The Best Pressure Cooker
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.
Simple to use, built from the best materials, and backed by a reputation as the world’s most trusted pressure cooker, it’s hard to find anything not to like about the Instant Pot Duo. If you want to cook things with minimal effort, this is the machine for you.
Instant Pot Smart 60 Bluetooth
The Smart’s Bluetooth capability means you have nearly unlimited cooking options at your fingertips. While that number of choices could feel overwhelming for someone new to pressure cooking, it can benefit someone who's more familiar with pressure cookers and looking for more control.
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. With separate settings for high and low pressure and a thick multi-layer base perfect 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.
If you’re planning on making your stovetop pressure cooker a major part of your cooking routine for the long term, it’s worth considering the Vitaquick. The price is steep, but it’s as efficient, well-built, and high-performing as anything we looked at.
The Best Pressure Cooker
If you’re looking for convenience, it’s hard to beat electric pressure cookers. They don’t ask a lot of you — just plug it in, choose one of the many preset cooking options, and it will handle the rest. Our research told us that Instant Pots were the gold standard for electric cookers; once we got our hands on one, it was easy to see why. The Instant Pot Duo 60 had everything we were looking for at a reasonable $100. It’s built from quality materials, with a hefty non-stick, stainless steel inner pot and tri-ply bottom, and it had more functionality than anything we looked at in its price range. And 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.
If you’re already an experienced pressure cooker user, it might be worth upgrading to the Instant Pot Smart 60 Bluetooth ($160). It has bluetooth capability, so once you download the app, you can write recipe scripts with nearly unlimited options. To be honest, we found it a little overwhelming. The app isn’t very user-friendly, and we missed how little thinking the Duo required. But if you’re ready for more customization in your pressure cooking, the Smart has more potential than anything else on the market.
Stovetop cookers are best for cooks who want more control over the process. 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, something that’s useful for searing or sautéing. We liked the T-Fal Ultimate best out of all the stovetop models we saw. For $64, it had all the features we were looking for: a stainless steel pot, two pressure settings, and fully modern safety mechanisms. They were all pretty similar to use, but the T-Fal was almost a pound heavier than the other stovetop cookers in its price range, giving it a thicker base for distributing heat evenly under pressure. By any measure, it resembles stovetop cookers in the $200 range more than other low-priced ones.
If you are looking for the best of the best, the Fissler Vitaquick is hard to beat, even at its steep $240 price. 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. And that makes a difference in cooking, too — both America’s Test Kitchen and Consumer Reports picked the Vitaquick as their top-performing stovetop cooker. We didn’t think the improvements were enough to justify the extra $176 for most people, but if you’re going to be making a lot of your meals with your pressure cooker, it might be worth considering.
How We Found the Best Pressure Cooker
Shopping for pressure cookers can be a dizzying experience. For a method of cooking that isn’t all that nuanced — essentially trapping boiling water so it reaches a higher-than-boiling temperature and cooks your food faster — there are a lot of options that look the same. Our research told us that there isn’t a ton of difference in how the food actually turns out when everything is working properly. 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?
What We Learned
There are two types of pressure cookers: stovetop and electric.
Both stovetop and electric pressure cookers operate on the same principle of trapping steam to raise pressure and temperature inside the pot, but they each have their own distinct benefits.
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.
Stovetop cookers can generally reach 15 psi, or 250°F, while most electrics top out between 9 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.
Instant Pot is the gold standard for electric cookers.
One thing jumped out to us immediately in our research: The Instant Pot is everywhere. 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.
But we wanted to explore a little deeper and find out how other models compared to the Instant Pot, and whether anything was a worthy challenger.
You’ll see a lot of claims about how much time pressure cookers will save you (potatoes in five minutes!), and that’s true — they’re about 70% faster than slow cookers, for instance. 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.
What We Cut Out
We started with a list of 40 pressure cookers. Our picks included 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 made sure they were 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 picked six-quart models as our standard.
We settled on six quarts for a few reasons: It’s a middle size that almost all brands offer, the most popular models 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.
We cut anything without a 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.
We only looked at established brands.
This was a little more ambiguous, but we felt it was necessary for long-term satisfaction. Pressure cookers have several smaller parts like gaskets that will 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 (because no one wants cumin taste in their yogurt).
Because ordering parts is a part of owning a pressure cooker at some point, 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. That left us with seven pressure cookers that met all of our criteria.
We brought in seven pressure cookers.
We wanted to get a feel for the actual experience of using these pressure cookers, so we brought in seven to look at more closely. Because our research told us that we wouldn’t find a lot of differences in food quality, we decided to focus on what it would be like to one of these for the long haul.
For the stovetop cookers, that meant construction that gave us confidence in its safety and durability. All of them were made from high quality stainless steel, but we still 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 painless as possible to operate. They’re not the most intuitive machines, but we didn’t want to feel overwhelmed after multiple uses. At a minimum, we wanted to be able to set the time and pressure without too much fiddling.
Pressure cookers have a ton of removable parts that need to be cleaned regularly, so we also evaluated what that process would be like. Were there any nooks that would collect bits of food and be a pain to clean out? We wanted to get a sense of what it would be like to actually own one of these things.
- Elite Platinum 6-Quart ($90)
- Instant Pot DUO60 ($100)
- Instant Pot Smart 60 ($160)
- Fagor Splendid ($70)
- Fissler Vitaquick ($240)
- Presto 6-Quart ($42)
- T-Fal P25107 ($64)
Our Picks for Best Pressure Cooker
Once you get past some basic specs, there isn’t a huge difference in how most electric pressure cookers actually cook food. But there’s a reason Instant Pot has grown such a passionate and loyal fanbase since it debuted in 2009. They make really good pressure cookers, and that’s all they do. The Instant Pot DUO60 had everything we were looking for in an electric cooker: separate settings for high and low pressure, a thick tri-ply bottom for even cooking, and all the cooking programs we could ever want.
The Elite Platinum 6-Quart was a worthy contender, but there were a few qualities that pushed us towards the Instant Pots. For starters, the Elite only had one pressure setting, so all nine of its cooking functions are really just preset timers. In contrast, the Instant Pots have a microprocessor inside that monitors pressure and temperature, adjusting automatically depending on the preset you choose. It makes for a cooking experience that’s pretty tough to mess up. As one of our co-workers put it, “I’ve honestly never been disappointed by any meal I’ve cooked in my Instant Pot.”
We ultimately settled on the Instant Pot Duo over the Smart because we couldn’t justify the extra $60 for the added features. Yes, the Smart lets you set exact temperatures instead of just choosing high or low pressure. And you can import recipes directly from their app using its Bluetooth capability (a cool feature to play around with, even if most reviewers seemed to use it just so they could check the time from another room). A pressure cooker veteran might have more fun with the Smart’s unlimited potential, but we thought it took away from the main appeal of the appliance: its promise of quick and mindless cooking.
The Duo isn’t just Instant Pot’s best selling pressure cooker—it’s Amazon’s best seller in it’s entire Kitchen & Dining category. And the Duo feels like a flagship model when you use it. 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. Granted, the plethora of preset options means you actually have to read the instruction manual for the first few uses, but the Duo makes it hard to go wrong.
We also liked how seamlessly the Duo would fit into our lives. All the parts are dishwasher safe even the gasket — so you can easily get rid of the smells they pick up after each use. And even without a non-stick coating, the pots are still a breeze to clean. Our co-worker told us she even uses it twice in one night sometimes: “If I’m making stew or curry and also need to make rice, it’s not a hassle to give it a quick hand wash before loading it up for the next dish.”
Instant Pot was by far the easiest brand to order replacement parts from, too. Because they only make pressure cookers, you don’t have to weed through pages of appliances on their website to get to the part you need. (They’re readily available on Amazon, too.) They’ve also built an enthusiastic community of followers who love to share their recipes; the Instant Pot Facebook group alone has over 700,000 members.
Best Electric Upgrade
If you’re already deep into the world of pressure cooking, you might be happy upgrading to the Instant Pot Smart 60. We found the increased options and programming a little overwhelming, but for a pressure cooking veteran, we could see how the level of control offered here would be attractive.
Along with the two pressure settings that we liked in the Duo, it's the first pressure cooker to incorporate bluetooth. We didn’t think that was enough to pay $60 more, but 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.) The Smart’s range was excellent — we found that we could still operate it from 45 feet away.
But the amount of options at your fingertips is a lot to take in for a first-time user. 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 to within five degrees accuracy. It’s a long way from the original appeal of one-click cooking, but for someone who’s already comfortable with pressure cookers and wants to try more, we could see how this would be an exciting product.
That being said, Instant Pot still has some kinks to work out. The app was pretty disappointing; it’s not at all easy to navigate or user-friendly, as evidenced by its two-star rating in the App Store. And it only has 25 recipes in it, so it's really more of a vehicle for writing your own recipe scripts than a place for finding new ones.
As we unboxed our shiny new stovetop pressure cookers, it quickly became apparent that there weren’t going to be major differences between our remaining contenders. Which makes sense—we’d weeded out all the sub-par features we didn’t like and were left with four great choices. They are all made from high-quality stainless steel, include at least three safety mechanisms, and have been certified by independent, OSHA-approved labs. We’re confident that you wouldn’t regret buying any one of these stovetop cookers.
That being said, the T-Fal Ultimate stood out to us for a few reasons. For one, it was significantly heavier than the Fagor and Presto cookers, even after accounting for its slightly larger 6.3 quart size. And that wasn’t redundant weight—it had a base that was twice as thick as the Fagor and Presto, which meant that it would distribute heat more evenly under pressure. By those measurements, its closest comparison was the Fissler Vitaquick, which cost about $175 more.
We also loved how the T-Fal offered two pressure settings, something that’s usually only found in more expensive models. Out of our four contenders, only the T-Fal and Fissler Vitaquick had it. It’s not a dealbreaker, but it’s nice to have the option for more targeted cooking on delicate foods like eggs or fish. It’s possible to estimate lower pressure by simply reducing your stove’s heat, but the settings take the guesswork out of it. Still, even with 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. A certain amount of tinkering is inevitable with stovetop cookers.
And although we’re fully confident in the safety of modern pressure cookers, the T-Fal took some nice steps to quiet our paranoia. It has more safety mechanisms than any other stovetop cooker we tested, ensuring that if one were to fail in relieving excess pressure, there would be several backing it up. We 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. The Presto uses a more old-school metal jiggler on top of the lid. As the pressure builds up, it eventually forces the metal up and lets out a puff of steam. Aside from making a lot of nerve-racking clanking sounds, it’s also harder to monitor your food this way.
The T-Fal was also the simplest of our stovetop cookers to order replacement parts from. They were easy to find on Amazon, or right on the model’s product page on their website. Fissler and Fagor both had a lot of replacement parts on their website, but it took a good amount of clicking around to find the right ones for our model. Presto was the only brand that had such hard-to-find parts that it actually made us not want to buy their product. After finding our way to the parts page for their six-quart pressure cookers, we were met with links to dozens of product numbers — not a problem on its face, but there were several options that had the first four digits of our model number. In the end, it didn’t matter; they all took us to Presto’s Amazon page, where the search started fresh. We think we eventually found the right parts (the compatible model numbers were still two digits longer than ours), but the process was so annoying that we were ready to swear them off altogether.
Best Stovetop Upgrade
The Vitaquick is an undeniably impressive for a piece of equipment that’s essentially a pot with a lid that locks on. And while we couldn’t justify the extra $176 over the T-Fal, it’s worth considering the upgrade if you plan on making your stovetop cooker a big part of your cooking routine over the long haul.
You could tell immediately why the Vitaquick was our most expensive stovetop model. It was the heaviest of the group, with a thick tri-ply base for even searing. Everything about it just felt well-constructed. 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. It was also the top-performing stovetop cooker in tests from America’s Test Kitchen and Consumer Reports; America’s Test Kitchen found it to be the only one to reach a full 15 psi, the maximum level pressure cookers reach before safety mechanisms kick in.
Did You Know?
Not every food is right for a pressure cooker.
Pressure cooker brands and enthusiasts are not shy about telling you that it’s the only appliance you’ll ever need in your kitchen again. But the truth is, 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.”