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The Best Pressure Cookers of 2018

The Instant Pot made everything taste good in our testing  though teh Breville did a slightly better job with meat.
Wednesday October 17, 2018
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Looking for a kitchen Swiss army knife? We bought and tested 7 of the most popular pressure cookers on the market, side-by-side, to find the ones that will effectively make your dinner prep quicker and easier. Pressure cookers are likely the most versatile kitchen appliances around, functionally combining a slow cooker, rice maker, yogurt maker, and saute pan into one device. And, because of the pressure cooking abilities, these appliances can prep meals much faster than conventional methods. However, not all of these devices are created equal. While most cook quite effectively, differences in user friendliness, required cleaning routines, and specific cooking features make some much more attractive than others. Our testing scrutinized all of these things, providing all the information you need to find the best cooker for your kitchen.


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Awards Editors' Choice Award  Editors' Choice Award   
Price $250 List
$244.00 at Amazon
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Pros User friendly, automatic steam release, great meatUser friendly, easy to clean, large LCD screenUser friendly, easy to clean, reasonably pricedRelatively inexpensive, good cooking performance, easyt o use and cleanGood cooking performance, easy to clean
Cons Very expensiveMore expensive than its equally capable siblingMarginally less tender meat than the BrevilleMeat lacks a bit of tendernessMeat slightly less tender
Bottom Line The best product around, but costs quite a bitA great machine, but most will probably be better off with the lower-priced versionA great balance of performance, functionality, convenience, and priceOne of the best models we tested, but can't keep meat quite as tender as other productsA good all-around device, but it is outperformed by other products that cost the same or less
Rating Categories Fast Slow Pro DUO Plus 9-in-1 Instant Pot DUO60 6 Qt 8-in-1 9-in-1 Programmable
User Friendliness (35%)
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Specs Fast Slow Pro DUO Plus 9-in-1 Instant Pot DUO60 6 Qt 8-in-1 9-in-1 Programmable
Pot Material Nonstick Stainless Steel Stainless Steel Nonstick Nonstick
Saute Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Capacity 6 quart 6 quart 6 quart 6 quart 6 quart

Best Overall Pressure Cooker


Breville Fast Slow Pro


Editors' Choice Award

$244.00
at Amazon
See It

Capacity: 6 Quart | Saute: Yes
Automatic steam release
User friendly
Great meat
Very expensive

Separating itself from the pack with a streamlined interface and a boatload of cooking features, the Breville The Fast Slow Pro is our favorite pressure cooker. It offers by far the largest number of cooking modes and presets, almost to an overwhelming degree. Luckily the Breville provides an incredibly intuitive, 3-dial interface that lets you cycle through all of these settings, and even fine-tune their pressure levels and cook times, with ease. We particularly liked that the steam release valve on this machine is automated. You can either set the valve to open automatically when the cooking is done, or just open it at the push of a button. While we didn't feel unsafe using any of the models we tested, it is nice to be able to release the steam without putting your hand anywhere near the valve. The Breville was also the only model that slightly stood out from the pack in cooking ability, particularly when it came to meat. The ribs we made with this machine had a slightly more tender, fall-off-the-bone quality than the rest.

The one thing that stops us in our tracks about this product is the price. Listing for $250, it is double the cost of most models. And while it is, in our opinion, better than the rest of the field, you're talking about spending an extra $100+ for relatively minor improvements. However, if you really like the idea of not having to get your hand anywhere near the steam valve, or really like to make ribs, this is an excellent machine that is probably worth the extra cost.

Read review: Breville Fast Slow Pro

Best Pressure Cooker for Most Kitchens


Instant Pot DUO60


Editors' Choice Award

$89.95
(10% off)
at Amazon
See It

Capacity: 6 Quart | Saute: Yes
User friendly
Easy to clean
Reasonably priced
Marginally less tender meat than the Breville

Luckily, most people won't need to spend $200+ to get all the functionality they want from a pressure cooker. The Instant Pot DUO60, which lists for $100 and generally sells for a bit less, provides everything you need to expedite and expand the cooking options for anything from a single person to a family of 4. It cooks everything from grains to meat to dense chilis wonderfully, and we found its stainless steel pot more convenient to clean than its non-stick brethren. Though it may seem like a minor feature, we loved that the Instant Pot's lid could be held upright in either one of the unit's handles. This meant no holding the lid and dripping water on the counter, and that lefties could stow the lid in a more favorable stirring position. All this is topped off by a nice, user-friendly interface. If you want more cooking presets the Instant Pot DUO Plus 9-in-1 adds egg, cake, and sterilize functions for another $30.

The Instant Pot does have a couple drawbacks, but they are all minor and are only shortcomings when compared to the much more expensive Breville The Fast Slow Pro. First, it doesn't have as many preset cooking functions as the Breville (nor does the upgraded Instant Pot DUO Plus 9-in-1). However, we felt like it had all the presets that the vast majority of people will use, so we doubt anyone will find this limiting in daily use. It also didn't cook quite as tender ribs as the Breville. They were still great, but just didn't fall off the bone quite as readily. For most people looking for a pressure cooker, the Instant Pot DUO60 offers everything you need and then some at a reasonable price.

Read review: Instant Pot DUO60

Best Buy on a Tight Budget


Tayama TMC-60XL


Best Buy Award

$59.39
at Amazon
See It

Capacity: 6 Quart | Saute: No
Inexpensive
Decent cooking performance
Lacks a saute function
Relatively difficult to clean

All of the pressure cookers we tested were able to achieve high quality, controlled cooking environments in our testing. So when you pay more, you're generally paying for more user friendly interfaces and easier to clean designs rather than better cooking abilities. If you don't mind dealing with a little extra cleaning and some user-interface idiosyncrasies, the Tayama TMC-60XL offers almost all of the cooking performance of our top picks for only $60.

Apart from some quirky controls, the biggest downside of the Tayama is the fact that it doesn't have a saute function. This means you'll have to saute the onions and garlic for things like chili in a separate skillet, and then transfer them to the pressure cooker. Most of the other models we tested take the one-pot-meal adage more seriously, allowing you to saute right in the pot before adding the rest of the ingredients on top. So the Tayama will create an extra dish or two when cooking certain meals, but that feels like a small price to pay if you're just looking to get the expediency of pressure cooking on the cheap.

Read review: Tayama TMC-60XL



Analysis and Test Results


In the quest for speedy weeknight dinners and hearty weekend stews, we spent weeks researching pressure cookers, reading copious amounts of user reviews, and talking to people that have had electric versions of these devices in their kitchens for years. In the end we bought a selection of the cookers our research yielded as the most likely to be great additions to your kitchen. We then tested those cookers side-by-side, evaluating not only their cooking abilities but their user friendliness and ease of cleaning as well. The result was the detailed description of our hands-on experience with these machines that follows.

Value


In our experience, all pressure cookers are able to create a good cooking environment, so paying extra results in better interfaces, easier to clean surfaces, and additional cooking functions, rather than better cooking performance (with some minor exceptions). We think the Instant Pot DUO60 strikes the best balance, offering convenient functions, intuitive controls, and relatively painless cleaning for a middle of the road price. If you want the most cooking functions available the Breville Fast Slow Pro is a great option, but is also twice the price. If you don't mind dealing with some extra cleaning hassles in order to get super fast cooking times, the inexpensive Tayama TMC-60XL is a great deal.

We like interfaces that have dedicated buttons for each cooking feature  like the Chefman 9-in-1 Programmable pictured above.
We like interfaces that have dedicated buttons for each cooking feature, like the Chefman 9-in-1 Programmable pictured above.

User Friendliness


With cooking performance relatively similar amongst the cookers we tested, we found user friendliness to be the most differentiating factor between these products. We also found two specific aspects of the user experience to be the most significant: the interface/controls, and how the lid stores when not in use. The latter may seem trivial, but having to hold the lid or place it on a crowded counter while stirring is a larger annoyance than you might expect. Therefore our scores in this metric are mostly based on how intuitive we found each machine's control panel, and whether or not there was a convenient place to store the lid while stirring or serving, though some models did stand out for other reasons.


This was a metric where the cookers generally fell into two camps, one where we found the user experience relatively seamless, and another where we could identify multiple annoying quirks. You can see this in the score graph above, with multiple models scoring 8 or 9 out of 10, and then a precipitous drop down to the next group.

The Breville's pressure valve can be opened automatically  or by pressing a button on the front of the unit. It is the only model we tested that doesn't' require you to physically touch the pressure valves when releasing steam.
The Breville's pressure valve can be opened automatically, or by pressing a button on the front of the unit. It is the only model we tested that doesn't' require you to physically touch the pressure valves when releasing steam.

One of our favorites models to use was the Editors' Choice Award winning Instant Pot DUO60. Its interface features dedicated buttons for all of its cooking functions, plus and minus keys to easily adjust time and temperature, and a large digital readout that lets you know what the machine is doing. We felt we could easily figure out these controls without the use of a manual. The lid also conveniently stores in either of the unit's built-in handles, so you can place it on whichever side is better for your preferred stirring and serving hand. This machine's big sibling, the Instant Pot DUO Plus 9-in-1, functions in an almost identical manner but with a few extra cooking functions and an LCD screen.

You can store the Instant Pot's lid on either side of the pot  which makes for easy serving.
You can store the Instant Pot's lid on either side of the pot, which makes for easy serving.

Also sharing the top score of 9 out of 10 was the Breville Fast Slow Pro. It has three dedicated knobs for selecting the cooking setting, adjusting the temperature, and setting the cook time. This style feels very intuitive, and lets you quickly and efficiently scroll through the Fast Slow Pro's myriad of cooking options. We found the lid slightly annoying, as you can only sit it upright on the right side of the device when not in use. While we appreciated not having to set it down on the counter, it does get in the way a bit if you naturally use your right hand to ladle out food. We really like the automated pressure release button, which allows for releasing pressure without getting your hand anywhere near the steam vent. While we never felt unsafe flipping the steam valves open on other models, the Fast Slow Pro made the process feel decidedly less stressful.

Rounding out the top scorers was the Crock-Pot 6 Qt 8-in-1. It offers convenient, ambidextrous lid storage like the Instant Pot Models, and also uses a very similar control panel. We found this model very easy to use right out of the box.

The Breville's dials make scrolling through all teh cooking options quick and easy.
The Breville's dials make scrolling through all teh cooking options quick and easy.

Just behind the top scorers in this metric with an 8 out of 10 is the Chefman 9-in-1 Programmable. Its lid has a hinge that puts it mostly out of the way for both left and right handed users. Its control panel follows pretty much the same logic as those of the top scorers, and felt quite easy to use. However, we did dock its score a bit because some of the messages that pop up on the digital screen are a bit confusing. For example, pressing the 'Delay Timer' button causes the display to briefly read 'dr05'. The first time we did this we were scratching our heads a bit, but beyond some momentary confusion it didn't hinder us from selecting the settings we wanted.

Now for the low scorers. Both the Cuisinart CPC-600 6 Quart and the Tayama TMC-60XL earned the relatively low score of 4 out of 10 in this metric. First off, neither of these machines have any way to store their lids. That means you either have to rest the lid, which is likely dripping in condensation, on the counter while your serve yourself some food, or that you have to put your plate on the counter and hold the lid in one hand while you ladle food with the other. This isn't a huge deal, but the simple addition of a notch to rest the lid in would make things much more convenient. Both models also have some shortcomings when it comes to their interfaces. The Cuisinart uses only 2 buttons to adjust the cooking mode and timer, which means a lot of button pressing to get to your desired settings. The Tayama has multiple buttons for its various cooking functions, but just one to adjust the time. This means accidentally setting the timer for 1:10 when you meant to set it for 1:00 requires dozens of button presses to scroll all the way up to 3 hours, then finally back to zero, and then up to 1:00 again. This isn't a huge deal, but can be a real annoyance if you have clumsy fingers.

Prepping for just a small portion of our cooking tests.
Prepping for just a small portion of our cooking tests.

Cooking Performance


All of the cookers we tested were almost identically effective when it came to pressure cooking, with meat preparation being the one area where we saw some small but noticable difference. And that makes sense, a pressure cooker needs to create a very controlled, consistent cooking environment, so as long as these machines can achieve basic functionality in that regard they are all going to cook about the same. Therefore, the small differences in our cooking performance scores arise from these machines' abilities to do things that might not immediately come to mind when you think of a pressure cooker, like sauteing and searing meat. Is it really important that a pressure cooker be able to sear and saute, you may ask. In our opinion, the answer is yes. The more things you can do right in your stovetop cooker, the more meals you can turn into 1-pot meals, and the fewer dishes you have to do. Since pressure cookers are mainly attractive for their speed and convenience, we think being able to up that convenience by decreasing the number of dirty dishes is a significant consideration.


The winner of our cooking performance testing was the Breville Fast Slow Pro, earning an impressive 9 out of 10. It set itself apart from the rest of the field mostly when it came to cooking meat. Its carnivorous offerings were just a tad more moist and tender than those of other models (this was particularly true when we made ribs). It also made rice that was just a bit fluffier than other models, which is significant because in general we found pressure cookers to be just slightly inferior to dedicated rice cookers, particularly when it came to brown rice.

The Instant Pot made everything taste good in our testing  though teh Breville did a slightly better job with meat.
The Instant Pot made everything taste good in our testing, though teh Breville did a slightly better job with meat.

Both Instant Pot models we tested earned a score of 8 out of 10. These cookers check all the boxes for things most people will want: good sauteing ability, quick rice and beans, and good, tender meats. However, both the rice and meat these machines made were just slightly less moist and tender than those made with the Breville. That gap in quality is very small, but still noticeable.

Succulent corned beef made with the Instant Pot.
Succulent corned beef made with the Instant Pot.

Most of the cookers we tested, including the Crock-Pot 6 Qt 8-in-1 , the Cuisinart CPC-600 6 Quart, and the Chefman 9-in-1 Programmable, scored 7 out of 10 in our cooking performance test. For the most part these cookers were adept enough at sauteing and slow cooking to make most meals truly 1-pot, and produced rice that was maybe just a tad dry when eaten alone, but that paired well with beans. Where they differed from the top models was in meat preparation, with most cuts lacking just a bit of tenderness when compared to the top models. All of these models also offer only high and low pressure settings, whereas the higher scoring models allow for more fine tuning of the pressure. While we didn't find this limiting whatsoever in practice, we know it may be a dealbreaker for those that really like to tinker with their recipes.

The Breville made the best meat in our testing.
The Breville made the best meat in our testing.

The Tayama TMC-60XL earned the lowest score of 6 out of 10 in our cooking testing for pretty much one reason: it lacks a saute function. This means that things like chilis, stews, and sauces will require you to do some sauteing and/or reduction on the stove top before transferring everything over to the pot for pressure cooking. This results in a few extra logistics, and extra dishes to clean. Otherwise the Tayama cooks very similarly to the models above that earned 7 out of 10 in this metric.

We like the stainless steel pots of the Instant Pot models because they can be safely cleaned in a dishwasher.
We like the stainless steel pots of the Instant Pot models because they can be safely cleaned in a dishwasher.

Ease of Cleaning


Here again we saw relatively minor differences between models overall, but there were some finer points that made certain cookers slightly less painful to clean than others. Most of these differences popped up in lid design, condensation issues, and cooking pot material. Lids that can detach from the base unit and that have easily removable gaskets were generally much easier to clean. We also strongly prefer stainless cooking pots to nonstick ones, as stainless doesn't limit the cleaning utensils you can use and is dishwasher safe (we know many people put nonstick items in the dishwasher, but we tend to take the cautionary route and clean them by hand). Our testing procedure required making at least 5 meals in each cooker, therefore we cleaned each product at least 5 times. After all that cleaning we have a very good idea of how laborious it is to clean each cooker.


A slew of models shared the top score of 7 out of 10 in our cleaning testing. All of these models, which include both Instant Pot models, the Crock-Pot 6 Qt 8-in-1, and the Chefman 9-in-1 Programmable, have removable lids with easy to extract gaskets. This makes getting into the nooks and crannies of the lids quick and easy. All but the Crock-Pot also have condensation catchers to keep water from dripping onto your counter. The actual pots were also relatively easy to clean in all of these machines. The nonstick pots of the Crock-Pot and Chefman usually had less gunk stuck to them, making hand cleaning easier. However, we did slightly prefer the stainless pots of the Instant Pots, which let us do things like scrub with steel wool and toss them into the dishwasher with no worries.

Nonstick pots are generally easier to clean than stainless ones  but are often not dishwasher safe.
Nonstick pots are generally easier to clean than stainless ones, but are often not dishwasher safe.

So why was the highest score in this metric only a 7 out of 10? Because literally every model we both tested and researched has a narrow slot between the exterior of the machine and the lip of the pot where crumbs naturally gather. In every case cleaning that slot requires very skinny fingers, some impressive chopstick skills, and/or the creative use of a paper towel. Now that slot is most likely a design necessity, as it gives the lid a place to latch and create a good seal, but we're reserving the highest scores in this metric for the future, innovative pioneer that solves this issue.

MAny models  like the Cuisinart pictured here  have small containers to catch condensation.
MAny models, like the Cuisinart pictured here, have small containers to catch condensation.

Just behind the top scorers in our cleaning tests where the Cuisinart CPC-600 6 Quart and the Breville Fast Slow Pro. Both of these models have nonstick pots that are relatively easy to clean by hand, but we would be reluctant to put them in the dishwasher. They both missed out on a top score due to what we felt were less than ideal lid designs. The Cuisinart's lid is easy to remove, but its 2-piece design leaves a lot of crevices where water can collect, making it harder to dry than other lids. We ended up leaving this sitting in a drying rack for a few hours after cleaning to make sure it actually dried out. The Breville's lid must be unscrewed to remove it, which was more difficult than other lids that just popped right off. We also tended to splash condensation around when unscrewing it right after cooking.


The worst scorer in this metric was the Tayama TMC-60XL, which earned a 5 out of 10. It's not particularly difficult to clean, but presents more challenges than the other models. This is mostly due to the 2-piece lid that is hard to dry completely, and a nonstick cooking pot that is both slightly stickier than the competitors and not dishwasher safe.

The Breville has the most cooking presets and functions of all the models we tested.
The Breville has the most cooking presets and functions of all the models we tested.

Cooking Features


Pressure cookers are largely attractive because of their versatility and convenience, and more preset cooking modes can benefit both of those attributes. Our cooking features testing examined how many presets each model offers (their relative effectiveness was ascertained in our cooking tests). While it is nice to have more cooking presets, most models can achieve all of these settings by manually adjusting pressure, temperature, and time, so a lack of a cooking feature shouldn't be considered an outright deal breaker. The one exception to that may be a saute feature. Most of the models we tested allow you to saute ingredients right in the pot before adding the rest and going into pressure cooking mode. Because of the added convenience of this feature,we gave it more weight than others in our scoring.


The Breville Fast Slow Pro has by far the most presets of all the models we tested. On top of the standard presets for most meats, chilis, grains, and stew, it adds yogurt, porridge, sear, reduce, and sterilize functions, amongst others.

Just behind the Breville were the Instant Pot models. They have all the standard functions, plus additional yogurt and porridge settings. The DUO Plus version also has egg and sterilize functions (which earned it the same score as the Breville).

The Instant Pot models come in a close second to the Breville in terms of cooking functions.
The Instant Pot models come in a close second to the Breville in terms of cooking functions.

The Chefman 9-in-1 Programmable has what we would consider the basic set of functions, including saute, something to cover all your grains, chilis, and meats, and slow cook.

The Cuisinart CPC-600 6 Quart is somewhat more spartan in terms of cooking functions. It offers a saute function, and beyond that just lets you set the pressure, temperature and time. This can effectively mimic most of the presets of other models, you may just need to look up what the ideal pressure/temp setting would be for your favorite meal.

At the bottom of the cooking features scoreboard was the Tayama TMC-60XL. It offers some basic grain and meat presets, but notably does not offer a saute function. It is the only model we tested that lacks a saute feature, and thus forces you to do some prep on a traditional stovetop for many meals.

Conclusion


A pressure Cooker is just about one of the most useful and versatile appliances you can have in your kitchen. If you 're trying to prep more meals yourself and avoid processed foods, a good cooker can eliminate many of the hurdles in the way of that goal. We hope that our experience preparing feasts and doing dishes have led you to the perfect countertop cooker for your home.


Max Mutter and Steven Tata