After 40 hours of research and testing—including cooking 15 pounds of brisket, 13 pounds of black beans, and 12 pounds of brown rice—we think the best pressure cookers for most people are the electric Instant Pot IP-DUO60 (for hands-off cooking) and the stovetop Fagor Duo 8-Quart (if you want more manual control). Of the 15 pots we tried, these two offer the best combination of great performance at a reasonable price. They’ll help you get dinner on the table in less than half the time of cooking in a regular pot. And unlike the finicky, volatile pressure cookers of the past, our picks are totally safe and easy to use.
The Instant Pot IP-DUO60 is our overall favorite if you’re looking for a super-easy pressure-cooking experience. It’s simple to use and will turn out delicious meals in a fraction of the time conventional cooking requires—you can cook black beans from scratch in 20 minutes, for example. Compared with other electric models, it has more heat settings, and it sautéed our onions better (none of the electric models brown meat all that well). As a multi-cooker, this pot can also function as a slow cooker and a rice cooker (which it did okay, but if you’re a rice snob we prefer our rice cooker pick). If the 6-quart version is sold out, consider the 5-quart or the 8-quart model.
The Fagor Duo 8-Quart stovetop cooker is a better choice than the Instant Pot if you want to sear meat directly in the pot, if you want more control over depressurization, and if you want slightly faster cooking times (and don’t mind keeping an eye on the stove). It has a wider base than most stovetop models, so it will brown meats better and allows you to use a higher flame to bring the pot up to pressure faster. Unlike cheaper models, it has two pressure settings, so you can cook at low pressure for delicate fish or vegetable dishes, and at high pressure for roasts and heartier fare. It wasn’t the absolute best stovetop model we tried, but we think its balance of good price and performance will make most people happy.
If you want a nicer electric pressure cooker with more functionality, we recommend the 6-quart Instant Pot Ultra. With a dial and a large LCD screen rather than a bunch of buttons, Its interface is more streamlined than that of the Instant Pot IP-DUO60. It also has more options, including low-temperature sous vide and a warming function that keeps food at a specified temperature for up to almost 100 hours. If you live above 3,000 feet, you’ll likely appreciate the altitude-adjust function, which allows you to enter your elevation so that the machine can adjust cooking time and temperature accordingly. The Ultra offers more functionality than the Breville Fast Slow Pro at less than two-thirds the price.
Our favorite stovetop cooker was our upgrade pick, the Fissler Vitaquick 8.5-Quart Pressure Cooker. It’s around $70 more than our main pick, but worth the money if you prefer top-of-the-line pots and pans. It has a wider and thicker tri-ply base than the Fagor Duo, so it does a better job at searing meat and browning onions. Its pressure settings are a tad easier to read and the lid slides more smoothly onto the pot than that of our main pick. If you plan on cooking under pressure often, this well-constructed cooker will deliver years of superb service.
If you’re curious to see whether pressure cooking is right for you, but you aren’t ready to drop over $100, the stovetop Presto 8-Quart Stainless Steel Pressure Cooker is a good starter pot. It has just one pressure setting, but it decently sears meats, sautées aromatics, and delivers well-cooked dishes. Its recessed pressure indicator is a little harder to see, so you need to keep a close eye on this pot to know exactly when to turn off the heat. But if you don’t mind being a little more attentive, this is a solid pressure cooker, and like the rest of the stovetop models we recommend it will double as a regular pot without the lid.
I’ve been cooking professionally for almost 20 years, and I’ve written cookware guides for The Sweethome for over two years. I know my pots and pans. In addition to my personal knowledge of cookware, we interviewed experts including Lorna Sass, author of Cooking Under Pressure, and Mike Vrobel, who features a lot of pressure-cooker recipes on his blog, Dad Cooks Dinner. We also consulted well-regarded editorial sources and pressure-cooker websites such as Cook’s Illustrated, Hip Pressure Cooking, The Veggie Queen, Serious Eats, and Miss Vickie.
If you’re interested in cutting dinner prep time in half, a pressure cooker is for you. Anything that you would braise, stew, or boil, you can make in a pressure cooker—but faster. These pots that use steam under pressure to cook quickly have long been popular in other parts of the world, like Europe and India, because they’re so efficient (they save time and electricity). It’s a great tool if you’re often out of energy at the end of the day but need to put something nutritious on the table for your family.
If you live at high altitude (above 3,000 feet), a pressure cooker will help you make meals in a timely fashion. Because the boiling point of water decreases as elevation increases (PDF), boiling a pot of noodles or beans in a regular pot can take longer because you have to cook at lower temperatures. A pressure cooker solves this by increasing the cooking temperature.
If you have an old pressure cooker (made before around 1990), you might want to upgrade. Those older cookers are the ones notorious for blowing their lids, but newer models are totally safe (which we explain below).
Every pressure cooker will simmer a pot of beans or braise a tough cut of meat, and the end result is more or less the same. But the qualities to look for in electric and stovetop models differ slightly.
Electric pressure cookers
If you’re a set-it-and-forget-it type of cook, an electric pressure cooker is your best bet. This type is modeled after the electric rice cooker, and looks very similar. You can put all the ingredients in the cooking pot, seal the lid, turn it on, and walk away. If you think this sounds similar to a slow cooker, you’re right. They’re both time savers. As food blogger Mike Vrobel told us, “The difference between a slow cooker and a pressure cooker is when you want to do the work.” Whereas you’d load up a slow cooker before running out the door in the morning, an electric pressure cooker allows you to make a very quick meal once you get home. The pressure dramatically cuts down on the cooking time, and because the electric cooker adjusts itself throughout the process, most of that time is inactive.
Even though we are calling these “electric pressure cookers,” most of the ones we tested are multi-cookers, in that they pressure cook, slow cook, sauté, steam, and make rice. In our own tests, we found that the slow-cook settings on these machines do slow-and-low as well as a dedicated slow cooker. Our top pick can pasteurize milk and make yogurt. The sauté function on electric cookers is really best for sweating onions and other aromatics. If you want to brown meat in an electric multi-cooker, just be aware that you won’t get the deep browning you would using a stovetop pressure cooker (you can always brown meat in a stovetop skillet, then transfer).
Electric pressure cookers have a lot of buttons and sounds that can be a little disconcerting at first. Trust us, we tested eight of them. We looked for models with simple user interfaces that were intuitive and easy to learn from the beginning, with a clear digital display that helps you see exactly what’s happening. Our top pick lets you know it’s heating by clearly displaying “ON.” Once up to pressure, the cooking clock starts counting down.
We prefer uncoated stainless steel inner pots to ones with nonstick coating, which can get scratched from metal tongs and spoons. Cleaning an electric pressure cooker can be a little tricky. The lid, in particular, has many nooks and crannies for food to hide. The best cookers have a simple lid assembly with a removable gasket, and we preferred ones with detachable lids. Some models have a lid that comes apart into three pieces for washing, but that also means more small bits to keep track of.
Though we wish warranties were a little better on these machines, most come with a one-year limited warranty on the pot. Things like gaskets, valve parts, and seals are generally not covered. You should replace these parts every one to three years, depending on use. This is true for electric and stovetop pressure cookers.
Stovetop pressure cookers
Stovetop cookers are simple to operate and use much less energy than conventional pot cooking because once they reach pressure, food is cooked over low heat and for a shorter amount of time. One of the big advantages of a stovetop pressure cooker is the ability to get a good sear on meats and deeply caramelized vegetables and aromatics. Electric cookers don’t heat up as hot as stovetop models, so they aren’t as good at it—and because they cook at a lower psi when the lid is attached, they braise, simmer, and boil a little slower. Stovetop pressure cookers have a tri-ply disk in the base of the pot (also called an encapsulated bottom) that holds and distributes heat, and the high-end cookers have thicker, wider disks that result in more consistent browning and heat retention.
Cookers with a wide, low profile allow for better evaporation when searing and sautéing. A deeper pot has a smaller cooking surface, so browning meat takes longer because you have to work in smaller batches.
The lid should lock on smoothly and tightly. It’s nerve-racking not knowing if your pressure cooker is sealed properly or struggling to get the lid in the right placement. Looser-fitting lids will still allow the pot to come up to pressure but may jiggle (and cause you some uneasiness in the process).
Stovetop cookers also offer different pressure settings—low and high—to accommodate delicate fish and heartier meats like chicken and beef. We especially liked cookers with easy-to-spot pressure indicators. The best models have pressure indicators visible from across the room, marking pressure settings with rings on a spring valve. Cheaper cookers have recessed indicators that are more difficult to see from a distance. Unlike their electric cousins, you can quickly depressurize a stovetop pressure cooker by running cold tap water over the lid.
Stovetop pressure cookers are available in more sizes than electric ones, which means you can pick the size that fits your needs. For instance, if you regularly make large batches of soup or stock, a 10-quart stovetop cooker will serve you better than any electric cooker will. If you’re cooking dinners for one or two, a small 4-quart pressure cooker might suit your needs better. Our top pick and upgrade pick are each available in four sizes, up to 10 quarts. The largest electric pressure cooker we found held 8 quarts.
As with electric pressure cookers, we looked for stovetop cookers from companies with easy-to-purchase replacement parts. Mike Vrobel of Dad Cooks Dinner mentioned how he likes Fagor because it’s so easy to get new parts from the company’s website.
The stovetop pressure cookers we tested this year include: Fagor Duo 8-Quart, Fissler Vitaquick 8.5-Quart Pressure Cooker, Presto 8-Quart Stainless Steel Pressure Cooker, Kuhn Rikon Duromatic Top Model 7-Quart, T-Fal Clipso, and Tramontina 80130/501 6.3-Quart.
How we tested
We put all the pressure cookers—stovetop and electric—through the same tests. We cooked unsoaked black beans, brisket, and brown rice. We sautéed onions and aromatics, and seared some beef to test how well the cookers could sauté.
For our 2017 update, we tested the new Instant Pot models, the Ultra and Duo Plus. We made pork stew, chicken stock, chickpeas, cake (ricotta cheesecake in the Duo Plus and one-bowl chocolate cake in the Ultra), and sushi rice.
After all of our testing, the end result was more or less the same. Any cooker will cook basic dishes, like beans and braised meat, no problem. The difference was how usable they were and how well they seared meat. Poorly designed electric cookers had complicated interfaces and nonsensical instruction manuals. Flimsy stovetop cookers scorched while searing meat, and had lids that were difficult to attach.
We think the Instant Pot IP-DUO60 offers the best combination of great performance and price for most people. It was one of the easiest electric cookers to use, and comes at a much better price than most. Its uncoated inner pot is more durable than nonstick ones, and it’s also one of the best electric cookers we tried for sautéing. The detachable lid was easier to clean, and better for both righties and lefties to use.
Out of the box, the Instant Pot looks complicated, but is actually very simple to figure out. After a few minutes of scanning the instructions and pressing buttons, we were in business. By comparison, some competitors’ controls were more complicated (like those of the T-Fal), and competitors that were as simple to operate (like the Breville and Cuisinart) cost more or lack the Instant Pot’s handy multi-cook functions.
The Instant Pot’s uncoated stainless steel inner cooking pot was one of the most durable in our tests. Most electric pressure cookers are different, with nonstick-coated inner pots that can scratch easily. Of all the reviews I read about electric cookers, one of the biggest gripes was the nonstick coating on the cooking pot getting scratched up. Even though ingesting bits of nonstick coating isn’t hazardous to our health, folks find it off-putting when they see black flecks in their food. The Instant Pot was one of only two electric cookers we tried with an uncoated inner pot (the other was the Elite Platinum EPC-678SS). It also has a tri-ply disk in the bottom, which helps it cook evenly.
We like that the Instant Pot has three temperature settings, as opposed to the other cookers in its price range that offer only one or two. Low heat can be used for slow cooking a sofrito for a soup base, and high heat gave us a very satisfactory color on onions and garlic. The uncoated pot gave us better color on onions and beef than other electric cookers (although not nearly as good as the stovetop models for searing meat).
The lid on the Instant Pot detaches, and there are inserts in each handle so you can park it where it’s most convenient for your counter space layout or preferred stirring hand. The T-Fal has a hinged lid that doesn’t detach and it made cleaning cumbersome.
Like all modern pressure cookers, the Instant Pot comes with safety mechanisms. This includes a system of three pressure safeties. The first is a sensor that keeps the pressure between 10.12 and 11.6 psi. On the off chance the pressure exceeds 15.23 psi, the steam will escape through the pressure regulator. If the pressure regulator is malfunctioning (which is highly unlikely), the excess-pressure regulator will kick in, meaning the inner cooking pot will lower and steam will release from under the gasket in the lid.
*At the time of publishing, the price was $98.
The Instant Pot comes in 5-, 6-, and 8-quart sizes. We think the 6-quart version hits the sweet spot for most home cooks. But if the 6-quart sells out—and it occasionally does—the 8- and 5-quart models are also excellent choices, depending on your needs, and they have the same user interface as our top pick. The 8-quart IP-DUO80 is a large machine (13 inches in diameter by 14 inches tall, versus the IP-DUO60’s 12-inch diameter and 12.5-inch height), a good choice for big-batch cooking and stocks. Melissa Clark, food columnist for The New York Times (parent company of The Wirecutter and The Sweethome), recently told us that she has the IP-DUO80 because the larger size is suitable for making bone broth. In our tests, the 8-quart version cooked 1 cup of white rice just as well and in the same amount of time as the IP-DUO60. While the 5-quart IP-DUO50 doesn’t save much space (it’s only 1 inch shorter than the IP-DUO60), it’s a solid choice for small households.
The similar 6-quart Instant Pot Duo Plus offers an upgraded interface and small functionality tweaks for $20 more. While we think most people will be fine with the regular IP-DUO60, if you’re curious about the newer model, you can find our notes in the Competition section.
The cooker has six preprogrammed functions (for pressure cooking, slow cooking, rice cooking, sautéing/browning, yogurt, and steam), as well as a manual program that gives you control over time and pressure settings. The slow-cooking function offers three temperatures: low, medium, and high. We slow-cooked presoaked cannellini beans on the medium setting, and they came out whole with very minor splitting after four hours. The cooker comes with a detailed, easy-to-follow instruction manual and a separate recipe booklet. Even though the recipe book includes separate recipes in Chinese that I’d really like to be able to understand, the English section does provide very helpful tables of cooking times for various meats, fish, legumes, grains, fruits, and vegetables.
With an Amazon rating of 4.7 stars (out of five) across more than 9,400 reviews, the Instant Pot has a passionate fan base. Pressure-cooker bloggers are also in love with this pot. Vrobel praises Instant Pot for the “…little features like the silicone gasket that makes cleaning the Instant Pot easy, the built in lid holder, and the stainless steel pot.” Hip Pressure Cooking gives our pick’s predecessor, the IP-LUX, 4.2 stars (out of five), dinging it for lacking pressure alerts and having only one pressure level. Instant Pot has fixed those issues with the IP-DUO. MaomaoMom, a Canada-based pressure-cooker blogger and cookbook author with a big following in China, features the Instant Pot prominently on her website and caters her recipes specifically for it.
Flaws but not dealbreakers
There’s a depression in the outer pot where things like salt granules and crumbs fall. It’s a bit of a pain to get clean, and I resorted to just hosing it off with canned air. Otherwise, cleaning the machine is pretty easy.
The Instant Pot IP-DUO60 is also not a great brown-rice cooker, but none of the pressure cookers we tested were great at that task. Compared with the Cuckoo rice cooker, brown rice from the Instant Pot was dense. We don’t see this is a dealbreaker because of the plethora of dishes the Instant Pot can cook very well.
As mentioned above, the Instant Pot isn’t stellar at searing meat (this is an issue with all electric pressure cookers). The heating element simply can’t compete with a stove. If you must have intense browning, you’re best off searing the meat in a separate pan on the stove, deglazing, adding meat and drippings to the electric cooker, and proceeding as normal. Yes, it may kill any one-pot fantasies you may have, but sometimes life is a compromise.
If you can spend a bit more, the 6-quart Instant Pot Ultra is even better than the IP-DUO60, with more features than are available on models that cost up to $250. The Ultra has a new all-digital interface with a streamlined single-knob control. The Ultra also offers a pressure indicator that’s more visible when engaged, and a steam-release button separate from the float valve so there’s less of a chance of mild steam burns when you’re quickly releasing pressure from the pot. And the Ultra cooks foods as quickly and reliably as the IP-DUO60 and Duo Plus, with some extra features for added versatility.
Instant Pot seems to have taken inspiration from the Breville Fast Slow Pro (our former upgrade pick), because the Ultra has a similar sleek interface and dial control. The Ultra’s single dial lets you navigate through all the cooking functions and settings displayed on the large LCD screen. A bell-curve-shaped graph and the indicators “Pre-heating,” “Cooking,” and “Keep Warm” at the bottom of the LCD screen show where the appliance is in the cooking process. The time, pressure, and keep-warm settings are also clearly marked. In addition, the Ultra has a new altitude-adjust setting that automatically alters the time on preprogrammed cooking functions according to the specified elevation.
Unlike the IP-DUO, the Instant Pot Ultra can cook and hold foods at precise temperatures. The new “Ultra” setting affords you complete control over every aspect of the cooking program, including a low-temperature function that can sous vide meats and fish (or close to it). We cooked salmon fillets sous vide at 124 °F and were adequately satisfied with the results, though we don’t think sous vide cooking enthusiasts should ditch their immersion circulator for the Instant Pot Ultra. The new warm setting can keep food at any temperature between 104 °F and 194 °F for up to almost 100 hours. This feature is useful for parties, buffets, potlucks, and Shabbas. As with all Instant Pots, the inner cooking pot is constructed of uncoated stainless steel.
New safety features built into the lid of the Ultra include a more visible pressure indicator and a steam-release button separate from the float valve. The pressure indicator pops up high enough to be visible from across the room. The steam release on the classic IP-DUO model is built into the float valve, but the Ultra allows you to release pressure safely away from the steam (even though we’ve never experienced steam burns from the IP-DUO during pressure release, this is a nice feature for novices).
In our testing, the Instant Pot Ultra prepared food just as well as its Instant Pot siblings. Pork stew and chicken stock were flavorful and rich. Chickpeas cooked with some skin splitting, but remained intact. Our chocolate cake was a little denser than oven baked because it cooked over a steam bath and therefore needed us to cover it tightly with foil to avoid waterlogging. The result, however, was still delicious, moist, and tender. The only fail in our tests was sushi rice, which came out wet and dense; this isn’t a new development, as we’ve always had a hard time getting stellar rice from any pressure cooker.
Like the Duo Plus, the Ultra allows you to turn off the sound so that it doesn’t beep while you’re setting programs or when the cooking is finished. It comes with a limited one-year warranty.
The only ding against the Instant Pot Ultra is that the recipe booklet accompanying it hasn’t been updated to reflect any of the new capabilities. When I wanted to make a cake, I researched the technique and adapted it to one of my go-to recipes. I followed J. Kenji López-Alt’s method for sous vide salmon. This isn’t a dealbreaker by any stretch—just get ready to start Googling recipes and techniques.
For its moderate price, we don’t think you’ll find a better stovetop pressure cooker than the Fagor Duo 8-Quart pressure cooker. It has a wider cooking surface than most stovetop cookers, allowing it to sear meats better and accommodate a wider range of dishes. The lid design is easier to figure out and use than those of many stovetop cookers, even for newbies. Unlike many cheaper models, the Duo has low and high pressure settings, which means you can cook a wider range of foods without sacrificing optimal texture. And without the lid, you can use the Duo as a regular pot.
The Duo’s low, wide profile and base make it better at searing and sautéing. It gave us a deep and even sear on brisket without any burnt spots, and developed only minor blacking on the sides of the pot. With a 10-inch cooking surface, the Duo was one of the widest cookers we tested. You can cook a whole 4-pound chicken in the Duo with room around the edges. The wider base also allows for more steam to escape for better browning and you can cook over a bigger flame, because heat needs to be concentrated under the pot or the handle can get damaged. Narrower 8-quart pots, like the Kuhn Rikon Duromatic and T-Fal Clipso, were awkward to work in because they were so deep.
Though some of the dials on the stovetop models we tried were a little tricky to figure out, the Fagor Duo’s are more straightforward. The dial on top is clearly marked, indicating two pressure settings and a venting position. The only other stovetop cooker to have this design is the smaller Tramontina 6.3-quart. The pressure pin and handle lock are bright yellow and one of the easiest to spot from a few yards away of the cookers we tested.
The Fagor Duo is one of three stovetop cookers we tested that has two pressure settings. Some foods break up under high pressure, such as fish and fruit. Grains are best when cooked at low pressure. Though two pressure settings are common with modern pressure cookers like this, older styles like the Presto 8-Quart have only one.
The gasket of the Fagor Duo sits snugly in the perimeter of the lid, unlike in electric pressure cookers where gaskets are held in place by a wire, so reassembling the lid feels like replacing a tube on a (small) bicycle tire. Cleaning the cooker is easy and a very important step. It’s crucial to make sure your gasket and valves are clean and free off food bits, because anything obstructing them can make your cooker not work properly.
Fagor comes with a detailed instruction manual with illustrations and step-by-step instructions. Included with the cooker is also a very informative, full-color cookbook written by the folks at America’s Test Kitchen, which makes sense because the Duo is the company’s best buy (subscription required) for a stovetop pressure cooker. The recipe booklet has simple meals, but also includes timetables for meats, vegetables, grains, and legumes. Whether you’re new to pressure cooking or have been at it a while, this recipe book is a real bonus and just adds to the Duo’s value.
Fagor guarantees its cookers for 10 years against manufacturer defects. This doesn’t cover things like gaskets and valves that will need to be replaced every few years, depending on usage. Luckily, the Fagor website sells replacement parts for all its cookers.
Amazon reviewers like it, too, with a 4.4 star rating (out of five) across more than 800 reviews.The Fagor Duo can be used on gas, electric coil, ceramic, glass, and induction ranges (here are some tips for pressure cooking on induction). It comes in four sizes—4-, 6-, 8-, and 10-quart—to accommodate a variety of needs. If you’re cooking for two, a 6-quart cooker is enough, but a 10-quart cooker is necessary if you’re inclined to make large batches of stock or soup. For canning, Fagor offers a 10-piece canning set that includes the 10-quart pressure cooker and accessories to get you started.
Flaws but not dealbreakers
During our tests, there was some minor scorching in the bottom corners of the pot, but a stainless steel scrubber quickly removed those stains. Also, the lid can take some getting used to. Even though there are markings that show where to align the lid to the pot, it doesn’t slide into place as smoothly as that of our upgrade pick, the Fissler Vitaquick. These aren’t major issues and certainly wouldn’t deter us from buying this for ourselves.
If you’re looking for an exceptional stovetop pressure cooker with a smoother locking lid and superior browning capabilities, the Fissler Vitaquick 8.5-Quart Pressure Cooker is the best we tested. The tri-ply base is thicker and wider than the Fagor Duo’s, and offers the best browning and searing of any pot we tried, leaving us with no scorch spots in the edges of the pot. The Fissler is on the heavy side, but it offers an easy-to-grasp helper handle for added support when transporting. Yes, the Vitaquick is pricey, but if you’re serious about pressure cooking, it’s money well spent.
Of all the stovetop models we tested, the Fissler was the most seamless and easiest to use. The lid sits and slides into place smoother than the Fagor’s, and clearly lets you know it’s in place with an indicator window that turns green. Instead of a dial and a pop-up pin like the Fagor has, Fissler’s streamlined single indicator is marked with rings, one for low and two for high. The pressure-release button is in the handle, keeping hands away from the steam-release valve. With the Fagor Duo, the steam-release valve is the pressure-control knob, so your hand is close to the hot steam vent.
We really like the heavy tri-ply disk in the bottom of the Fissler Vitaquick. It’s the thickest of the stovetop cookers we tested and extends to the edges of the pot. This translates to better heat distribution and retention when searing. The Fissler was the only pot in our stovetop testing group that didn’t scorch on the sides, which made for easier cleanup.
The Vitaquick has the largest cooking surface of all the stovetop cookers we tested, measuring 10½ inches, a half inch more than the Fagor. We really appreciated the extra breathing room for searing and sautéing. The thicker, wider disk in the bottom of the pot also allowed us to use larger flame to get the cooker up to pressure. The disk covered our high flame so there wasn’t any concern about heat damaging the handle or locking mechanisms.
This cooker is very easy to clean. Just remove the gasket from the lid and hand wash all the parts in hot soapy water. Fissler offers a three-year warranty that covers manufacturer’s defects, but the warranty doesn’t cover misuse or parts that are subject to wear—including gaskets, valve parts, and silicone membranes.
The Fissler Vitaquick is the Cook’s Illustrated (subscription required) top pick for stovetop pressure cooker. Though we absolutely love this cooker, we have to admit that the price is prohibitive for many folks, which is why it’s our upgrade pick.
If you’re new to pressure cooking and you want a low investment as you test the waters, we recommend the Presto 8-Quart Stainless Steel Pressure Cooker. It’s a simple, straightforward pressure cooker with zero bells or whistles, but it comes equipped with all the modern backup-valve safeguards. Its wide shape makes searing meat possible, if kept to small batches. Also, this cooker has only one pressure setting. But overall, the Presto cooked everything we asked it to, and cleanup was easy.
If you buy this cooker and fall in love with pressure cooking, you will want to upgrade eventually. My partner bought the Presto three years ago after reading about it in Cook’s Illustrated (subscription required). I immediately groaned something about not needing another piece of equipment in our small Brooklyn kitchen and put it on a shelf. After I was assigned this review, I dusted it off and started tinkering. I can say for certain that this pressure cooker is a solid piece of cookware, but I’m outgrowing it. I want to dive into more complicated dishes that require better searing capabilities, and I will soon buy the Fagor Duo or Fissler Vitaquick.
That said, for making stocks and beans on the fly, this pressure cooker can’t be beat for the price. If you want to do a lot of involved roasts or braises that require high-heat searing, either use a heavy skillet for the searing part or go with a better-quality cooker. Constant high-heat cooking will blacken the bottom of this pot, and it doesn’t cook food as evenly as our other picks.
The weight-modified valve has only one pressure setting. The pressure indicator is recessed, so you have to stand over the cooker to see if it has popped up. This means you shouldn’t stray too far away from the Presto as steam builds, because the heat needs to be reduced once the pot comes to pressure.
Presto offers a generous 12-year limited warranty that covers manufacturer defects but not normal wear and tear to gaskets and valves. Replacement parts are available through the Presto website.
The Presto 8-quart pressure cooker comes recommended by Cook’s Illustrated (subscription required) and has an Amazon rating of 4.5 stars (out of five) across 955 reviews.
Pressure cookers raise the boiling point of water. By applying pressure (up to 15 psi for stovetop cookers and 12 psi for electric) the boiling point of water can climb as high as 250 degrees Fahrenheit. This can decrease cooking time by up to two-thirds at normal elevation.
Think of a pressure cooker as just a pot with a special lid. If you never attach the top, it’ll behave just like any other pot in your kitchen. A silicone gasket in the lid makes an airtight seal. This allows pressure to build in the pot, making water boil at a higher temperature and allowing food to cook much faster. The pressure is released through a valve at the top of the pot.
Older stovetop models (made before 1990) have a weighted valve that’s referred to as a “jiggle top” and cook at only one pressure. Newer stovetop cookers (sometimes called second-generation cookers) release pressure through a spring valve; they’re quieter, retain more moisture, and are also safer. Electric models (also called third-generation cookers) use a float valve.
Pressure cookers have come a long way since the rattly, potential kitchen geysers our grandparents used. New pressure cookers come with a system of safety features like backup pressure-relief valves, and some with gaskets that are designed to vent steam in the case of overpressurization. Stovetop models require a little more attention on the cook’s part than electric pressure cookers do, but they’re still safer than ever.
Don’t bother with cookers made before 1990. They have only one pressure-release valve, and if a bean skin or any food particle clogs the valve, the lid will blow. They don’t have locking lids, so you can open the cooker while at full pressure and give yourself a nasty steam burn. They’re noisy and the gaskets are old. Valves and gaskets need to be replaced on pressure cookers because they wear out with use (even those on new cookers), and you’d be hard pressed to find replacement parts for cookware that went out of production years ago.
The most important thing to keep clean on a pressure cooker is the lid. When washing, make sure there isn’t any food debris in the valves and make sure to wash and replace the gasket after every use. Check the instruction manual for cleaning tips and to see which parts of your cooker are dishwasher safe, or you can hand wash in hot soapy water.
The gasket will wear out eventually and will need to be replaced. This is entirely normal for all pressure cookers. You’ll know if it starts to wear out because your pot will take longer to build pressure. Gaskets and other parts are available through manufacturer websites.
In April 2017, Instant Pot introduced the Duo Plus, a 6-quart addition to the IP-DUO line with a new interface and more preset cooking programs. The Duo Plus has the same cooking capacity and functionality as our main pick, the IP-DUO60, but with a few new bells and whistles for $20 more. For starters, the digital display uses icons that inform you about what’s happening inside the pot. The Duo Plus also allows you to change the pressure level and cooking time while the machine is in use (the IP-DUO60 requires you to cancel the cooking program to make changes), and gives you the option to quiet the beeping alarms. In addition, the keep-warm function on the Duo Plus goes up to 24 hours, as opposed to the IP-DUO60’s 10 hours. We didn’t think these new features were enough for this model to bump the IP-DUO60 from the top spot, given the price hike, but it’s a great cooker if the additions appeal to you.
Our previous upgrade pick, the Breville Fast Slow Pro, scored well due to its intuitive interface, sleek design, and altitude-adjust function. The Instant Pot Ultra now occupies this Breville model’s spot because it offers all of those things while adding more functionality and a noncoated stainless steel cooking pot (the Fast Slow Pro has a nonstick coated insert), for $100 less.
After getting some comments about the Fagor Lux Multi-Cookers, we looked into them. Even though Good Housekeeping gave the Lux a glowing review in February 2017, we’ve seen numerous critical reviews on Amazon regarding its short lifespan. We may take a closer look later this year.
The Elite Platinum EPC-678SS electric pressure cooker has some of the same features as our top pick, the Instant Pot. They both offer an uncoated stainless steel inner pot and several cooking programs. The problem with the Elite Platinum is when we plugged it in the wall, it started heating immediately without us pressing any buttons, and its audible alerts were loud, high-pitched, and incredibly annoying.
The T-Fal CY505E was difficult to figure out. We were pressing the same buttons repeatedly until the cooker decided to kick on. It also won’t pressure cook for longer than 40 minutes, after which if your recipe needs more time you must cancel the cooking program and start a new one.
The Tramontina Electric Pressure Cooker is just okay, nothing exceptional. Although it was eventually simple enough to use, we had to pass through the instruction manual twice to get the hang of it.
Our runner-up pick for rice cooker, the Cuckoo 10-Cup Electric Pressure Rice Cooker, has a pressure-cooking function and makes exceptional brown rice. We found that no electric pressure cooker could produce brown rice as fluffy and delicious as the Cuckoo could. But the Cuckoo has a small inner cooking pot and would be too limiting as a primary pressure cooker. The takeaway: The Cuckoo is a rice cooker first and pressure cooker second.
The Cuisinart CPC-600 was easy to operate out of the box and had a simple interface. For the money, this pressure cooker doesn’t offer the multiple functions of the Instant Pot.
Even though Kuhn Rikon innovated the spring valve, and thus the second-generation pressure cooker, the Duromatic Top Model 7-Quart pressure cooker didn’t wow us. It was difficult to get it to hold a certain pressure, so we found ourselves standing over the pot fiddling with the burner half the time. It’s sturdily built, but for the price, the Fagor had a better shape and the Fissler was an all-around better performer.
The Tramontina 80130/501 6.3-Quart pressure cooker was just too small, and we can’t find the 8-quart anywhere.
We really liked the easy-to-operate lid on the T-Fal Clipso, but the narrow stockpot shape was too limiting, making browning meat awkward. Also, the lid itself never seals tight. It jiggles around a bit, which always made us a little nervous.
3 a.m. milkshakes.