After sifting through more than 50 pressure cookers we purchased the 9 best available in 2020. We then used them to cook more than 200 meals ranging from meaty pork ribs to vegan rice dishes and stews. Next we ranked the quality of those dishes using a panel of taste testers. Our experienced kitchen appliance testers also used the prepping and associate cleanup of all those meals as an opportunity to grade user friendliness and ease of cleaning. After all that testing we can both help you decide whether a pressure cooker would be a good addition to your kitchen, and if so which one best fits your needs.
The Best Pressure Cookers of 2020
Best Pressure Cooker for Most Kitchens
Instant Pot DUO Nova
The best pressure cookers offer reliable cooking performance, are easy to use and clean, can saute right in the pot, and provide an easy way to release the pressure when you're done cooking. The Instant Pot DUO Nova manages to check all of these boxes while maintaining a fairly average, mid-tier price tag. Possibly the best feature of this upgraded model is the pressure release button, which lets you safely and easily open the pressure valve without wielding a wooden spoon as a defensive weapon. We also appreciate that the lid can be stored upright in either of the pot's handles, letting you keep the dirty lid off the counter and out of the way no matter which hand you prefer to stir with. These user friendly touches extend the control panel, whose large LCD display and dedicated cooking preset buttons make it easy to dial up whatever settings you'd like. And, of course, this machine excelled in our cooking tests, adeptly sauteing even tough veggies and making everything from grains and beans to hearty cuts of meat taste good.
The DUO Nova does have some drawbacks, but they are relatively minor and will likely only apply to a small subset of those shopping for a pressure cooker. The first is its meat cooking performance. While we found all the meat we prepped in the DUO Nova to be juicy and tender, the Breville Fast Slow Pro was able to best the Nova in both those attributes, particularly with hardier cuts of meat like ribs and brisket. The Nova also lacks some of the specialty dehydrating and air frying functions that some of the more versatile models like the Ninja Foodi offer. However, both the Ninja and the Breville cost more than twice as much as the Nova, which we think offers all of the features and performance most people want and need at a much more reasonable price.
Read review: Instant Pot DUO Nova
Best at Cooking Meat
Breville Fast Slow Pro
Separating itself from the pack with a streamlined interface and a boatload of cooking features, the Breville The Fast Slow Pro is our favorite overall 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. 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 a significant extra investment 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 Buy on a Tight Budget
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 appreciably less.
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
Best Air Fryer Combo
If you're looking for a single, versatile appliance that can pressure cook, airy fry, and dehydrate, the Ninja Foodi is the device for you. It manages to do all of these things quite well while taking up much less counter space than three dedicated devices would. It also allows you to easily pressure cook and air fry in the same recipe, meaning you can pressure cook a chicken and then use the air frying function to get the skin crispy.
Stuffing all of this functionality into one device does make for some inconveniences. For example, the large crisping lid that is used for air frying can't be removed when pressure cooking, and we found it to get in the way when stirring and serving. Also, this machine is quite expensive. In fact it's generally more expensive than buying both a dedicated pressure cooker and a dedicated air fryer. However, for those that value a single machine that can do it all, we highly recommend the Ninja Foodi.
Read review: Ninja Foodi
Why You Should Trust Us
Senior Research Analyst Michelle Powell has spent the last decade working in the specialty food industry and has managed multiple establishments that serve a wide variety of food. This experience makes her perfect for evaluating the diverse range of foods that these versatile pressure cookers can prepare. Senior Review Editor Max Mutter has been testing and writing about kitchen appliances at TechGearLab for more than 4 years. In that time he has used over 100 pressure cookers, air fryers, toasters and toaster ovens, blenders, and dehydrators, lending him a well rounded understanding of what makes a countertop appliance worth the counter real estate that it occupies.
Analysis and Test Results
In our quest for the most convenient weeknight meals possible, we researched more than 50 pressure cookers, scouring spec sheets and user reviews. Once we'd found the models most likely to serve our readers well, we bought all of them at normal retail prices (we never accept any free samples from manufacturers in order to maintain the integrity of our testing results). We then made more than 300 meals, meticulously evaluating the cooking, user friendliness, and cleaning attributes of each machine in a side-by-side manner, all to find the absolute best one for your countertop.
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 DUO Nova 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.
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.
Two of our favorite models to use, the Instant Pot DUO Nova and the Breville Fast Slow Pro share one critical feature: a pressure release button. This allows you to release the pressure without getting your hand close to the steam valve. Both of these models also feature large LCD screens and intuitive interfaces. If we had to choose, we'd say we slightly prefer the knobs of the Breville to the buttons of the Nova, but both are straightforward to use. The Nova's lid can be stored on either side of the machine, making it both lefty and right friendly, while the Breville's lid is affixed to one side.
The Instant Pot DUO Plus 9-in-1 and the Instant Pot DUO60 have the same design and interface as their Nova sibling, but lack a pressure release button. This requires you to use extra caution and some sort of implement like a wooden spoon or silicone glove when opening the steam valve.
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.
The Ninja Foodi is the only model we tested that earned a fairly middle-of-the-road score in this metric, picking up a 6 out of 10. Its control panel is the sleekest and simplest to use of all the models we tested. Many products can create a bit of confusion when navigating their various settings, but the Foodi is about as straightforward as they come. However, the secondary crisping lid is permanently attached. Not only does this make the unit large and cumbersome, it often gets in the way while stirring and serving.
The Cuisinart CPC-6000 shares the bottom score of 4 out of 10 in this metric with one other model. This is largely because it lacks some of the small, user-friendly touches present in most other models. First off, it doesn't have anywhere to store its lid, so you either have to hold it or set down on the counter while serving, which inevitably leads to condensation getting everywhere. We also feel the control panel is less than ideal. It has only 2 buttons for adjusting the cooking mode and timer, which leads to a sometimes annoying amount of button pushing to scroll around to your desired settings.
The Tayama TMC-60XL also earned a 4 out of 10 in this metric thanks to some similar shortcomings. It suffers from the nowhere to store the lid problem, so we found ourselves awkwardly holding the lid whilst we served or stirred. Its control panel has plenty of buttons for selecting its various settings, but only a single button for adjusting cooking time. This requires lots of button pushing to dial in your desired cook time, and if you miss it you'll have to do a lot more pushing to scroll all the way up to the maximum 3 hours, then back to zero, and then back to your desired setting. This isn't a huge deal, but for those of us with clumsy fingers it has the potential to be maddening.
Pressure cooking, by definition, requires a very controlled cooking environment. Accordingly, it makes sense that all of our cookers produced very similar results in our pressure cooking tests. That isn't to say they were identical, some were able to make meat about 5% more tender than other models, and others were able to make brown rice about 5% fluffier. However, these kinds of small differences will likely not be noticed by most people. Therefore the results below pertain more to the things these cookers do outside of pressure cooking. This is namely the ability to saute onions or sear meat, the kinds of things you do before you close the lid and start pressure cooking. The more of these preparatory steps that a cooker can do well, the more meals you'll be able to make in a single pot without every venturing over to the stovetop.
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.
All of the 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.
In our cooking tests the Ninja Foodi performed almost identically to the Instant Pot models, producing succulent results across the board. It also provides an effective saute setting. The large crisping lid that this machine sports allows for a few extra cooking functions, namely dehydrate and air fry. We've tested both air fryers and dehydrators, and found the Foodi's results to be similar to those from dedicated machines for both of those tasks. These extra features also allow you to finish off a chicken with a crisping cycle to get a crispy skin on the outside. We found this feature to be quite effective, similar to putting the chicken inside a traditional oven on the convection setting for five minutes.
Most of the cookers we tested, including 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.
Bringing up the rear in our cooking performance metric is the Tayama TMC-60XL. This machine certainly isn't a poor performer, as we were quite pleased with the most of the meals it prepared. However, it is one of the few models that lacks a saute function. This severely limits the number of meals you can prepare all in one pot, necessitating you fire up your stove and pull our a frying pan to make many pressure cooker staples.
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 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 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 pot of the 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.
Why didn't we award any model a score higher than 7 out of 10 in this metric, you may be asking? That's because every model we tested has a narrow groove around the rim where the lid makes its seal. Across the board that groove loves to gather crumbs and liquid, and is skinny enough that it's hard to get even a finger in there to clean. If you're careful this isn't an issue, but one misstep can result in some frustrating cleanup. We understand that groove is integral to the design of most of these pots, but we're still waiting for an enterprising engineer to come and fix this issue before we award any higher scores.
A slew of models fell just behind the top scorers in our ease of cleaning metric, including the Cuisinart CPC-600 6 Quart, the Breville Fast Slow Pro, and the Ninja Foodi. All of these models have non-stick pots that are easy to scrub and don't tend to gather baked-on messes. Across the board these models lost out on a top score because of their lid designs. The Cuisinart's lid uses a 2-piece design that leaves some extra nooks where water can collect. The Breville's lid must be unscrewed to remove it for cleaning, which is a bit more cumbersome than most models. The Ninja's pressure cooking lid is easy to remove and clean, but the air crisping lid is permanently attached an thus presents quite a chore when it needs cleaning.
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.
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.
The Ninja Foodi doesn't provide as many specific cooking modes as the Breville, but its secondary lid allows for air crisping, dehydrating, and air frying functions. All of these things are completely outside the realm of any other pressure cooker.
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 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.
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 has led you to the perfect countertop cooker for your home.
— Max Mutter and Steven Tata