Best Pressure Cooker of 2020
Best Overall Pressure Cooker
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 most cooking modes and presets, almost to an overwhelming degree. Luckily the Breville provides an incredibly intuitive, three-dial interface that lets you cycle through all of these settings and fine-tune 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 with the push of a well-positioned button. Although we didn't feel unsafe using any of the models we tested, it is nice 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, mainly when it came to meat. The ribs we made with this machine had a somewhat more tender, fall-off-the-bone quality than the rest.
The one thing that might stop you in your tracks with this product is the price. It can list for nearly double the cost of most models. And while it is better than the rest of the field, in our opinion, you're talking about considerable extra investment for relatively minor improvements. However, this is an excellent machine that may be worth the additional cost if you like the idea of not getting your hand anywhere near the steam valve, or like to make ribs.
Read review: Breville Fast Slow Pro
Easiest to Clean and Use
Instant Pot DUO Nova
The best pressure cookers are easy to use and clean, can saute right in the pot, offer reliable cooking performance, and provide an easy way to release the pressure when you're done. The Instant Pot DUO Nova checks all of these boxes while maintaining a mid-tier price tag. Possibly the best feature of this upgraded model is the pressure release button, which lets you efficiently 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 to the control panel, whose large LCD screen and dedicated preset cooking buttons make it easy to dial up whatever settings you'd like. 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 has some drawbacks, but they are relatively minor and will likely only be meaningful to a small subset of those shopping for a pressure cooker. Although we found all the meat we prepped in the DUO Nova to be juicy and tender, some other models were able to slightly best the Nova in both these attributes, particularly with hardier cuts of meat like ribs or brisket. The Nova also lacks the specialty dehydrating and air frying functions that some more versatile models offer. However, most of these competing models cost about twices as much as the Nova does. Overall we think it supplies all of the features and performance most people want at a much more reasonable price.
Read review: Instant Pot DUO Nova
Best on a Budget
The Presto 02141 is a capable pressure cooker that offers most of what the top models do, often at a significantly lower price. In our tests it sauteed, pressure cooked, and slow cooked quite well, and proved to be quite easy to clean. It also offers a nonstick pot. While we feel the nonstick vs. stainless steel debate largely comes down to personal preference, this is a good option for those seeking an alternative to the stainless pots of many of the most popular models on the market.
Our biggest complaint with the Presto 02141 is a minor one — it does not have a good place to store its lid, so you'll likely end up holding it while you stir or serve. Still, as long as you find this model on sale (which seems to be the rule rather than the exception) we think it is a fantastic value.
Read review: Presto 02141
Best Mini Model
Instant Pot DUO Mini
If you're generally cooking for one, or cooking for two and aren't a fan of leftovers, the Instant Pot DUO Mini has a good chance of becoming your favorite appliance. This three quart cooker is about half the size of most others on the market, making it the perfect size for meals for a single person or a couple, and it barely takes up any space on the countertop. Plus it shares all of the performance and user-friendliness of its larger siblings.
Also like its larger siblings, the meat we made with the Instant Pot DUO Mini came out just a bit less tender than with some of the more meat-inclined models, and it lacks any speciality features like air-frying. Also, despite its small stature being great for some applications, it negates the option of making large batches. However, if you're looking for a small and convenient weeknight dinner machine for two, the Instant Pot DUO Mini is a great choice.
Read review: Instant Pot DUO Mini
Best Air Fryer Combo
The Ninja Foodi is the device for you if you're looking for a single, versatile appliance that can pressure cook, air fry, and dehydrate. 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 used for air frying can't be removed when pressure cooking, which we found gets in the way when stirring and serving. Also, this machine is quite expensive. In fact, it may be more costly than buying a dedicated pressure cooker and a dedicated air fryer. However, we highly recommend the Ninja Foodi for those that value a single machine that can do it all.
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 four years. In that time, he has used over 100 pressure cookers, air fryers, toasters, toaster ovens, blenders, and dehydrators, lending him a well-rounded understanding of what makes a countertop appliance worth the real estate that it occupies.
Analysis and Test Results
In our quest for the most convenient weeknight meals possible, we scoured spec sheets while researching more than 50 different pressure cookers. Once we found the models most likely to serve our readers well, we bought all of them and made more than 300 meals, meticulously evaluating the cooking, user-friendliness, and cleaning attributes of each machine in a side-by-side manner to identify the absolute best one for your home.
In our experience, all pressure cookers can create a pleasant cooking environment, so paying extra generally means getting better interfaces, easier to clean surfaces, or additional cooking functions, rather than better cooking performance (with some minor exceptions). Offering convenient functions, intuitive controls, and relatively painless cleaning for a middle of the road price, we think the Instant Pot DUO Nova strikes the best balance. If you want the most cooking functions available, the Breville Fast Slow Pro is a great option, but it could cost you nearly twice as much. On the other hand, if you don't mind dealing with some extra cleaning hassles 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 factor that most differentiated 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 more annoying 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. However, some models also stood out for other reasons.
The Instant Pot DUO Nova and the Breville Fast Slow Pro were two of our favorite models to use and 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. Both are rather straightforward to use, but if we had to choose, we'd say we slightly prefer the knobs of the Breville to the buttons of the Nova. The Nova's lid can be stored on either side of the machine, making it friendly to both left and right-handers, while the Breville's lid is affixed to one side.
The Instant Pot DUO Plus 9-in-1, the Instant Pot DUO60, and the Instant Pot DUo Mini all have the same design and interface as their Nova sibling, but lack a pressure release button. This is far from a dealbreaker, but does require a bit more caution and a tool like a wooden spoon to be used when recipes call for a quick pressure release. The Instant Pot DUo Mini also lacks a couple of preset cooking buttons, but we didn't find this to impact the overall user friendliness at all.
Just behind the top scorers in this metric with an 8 out of 10, the Chefman 9-in-1 Programmable's 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, because some of the messages that pop up on the digital screen are confusing, we docked its score slightly. For example, pressing the 'Delay Timer' button causes the display to read 'dr05' briefly. We were scratching our heads a bit the first time we did this. However, this momentary confusion didn't hinder us from selecting the settings we wanted.
The Ninja Foodi offers one of the most intuitive interfaces we've ever found on a kitchen appliance. Despite having lots of features and settings to navigate through, we found doing so without consulting the manual to be quite easy. However, the additional crisping lid that is used for the air frying function is permanently attached. This ends up being a large and cumbersome extrusion that often gets in the way when serving and stirring.
The Cuisinart CPC-600N1 6 Quart's interface is simple and spartan. That makes doing simple things quite easy, but in order to adjust advanced settings there's a lot of button pushing and squinting at the small LCD screen involved. It also lacks any convenient lid storage, so you'll likely end up holding the lid in one hand while you stir and serve.
The Cuisinart CPC-6000 also lacks preset buttons and has a relatively small LCD screen. Setting the temperature, pressure, and cooking time can thus feel a bit more onerous than it does with some of the more intuitive interfaces of many of the other models. It also lacks any convenient place to store the lid while you stir and serve your food.
The Presto 02141 offers a simple and intuitive interface — we had no trouble navigating through its various settings in our testing. However, there is no place to store the lid when the cooker is open, which is a slight inconvenience when stirring or serving from a crowded countertop. Additionally, the LCD screen is quite small, so those that require reading glasses may find themselves squinting.
Thanks to some similar shortcomings, the Tayama TMC-60XL also earned a 4 out of 10 in this metric. It suffers from the nowhere-to-store-the-lid problem, so we found ourselves awkwardly holding the lid while we served or stirred. Its control panel has plenty of buttons for selecting various settings, but only a single button for adjusting cooking time. This necessitates 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 up to the maximum three 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 may become 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's not to say they were identical; some were able to make meat about 5% more tender than other models, while others cooked brown rice about 5% fluffier. However, these small differences are unlikely to be noticed by most people. Therefore, the results below pertain more to the things these cookers do outside of pressure cooking. This is namely their 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 ever venturing over to the stovetop.
Earning an impressive 9 out of 10, the winner of our cooking performance testing was the Breville Fast Slow Pro. 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 tender and moist 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 we found pressure cookers, in general, 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 the things most people 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. While the gap in quality is minimal, it's still noticeable.
The Ninja Foodi performed almost identically to the Instant Pot models in our cooking tests, 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 air frying and dehydrating. We've also tested both air fryers and dehydrators, and found the Foodi's results to be similar to those from dedicated machines for both of these tasks. These extra features also allow you to get that crispy skin on the outside of your chicken with a crisping cycle. We found this feature quite effective, similar to putting the chicken inside a traditional oven on the convection setting for five minutes.
The Presto 02141 Also did quite well in our cooking tests. Ribs came out fall-off-the-bone tender and veggies were thoroughly sauteed using its saute function. Rice came out very tender but not super fluffy, exhibiting a bit more of a moist quality. Overall we doubt anyone will be disappointed in the Presto 02141's cooking abilities.
Bringing up the rear in our cooking performance metric is the Tayama TMC-60XL. This machine certainly isn't a poor performer. We were quite pleased with most of the meals it prepared. However, it is one of the few models that lack a saute function. This severely limits the number of meals you can prepare all in one pot, often necessitating you fire up your stove and pull out a frying pan to make many pressure cooker staples.
Ease of Cleaning
Here again, we saw relatively minor differences between models overall, but some finer points 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 have easily removable gaskets were generally much easier to clean. We also strongly prefer stainless cooking pots over those with nonstick coatings. Stainless doesn't limit the cleaning utensils you can use, and it's 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 five meals in each cooker, therefore we cleaned each product at least five times. After all that cleaning, we have a great idea of how difficult each one is to clean.
For our cleaning tests, a slew of models shared the top score of 7 out of 10. All of these models, which include both Instant Pot models, the Chefman 9-in-1 Programmable, and the Cuisinart CPC-600N1 6 Quart 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 it, making hand cleaning easier. However, because they let us do things like scrub them with steel wool or toss them into the dishwasher without worry, we slightly prefer the stainless pots of the Instant Pots.
You may be wondering why we didn't award any model a score higher than 7 out of 10 in this metric. This is because every model we tested had 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 the groove is integral to most of these pots' designs, but we're still waiting for an enterprising engineer to fix this issue before we award any higher scores.
The Presto 02141 proved to be fairy easy to clean in our tests. The nonstick pot shed grease and grime very easily and is advertised as being dishwasher safe. The two-piece lid and its removable gasket were likewise easy to scrub down and get clean. Like all models some debris and gunk sometimes got stuck in the groove where the lid attaches, but that's just par for the course when it comes to pressure cooking.
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. These models have non-stick pots that are easy to scrub and don't tend to gather baked-on messes. However, because of their lid designs, these models lost out on a top score across the board. The Cuisinart's lid uses a two-piece design that leaves extra nooks where water can be collected. 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, and thus presents quite a chore when it needs cleaning.
Earning a 5 out of 10, the Tayama TMC-60XL was the worst scorer in this metric. It's not particularly difficult to clean but presents more challenges than the other models. This is mostly due to the two-piece lid that is hard to dry completely, and a nonstick cooking pot that is not dishwasher safe and slightly stickier than its competitors.
Pressure cookers have largely gained their popularity due to two characteristics: versatility and convenience. While the former is a de facto result of basic pressure cooker design, the latter can be greatly facilitated by offering specific cooking features. For example, unique pressure cooker tasks like making yogurt require very specific settings. Being able to engage a pre-programmed yogurt making cooking feature is much more convenient than having to dial in those very specific cooking settings. Additionally, having a saute function can be hugely helpful, as it allows you to pre-saute ingredients right in the pot instead of having to fire up your stovetop and create more dishes. We graded each model in this based on the number of cooking features and how well they all performed.
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 beyond the realm of the other pressure cookers.
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 Presto 02141 also offers a slew of cooking features, including unique ones for desserts and beans. It's very unlikely you'll find a dish not covered by the Presto 02141's presets.
The Chefman 9-in-1 Programmable has what we would consider the basic set of functions, including saute, something to handle 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. However, you may just need to look up what the ideal pressure and temp settings are for your favorite meals.
The Cuisinart CPC-600N1 6 Quart has a similarly spartan set of cooking functions. Essentially, you manually set the pressure, temperature, and time. Outside of the saute function there are no specific cooking modes.
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 provide a saute function. It is the only model we tested that lacks a saute feature, forcing you to do some prep on a traditional stovetop for many meals.
Pressure cookers offer a slew of functionality without taking up much counter space. However, it can be hard to tell what the functional differences are between the many aesthetically similar models on the market. We hope that our objective testing results have helped you find the pressure cooker that is most likely to take your home meal prep to the next level.
— Max Mutter and Steven Tata