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Best Electric Pressure Cooker

By: Kelly Burgess on March 02, 2018

Electric pressure cookers offer "set-and-forget" convenience

Electric pressure cookers, also called multi-cookers, are all the rage these days. They're very versatile, and can prepare soups, stews and large cuts of meat or poultry in a fraction of the time that traditional stovetop or oven-roasting methods take. They can also double (or triple) as a rice cooker and slow cooker, and testing indicates that they do as well at those tasks as dedicated appliances. Many have a delay start feature 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. 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.

No other electric pressure cooker gets the kind of love that we see for the Instant Pot IP-DUO60 (Est. $100). 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. In testing at Wirecutter, Good Housekeeping, Consumer Reports and Reviews.com, it excels in every area they tested -- in other words, it's truly a seven-in-one appliance. Although it does tend to lag a bit in sautéing and steaming compared to a skillet or steamer, it's still good enough that you don't need those dedicated appliances.

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 and, again, testing by experts backs up users' anecdotal experiences. The Instant Pot is easy to use, too, and offers simple, one-button convenience with presets for meat/stew, beans/chili, soup, poultry, rice, multigrain and porridge, although J. Kenji López-Alt at Serious Eats says that there's too many presets on the Instant Pot and it can be puzzling to figure out which buttons to use for what. He also notes that you need to be sure it's actually started cooking before you walk away, as that can be difficult to determine -- his tip is to wait for a confirming beep to sound, which can take a few minutes.

Many reviewers also say that it can be puzzling to try to figure out the correct times for foods you want to cook. However, 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. The good news is that 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 convenience and versatility of the Instant Pot. One other caveat: although the IP-DUO60 is fast, many of the total prep times on the recipes that we've seen don't include the time the Instant Pot takes to get up to pressure, or to release the pressure naturally -- these two factors can add up to 30 minutes to a recipe's total time. Even taking that into consideration, cooking in the Instant Pot is still much faster than many traditional cooking methods, just be sure to account for those additional steps.

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 Sealing Ring (Est. $8); others just buy a second gasket to use for recipes that are not strongly flavored so there is no "smell" crossover.

Another Instant Pot, the Instant Pot Ultra (Est. $150) is the upgrade pick at Wirecutter. In testing there, Lesley Stockton found that the Ultra cooks just as "quickly and reliably" as the IP-DUO60, but its user interface is much more intuitive, with better features that improve both versatility and ease of use. Of course it's pricier, too, but Stockton says it's worth the price upgrade for the interface upgrade.

The Instant Pot Ultra is a 6-quart, 10-in-one cooking appliance, with all of the features of the IP-DUO60, plus longer hold settings (up to 100 hours), an altitude adjustment setting and a sous vide setting. The Ultra also has improved safety features that protect against steam burns when releasing the pressure manually. Like the IP-DUO60, it's insert is constructed of stainless steel.

The Fagor LUX 6-quart Multi-Cooker (Est. $140) is another very highly-rated multi-cooker that is tops after testing at Good Housekeeping and at one professional test kitchen. Good Housekeeping testers found that the Fagor LUX was the best at making beef stew and in the slow cooking category. It was also faster than any other multi-cooker in their test, coming up to pressure in 32 minutes. Like the Instant Pot, it also makes yogurt. In tests at both Good Housekeeping and the aforementioned professional test kitchen, the Fagor excelled at searing -- a task the Instant Pot is often panned for not doing well.

The pot on the Fagor LUX is stainless steel and dishwasher safe. The unit automatically switches to keep warm mode when cooking is done, and it has a time delay function for up to six hours. In all, it's very similar to the Instant Pot, and only stays out of our top spot because, although it comes out on top in some expert tests, more experts prefer the Instant Pot and it gets much better ratings from users as well. We did see more complaints with the LUX of cheap-seeming construction and durability issues than we spotted with the Instant Pot.

If you'd like to pay a bit less for an electric pressure cooker, the Cuisinart CPC-600 (Est. $80), is one of the top picks at Consumer Reports (although they don't have a full report on pressure cookers, merely an article detailing their top choices). The CPC-600 has a 6-quart capacity and owners are mostly pleased, even though it gets slightly lower ratings from owners overall than the Instant Pot. It does well in testing at Wirecutter, although Stockton says it's not as good a value as the Instant Pot when you compare price versus features.

The Cuisinart CPC-600 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 a particular fault 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.

Last, but not least, a newcomer to the electric pressure cooker market is the Crock-Pot Express Crock Multi-Cooker (Est. $70). It's the top pick at Reviewed, where it narrowly beat out the Instant Pot for top honors based on "how intuitive it was to cook with, how seamlessly the lid worked, and how easy it was to clean." Of course, that's because it has a nonstick insert, compared to the Instant Pot's stainless steel.

The Crock-Pot Express is also tested and compared to the Instant Pot at Consumer Reports, and both appliances perform almost identically. The Instant Pot earns the edge there only because it makes thicker yogurt. Writer Kimberly Janeway ultimately concludes, "If you want to save $30, prefer easier cleanup from a nonstick inner pot, and don't mind a thinner yogurt, the Crock-Pot Express Crock Multi-Cooker SCCPPC600-V1 might be the better choice." However she goes on to note that the massive community of Instant Pot users offer great support for cooks looking for recipes and tips.

CNET also offers a thorough, hands on test of the Crock-Pot Express, and gives it a score of 3.5 stars out of 5. Brian Bennett likes its simplicity, but notes that, "experienced home chefs should look to Instant Pot for more flavor." Still, the Crock-Pot multi-cooker is well-liked by owners, getting high scores across the board for performance and ease of use. It's very new to the market, though, compared to the Instant Pot, so it certainly doesn't have the tens of thousands of user reviews that appliance does.

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