Lid is easy to lock
Wide rim is easy to clean
Not safe for use with metal utensils
Can’t opt out of using keep-warm
No app for recipes
We received the Crockpot Express 6-Quart Oval Max Pressure Cooker as a free sample, so we had our reviewer put it to the test. Keep reading for our full product review.
Pressure cookers are beloved for their ability to cook foods in a variety of ways in a small amount of time. I’ve used a lot of pressure cookers, and to be honest, sometimes the differences between models are minimal. The Crockpot Express 6-Quart Oval Max Pressure Cooker certainly looked like it had some major differences, simply because of its shape. I readied some of my favorite pressure cooker foods along with some others to test all of its other capabilities. After some solid cooking time, I’m more than ready to talk about its uniqueness—as well as how it’s similar to many of its peers.
Design: Short and oval
Before diving into nitpicky details, it’s obvious this pressure cooker is different from its competitors because of the shape. In fact, without reading the buttons on the front, many people would assume it’s a slow cooker, and the familiar Crockpot name wouldn’t surprise them at all.
In some ways, it is a slow cooker because it’s got many of the same features that typical slow cookers do. But it’s also a very competent pressure cooker. An oval pressure cooker—that’s certainly new.
While the shape might not sound earthshaking, it does affect the user experience in a big way. With round pressure cookers, the lids twist on creating the necessary seal. While it’s not difficult to do, it can take some practice to align the lid perfectly each time.
Anyone who has worked with electric pressure cookers before—or with any digital kitchen appliances—will likely be able to figure this out without any trouble.
With the Crockpot Express Oval Max, the lid is placed where it belongs, and it’s easy to see how the oval top fits the oval base. Then the handle on top of the lid is turned to secure the lid. Looking underneath the lid, I could see that turning the handle engages a pair of clamps that grab the cooker, creating a tight seal. While I’ve gotten used to standard pressure cooker lids, I have to say that this one was really easy to use, and it only required one hand to place the lid and turn the handle.
Once the pressure is achieved, the lid locks in place, much like other pressure cookers. When it was time to release pressure, I turned the lever on the lid, and it lifted the nearby steam vent. While they were close to each other, at least the steam wasn’t coming from the middle of the lever, so it’s a bit less scary for cooks who worry about the hot steam.
This is a 6-quart pressure cooker, but it appears small compared to 6-quart round cookers. This is mostly because the Oval Max is quite a bit shorter, making up for its width. That width came in handy for foods that were long, like the corned beef I cooked. For small foods like vegetables or rice, the oval shape didn’t have any downsides. In fact, it was easier to scoop the rice out of the cooker since there was a bit more room to move around and less need to reach down into a hot cooker. The pot has a nonstick coating, which is great for cooking and cleaning. Unfortunately, it means that the pot isn’t safe to use with metal utensils.
Setup Process: Simple operation
This pressure cooker is very similar to others on the market. Once the food is placed in the cooker and the lid is in place (or not, depending on the cooking function desired), a few button presses get the cooking going. The presets are similar to other cookers, and there are manual controls as well. Anyone who has worked with electric pressure cookers before—or with any digital kitchen appliances—will likely be able to figure this out without any trouble.
Performance: Rice is nice
The first thing I cooked was rice, which can be a dealbreaker for some pressure cookers since the rice can brown on the bottom, or even burn. And even without burning, the rice can sometimes stick, making cleanup a chore. In this cooker, the rice cooked perfectly using the rice preset with no sticking or browning. I used the included plastic paddle to fluff the rice and then to serve it from the pot. The paddle isn’t remarkable—the same sort of paddle is included with many pressure cookers and rice cookers—but it’s handy to have.
I pressure cooked some root vegetables, including beets and rutabaga. My timing was a bit off on the rutabaga, so it got a little softer than I preferred, but that wasn’t the cooker’s fault. The beets cooked perfectly, as did a batch of potatoes. The pressure cooker corned beef was perfect, as were the vegetables I cooked to go along with it.
I decided to turn a large batch of pinto beans into a large batch of refried beans and started with the simmer function with the lid open, so I could stir the beans and let the liquid reduce. That worked well to get the beans up to temperature, but it wasn’t long before I realized the thick beans were cooking a little too fast, and I turned the temperature down to slow cook. I let the beans cook, stirring when I thought of it, until I had the consistency I was looking for.
Slow cook worked just as well for making a batch of stock from the remains of a roasted chicken. Of course, I could have sped up the process using the pressure cook option, but this time I opted for low and slow.
Features: The usual buttons
This cooker has plenty of buttons, with pressure cooking functions on the left and slow cooking and non-pressurized functions on the right. Pressure cooking functions include manual pressure, meat/poultry, beans/chili, rice/grains, dessert, soup/broth, steam, and clean. Non-pressurized functions include yogurt, slow cook, brown/sear, sauté, boil, and simmer. There is also a delay timer function that allows the cooker to wait before starting to cook.
The keep-warm function starts automatically when cooking is done. While I appreciated this function when I made rice (and that it stayed warm until I needed it), for other pressure cooker sessions, I would have preferred that it turned off so that the pressure would reduce a bit quicker. The only way to turn off the keep-warm function when the cooking is done is to turn off the cooker.
This cooker has a cleaning function, but it’s not meant to clean the pot after it has been used. Instead, it’s meant to freshen up the cooker if cooking odors remain, which can happen when foods are particularly pungent.
Although a small recipe booklet and a user’s manual are included, there’s no app with recipes. There are recipes on the company’s website—but let’s be realistic. With the popularity of pressure cookers, it’s hard to spend any amount of time online without tripping over pressure cooker recipes. There are also a large number of pressure cooker cookbooks with even more recipes to choose from.
When it comes to basic operating instructions for this model, a handy chart in the recipe booklet lists all of the functions, whether the lid should be used, and whether the steam release should be open or closed. It’s a useful reference and worth keeping at hand, at least until the cook is comfortable with the cooker.
Cleaning: Simple, thanks to nonstick
This cooker has a cleaning function, but it’s not meant to clean the pot after it has been used. Instead, it’s meant to freshen up the cooker if cooking odors remain which can happen when foods are particularly pungent. The cleaning process is a 5-minute cooking session on high pressure, and it’s suggested that white vinegar should be added to help remove odors.
One thing I appreciated for normal cleaning was that the moat around the cooker’s rim was sufficiently wide to make cleaning that area easy. With some pressure cookers, that area is so small that it’s tough to get a sponge or folded cloth in the space to clean it efficiently.
The cooking pot has a nonstick coating that makes handwashing nearly effortless. While the pot is dishwasher-safe, handwashing is recommended to preserve the nonstick coating.
If you’re looking for a pressure cooker, there are a few that are super-cheap, a handful that are quite expensive, and the rest cluster in a group in the middle. This cooker is comfortable with the rest of the pack in that mid-range, retailing around $90. It’s definitely not a budget breaker.
Crockpot Express 6-Quart Oval Max Pressure Cooker vs. Instant Pot Duo 6-Quart Multi-Use Pressure Cooker
I’ve used a lot of different Instant Pots, and they’ve all performed well. The Instant Pot Duo 6-Quart Multi-Use Pressure Cooker (view at Amazon) is one of the popular models, with a price that is similar to the Crockpot Express I reviewed (it retails between $80 and $90). I could nitpick differences, but the major differentiator is the shape. Neither shape is better or worse—it really depends on what is cooked more often. The round shape works well for soups and similar foods that don’t need room to stretch out. The oval shape of the Crockpot Express is better for whole chickens, roasts, and other foods that need wide space and don’t mind less height. Considering many pressure cooker owners will purchase a second or even third pot, it might be wise to add an oval cooker to the collection for more versatility.
It’s worthy of its kitchen space.
The Crockpot Express 6-Quart Oval Max Pressure Cooker has a lot going for it, but the most unique feature is the shape. A whole chicken or a roast can fit nestle neatly into the pot for pressure cooking, and the shape is just as useful for slow cooking. The lid mechanism is easy to use, too, and it can be sealed or opened one-handed.
- Product Name Express 6-Quart Oval Max Pressure Cooker
- Product Brand Crockpot
- Price $90
- Weight 16.8 lbs.
- Product Dimensions 16.2 x 13.5 x 16.2 in.
- Material Nonstick cooking pot and plated metal rack
- Warranty 1 year
- What's Included Comes with a reversible rack and a rice paddle