Few people have enough time to prepare home cooked meals anymore. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics 2016 Time Use Surveys, Americans spend an average of 35.4 minutes per day on food preparation and cleanup. Pressure cookers can help solve this dilemma.
When you cook dinner in a pressure cooker, it typically requires less preparation and cook time. Because these devices use steam pressure to cook foods, you can cook some foods from frozen, and it often takes less than half of the time it would take to cook the same foods in an oven or using other cooking methods.
Not all pressure cookers are created equally, though. You have to choose between stovetop cookers, which use the heat of your stove, and stand alone electric pressure cookers or multi-cookers, which look similar to slow cookers and contain their own heating elements. You also have pressure canners, and even microwave pressure cookers.
Our pressure cooking buyer’s guide includes our picks for the best in each category.
Who should buy it: Anyone who’s looking to save time in the kitchen, or those who like having the ability to use one appliance for multiple cooking functions.
Who’s it for: Whether you’re an amateur home cook or you have skills like Rachael Ray, this pot will be one of your best friends in the kitchen.
How much will it cost: $64+ on Amazon
Why we picked the Instant Pot Duo 60 7-in-1:
Many have tried, but few can compete with the Instant Pot Duo. The best words to describe this cooker are “user friendly.” The features make it difficult to mess up your pressure cooked meals. You have low and high pressure options to help you control the amount of pressure without much guesswork. Instant Pot took a look at some of the problems with pressure cooking devices, and addressed many of these issues in this pot. The lid has an alert, which lets you know it is in the correct position. The steam handle is designed in such a way that it won’t allow you to put it on incorrectly — you can only put it in a vent or seal position. The cone inside the steam pressure release handle is made of silicone instead of metal, so steam doesn’t leak out like it does in some other models. The pot comes with a rack, which has long handles and lets you easily remove things like cheesecake after cooking.
In addition to all of the user-friendly pressure cooking features, this pot also provides you with options. Using the saut feature, you can brown your meat in the Instant Pot before or after pressure cooking. The slow cooker, rice cooker, steam, and yogurt functions make this pot even more versatile. You can make almost anything in the Instant Pot Duo 60, and it’s not overly expensive.
While this Instant Pot multi-cooker is an outstanding small appliance, it certainly isn’t perfect. The inner pot (especially on the 6-quart and smaller versions) is a bit narrow, which can create a challenge when you’re cooking things like roasts or a whole chicken. Foods like rice and potatoes also tend to stick to the bottom and lower sides of this pot more than with other pressure cookers that have a non-stick coating. All in all, the Instant Pot Duo 60 appears to be a pressure cooker first and foremost, and the other functions (slow cook, etc.) are secondary. The features will do their job, but don’t expect the same exact times and features as you would get with a gadget that’s meant only for slow cooking or rice cooking.
Who should buy it: Experienced cooks or novices who plan on doing a lot of pressure cooking.
Who’s it for: Those who value durability, quality, and those who want to pressure cook large meals without having to lug out a countertop appliance.
How much will it cost: $250 at Amazon
Why we picked the Fissler Vitaquick 10-Quart:
This stovetop pressure cooker is incredibly durable, made of 18/10 stainless steel. It’s very difficult to dent, knick, or damage this pot, and when you pick it up, you can feel the quality of the material. When it comes to pressure cookers, size matters. Both the 8.5-quart and 10.6-quart ($272) models give you plenty of room to cook large foods, like roasts. You can also use this pressure cooker on any heat source — gas, electric, or even induction. If you want a smaller model, the cooker comes in 2.7-quart ($188), 4.8-quart ($220), and 6.4-quart ($218) sizes as well.
It has an easy-to-open-and-close lid, a safe lock mechanism, gentle and speed settings, and quick depressurizing. It comes apart for easy cleaning, and it even comes with a separate glass lid. When you compare the Fissler Vitaquick to some other stovetop pressure cookers, this cooker is fairly pricey. It’s built to last, and you pay for that quality. Therefore, for those who only use a pressure cooker periodically, or those who just want to experiment with pressure cooking, you can get away with buying a cheaper model for under $50.
Who should buy it: If you want to try your hand at pressure cooking without spending too much cash, this cooker is perfect for you.
Who’s it for: Experienced cooks and novices who want to occasionally pressure cook foods, but not use pressure cooking as a routine or regular cooking method.
How much does it cost: $20+ at Walmart
Why we picked the Farberware 8-Qt Stovetop Pressure Cooker:
This pressure cooker does exactly what it’s supposed to do — evenly pressure cook your food. It doesn’t come with any bells or whistles. It doesn’t even come with a rack, but it maintains pressure, and it is large enough to cook a 6-pound whole chicken. This machine heats up more quickly than any of the other models we tested. It also has a pressure indicator and a release valve that are easy to use. We prepared a beautiful cheesecake in this device, but we had to improvise and use a steamer rack from another appliance.
It’s constructed of aluminum instead of stainless steel, so it will stain after several uses. However, you can remove the stains with vinegar. If you clean and care for this device properly, it should last you a reasonable amount of time.
Who should buy this: Those who want to start canning their own foods at home.
Who’s it for: Novice or experienced canners who want to get a reliable machine for a decent price.
How much does it cost: $68 on Amazon
Why we picked the Presto 01781:
This machine lets you can fruits, veggies, meats, and fish safely and easily. You can also use the device as a pressure cooker. The pressure gauge lets you see exactly how much pressure you have accumulated in the pot. In the box, you also get a canning rack and a book containing recipes. Space is one thing this stovetop canner certainly doesn’t lack. With its huge 14-inch diameter and 15-inch tall sides, you can fit a lot of food in the pot for parties or big family gatherings.
On the down side, this pressure cooker/canner is made of aluminum, which is not the most durable metal. Some customers say that after frequently using the machine, the pot can dent, stain, or warp. The pressure release valve also “spits” quite a bit on this canner, so little droplets of steam can get on the lid and around the machine.
Who should buy this: Anyone who wants to eat healthy food in a hurry.
Who’s it for: If you want a super easy way to steam your food, this is the way to go. It’s perfect for busy professionals who want to cook fresh food at the office, bachelors, or people who don’t have much time to spend cooking.
How much does it cost: $15 on Amazon
Why we picked the Sistema Microwave Multicooker:
Most microwave pressure cookers get poor user reviews. They’re either poorly constructed, overpriced, or they don’t cook the food very well.
Sistema’s rice cooker and multicooker receive good reviews from users, who say they’re super easy to use and the food comes out consistently each time. Sistema uses BPA and phthalate-free plastics in their microwave products. The firm offers a wide range of microwave products – ranging from soup mugs to egg poachers to rice cookers.
We compared and tested nine different stovetop pressure cookers and electric multi-cookers with some of the highest overall user ratings in their individual categories. We cooked the same two recipes — gluten-free cheesecake and a whole rotisserie chicken — in each of the multi-cookers and stovetop pressure cookers. We compared the taste of each recipe, how quickly the device reached full pressure, ease of use, ease of cleanup, ease of setup, and manual instructions (how easy the user manual is to understand and follow) to determine which device performed the “best.” We also consider other factors like durability and price vs. value.
When we are unable to test a device, which was the case with the certain stovetop pressure cookers, pressure canners, and microwave pressure cookers, we use research we obtain from customer reviews, user interviews, manufacturer manuals, and product descriptions to determine which device is the “best” in terms of functionality, value, and quality.