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The Best Pressure Cookers
Most pressure cookers are going to make you pretty delicious meals, but the best will do it quickly, reliably, and hassle-free. We tested seven pressure cookers — four stovetop and three electric — to find the ones that are safest and easiest to use. We found two in each category that we’d be happy using in our homes.
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How We Chose the Best Pressure Cookers
Well-recommended electric and stovetop options
For a method of cooking that isn’t all that nuanced — trapping boiling water so it reaches a higher-than-boiling temperature and cooks your food faster — there are a lot of options. Where pressure cookers separate themselves is in the details. How easy are they to operate? Are they made of high quality materials? Does everything fit tightly, preventing steam from escaping where it shouldn’t?
To find pressure cookers that meet these quality standards, we cast a wide net, gathering recommendations from best-of lists on cooking sites like Serious Eats and America’s Test Kitchen, as well as top sellers from popular retailers like Amazon, Walmart, and Target. We started with a list of 40 stovetop and electric pressure cookers. (Both stovetop and electronic pressure cookers operate on the same over-boiling principle, but each style has its own distinct benefits.)
Independently approved for safety
Despite their surging popularity, pressure cookers just can’t seem to shake their reputation for explosions. When most people hear the words “pressure cooker,” they still envision a rattling pot at their grandma’s house ready to blow. Fear not: Modern pressure cookers are as safe as any of your other kitchen appliances. Most come with at least three pressure release mechanisms, so if one fails there are several backups. Still, we made sure to check that all of the pressure cookers we looked at were certified by a Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory, too, which has to be approved by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
We settled on six quarts for a few reasons: It’s a middle size that almost all brands offer; the top sellers on popular retailers were overwhelmingly six quarts; and it’s a good size for an average family. As Laura Pazzaglia, author of Hip Pressure Cooking, writes on her site, “Our rule of thumb (with extra wiggle room) is to calculate one quart/liter per person in the household…they can all feed fewer people, too. Bigger is not better with pressure cookers — get the smallest pressure cooker for your cooking needs.” Electric pressure cookers are also pretty bulky, so anything above six quarts will take up a lot of space in your kitchen.
Uncoated stainless steel pot
We preferred an uncoated stainless steel pot. We saw a few pressure cookers made of aluminum, and we didn’t think the slightly lower price was enough to justify the durability issues that come with aluminum. Stainless steel is simply stronger and more resistant to scratches and corrosion, something that’s essential for the high stress of pressure cooking. We also cut out any pots that had a non-stick coating. Due to the high amount of pressure, non-stick coatings have been known to chip and wear away over time. Spend a few minutes reading pressure cooker user reviews, and you’ll find this is one of consumers’ biggest complaints. No one likes finding metallic flakes in their food, so we opted for uncoated stainless steel pots only.
Pressure cookers have several smaller parts like gaskets that need to be replaced every couple years. They also tend to pick up the smell of whatever you’re cooking, so some people like to buy a few at a time and change them out for different meals (no one wants cumin flavoring in their yogurt). Because ordering parts is a part of owning a pressure cooker, we needed to know that it was going to be a painless process. And more importantly, we had to trust that they were going to be around for a long time, and not leave our pressure cooker useless because we can’t get a $10 part.
We did some practice runs ordering basic parts, and eliminated three of our remaining contenders based on the availability of their replacement parts, and how expensive they were compared to other models.
Easy to use, easy to clean
Because our research told us that we wouldn’t find a lot of differences in food quality, we decided to focus our testing on what it would be like to own one of these for the long haul. For the stovetop cookers, that meant construction that gave us confidence in its safety and durability. We wanted to make sure the lid locked tightly into place, had no loose parts, and worked as advertised. For the electric cookers, usability was our main focus.
We heard over and over from consumer reviews that convenience was their biggest appeal, so we looked for a model that was as easy as possible to operate. At a minimum, we wanted to be able to set the time and pressure without too much fiddling. Both styles have a ton of removable parts that need to be cleaned regularly, so we also evaluated the cleaning process would be like.
The Best Pressure Cookers
Why we chose it
If you’re looking for convenience, it’s hard to beat electric pressure cookers: just plug them in, choose one of the many preset cooking options, and they’ll handle the rest. The Instant Pot Duo 60 had everything we were looking for at a reasonable price. It’s built from quality materials, with a hefty non-stick, stainless steel inner pot and tri-ply bottom, which lend to durability and longevity.
While no pressure cookers feel especially intuitive to use, the Duo was by far the easiest to learn; there’s a preset for just about everything, so button-pressing is kept to a minimum. We also appreciated the separate settings for high and low pressure and the usable spread of cooking programs. It has all of the “7-in-1 multi-cooker” functionality that Instant Pot is famous for — pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, steamer, sauté, yogurt maker and warmer — while still only asking you to make one or two decisions every time you use it.
Dedicated company, dedicated owners
There’s a reason Instant Pot has grown such a passionate and loyal fanbase since it debuted in 2009: Making really good pressure cookers is all the company does. This means you will have a pleasantly easy experience ordering replacement parts (you don’t have to weed through pages of appliances on their website to get to the part you need, plus they’re readily available on Amazon). It also means you can tap into the pooled knowledge of an enthusiastic community of Instant Pot owners who love to share their recipes. The Instant Pot Facebook group alone has more than 700,000 members.
Points to consider
Less high-tech than other Instant Pot models
If you are looking for exact temperatures or the ability to import recipes from a synced app, you may be interested in upgrading to the Instant Pot Smart. While a pressure cooker veteran might have more fun with the Smart’s unlimited potential, we thought it took away from the main appeal of the appliance: its promise of quick and mindless cooking. Plus, all Instant Pots have a microprocessor inside that monitors pressure and temperature, adjusting automatically depending on the preset you choose.
A step up for the experienced
Why we chose it
A step up for the experienced
If you’re already an experienced pressure cooker user, it might be worth upgrading to the Instant Pot Smart 60 Bluetooth. The Smart’s Bluetooth capability means you have nearly unlimited cooking options at your fingertips, perfect for someone who’s familiar with pressure cookers and looking for more control.
The Smart’s functionality is extremely impressive. Once you download the app and pair it with the cooker, you can control it from your phone. (We really liked being able to check how much time was left from the other room.) And the Smart’s range was excellent — we found that we could still operate it from 45 feet away. By writing recipe scripts on the app, you can have the Smart cook at high pressure for a period of time, then switch to low for a while, then keep it warm until you’re ready to eat. You can even control the temperature at every step within five degrees.
Points to consider
To be honest, we found the Smart’s capabilities a little overwhelming. The app isn’t very user-friendly, and we missed how little thinking the Duo required. Because the app only comes stocked with 25 recipes, it’s more of a vehicle for writing your own recipe scripts than a place for finding existing ones. But if you’re ready for more customization, this programmable pressure cooker has more potential than anything else on the market.
Some tinkering with pressure changes
Why we chose it
If you want to cook faster, or if you want a better sear or sauté on your food, you’ll want a stovetop pressure cooker. They require a little more finessing than electrics, but you also get more speed and power since you’re cooking over a direct heat source. We liked the T-Fal Ultimate best out of all the stovetop models we saw, with a thick base, handy settings, and modern safety features. We particularly liked how it used a modern spring valve mechanism, which rises and falls with the pressure inside so you can clearly see what’s going on in the pot.
All stovetop pressure cookers are pretty similar to use, but the T-Fal was almost a pound heavier than the other stovetop cookers in its price range. And that’s purposeful weight — its base, twice as thick as the competition, helps distribute heat evenly under pressure. With separate settings for high and low pressure (perfect for delicate foods like eggs or fish) and that thick multi-layer base (great for even searing), the T-Fal resembled stovetop cookers three times its price. And it had more safety mechanisms than any other stovetop we looked at, giving us additional peace of mind.
Points to consider
Some tinkering to change pressure
Even with T-Fal’s separate settings for high and low pressure, you’ll have to manually turn down and monitor the heat once it comes to pressure and steam starts to escape. It’s possible to estimate lower pressure by simply reducing your stove’s heat, but the settings are intended take the guesswork out of it. Still, a certain amount of tinkering is inevitable with stovetop cookers.
Why we chose it
If you are looking for the best of the best, the Fissler Vitaquick is hard to beat. It had the thickest tri-ply base of any stovetop cooker we tested, and all of its parts locked into place more tightly than cheaper models. Everything about it feels well-constructed. And that makes a difference in cooking — both America’s Test Kitchen and Consumer Reports picked the Vitaquick as their top-performing stovetop cooker.
Where all of our other stovetops took some finessing to get the lid on, the Vitaquick made it easy to find the groove on the first try. And once it was on, it locked securely into place without any of the wiggling we found in some of the others. We also liked Fissler’s solution for multiple pressure settings. Instead of choosing one or two on a dial like the T-Fal, the Vitaquick uses a marked plastic indicator that rises as pressure builds up. The first line means low pressure, while the second one means you’re at high. Both methods worked fine, but the Vitaquick makes it a little more obvious when you’ve reached the right heat setting on your stove.
Points to consider
The Vitaquick is an undeniably impressive for a piece of equipment, but we ultimately didn’t think the improvements justify the extra $200 over the T-Fal for most people. That said, if you plan on making most of your meals with your stovetop cooker over the long haul, it’s worth considering the Vitaquick. The price is steep, but it’s undeniably efficient, well-built, and high-performing.
How to Make Your Pressure Cooker Work for You
Decide between electric and stove top
If you’re looking for convenience, you should go with an electric pressure cooker. Like a slow cooker, it takes all of the mental energy out of the cooking process. Just add the ingredients, press a button, and wait for it to finish. Electric pressure cookers have timers and sensors inside that adjust automatically depending on what you’re cooking, so you’re almost guaranteed a quality meal every time. They’re truly all-in-one machines — almost all of the electric models we looked at had settings for slow cook, rice, steaming, and some even included a yogurt setting.
Where stovetop cookers have the edge is mainly in control. Since you’re cooking over an intense heat source, you can get the pot hot enough for a nice sear — something electric cookers struggle with. The direct heat also gives them superior speed and power: Stovetop cookers can reach higher pressures than electrics, and they get there faster. The downside is that you’ll have to manually adjust the stove to get the right pressure on most models, which can get tedious.
Know that recipes can be misleading
You’ll see a lot of claims about how much time pressure cookers will save you (potatoes in five minutes!), and it’s partly true — they’re about 70% faster than slow cookers. But it’s important to remember that it takes about 10 to 15 minutes for electric cookers to come to pressure. So while to potatoes may only take five minutes to cook, the whole process would be closer to 20.
Adjust your recipe
Stovetop cookers can generally reach 15 psi, or 250°F, while most electrics top out between 9 psi and 12 psi. (Instant Pot gauges its high setting as 11.6 psi, or 242°F.) That means you’ll need to translate your recipe depending on which type it was written for. In general, stovetop cookers only need about three-quarters of the time that electrics do, and it’s a good idea to add a little more liquid to stovetops, as there’s bound to be some evaporation during the process. Laura Pazzaglia at Hip Pressure Cooking has a great resource for translating recipes.
Pressure Cooker FAQ
What can you cook in a pressure cooker?
Everything from mashed potatoes to bean soup to braised chicken. But while pressure cooker brands and enthusiasts love telling you that it’s the only appliance you’ll ever need in your kitchen again, it has a few blind spots. It’s a method of cooking based off moisture, so there are certain things they’ll never be able to do well. Crispy is a texture you’re just never going to get out of your pressure cooker, so leave those dishes to your oven.
Where pressure cookers really excel is in tender, juicy meals that would usually take hours in the oven. (This also lets you get away with buying tougher cuts of meat, as it turns everything into a melt-in-your-mouth consistency.) As pressure cookbook author Lorna Sass told The New York Times, “People want to use their pressure cookers for everything, but they’re better for some things than others…Stick to soups, stews, beans and risotto. It makes fabulous risotto.”
Is Instant Pot the best pressure cooker?
Instant Pot is the gold standard for electric cookers. That jumped out to us immediately in our research. From best-of lists to retailer top sellers to buzz from media outlets, the Instant Pot is synonymous with electric pressure cookers. We wanted to find out if they were really better than everything else on the market, and how they had become so popular. From the outside looking in, they appeared to be pretty similar to other electric pressure cookers. But as we dug in, it became clear why they inspire such adoration from their users. They use all the best materials, have a reputation for great customer service, and are backed by an enormous online community eager to share recipes and tips.
Are pressure cookers safe?
While pressure cookers of old were known to blow a whale spout of hot water and half-cooked food straight up when the interior pressure became too intense, modern pressure cookers are equipped with multiple safety features. We required at least three separate safety mechanisms, meaning if one fails, another is on hand to regulate pressure and keep the contents securely in place.
The Best Pressure Cookers: Summed Up
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