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The 5 best pressure cookers: Instant Pot and other alternatives

What is the best pressure cooker? The Instant Pot Duo Plus 66 Quart 9-in-1 Electric Pressure Cooker is ZDNet's top pick. We researched and compared pressure cookers by pricing as well as features like power, number of functions or modes, size/capacity, and whether accessories are included to determine our No. 1 choice and other honorable mentions.
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Reviewed by Elyse Betters Picaro

Multi-cookers, sometimes referred to as Instant Pots (the category's most popular brand name), are the kitchen item to have at the moment. They're a safer, more modern alternative to the old-fashioned pressure cooker but do more than making a great pot of beans or tender beef stew in half the time. The best multi-cookers are multi-purpose, offering other cooking options such as steaming, sautéing, and even air frying. 

Using a multi-cooker is easy -- add the ingredients, seal the lid and set it to do the rest of the work. Instant Pots operate quietly and notify you when your recipe is ready. All you need is some counter space and an electrical outlet. We compared dozens of models to bring you a shortlist of the best, most affordable models available.

Overhead shot of an instant pot filled with pasta
Instant Pot

Capacity: 6 quarts | Power: 1,000W | Dimensions: 13.4 x 12.2 x 12.5 inches | 

Features: Stainless-steel (18/8) inner pot with a tri-ply bottom, pressure cooker, slow cooker, sauté pan, rice cooker, yogurt maker, steamer, food warmer, sous vide and sterilizer.

Instant Pot's Duo electric pressure cooker may be the most popular and user-friendly model available. It's easy to operate with digital push buttons and a handled lid that twists on and makes a chiming sound that lets you know it's attached properly. Although we selected the six-quart size, it's also available in a mini three-quart and a large eight-quart version. 

It does much more than stew foods -- you can use it for canning, making yogurt, steaming rice, baking a cake, and more. Best of all, it's simple to operate. Besides the nine functions, 15 customizable smart programs handle all the guesswork for you: pressure cook, sauté, grain, porridge, oatmeal, soup, broth, slow cook, cake, egg, rice, bean, sterilize, yogurt, and sous vide. Download the instant pot app for access to hundreds of recipes for ideas. 

Pros:

  • Easy to operate
  • Digital display
  • Retails for under $100

Cons:

  • It doesn't include any accessories
  • The stainless shell is thin and dents easily
Person holding up a smartphone with an app on screen next to a black pressure cooker
CHEF iQ

Capacity: 6 quarts | Power: 1,000W | Dimensions: 13 x 13 x 13 inches | 

Features: Connects via Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, over 1000 presets, steam rack and steam basket included.

For the multi-cooker that does most of the thinking for you, CHEF iQ is the best choice. This model is best for home cooks determined to master the art of pressure cooking. The multi-cooker connects with the app on your smartphone so you can monitor your cooking, set it remotely and refer to advice on the dish you'd like to prepare. All you need to do is input the food item you'd like to cook, and the app coordinates with the pot to set the ideal temperature and cooking time.

Although the multi-cooker itself is highly recommended, the biggest selling feature may be CHEF iQ's investment into food labs and education. There are hundreds of guided recipes and videos on how to use this multi-cooker, with new ones added each week. After viewing just a few of the well-produced how-tos, you'll be a multi-cooker chef in no time.

Pros:

  • The app includes more than 600 guided recipes and how-to videos with more added weekly
  • Built-in scale
  • The CHEF iQ app provides cooking time and temperature settings based on the ingredients or food you input

Cons:

  • May be too complex for some cooks
  • Requires a smartphone app and a home Wi-Fi network to function best
Pressure cooker on a kitchen counter next to cooked chicken and carrots
Ninja

Capacity: 8 quarts | Power: 1,760W | Dimensions: 16.1 x 14.57 x 14.2 inches | 

Features: Ceramic-coated basket and pot, crisping lid, reversible rack, 45-recipe cookbook, pressure cook, air fry/air crisp, steam, slow cook, yogurt, sear/sauté, bake, roast, broil, dehydrate, sous vide, keep warm.

Ninja's multi-cooker stands apart from the competition for its ability to crisp food as well. We chose the 8-quart version for its capacity -- it can cook a seven-pound chicken. Pressure cookers do a great job at cooking food quickly while retaining tenderness and moistness. Still, sometimes a nice crispy crust is the perfect finishing touch, especially if you're roasting a chicken, for example. 

All you need to do is cook the item in the Ninja and swap out the lid with the air-fryer attachment to give the food item a browned or crisped crust. Ninja's air fryer lid is the best we've seen. Other multi-cooker/air fryer combinations aren't as well designed as Ninja's and have an overly large and cumbersome air fryer lid attachment that's hard to store when not in use.

Pros:

  • The air fryer lid attachment can roast and crisp foods
  • The inner pot and basket are nonstick and dishwasher safe
  • Holds up to a 7 lbs chicken

Cons:

  • Most expensive instant pot in our guide
  • High power consumption (1,760W)
Pressure cooker on a kitchen counter next to brown eggs
Yedi

Capacity: 6 quarts | Poer: 1,000W | Dimensions: 13.4 x 11.6 x 12 inches | 

Features: Pressure cook, slow cook, sauté, steam, make cakes, pasteurize, make yogurt, cook rice, warm, tempered glass lid, 2 egg racks/steaming trivets, ladle, rice paddle, cooking mitts, extra silicone sealing ring, stainless steel steaming basket, stainless steel inner cooking pot, measuring cup, recipe book.

Yedi's multi-cooker will cost you around $100 but comes with all the accessories and attachments you'll need, which will save you some money down the road. Oprah named it one of her favorite things for its ease of use and a full money-back guarantee if you're not happy with it in the first two years. 

The Yedi also includes some handy cheat sheets to help you set the right times and temperatures, as well as a recipe book to provide you with some cooking inspiration. You'll learn some handy tricks to cook multiple items at once by stacking the steaming baskets inside the pot for a full family meal without all the fuss.

Pros:

  • It comes with a deluxe package of accessories
  • Money-back guarantee for two years
  • Tempered glass lid ideal for watching foods cook in slow-cook setting

Cons:

  • Customers comment on slow warranty response
  • Pot may scratch easily if you don't use the right utensils
Pressure cooker on a kitchen counter with fresh produce in the background
Mueller

Capacity: 6 quarts | Power: 1,000W | Dimensions: 15.91 x 13.11 x 13.03 inches | 

Features: Ceramic non-stick 3-ply bottom inner pot, oatmeal, broth/soup, poultry, yogurt, egg, beans/chilli, rice, pressure cook, meat/stew, cake. slow cook, steam, sauté, canning, multi-grain, 2 stainless steel stacking baskets, tempered-glass lid, measuring cup, spoon, silicone gasket, recipe book.

When you'd like to cook a full-course menu in one pot, Mueller's electric pressure cooker makes it possible. The stacking steamer pots can hold a couple of different dishes to cook simultaneously to save time.

What makes this multi-cooker noteworthy is the quality of the materials. The inner pot is made with food-grade 304 stainless steel with a triple-ply bottom so that foods cook evenly. A ceramic coating keeps foods from sticking and makes cleaning up quicker to save you time and effort. 

Pros:

  • Cook two dishes or more at once
  • High-quality materials include ceramic-coated stainless steel and rubber
  • Manual pressure cooking settings are available

Cons:

  • The recipe book is limited with 30 basic recipes
  • Cooking two dishes at once requires some practice to get the timing and temperature right

What is the best pressure cooker?

The Instant Pot Duo Plus 66 Quart 9-in-1 Electric Pressure Cooker is the best Instant Pot based on our analysis of price, power, design, functionality, size, included accessories, and more. 

Pressure cooker

Price

Capacity

# of Functions

Instant Pot Duo Plus 66 Quart 9-in-1 Electric Pressure Cooker

$95

6 quarts 

9

CHEF iQ Smart Pressure Cooker

$173

6 quarts 

Over 300 built-in presets

Ninja FD401 Food 12-in-1 Pressure Cooker and Air Fryer

$180

8 quarts

12

Yedi 9-in-1 Total Package Instant Programmable Pressure Cooker

$120

6 quarts

9

Mueller 6 Quart Pressure Cooker

$100

6 quarts

10

Which pressure cooker is right for you?

Don't get swayed by a 15-in-one multi-cooker unless you'll really use all the functions it comes with. A basic multi-cooker that can replace a stovetop pressure cooker may be all you need for most people. All the extras are nice, but think about what you intend to use the multi-cooker for and keep it simple. Otherwise, you'll end up cluttering your kitchen cabinets with extra attachments and gadgets you'll never use. 

The most important decision you'll need to make when choosing a multi-cooker is sizing. You'll find the pots are available in a variety of sizes, with four, six and eight-quart versions being the most popular. If you plan on cooking a brisket or whole chicken, a multi-cooker that's six quarts or larger may be ideal. However, keep in mind that multi-cookers tend to be big and bulky, taking up lots of valuable counter space.

Choose this pressure cooker...

If you want...

Instant Pot Duo Plus 66 Quart 9-in-1 Electric Pressure Cooker

The best overall option.

CHEF iQ Smart Pressure Cooker

A smart multi-cooker with an accompanying app.

Ninja FD401 Food 12-in-1 Pressure Cooker and Air Fryer

An Instant Pot that's perfect for crisping foods.

Yedi 9-in-1 Total Package Instant Programmable Pressure Cooker

A multi-cooker that comes with cooking accessories.

Mueller 6 Quart Pressure Cooker

To cook multiple dishes at the same time.

How did we choose these pressure cookers?

To bring you a good selection of the best multi-cookers, we had to narrow down the field from dozens of models available. There were some important factors we took into consideration, starting with functionality. We chose multi-cookers that had a simple panel that was easy to understand and operate. The multi-cookers we chose have clearly-marked buttons for the most important functions such as pressure cook, keep warm, timer and more. We preferred flat LED display panels that are easier to read and can be cleaned using a damp rag to wipe down.

Besides easy operation and low maintenance, the best multi-cookers come with the accessories you need, so you don't have to invest in more tools and gadgets. That could include a steamer basket or trivet to expand a multi-cooker's use beyond pressure cooking.

Customer reviews also factored into our picks. Most models look great in photos, but you won't really know how well a multi-cooker performs until you unbox it and start cooking. We looked for the highest-rated models and took the time to read over the customer raves and complaints to determine which of the multi-cookers available now are the best and most reliable, delivering what they promise.

What can you cook in a pressure cooker?

Different multi-cookers let you cook different things, but the most common foods you can cook in an Instant Pot are poultry, rice, vegetables, ribs, oatmeal, yogurt, smoked brisket, soups and stews, mashed potatoes, and more. 

Are pressure cookers safe?

Multi-cookers are known to be much safer than the traditional pressure cooker with the loud, spinning pressure nozzle. However, caution is always advised when working with a pressurized cooking pot. Read the included manual carefully before working with the Instant Pot to familiarize yourself with how it works. Avoid putting your face over the lid or the pressure nozzle to reduce the risk of accidentally scalding yourself. If you decide to quick release or manually vent your multi-cooker to open it, use a kitchen mitt or a wooden spatula to do so. And lastly, use care when opening the lid -- the remaining steam trapped inside can be extremely hot. 

How fast do multi-cookers cook foods?

Multi-cookers use pressure to cook foods faster. For example, cooking red kidney beans to make a chili may require you to soak the beans overnight and boil them for an hour or more. You don't need to soak the beans to pressure cook them in a multi-cooker. Kidney beans can be cooked in a multi-cooker in roughly 40 minutes unsoaked or 20 minutes pre-soaked. Cooking a brisket is also much faster. While a brisket typically needs about 60 minutes per pound to cook, you can adjust cook times to 20 minutes per pound when you're using a  multi-cooker.

What is an Instant Pot?

An Instant Pot is essentially an electric, countertop pressure cooker or multi-cooker. The modern version of a pressure cooker is easier to use and doesn't make the same noise as a traditional stovetop version. Most multi-cookers do more than pressure cook foods. They also have settings for steaming, cooking rice, baking, air frying and more.

Are Instant Pots really instant?

Although referred to as an Instant Pot, the kitchen device doesn't cook foods in a flash like a microwave would. Multi-cookers do significantly reduce cooking time when you choose the pressure-cook setting but still often require at least 20 minutes of cook time or longer. 

When working with a recipe that calls for the multi-cooker to cook something for 15 minutes, for example, you'll need to add time for the pot to heat up and build pressure. Most multi-cookers take five to 10 minutes from the time you switch them on to preheat and start cooking. Therefore, adjust the recipe cook time to include the time the pot takes to build pressure.

How do Instant Pots work?

An Instant Pot is an electric version of a pressure cooker. It works by heating up food within the tightly-sealed pot to create enough pressure from the steam to cook. Foods that are pressure cooked are typically ready faster and tend to be tender and moist. Once the food is ready, the pot slowly vents the pressurized steam inside through a pressure release valve at the top of the lid. The valve can also be manually vented faster by switching the knob from seal to vent. Once the pressure has been released, you can remove the lid and serve the contents inside.

What size Instant Pot do I need?

If you have a family of four, look for an Instant Pot that has a capacity of 6 quarts. An 8-quart multi-cooker is best if you're cooking for five to eight people, and a 10 quart is great for feeding larger families or groups. 

Are there alternative pressure cookers to consider?

Here are a few other options to look into:


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