We put the top Instant Pots and electric pressure cookers through their paces

Electric pressure cookers, multicookers, and Instant Pots (the most popular model) are all names for countertop gadgets that have become a standard in American kitchens. When the coronavirus outbreak prompted many individuals to cook at home, their popularity skyrocketed.

Electric pressure cookers can be used to pressure cook, slow cook, brown/sear/saute, and brown/sear/saute. Some of the more expensive versions can also air fry and sous vide. Electric pressure cookers, unlike their non-electric stovetop forefathers, contain a slew of safety features to save you from blowing up your kitchen.

For the past four years, I’ve been testing kitchen appliances and have created various objective tests to evaluate which models are ideal for specific needs.

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We put the top Instant Pots and electric pressure cookers through their paces
Amazon

In all of our cooking tests, the Crock-Pot Express Crock XL Multicooker worked admirably, and its button controls make programming a breeze.

  • 8-quart capacity
  • Material for the inside pot: nonstick
  • Brown/sear, sauté, slow cook, simmer, boil, yogurt, keep warm, meat/stew, poultry, beans/chili, soup/broth, rice/grains, dessert, steam
  • Number of recipes included: 34
  • Extras: An extra sealing gasket, a steaming rack, and a plastic serving spoon are all available.

Pros: Easy to use controls, delicious and tender food, superb browning, spare gasket included, large 8-quart pot

Cons: Some items took longer to create pressure than others, and the sealing gasket comes loose easily.

The only model that performed well in all of our testing was the Crock-Pot Express Crock XL Multicooker. Because the seal tends to retain flavors, I enjoy that it comes with an extra sealing gasket. All of the items we prepared in the Express Crock XL turned out beautifully. During our pork test, it was one of the quickest to develop pressure, and the resulting meat shredded easily. After 10 hours in the slow cooker, the pork shredded readily, though there were a few tougher parts.

The Crock-Pot cooker cooked a pound of dried pinto beans in under an hour (including the pressure build-up and release). The end dish was tasty, with a near-perfect texture and homogeneity. Although it took 33 minutes, which was longer than other models, the rice was virtually perfect. The pressure increase took longer than on other devices after searing. I used the accompanying recipe to cook a 5.5-pound chicken. The flesh was juicy and tasty, and it slipped off the bone beautifully.

The nonstick top makes it easy to clean by hand, even if the inner pot is dishwasher safe. The sealing gasket can also be washed in the dishwasher, but I found that this wasn’t enough to get rid of the pulled pork stench, which was present in all of the units we tested. The Crock-Pot Express Crock XL Multicooker’s major flaw was that the sealing gasket didn’t fit as well as other versions. When jostled, it fell loose, yet the multicooker had little issue producing pressure.

Prices pulled from the Amazon Product Advertising API on:

Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on [relevant Amazon Site(s), as applicable] at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.

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We put the top Instant Pots and electric pressure cookers through their paces
Amazon

The Instant Pot Duo Multi-Use Programmable Pressure Cooker is your best bet if you’re searching for a simple, economical multicooker from the industry’s leading brand.

  • 6 quarts capacity
  • Material for the inside pot: nonstick
  • There are 300+ preset programs on its menu, including pressure cook, sear/saute, steam, slow cook, sterilize, keep warm, and ferment.
  • In the Instant Brands Connect App, there are hundreds of recipes to choose from (available for iOS and Android)
  • Extra sealing gasket, steam rack, steam basket, and heat-resistant pad for the lid are included as extras.

Pros: Made tender and juicy slow-cooked pork, quickly builds pressure, good browning, dishwasher-safe and metal-utensil-safe stainless steel inner pot, Instant Pot app has hundreds of recipes

Cons: It takes some practice to get the cooking times just perfect, and the controls take some getting accustomed to.

The Instant Pot Duo Multi-Use Programmable Pressure Cooker is available in three different sizes: three, six, and eight quarts, and it comes with a stainless steel inner pot, as do most Instant Pots. The Duo performed admirably in all of our tests, but particularly well in our slow cooker challenge. The pulled pork from the slow cooker shredded easily and had a delicious, juicy flavor. For the pressure-cooked pulled pork, the pressure buildup was swift, but the pig was difficult to shred. It appeared that 10 minutes of pressure cooking would have been sufficient.

The rice and beans were under pressure immediately, but the rice was too chewy, and Duo overcooked the beans. Instead of a physical recipe book, Instant Brands offers a free app with hundreds of recipes. I went with a recipe for “perfect seared chicken,” which called for searing chicken breasts that had been covered in herbs and spices before being pressure cooked. The chicken breasts brown wonderfully, and the pressure rises quickly, but the end result is dry.

It wasn’t easy to use the Duo. I couldn’t tell if it had started to create pressure or not. It was really quiet, and all it stated was “on.” There isn’t even a start button. I had to look up “on” in the instructions to figure out what it meant. Despite these drawbacks, we believe the Instant Pot Duo is a fantastic value for money.

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Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on [relevant Amazon Site(s), as applicable] at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.

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We put the top Instant Pots and electric pressure cookers through their paces
Amazon

The Chef iQ Smart Cooker is exceptionally precise, with hundreds of preset programs and step-by-step interactive instructions.

  • 6 quarts capacity
  • Material for the inside pot: nonstick
  • There are 300+ preset programs on its menu, including pressure cook, sear/saute, steam, slow cook, sterilize, keep warm, and ferment.
  • In the Chef iQ App, there are over 1000 recipes (available for iOS and Android)
  • Extra sealing gasket, steam rack, steam basket, and heat-resistant pad for the lid are included as extras.

Pros: WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity, a useful app with 1000+ interactive recipes, a full-color screen with 300+ present programs, the fastest way to cook rice and beans, good at searing, and simple to set up

Cons: Didn’t fare well in our tests of pulled pork.

The Chef iQ Smart Cooker was the easiest to set up and offers the best screen and most exact cooking options of any of the evaluated units. Other models have a bean button, but the Chef iQ cooker’s full-color screen provides a lot more information. It contains routines for different types of beans, whether they’ve been soaked, and how much you’re cooking. The personalization was successful. A pound of beans cooked precisely in the Smart Cooker 13 minutes faster than any other model.

The three pressure release options: natural, fast, and pulse are also fantastic. The Chef iQ multicooker suggests a release method based on the food you’re cooking, but you can adjust it to suit your needs. The Chef iQ app’s recipes provide step-by-step instructions as well as the ability to interact with the Smart Cooker to alter the settings to meet the dish. A push notification is sent to your phone as the cooker completes each of the timed processes.

I didn’t like that to start the cooking, you had to hit the Start button on the cooker. You won’t be able to start it from your phone. To make a full chicken, I followed the app’s instructions, and the recipe was spot on. In addition, the chicken was well browned by the cooker. In less than 20 minutes, the Chef iQ Smart Cooker produced rice with an almost flawless texture (including building pressure). The cook, on the other hand, struggled with pulled pork. For easier shredding, I recommend adding 10 minutes to the cooking time.

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Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on [relevant Amazon Site(s), as applicable] at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.

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We put the top Instant Pots and electric pressure cookers through their paces
Amazon

The Instant Pot Duo Crisp combines a pressure cooker, slow cooker, air fryer, and sous vide machine into one compact unit, making it one of the most versatile and cost-effective small appliances we tested.

  • 8-quart capacity
  • Stainless steel is used for the inner pot.
  • Pressure cook, sauté, slow cooker, steam, sous vide, air fry, roast, bake, broil, dehydrate, and keep warm are all options.
  • Hundreds of recipes are offered in the free Instant Brands Connect app (available for iOS and Android)
  • Extras include an air fryer lid, an air fryer basket, a heat-resistant lid pad, a broil/dehydrate tray, and a steam rack.

Pros: Allows for air frying and sous vide cooking, has an app with hundreds of recipes, is simple to set up and use, and cooks rice in under 20 minutes.

Cons: Took a long time to develop pressure and heat up, and didn’t sear nicely.

We tested three air fryers and sous vide cookers, but only the Instant Pot Duo Crisp Pressure Cooker was able to perform both. The Duo Crisp comes with two lids: one for regular multicooker use and the other for air frying. Furthermore, an air fryer basket fits inside the inner pot for improved ventilation and tasty browning. We air-fried frozen French fries and were blown away by how rapidly they came out and how crispy they were.

The Instant Pot took a long time to heat up the water bath for sous vide cooking, but the final steak was soft and perfectly cooked. Setting up the Duo Crisp was simple, but if you’re new to air frying or sous vide cooking, you should read the user instructions to make sure you’ve done everything right.

The Duo Crisp was one of two models that cooked rice in less than 20 minutes and had a nice texture, was sticky, and wasn’t too dry. The pork and beans in the pressure cooker were also virtually flawless, but both took a little longer to develop pressure than usual. The pork in the slow cooker was also a little rough. Finally, the Instant Pot app’s “perfect seared chicken” recipe was disappointing. The chicken didn’t get a good sear in the pot. After the sear, the pressure build took the longest of any model.

Prices pulled from the Amazon Product Advertising API on:

Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on [relevant Amazon Site(s), as applicable] at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.

What else did we try?

For this article, we put 11 electric pressure cookers to the test. These are the ones that didn’t make the final cut.

What else do we suggest, and why:

When working at America’s Test Kitchen, professional chef and chocolatier Anne Wolf admired the Zavor LUX LCD. It has over 30 programmable options, including sous vide, and a large LCD display. It was simple to set up and use in our experiments. It built pressure quickly and produced delicious, easy-to-shred pulled pork. Its bean cooking and meat searing, on the other hand, did not excite us.

The Ninja Foodi XL Pressure Cooker made a name for itself as the first multicooker that include air frying. We almost went with the Instant Pot Duo Crisp as our multitasking selection, but we went with the Instant Pot Duo Crisp because it can also handle sous vide. If you don’t want to use sous vide, the Foodi did an excellent job searing, slow cooking, and pressure cooking tasty meals, however it took longer to develop pressure than most units.

The stay-cool handles integrated into the inner pot of the Instant Pot Duo Evo Plus 80 set it different from other multicookers. Normally, you’d have to use potholders to lift the pot out of a multicooker, but that’s not the case with this type. When you stir the contents, it also maintains the pot in place. The screen is crammed with information, including various pre-programmed options. It didn’t make our list because it performed below average in every cooking activity and was particularly bad at rice and slow-cooker pork.

The author of “The Step-by-Step Instant Pot Cookbook,” Jeffrey Eisner, prefers the Instant Pot Duo Plus. We enjoyed how simple it is to use and how well it cooks sous vide. It was also excellent at producing soft, juicy pulled pork. However, it took longer to develop pressure than most other models, which lengthens cooking times. We also didn’t get the golden-brown crust we wanted from the sear. Even so, if you’re looking for a cheap multicooker that can conduct sous vide, this is a wonderful option.

What we don’t recommend and why we don’t recommend it:

The GoWise USA 14-Quart piqued our curiosity because it is larger than any of the other models we reviewed. We wondered if it was still capable of performing well. It didn’t work out. The settings are unclear, it takes longer to generate pressure, the food doesn’t sear effectively, and the recipes offered were created for GoWise USA’s smaller multicookers. Even so, it performed a good job at pressure cooking pork and rice.

The only multicooker we evaluated with an oval inner pot was the Crock-Pot Express Oval Max. This was only useful for fitting larger chunks of meat into the pot and preventing the pot from whirling while stirring. However, it took a long time to build up pressure, didn’t sear effectively, and the recipes that came with it were inaccurate.

The only thing we liked about the Instant Pot Ultra was how simple it was to set up and use. Aside from that, the performance was mediocre. In every test, it was one of the slowest to create pressure. The chicken from the supplied recipe was dry and flavorless, but it did a good job of searing. If you want an Instant Pot, any of the other models we examined will suffice.

Our pressure cooker testing procedure is as follows:

The primary characteristics we searched for and how we tested them are as follows:


Setup: From the minute I opened the box, I timed how quickly I could have the cooker set up and creating pressure. I also took note of whether I could do the task without consulting the instructions or if the controls were difficult to understand. The majority of the units required no more than five minutes to set up.
Pressurizing: While many pressure cooker recipes appear to be quick, few include the time it takes for the appliance to generate pressure. A pressure cooker that quickly builds pressure is a tremendous time saving. With only four cups of water inside, I timed how long it took each model to reach pressure. During the cooking experiments, I also kept track of how long it took for the pressure to build up. Cookers that swiftly built pressure received higher marks from me.

I put each multicooker through five different cooking tests:

  • Pulled pork cooked under pressure: I cooked roughly 3.5 pounds of pork butt for an hour on high pressure. I retrieved the pork after a 10-minute natural release and a rapid release and observed how easy it was to shred and how it tasted.
  • Slow-cooked pulled pork: I cooked roughly 3.5 pounds of pork butt for 10 hours on low to test the slow-cooking capabilities. The pork was then removed, and I observed how easy it was to shred and how delicious it tasted.
  • Rice: To each unit, I put a cup of jasmine rice and a cup of water, then selected the rice option. I used the basic recipe from “The Step-by-Step Instant Pot Cookbook” if the rice feature wasn’t available. I sampled each batch to assess texture, chew, and stickiness in addition to recording the overall cooking time. I also weighed in on how evenly each unit cooked the rice.
  • Beans: In each unit, I blended one pound of pinto beans with two quarts of water and used the bean function. I utilized The Step-by-Step Instant Pot Cookbook recipe if there wasn’t a bean function. I sampled each batch in addition to noting the cooking time to assess the texture and consistency.
  • To test the accuracy of the recipes offered with each unit, I chose one that includes chicken, pressure cooking, and sauteing in order to test the cookers’ searing capability. I evaluated the sear for uniformity and closeness to golden brownness, as well as the flavor of the dish.

Additional features: Three of the machines I tested were capable of sous vide cooking, and two were capable of air frying. To test the sous vide, I cooked a NY Strip for two hours at 129 degrees Fahrenheit to see how tender and tasty meat was. All of the sous vide cookers performed admirably. I air-fried a pound of Ore-Ida Extra Crispy Fast Food French Fries for eight minutes at 400 degrees, shaking the basket halfway through, and judging doneness.

To save waste, I gave most of the pulled pork my family didn’t consume to a local restaurant. Extra rice and beans were fed to pigs on a nearby farm.

Frequently Asked Questions about Pressure Cookers

What is the mechanism of an electric pressure cooker?

Pressure cooking, which dates back to the 1600s, involves utilizing heat and pressure to cook food more quickly. Pressure cookers were non-electric cooktop gadgets before the Instant Pot transformed the business. With its countertop electric version, however, Instant Pot has changed that.

The pot must have enough liquid (see your unit’s user manual for how much) and the lid must be sealed for pressure to build in the cooker. The pressure builds as the steam formed by the heated fluid builds, allowing for higher heating temperatures and consequently faster cooking.

Before you remove the lid once you’ve finished cooking, you must first release the pressure. This step varies by model, so check your multicooker’s user handbook to make sure you’re doing it correctly.

Is it safe to use electric multicookers?

Electric pressure cookers are, for the most part, safe. You must, however, exercise caution.

Many people are apprehensive about using electric pressure cookers because of stories about them bursting on the burner. This was an issue with older stovetop versions, but current electric cookers have various safety features that reduce the chances of this happening.

“I’ve never been afraid about a multicooker exploding on the counters,” said Anne Wolf, a chef and chocolatier.

The creator of “The Step-by-Step Instant Pot Cookbook,” Jeffrey Eisner, agreed. “A key difference between pressure cookers from the past that were on stovetops and today’s that are electric and lock in place is that today’s lids will stay securely on top,” Eisner said. “I’m at ease with them and have never been frightened to use them. Personally, I’ve never had any problems.”

Electric pressure cookers, on the other hand, come with their own set of dangers. “I did notice that when executing a rapid release, it’s easy to burn yourself on the steam,” Wolf added. “So there’s a chance of getting burned.”

When relieving the pressure, the easiest approach to reduce the risk of burns is to activate the lever that opens the vent with a wooden spoon or another long tool. Because the steam emerges from the top, make sure you’re not standing over the cooker when it’s time to release it.

One of the most prevalent problems I’ve seen in years of using a pressure cooker and following the Instant Pot community on Facebook is people using their multicooker on a stove and mistakenly turning on the burner. For this reason, every manufacturer advises against using your cooker on the stove. As a result, I’m issuing a warning. It’s improbable that you’ll be wounded, but it might cause a major snafu.

How big should your electric pressure cooker be?

The six-quart pressure cooker is recommended by Eisner. “Start with a six-quart pot and see how much you enjoy it,” he said. “And then, typically, people become addicted to it and upgrade to a larger capacity, such as an eight-quart.”

“I’ve seen three quarts, six quarts, eight quarts, and now ten quarts,” Eisner continued. “The three-quart is sufficient for one person, although it is limited. A roast is one of the best things you can make in an Instant Pot. However, because the three-quart size is so little, you’ll have problems.”

Many of the models in our guide are available in a variety of sizes. All of the models we tested, with the exception of one, were either six or eight quarts, the two most common sizes. There were no major differences in cooking time or food quality between the sizes that we saw.

Is it true that Instant Pot recipes may be used in any multicooker?

The recipes from Eisner’s “The Step-by-Step Instant Pot Cookbook” performed exactly as well in off-brand pressure cookers as they did in the Instant Pots that Eisner used to produce the recipes. Instant Pot recipes appear to be cross-brand compatible.

Despite the fact that Eisner has never used a multicooker other than an Instant Pot, he claims that his recipes work in non-Instant Pot multicookers. “I’ve had letters from folks who have different brands,” Eisner said. “They also claim that the recipes in my book suit them perfectly.”

Is a stainless steel or nonstick inner pot better?

Dishwasher-safe stainless steel inner pots heat more evenly and are safe to use with metal utensils. Stainless steel, on the other hand, is more difficult to clean of stuck-on particles. When you put a nonstick pot in the dishwasher, you risk destroying the nonstick coating.

Nonstick inner pots, on the other hand, are fantastic since your food is less likely to stick to the inside, making cleanup easy. Many nonstick pots are dishwasher safe, though this varies by brand, and we advocate hand washing to extend the life of the nonstick coating. The most significant disadvantages of nonstick pots are that they do not heat as uniformly as stainless steel and can be scratched by metal utensils. We found no variation in cooking times or quality based on the type of pot used.

What’s the difference between natural and rapid release?

When the cooking is finished, you use a fast release to remove the steam from the pot. The steam is not released immediately with the natural release. Instead, you allow the pressure to naturally drop.

Once the pin drop indicates that the pressure is at a safe level, you can open the lid on either. A 10-minute natural release followed by a rapid release is recommended in many recipes. For the best results, we recommend sticking to the recipe, though as you become more familiar with your cooker’s peculiarities, you may want to make little tweaks.

A pulse or controlled release is a third, less prevalent mode of release. This entails opening and closing the vent in brief bursts to release pressure.

Be cautious however you choose to let off steam! We recommend triggering the release mechanism with a long wooden spoon so that you are far away from the steam when it is released. When releasing the steam, never stand over the multicooker. The most risky component of using an electric pressure cooker is releasing the steam.

Frequently Asked Questions about the Instant Pot

What should you avoid using the Instant Pot for?

You can’t pressure cook anything that you want to be dry or crisp because Instant Pots rely on hot liquids to build pressure. Dairy should also be avoided because it has the potential to split or curdle. Instead, add the dairy near the end of the cooking process.

Which Instant Pot size should I get?

The most common Instant Pot size is 6 quarts, which is a terrific place to start, especially for families of two to six people. If you meal prep or have a large family, choose an Instant Pot with an 8-quart capacity. Other sizes are intended for more specialized applications and are not suitable for beginners.

Is it safe to use an Instant Pot?

Yes, in a nutshell. Instant Pots have a number of safety precautions that prevent them from exploding like stovetop units did in the past. Experts we spoke with said they’ve never heard of an Instant Pot exploding. It’s possible that you’ll burn yourself when releasing the steam, but this is uncommon.

This guide will help you find the greatest bargains on pressure cookers.

Some of our readers’ favorite products include Instant Pot multicookers. These appliances can do a lot of things, cook a lot of different things, and are surprisingly simple to use.

These products are frequently on sale due to their popularity. For most of the year, the Instant Pot Duo, for example, is $10 less than the regular price. During Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Amazon Prime Day, the biggest offers and all-time lows appear, with some of our top picks seeing discounts of $40 or more.

However, determining what is a reasonable price to pay can be challenging. We’ve aggregated all of the greatest offers on the Instant Pots we suggest to make buying a little easier.

Prices pulled from the Amazon Product Advertising API on:

Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on [relevant Amazon Site(s), as applicable] at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.

Prices pulled from the Amazon Product Advertising API on:

Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on [relevant Amazon Site(s), as applicable] at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.

Prices pulled from the Amazon Product Advertising API on:

Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on [relevant Amazon Site(s), as applicable] at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.


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