The Instant Pot, an electric pressure cooker with somewhat of a cult-following, has lead the charge in modern-day pressure-cooking. The team rounded up top-rated food scales from popular brands such as Instant Pot, Kitchen, Cuisinart, Seville, Ninja, Crock-Pot and more.
Test #2: Make beef stew using the slow cooker function, when applicable. Test #4: Make chicken wings using the air fryer function, when applicable.
How well do those settings perform in terms of speed and ability to cook foods? It uses a sealed pot with a lot of steam inside to build up high pressure.
Traditional pressure cookers are stove top appliances, unlike electricpressurecookers which use electricity to produce high or low pressure within the cooker. Stove top pressure cookers use heat to boil water, and then traps the steam inside to increase pressure.
In other words, an electric pressure allows you to put the ingredients in the inner pot, set the pressure-cooking duration, and voilà ! While you don't need a pressure cooker (all of its functions can be achieved through traditional cooking methods), it will certainly make life easier.
Melissa says, “This is the original Instant Pot we know and love but with safety upgrades and feature additions that made this my overall pick.” The newer model also has handles on the stainless steel inner pot for easy removal.
For less than half the price of the Instant Pot, this Freeware model offers 9 pre-set buttons and a large LED display for customizable cooking. The hands free steam release allows users' ability to truly walk away and come back when your meal is ready.
This electric pressure cooker also boasts a progress bar, so you know just how much longer you have to wait on your meal. For the electric pressure cooker novice, this model might be intimidating as the temperature and cooking time is adjusted by units of pressure.
Buy It: Seville Fast Slow Pro Multi Function Cooker, $250; Amazon Instant Pot makes the list again, this time with an electric -multi cooker that truly has all the bells and whistles imaginable.
The Instant Pot Duo Crisp + Air Fryer allows you to swap out the pressure cooker lid for an air fryer lid with an easy to clean nonstick surface. “The chicken wings we did in the air fryer were so crispy, I'm still thinking about them,” says Melissa.
Buy It: Instant Pot Duo Crisp + Air Fryer, $180; Amazon While these electricpressurecookers didn't make the final cut, we think it's still worth mentioning the pros and cons of each.
Buy It: Crock-Pot Express 6-Quart Easy Release Pressure Cooker, $99; Amazon However, the meat wasn't as tender as some competitor brands, and the steam release was fairly messy.
It offers great performance at a reasonable price, and its tried-and-true design makes it easier to use than other gimmicky smart or multi- cookers. 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.
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 electricpressurecookers 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 electricpressurecookers 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. 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 electricpressurecookers), 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).
By comparison, the controls on competitors like the Total were complicated, and the manual for the Cuckoo Cook Q5 Premium was impenetrable. 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.
Video: Michael HessionLike all modern pressure cookers, the Instant Pot has multiple safety mechanisms to keep pressure at a safe level and to prevent you from opening the lid while the pot is still under pressure (which could lead to a dangerous eruption of hot liquid). 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. 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. The Quickies tray shown here on the lid helps cool down and depressurize the pot faster after cooking.
When we first tested the Duo Eve Plus in 2019, we were irritated to discover that the Quickies tray is sold separately, even though marketing materials (including the product description on most retailers’ websites) make it seem like the tray is a built-in feature (shakes fist at air). But hey, it does what it’s supposed to do, and gives you a pressure -release method that’s not as jarring as releasing a geyser of steam, and faster than waiting for the pot to depressurize naturally.
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 electricpressurecookers 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. The only versions with significant downsides other than price are the Lux, which lacks a low pressure setting and a handle on the lid, and the Duo Crisp, which comes with an additional air-fryer lid that takes up a lot of extra space without adding a lot of extra functionality.
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.
Although we had high hopes for the Cuckoo Cook Q5 Premium multi-cooker, this model has only one pressure -cooking setting and is generally difficult to figure out. The Seville Fast Slow Pro has an intuitive interface, sleek design, and altitude-adjust function.
Mike Rebel, blogger at Dad Cooks Dinner, telephone interview, June 23, 2016 Lesley Stockton is a senior staff writer reporting on all things cooking and entertaining for Wire cutter.