What the Best Electric Pressure Cooker for 2021

 

A pressure cooker is one of the best hands-off ways to get dinner on the table fast. Just add ingredients to the pot and cover it with the locking lid; when heated, the pressure cooker raises the boiling point of water and traps steam inside, which is how it decreases cook time by up to 70%.

When cooking’s finished, you can release the steam inside quickly via the manual pressure release valve or let it drop on its own.

Most new models also slow cook, steam, sauté, and more — I refer to these appliances as multi-cookers, like the cult-worthy Instant Pot. Newer electric pressure cookers also come fully stocked with safety features.

Besides having the built-in pressure release valve, they also offer locking lids and smart auto-shutoff sensors. In other words, these versatile, user-friendly plug-in appliances are definitely not your grandmother’s pressure cooker.

That being said, stovetop models cook at a higher pressure than electric pressure cookers and therefore get hotter, so if you’re choosing between the two types, take note that an electric cooker may take a bit longer to heat up and cook than its stovetop counterparts (don’t worry, it’ll still shave hours off your cook time).

 

My pick

Instant Pot Duo 7-in-1 Electric Pressure Cooker, Sterilizer, Slow Cooker, Rice Cooker, Steamer, Saute, Yogurt Maker, and Warmer, 6 Quart, 14 One-Touch Programs

The Instant Pot Duo 6-Quart is our all-time favorite electric pressure cooker. It’s super simple to use and turns out delicious meals faster than conventional cooking methods—you can cook black beans from scratch in 20 minutes.

You can also use this pot as a slow cooker and a rice cooker, and it sautés foods better than the competition. We like that the Duo’s stainless steel pot is more durable than the nonstick inserts that come with other cookers.

Upgrade pick

Instant Pot Ultra 10-in-1 Electric Pressure Cooker, Sterilizer, Slow Cooker, Rice Cooker, Steamer, Sauté, Yogurt Maker, Cake Maker, Egg Cooker, and Warmer, 6 Quart, 16 One-Touch Programs

 

We recommend the Instant Pot Ultra 6-Quart if you want an electric pressure cooker with sleeker controls and more cooking options—including one for low-temperature, sous-vide-like cooking.

With a dial and a large LCD screen, its interface is more streamlined than that of the Instant Pot Duo 6-Quart. Rather than repeatedly punching “+” or “–” buttons, you can quickly adjust the time, temperature, and pressure settings with a spin of a dial.

People living more than 3,000 feet above sea level may appreciate the altitude-adjust function, which allows you to enter your elevation so that the machine can adjust cooking time and temperature accordingly.

Who should have this

Making meals can be stressful and time-consuming, but an electric pressure cooker will do much work for you. 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).

Pressure cookers speed up traditional braising, stewing, boiling, or steaming methods by trapping steam inside the pot. As pressure increases, it raises the boiling point of water and can cook foods more quickly.

The new generation of electric pressure cookers is more accurately called “multi-cookers” because they can also slow cook, steam, cook grains, and make yogurt quickly and safely.

They’re less intimidating and more versatile than stovetop pressure cookers, although they take up more space and cost more.

Why I recommend this

A great electric pressure cooker should be versatile, simple to use, durable, safe, and easy to clean. To find the best electric cooker, we prioritized the following criteria:

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.

Versatility: Our favorite electric pressure cookers are actually multi-cookers, with more cooking modes than slow cookers or rice cookers. They can successfully pressure-cook, slow cook, sauté, steam, make rice, and even make yogurt. We searched for cookers with the most pressure modes and cooking programs to fine-tune cooking.

Materials and construction: Electric pressure cookers have removable cooking pots or inserts. 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.

Warranty and replaceable parts: A good warranty will at least cover the electronic housing and inner pot for one year but may not include gaskets, valve parts, and seals. Whether the warranty covers those small parts, 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.

For more details

The Instant Pot Duo 6-Quart is our favorite electric pressure cooker because it offers the best combination of great performance, versatility, and price. Firing up the Duo is more intuitive than starting other cookers, and it churns out delicious recipes like butter chicken, risotto, and brisket quickly.

It’s one of the easiest cookers to clean, too. The Duo’s durable stainless steel pot will last longer than nonstick inserts, and replacement parts are readily available.

Despite its many buttons and spaceship-like appearance, the Instant Pot Duo is simple to use. We were cooking beans within minutes of scanning the instructions.

By comparison, the controls on competitors like the T-fal were complicated, and the manual for the Cuckoo iCook Q5 Premium was impenetrable. Similarly, intuitive models like the Ninja Foodi and the Breville Fast Slow Pro cost more or take up more counter space.

The Instant Pot Duo has 14 settings (including preset programs for foods like rice, stew, or yogurt, as well as manual programs for sautéing, slow cooking, or pressure-cooking). You can also adjust the time and pressure level within the programmed functions, and the machine will remember these adjustments the next time you turn it on.

I like that the Instant Pot has three temperature settings for both pressure-cooking and sautéing, whereas the other cookers in its price range offer only one or two.

You can make a sofrito for soup base using the low-heat setting or caramelize onions and garlic on the high setting. The Instant Pot also has two pressure settings—low or high—whereas some other models we tested have only one.

The Instant Pot is one of the few electric cookers we tried with an uncoated stainless steel inner pot, which gave us better color on onions and beef than the nonstick pots that come with other models (although it’s not nearly as good for searing meat as a pan on the stovetop).

Most other cookers have nonstick-coated inner pots, which you can easily scratch while cooking, which will eventually wear out even with careful use. The Duo’s pot also has a tri-ply bottom disk to help cook evenly.

The lid on the Instant Pot detaches for easy cleaning. It has tabs that fit into a slot in either handle, so you can park it where it’s most convenient. In comparison, the T-fal and Ninja Foodi have attached hinged lids that do both cleaning and storing the cooker difficult.

Like all modern pressure cookers, the Instant Pot has multiple safety mechanisms to keep the pressure at a safe level and prevent you from opening the lid while the pot is still under pressure (which could lead to a dangerous eruption of hot liquid).

Pressure-cooker bloggers are also in love with this pot. Mike Vrobel, author of the cooking blog Dad Cooks Dinner, praises Instant Pot for the “… little features like the silicone gasket that makes cleaning the Instant Pot easy, the built-in lid holder, and the stainless steel pot.” And what so great is the pot has a one-year warranty, and replacement parts are available online.

I think the 6-quart model is the most useful size for home cooks, but Instant Pot makes an 8-quart version for larger batches and a smaller 3-quart version as well. If you’re unsure, we break down and review which size Instant Pot to get here. The Instant Pot Duo 6-Quart also comes in various colors: red, black, teal, and white.

 

 

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