There are few appliances as handy as an electric pressure cooker. It prepares soups, stews and large cuts of meat or poultry in a fraction of the time that traditional stovetop or oven roasting methods take. They're also useful when you are making a large meal and all of your burners are already in use. They can brown and simmer food, and most have timers so that, if you're leaving the house, you can put the ingredients in, set the timer for, say, an hour before dinner, and come home to a complete meal that's ready to be dished out. Of course, be careful with raw meat -- it should not be at room temperature for more than 2 hours. Many electric pressure cookers also have slow cooker and rice cooker settings, to give you three appliances in one. However, these countertop pressure cookers do cook at a lower pressure than traditional stovetop cookers, so if you would like to speed things up even further -- or use your pressure cooker for canning -- see our discussion of stovetop pressure cookers elsewhere in this report. If you're an avid canner, check out our recommendations for pressure cooker canners.
No other electric pressure cooker gets the kind of love we see for the Instant Pot IP-DUO60 Programmable Pressure Cooker (Est. $140). This 7-in-1 countertop pressure cooker does it all and more: It steams, sautés, browns, has a delayed cooking timer and will keep food warm for hours. It even makes yogurt -- a feature that has prompted many owners of previous versions of the Instant Pot to upgrade their cooker. They do say there is a learning curve to getting the yogurt to turn out to their preferred texture and taste, but no one complains about the process. In addition to being a pressure cooker, the versatile Instant Pot can replace your slow cooker and your rice cooker.
The most popular feature of the Instant Pot is its stainless steel insert and basket. Most other electric pressure cookers have a nonstick coating -- something that turns off people who are worried about chemicals leaching into their food. However, even with the lack of a non-stick surface, the Instant Pot is reported as very easy to clean. It's easy to use, too, and offers simple, one-button convenience with presets for meat/stew, beans/chili, soup, poultry, rice, multigrain and porridge. When it's done cooking, it goes into a keep warm mode.
In spite of Instant Pot IP-DUO60's simple-to-use features, many reviewers say it can be puzzling to try to figure out the correct times for foods you want to cook. A lot of the blame for that can be laid squarely at the feet of the included recipe booklet -- it's very limited and deals almost exclusively with one-pot meals, rather than common cuts of meats and poultry. However, there are quite a few resources on the Internet to help walk you through the missing information, and the vast majority of users say it's worth figuring it out for the time and money you save.
The only other consistent complaint we saw with the Instant Pot is that the gasket retains smells. Some say it doesn't really bother them, even though they notice it, while others can hardly stand how stinky it can become. Some replace it frequently with the Instant Pot Silicone Sealing Ring (Est. $15), others just buy a second gasket to use for recipes that are not strongly flavored so there is no "smell" crossover. The Instant Pot IP-DUO60 has a 6-quart capacity; the Instant Pot IP-DUO50 (Est. $115) has a 5-quart capacity and correspondingly lower price tag, while the Instant Pot Smart (Est. $180), is Bluetooth-enabled (so you can control and monitor it with a smartphone app), with a correspondingly higher price tag.
The Secura 6-in-1 Electric Pressure Cooker (Est. $100) is another well-reviewed pressure cooker with a stainless steel pot. Like the Instant Pot, it's very versatile, with browning, steaming and sauté features. It also can double as a slow cooker or rice cooker. It lacks a manual feature, which the Instant Pot has; a few reviewers say they miss that, but most don't seem to notice. The Secura does not make yogurt, but, if that's not a must-have capability, at about $40 less than the Instant Pot, owners say it's an excellent value.
Fagor makes an extensive line of both stovetop and electric pressure cookers, and the Fagor 6-quart Multi-Cooker (Est. $90) is the company's highest-rated countertop electric pressure cooker. It has fewer settings than either the Instant Pot or the Secura -- just high and low pressure, keep warm and brown. However, owners say it's very easy to use and they like the simplicity. We saw a few more short term durability complaints about this pressure cooker than with others, and it does not include a trivet, also called a steam rack, something that comes with most countertop electric pressure cookers. And, as we see with all of the electric pressure cookers in this report, the instructions could be better -- quite a few reviewers say they're confusing or that the actual buttons on the Fagor don't match up. However, most add that they can figure things out. The cooking pot has a nonstick coating, which some love, but is a deal-breaker for others
The Cuisinart CPC-600 (Est. $100), also has a 6-quart capacity and reviewers say it offers a good value -- although it gets slightly lower ratings from owners overall than the Instant Pot. The Cuisinart offers two pressure settings, a built-in thermostat, automatic pressure release and a programmable timer. Professional testers find that the CPC-600 makes good-tasting foods and that it browns fairly well; however, it's more apt to turn itself off during cooking if enough water isn't sensed. This is a problem with all electric pressure cookers, but seems to be particularly common with the Cuisinart, leading us to wonder if perhaps the sensors might be too sensitive. Still, the CPC-600 continues to get good reviews overall, and is reported as very easy to use and clean. It has a nonstick coating on the pot insert.
We don't necessarily recommend that you run right out and buy a Wolfgang Puck Pressure Oven (Est. $250), but we couldn't resist reviewing it here simply because it's truly unique. It's an electric countertop appliance that looks like a toaster oven, but works like an electric pressure cooker. The claim is that it will cook up to 70 percent faster. To anyone who has ever used a traditional, round countertop pressure cooker the advantages of the oven-style cooker are obvious: it holds larger cuts of meat without them needing to be halved or quartered -- or needing to put them in a pot sideways or upside-down. The Pressure Oven also has a standard mode and can bake, roast, broil, toast, and warm, just like a toaster oven. An upgraded model adds a rotisserie feature for an extra $100.
While the Wolfgang Puck Pressure Oven is a great idea in theory, it gets decidedly mixed reviews from owners. Those who cook meat in it seem pleased, but most say it doesn't work well for other things, like baked goods and vegetables that are included in one-pot dishes, which turn out mushy. Quite a few say it doesn't cook as quickly in pressure mode as it claims to; others say it doesn't work well in standard mode either. There are also quite a few durability complaints, from outright failure to seemingly flimsy construction. To be fair, there are a couple of poor reviews from people who didn't do their homework and thought they were buying a traditional toaster oven, and those reviews bring down the Pressure Oven's overall rating. We'd also be remiss if we did not mention that there are a decent number of 5-star reviews for this pressure oven; with users saying it performs exactly as advertised. However, many say that the top of the oven gets hot while in use, so be careful not to touch it and don't let children use it.
Elsewhere in this report: