of culinary research and development at the Institute of Culinary Education.
A pressure cooker is essentially a pot with a lockable lid and a valve that controls the steam pressure inside. In conventional cooking, liquids start to boil when they reach a temperature of 212 degrees Fahrenheit.
The Instant Pot Duo Nova 8-Quart PressureCooker is the company’s “most user-friendly, intuitive model.” A pressure cooker, slow cooker, yogurt maker, sous vide machine, steamer, sauté pan, and cake maker in one, this utility player features 48 customizable cooking programs. The inner pot is great for browning and has handles so you can easily lift it out and transfer it to the stove top.
“I've been using Instant Pot brand electric pressure cookers for years and have the Duo and Viva, but this one is a game-changer. The improvements are awesome such as the completely flat-bottomed inner pot that sautés more evenly and heats up faster due to the increased wattage and better materials.
The stay-cool handles DO stay cool, and they provide a more stable lifting of a full pot. Made from durable stainless steel, this easy-to-use model has a smart construction that allows you to operate it with just one hand and an aluminum base for even cooking.
This model forgoes all the bells and whistles of fancier versions to give you a streamlined, dependable pressure cooker that does its job. It also incorporates safety features like a variable release valve, easy-grip side handles, and an automatic locking function while it’s in use.
One satisfied user said it “made their life easier” and continued: “This was my first pressure cooker and I love it! This sleek stainless steel countertop cooker offers top-of-the-line features like built-in sensors that automatically adjust time and temperature settings based on what’s being cooked, fast and slow cooker options, and a hands-free steam release function for added safety.
The Favor LUX Edge Cooker has 14 pre-set functions for pot roast, meat, chili, beans, oatmeal, rice, and more. It also allows you to brown and sauté ingredients, and has a manual recipe function if you prefer to customize.
But it also has a customizable function and conveniently comes with accessories to make your cooking experience even easier, like egg racks, steaming trivets, and cheat sheets. One owner of the Jedi pot wrote: “My family is trying to eat more grass-fed meat and less commercially raised animal products.
If you prefer a no-frills stove top version that’s still big enough to fit larger cuts of meat, Presto’s dependable 4-quart pressure cooker is the best choice for you. The most affordable option on this list, it’s made with heavy-duty aluminum that’s super durable and allows for even heating through all the ingredients in the pot.
Plus, it’s dishwasher-safe, comes with rubber side handles that let you transport it easily, and has a cooking rack insert so you can prepare several foods at once. Its streamlined design also means it’s super easy to use, and at just $32 for the 4-quart pot, you’d be hard-pressed to find another quality pressure cooker this affordable.
It’s super simple to use and performs all the core functions, like pressure -cook, sauté, and steam, as well as or better than models from other brands. While you miss out on some Instant Pot’s newer, more advanced features, such as a big LCD screen or a lid that seals automatically, the Duo is typically the most affordable model that has all the settings we think most home cooks will need.
For the 2019 update, staff writer Anna Peeling spent more than 20 hours cooking butter chicken, rice, beans, and risotto in pressure cookers, and air-frying two whole chickens, french fries, and mozzarella sticks in new and notable cookers. She also consulted Hip Pressure Cooking, The Veggie Queen, Serious Eats, and Miss Vickie for guidance.
Like with a slow cooker, you add your ingredients to a pressure cooker, seal the lid, turn it on, and walk away. But instead of simmering all day, you can cook dinner in an electric pressure cooker in well under an hour (including prep time).
As pressure increases, it raises the boiling point of water and can cook foods more quickly. The new generation of electric pressure cookers are more accurately called “multi-cookers” because they can also slow-cook, steam, cook grains, and sometimes even make yogurt quickly and safely.
Many Wire cutter staffers love using their electric pressure cookers for quickly feeding their families or experimenting with simple, riffable recipes. A great electric pressure cooker should be versatile, simple to use, durable, safe, and easy to clean.
User-friendliness: Electric pressure cookers can have a lot of intimidating buttons and sounds. We looked for models with intuitive user interfaces that are easy to use right out of the box, with clear digital displays that show exactly what’s happening during cooking.
We prefer uncoated stainless steel inner pots because nonstick coatings will wear out after a few years, even if you don’t scratch them up sooner with metal tongs and spoons. We also looked for cookers with detachable lids that you can submerge in soapy water for easy cleaning.
Whether those small parts are covered by the warranty, it’s important to be able to buy them separately, since you’ll need to replace them every one to three years, depending on use. Over the years we’ve also prepared a range of other dishes, including brisket, pork, risotto, butter chicken, sushi rice, and even cake.
To test the air-frying and crisping abilities of the Ninja Food and the Instant Pot Duo Crisp (both of which are combined air fryers and electric pressure cookers), we roasted a chicken and air-fried frozen finger foods like mozzarella sticks, chicken fingers, and french fries in addition to our usual tests. We’ve learned in our testing that most pressure cookers will handle basic dishes, like beans and braised meat, about the same.
Great pressure cookers are simple to operate and clean, have multiple cooking modes, decent sautéing capabilities, and durable stainless steel inserts. Poorly designed cookers have complicated interfaces, nonsensical instruction manuals, a mess of small pieces to clean, or are made with cheap materials.
It performs basic cooking functions just as well as newer and costlier Instant Pot models, and even better than cookers from other brands. Although it may not look like it at first glance, the Duo’s control panel is intuitive, and you’ll be cooking very soon after this pot is out of the box (but always read the manual).
We like that the Instant Pot has three temperature settings for both pressure -cooking and sautéing, whereas some other cookers in its (inexpensive) price category offer only one or two. Photo: Michael HessionThe lid on the Duo, like on all Instant Pots, detaches for easy cleaning.
In comparison, we found that the hinged lids on some other models, like the Total and Ninja Food, made both cleaning and storing the cooker difficult. A simple Instant Pot Google search yields countless blogs, recipes, and cookbooks dedicated to this cooker.
We’ve never experienced an accident with hot steam on the Duo but recommend keeping your face away from the lid and using a dish towel to flip the valve to “venting.” Newer Instant Pot models, like our upgrade pick, the Duo Eve Plus, have improved steam venting tabs or buttons that are separate from the release valve, and a little less scary to use. It seems like every one to two years, Instant Pot rolls out a new model that promises smarter cooking programs and overall better usability.
There are also some real design upgrades that improve the usability of the Duo Eve Plus over any Instant Pot model that’s come before it. Photo: Michael MurtaughAnother nice update on the Duo Eve Plus is the big, bright, and intuitive control panel.
In contrast, the Duo’s pared-down red and black screen only indicates that it’s heating up with an “On” message, before counting down once it’s reached temperature or pressure. The Duo Eve Plus has the biggest LCD screen yet and makes it easy to see the pot’s cooking progress from a distance.
It has a clearly marked venting system that includes a red pressure indicator, a vent/seal switch that automatically seals when you close the lid, and a steam valve diffuser. If you’ve used pressure cookers in the past, you know that using the quick-release method produces a loud and forceful geyser of steam.
The vent/seal switch on the right is much easier to use than the vent/seal mechanism on other Instant Pots, and the vented plastic cap on the valve (on the left) helps effectively diffuse steam. Silicone absorbs food odors, so having the extra ring is handy if you use your pressure cooker for both savory and sweet recipes and don’t want to go to the trouble of making a cheesecake only to have it come out with the faint scent of beef stew.
In our tests, we found the sous vide setting on the Duo Eve Plus consistently ran 5 degrees below our target temperature. And we think it could be useful for folks who want to cook or hold food at a specific temperature for an extended period of time, such as while keeping soup warm on a buffet table.
Photo: Michael Session’s crucial to clean a pressure cooker ’s lid after every use because the valves and rim can trap gunk that not only breeds bacteria but also prevents the pot from sealing properly. Removing the valve parts and gasket from the lid is simple and will make cleaning off any food residue easier to do.
Even with washing, the lid’s silicone sealing ring can retain food smells that transfer to subsequent batches. You can also buy extra sealing rings and keep one exclusively for aromatic foods.
Instant Pot has released many new models of electric pressure cookers since we first started testing them, and it can be tricky to figure out exactly what you’re giving up or getting from one to the next. In general, if you can find another model on sale for a better deal than whichever of our picks is nearest in price, we think most of them will serve you well.
Because the Duo Eve Plus has features the Ultra lacks, like an improved inner cooking pot with stay-cool handles and an automatically sealing, steam-diffusing lid, it’s now a better value. You can change the pressure level and cooking time while the machine is in use, and you have the option to quiet the beeping alarms.
The Instant Pot Viva is another variant similar to the Duo Plus, though it lacks the upgraded blue LCD screen. It has a couple more settings than the Duo (including sous vide), plus a lid that seals automatically when you close it, and it comes in a few different colors.
In 2019, we tested the Instant Pot Smart Wi-Fi, which has a companion app that lets you control the cooker. Photo: Michael Session 2018 we tested the Instant Pot Max, which can reach a higher pressure than the Duo or Duo Eve Plus (in addition to the usual low- and high- pressure settings, it also has a Max setting that Instant Pot says can reach 15 psi).
It also offers a sous vide setting and a pulse steam-release program that “stirs” food as it cooks. After many batches of risotto, black beans, and bone broth, plus one failed sous vide attempt, we concluded that the Instant Pot Max doesn’t offer any real upgrades.
The Nutritious program, which agitates food as it cooks by releasing intermittent pulses of steam, didn’t wow us, making stiff risotto and an indistinguishable batch of beef broth. After spending a full day pressure -cooking, air-frying, baking, and broiling, we think the Instant Pot Duo Crisp is too expensive for what it can do, and too large for most kitchens.
The Ninja Food has all the functions of a pressure cooker with an additional lid that can air-fry foods, but it’s enormous. The Favor Lux 6-quart costs more than our picks and has about the same functionality, minus some nicer features of the Duo Eve Plus.