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If you don't have much time to cook but still want to put homemade food on the table, a pressure cooker will be your go-to kitchen appliance. Pressure cookers cook food under pressure created by trapped steam, significantly reducing traditional cooking times for soups, stews, roasts, side dishes, and even desserts.
You can choose from an electric pressure cooker or one for the stovetop. Many electric pressure cookers available today are also multi-cookers and programmed to handle slow cooking, steaming, and sautéing. Aside from pressure cooking, you can make everything from a big pot of chili and homemade yogurt to perfectly cooked rice. Some even come with additional settings and special features.
If you're nervous about bringing a pressure cooker home, don't be. Most of today's models are equipped with safety features to make the process easy enough for beginning home cooks to master, whether you're cooking a meal for one or a big batch for the whole family.
Here are the best pressure cookers.
Best Overall: Instant Pot Duo 7-in-1 Electric Pressure Cooker
Remembers previous settings
Three temperature levels
Precise temperature control
Comes with minimal accessories
Difficult to see the pressure valve
The Instant Pot, a cult favorite, has everything you need in a pressure cooker, plus extras. The seven functions of this 6-quart model are pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, sauté/browning, yogurt maker, steamer, and warmer. The control panel makes cooking easy, with high and low pressure, three sauté temperatures, slow cook, and warming, all at the touch of a button. Our tester found that all of the temperature and pressure sensors delivered "precise results" no matter what she cooked.
The cooking insert is made from stainless steel with a three-layer base for even cooking, and there is an optional nonstick cooking insert available from the manufacturer. The steam rack can be used for steaming or as a lifting rack for larger foods.
The Instant Pot offers plenty of timer functions to make cooking fit into your schedule. You can choose to delay the start for up to 24 hours. And the automatic keep-warm feature will hold cooked food for 10 hours, while the manual keep-warm feature can hold food for up to nearly 100 hours—more than enough for any potluck or party. This model is also available in 3- and 8-quart models.
Capacity: 6 quarts | Power Rating: 1000 watts | Cooking Presets: 14 | Dimensions: 13.4 x 12.2 x 12.5 inches | Weight: 11.8 pounds | Warranty: 1 year, Limited
"You can’t go wrong with this model, which combines the proven performance of the iconic Instant Pot brand with an affordable price tag." — Danielle Centoni, Product Tester
Best Budget: Crock-Pot 8-Quart Express Crock XL Programmable Multi-Cooker in Stainless Steel
Nonstick cook pot
Easy-to-read control panel
No manual pressure button
Difficult to see the pressure valve
No medium temperature setting
From the name you've learned to slow cook with over the years comes this multi-cooker that can not only pressure and slow cook but also lets you brown, sauté, and steam. You can set these functions with a delayed timer to ensure a freshly done meal when you get home.
With easy settings such as meat/stew, beans/chili, rice/risotto, yogurt, poultry, dessert, soup, and multigrain, you can cook up a whole feast of meals. With this purchase, you'll also get a recipe book with plenty of ideas, a steaming rack, and a serving spoon to help whip up dinner in a jiffy. Our tester did wish for a few more features—like a medium temperature setting—but overall said that those extra features "don’t make a big difference in cooking performance."
"In terms of its straight-up ability to successfully pressure cook or slow cook a wide variety of foods, the Express Crock performs just as reliably as other electric multi-cookers we’ve tried." — Danielle Centoni, Product Tester
Best Budget Stovetop: Presto 6-Quart Stainless Steel Pressure Cooker
No adjustable pressure
Handles loosen over time
If you don’t need all the extras and want to try pressure cooking, this budget cooker is just what you need. The pressure regulator maintains an even cooking pressure, and the cover lock keeps the lid closed and indicates that pressure remains in the pot.
Unlike some of the cheaper pots, this one is stainless steel rather than aluminum, so it’s appropriate for cooking acidic foods. Plus, it’s dishwasher-safe and includes a rack for keeping food lifted off the bottom of the pot.
This pot does not have adjustable pressure. It also comes in a 4-quart size.
Capacity: 6 quarts | Power Rating: N/A | Cooking Presets: N/A | Dimensions: 17.31 x 9.12 x 8.75 inches | Weight: 5.32 pounds | Warranty: 12 years
Best Canner: Presto 01781 23-Quart Pressure Canner and Cooker
High safety standards for canning
Made from warp-resistant aluminum
5- and 10-pound regulators sold separately
If you'd like to pressure can and cook in one appliance, this gadget gets USDA approval. It comes with a dial gauge to precisely monitor internal pressure, which is important when pressure canning and canning at a high altitude.
This canner is made from aluminum for even heating and can also be used as a boiling-water canner. It can also be used as a large-capacity pressure cooker. However, since it’s aluminum, you should avoid using it for acidic foods like tomatoes.
It includes a rack and holds up to 7-quart jars or two layers of 9-pint jars.
As far as cleaning, do not immerse the pressure cooker lid in water, and be careful with the delicate dial gauge. Before using it for canning, test the gauge to ensure it's accurate.
Capacity: 23 quarts | Power Rating: N/A | Cooking Presets: N/A | Dimensions: 17.5 x 13.5 x 15.5 inches | Weight: 10.32 pounds | Warranty: 12 years
Pressure canners are best for low-acid foods like beans, corn, meat, and broth. Pressure canners must meet capacity, pressure control recommendations, and food safety guidelines set forth by the USDA. While you can use pressure canners for pressure cooking and canning, not all pressure cookers have been deemed safe for pressure canning.
Best Large Electric: GoWISE USA GW22637 4th-Generation Electric Pressure Cooker with rice scooper
Ideal for large families or crowds
Easy to clean
12 cooking presets
Sauté function not the best
Issues with durability after years of use
If you have a large family, this 14-quart electric pressure cooker can cook big batches of food every day. For convenience, it has 12 cooking presets that set pressure and time for the best results, including rice, multigrain, porridge, steam, soup, meat/stew, bean/chili, sauté, poultry, yogurt, slow cook, and eggs.
The LED displays show cooking time, temperature, and pressure. There is a delay timer so you can start the cooking time later. The cooking time and pressure settings are adjustable, so you’ll always get the results you want. For easy cleaning, the cooking pot has a ceramic coating.
Due to its size, this cooker will take more counter space than an average-sized one, and it’s also much heavier, weighing in at 18 pounds without food added. It also includes a steam rack, steam basket, rice scooper, and measuring cup.
Capacity: 14 quarts | Power Rating: 1600 watts | Cooking Presets: 12 | Dimensions: 13 x 16 x 15 inches | Weight: 18 pounds | Warranty: 1 year
"Don’t flour your meat before browning it. It can create a layer on the bottom of the pressure cooking pot that will prevent it from coming to pressure." — Barbara Schieving, Author of "The Electric Pressure Cooker Cookbook"
Best Small Electric: Mealthy MultiPot 9-in-1 Programmable Pressure Cooker
Progress screen removes guesswork
Comes to pressure super quickly
Intuitive control panel
Glass lid not included
No “insufficient liquid” or “burn” warning
If you like the idea of an electric pressure cooker, but you’re cooking for just a few people and don’t have extra space to spare, this 6-quart pressure cooker has all the features of larger units with a smaller footprint and a smaller cooking capacity.
The Mealthy MultiPot features nine cooking options: pressure cook, slow cook, make rice, sauté, steam, and more. The main cooking pot is made from sturdy stainless steel, perfect for making everything, including chili, yogurt, and cakes.
Our reviewer put it to the test—making everything from dried chickpea stew, chicken coconut curry, lentils, sausages, yogurt, brownies, and steel-cut oats—and found each recipe turned out just as delicious as it did in other electric pressure cookers.
The Mealthy MultiPot has recently been updated. The 2.0 version now has an auto-sealing lid, redesigned control panel, automatic and hands-free steam release for added safety, and 33 cooking presets. It comes with a stainless steel steamer basket, silicone mitts, a trivet, measuring cup, soup ladle, and rice paddle.
Capacity: 6 quarts | Power Rating: 1000 watts | Cooking Presets: 33 | Dimensions: 13 x 12.25 x 12.5 inches | Weight: 17.6 pounds | Warranty: 1 year, Limited
"The dishes made in the Mealthy turned out identical to the ones we previously cooked in an Instant Pot." — Danielle Centoni, Product Tester
Best High-End Electric: Breville BPR700 Fast Slow Pro Pressure Cooker
Adjustable pressure settings
Automatic steam release settings
Number of presets may overwhelm some cooks
Short warranty period
Breville is known for high-end appliances equipped with smart features, and the Fast Slow Pro Pressure Cooker is no exception. This model is designed to make pressure cooking safe and easy, but it also can be used to slow cook, saute, reduce, sear, steam, and warm.
Dual sensors in the top and bottom of the pot enable automatic adjustments to pressure and temperature for best results, whether you're slow cooking a whole chicken or making a quick pressure risotto.
The multi-functionality of this cooker allows you to complete all steps in one pot. Take a classic beef stew, for example. You can brown the meat on the sear setting, add the rest of your ingredients, and either pressure or slow cook. Then you can use the reduce setting at the end of cooking to thicken.
There are recipe-specific settings that will automatically set the cooking time and temperature for both pressure and slow-cooking modes. The pressure cook presets include rice, risotto, potatoes, stock, soup, legumes, casserole, pot roast, lamb shanks, bolognese, and pudding. The slow cook presets include stock, soup, beans, poultry, meat, bone-in meat, chili & stew, and desserts.
There are eight pressure settings, ranging from 1.5 psi to 12 psi, and a hands-free steam release to set to quick release, pulse, or natural. The slow cook function can be used on low or high, like a standard slow cooker, and cook time can be set 2 to 12 hours.
The LCD display and control panel make it easy to navigate the settings. The pressure settings, temperature, and remaining cook time are displayed on the screen during cooking so you can monitor your recipes.
Capacity: 6 quarts | Power Rating: 1100 watts | Cooking Presets: 11 | Dimensions: 12 x 12 x 13 inches | Weight: 14 pounds | Warranty: 1 year
Not sure what to make in your pressure cooker? Barbara Schieving, author of "The Electric Pressure Cooker Cookbook," says the appliance is terrific for making fatty meats tender and succulent, as well as dry beans, potatoes for potato salad, and spaghetti squash. "It also excels at making soups quickly that taste like they've simmered all day long," Schieving says. "It's the only way I cook rice now."
We found the Instant Pot Duo 7-in-1 Electric Pressure Cooker (view at Amazon) lives up to its reputation as the standard-bearer for design and performance. If you're on a budget, the Crock-Pot 6-Quart Express Crock Multi-Cooker (view at Amazon) offers quality performance—albeit with fewer bells and whistles.
What to Look for in a Pressure Cooker
Stovetop or Electric
Stovetop pressure cookers tend to have fewer features and functions than their electric counterparts, but they are typically less expensive. With the lid off or not sealed onto the pot, the stovetop pressure cooker can function just like any other pot you own to simmer sauces, boil water, or make soup.
Electric pressure cookers tend to have more features, and they can be easier to use since it doesn't require manually timing your cooking. You also don’t need to turn the heat off when cooking is done since the cooker does that for you. Many electric pressure cookers can sear food, simmer, steam, and slow cook, making them versatile appliances.
No matter which you choose, you can start or finish your food using conventional cooking methods, so you can start with a slow-cook simmer and then finish with pressure if the food isn’t cooking fast enough. Or start with pressure cooking to tenderize tough meat, then add tender vegetables and cook without pressure to finish the dish.
If you like to cook in large quantities, look at larger pressure cooker models. If you’re only cooking for one or two and you’re not fond of leftovers, smaller cookers will save you storage space and are less expensive, as well. Remember that, unlike your favorite stockpot or slow cooker, you shouldn’t fill the pressure cooker to the top. It’s important to leave space for pressure to build and to make sure food won’t block the pressure release valve or other safety features. Many pressure cookers include a safe-fill line, which leaves the cooker about 2/3 filled, but even if that line is absent, do not fill the cooker to its maximum capacity.
Settings and Features
Some pressure cookers operate at just one pressure, while others allow you to choose two or even three different pressure options for cooking. In general, stovetop pressure cookers can cook at higher pressures than electric models. However, new technology has made electric models even more versatile, allowing you to choose a wide range of temperatures and settings.
Most electric models have searing, browning, and slow-cooker functions. Many have recipe pre-sets for various types of food, from beans, poultry, and yogurt. But many users say they use the manual settings far more than the pre-sets, so a limited menu isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Types of Pressure Cookers
Electric Pressure Cookers
Electric pressure cookers are the new kids on the pressure cooking block, and they make pressure cooking easier than pressure cooking on the stove. With an electric pot, there’s no need to watch it to see when it has reached pressure since the pot senses the pressure. During cooking, if the pressure reaches above a safe level, the cooker will turn itself off. Many also have burn indicators and will turn themselves off if they sense that food is scorching on the bottom of the pot or when there isn’t sufficient liquid.
When cooking time is done, the cooker turns itself off, perhaps switching to a keep-warm function, so you don’t need to lurk in the kitchen to turn off the heat. Some electric pressure cookers offer automatic pressure release at the end of the cooking time, making it even easier. Most electric pressure cookers include extra cooking features, like searing, slow cooking, steaming, and more, so they’re useful even when you’re not cooking in a hurry.
Stovetop Pressure Cookers
Stovetop pressure cookers have been around for generations, and there’s a good chance you saw one puffing steam on your mom’s or grandmother’s stove. Earlier models suffered from weak welded seams and fewer pressure release backups, so they were more dangerous than the ones made today. Those older pressure cookers sometimes ruptured at the seams, or the lid could come off during cooking. Now, stovetop cooking pots are manufactured without seams and made with better and stronger materials, making them unlikely to rupture. Lids are attached with better safety locks, so they can’t be removed while there is pressure in the pot.
All stovetop pressure cookers have the main pressure valve that releases pressure and steam during cooking to keep the pressure steady. If that clogs or fails, the pots have one or more safety pressure release features, which allow pressure to release at higher pressures than the main valve, so they will keep the pot at a safe pressure, even if the main valve fails. Of course, the cook is another safety feature—if the main valve stops releasing steam during cooking or steam comes out of secondary areas, the cook should know that there’s something wrong.
Stovetop pressure cookers are the simplest type and can be used as standard sauce pots with the lid off or not sealed. Higher-end pots are made from stainless steel rather than aluminum and tend to have more and better safety releases, as well as lids that are easier to put on and take off. Aluminum cookers also won’t work on induction cooktops unless they have a stainless steel base to make them compatible. Depending on the pressure valve or regulator, you might be able to use one, two, or three different cooking pressures.
Stovetop Pressure Canners
Pressure canners have pressure gauges so you can see and regulate the exact pressure more precisely. This precision is required for the safe canning of non-acidic foods, which is one reason why standard pressure cookers aren’t rated for canning. Size is also important, and pressure canners are usually much larger than standard pressure cookers since they need to be large enough to hold quart canning jars on a rack. Most are aluminum, so they are lighter and large enough, although more expensive stainless steel canners are also available. Pressure canners are used for pressure cooking, but their large size might make cooking family-sized recipes a bit of a challenge.
While Instant Pot wasn’t the first electric pressure cooker on the market, it popularized the appliance, bringing it to the mainstream and making it almost as popular as slow cookers. There are several different models available, each with different pre-set cooking functions and features, and there are models in a variety of sizes as well.
The Presto company has been making pressure cookers for generations, and it makes a variety of appliances, including stovetop models, canners, and electric. Presto products tend to be affordable and reliable. However, you won't find the features other higher-end pressure cookers have.
How does a pressure cooker work?
The magic of pressure cookers is in the name—pressure. The pressure cooker is completely sealed. When the liquid turns to steam, the pressure increases inside the pot, allowing the temperature of the liquid inside the pot to rise above the maximum boiling point. Because of that higher temperature, food cooks faster.
What can you cook in a pressure cooker?
Whether you’re trying to get beef stew done for dinner or you want to make rich soup stock in less time, a pressure cooker will get the job done. While speed is one of the major selling points, pressure cookers also cook some foods better. Corned beef and similar tough cuts of meat will become tender while remaining juicy, and cheesecakes will remain smooth and creamy without excess browning. Meanwhile, everything from dried beans to chicken thighs to sturdy grains will get done in time for dinner, even if you forgot to thaw that chicken before cooking (yes, you can even cook frozen meat in your pressure cooker).
A better question might be: What shouldn't you cook in a pressure cooker? Most people don't recommend pressure-cooking breaded meats or veggies (they'll turn out soggy, not crispy), pasta and lentils (they may get mushy), or delicate cuts of meat. Usually, dairy is a no-go because it will curdle. But there are some yogurt and cheesecake recipes specifically developed for pressure cookers with the appropriate settings.
How do you release pressure from a pressure cooker?
No matter what you’re cooking, you’ll need to release the pressure before removing the lid. Natural pressure release requires the temperature to come down to ambient pressure to remove the lid. For a natural release, simply turn off the heat and wait. You can do this with any pressure cooker.
Stovetop models allow a super-rapid release by placing the cooker in a sink and running cold water over it to quickly cool the pot to reduce the pressure, which means the pot will have to fit comfortably in your sink. It might not be convenient with a large pot, or if the manufacturer recommends against it.
Quick-release works for both electric and stovetop models by manipulating the pressure valve to allow the steam and pressure to release quickly through the valve. Since pressure release is a big concern for some cooks, some models have a function that releases pressure with the press of a button rather than touching the valve. This function allows the cook’s hands to stay safely away from the hot steam. If you’re skittish, it’s worth looking for a cooker with a remote release.
Can you use a pressure cooker for canning?
Although you can use pressure canners for regular pressure cooking, standard pressure cookers can’t be used for pressure canning. If you’re serious about canning meats, broth, or other low-acid foods, a pressure canner is what you need; there are currently no electric pressure cookers rated for canning.
What are must-have Instant Pot accessories?
While some pressure cookers don't have any extra, some include beneficial accessories like steamer baskets and racks. Other items, like measuring cups and spoons, can be handy; however, you may already have those items in your kitchen.
Because of the popularity of the Instant Pot, third-party vendors offer additional accessories, including stacking cooking racks, steamers, egg-bite pans, and other cookware that can fit inside electric pressure cooker pots. Some manufacturers sell brand-name replacement sealing rings, extra cooking pots, glass lids for slow cooking, and other tools specific to their appliances. Again, many of these are also available from third-party vendors. With the popularity of electric pressure cookers, there has also been an increase in pressure cooker cookbooks.
How do you clean a pressure cooker?
As with any pots and pans, pressure cooking pots are made from different materials that impact cooking performance and cleaning. It's always a good idea to read the manual for instructions on maintaining any product you buy. You can put your Instant Pot lid, inner stainless steel cooking pot, sealing ring, and steam rack in the dishwasher. However, because of the heating element, the cooker base should not be submerged in water. Instead, clean it with a damp cloth.
Other electric pressure cookers will have a nonstick-coated inner cooking pot. Nonstick pots are less likely to be dishwasher-safe (and they are also susceptible to damage by metal utensils), but they're also less prone to having food stick and burn and are easier to clean by hand.
Stovetop pressure cooker pots made of aluminum should be washed by hand with non-abrasive cleaners, while those made of stainless steel are dishwasher-safe (as well as stain- and corrosion-resistant). Regardless of material, do not submerge stovetop cooker lids in water.
What is the warranty of an Instant Pot or pressure cooker?
Most pressure cookers come with a warranty. Stovetop models generally have a longer warranty, which makes sense because there isn’t much that can break. Electric pressure cookers have an average warranty of one year (as is the case for the Instant Pot). However, the length and coverage will vary, depending on the model and manufacturer. While warranties tend to cover manufacturing defects, there are replaceable parts like sealing rings or valves that might need to be replaced at the user’s expense during the lifetime of the appliance due to normal wear-and-tear that is not covered by a warranty.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
Donna Currie is a cookbook author, as well as a writer and product tester for The Spruce Eats, specializing in all the latest kitchen gadgets. Danielle Centoni, who personally tested three of the pressure cookers on this list, is a James Beard Award-winning food writer who has authored five cookbooks and contributed recipe testing for even more.
This roundup was updated by Sharon Lehman, a home cook who happens to be a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. She happily makes space for any gadget that makes cooking faster and easier and specializes in small kitchen appliance testing and reviews for The Spruce Eats.
Rachel Werner, cookbook reviewer, culinary writer, and former World Food Championship judge, interviewed Barbara Schieving, author of "The Electric Pressure Cooker Cookbook," for this roundup. Rachel's lifestyle content, food styling, and photography have appeared in various regional and national publications, including Fabulous Wisconsin, BRAVA, and Hobby Farms Magazine.