These 5 Pressure Cookers Are Actually Worth Your Money

These 5 Pressure Cookers Are Actually Worth Your Money

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Lesley Kennedy/CNN Underscored

If old tales of exploding pots have kept you from jumping on the pressure cooker bandwagon, it’s time to reconsider. These days, the best pressure cookers are not only versatile and easy to use, but brimming with safety features — and they’re capable of making great meals faster and easier than ever.

Perfect for busy families or feeding guests without having to spend the whole night in the kitchen, pressure cookers are great for whipping up stews, soups and tough meat cuts, as well as whole chickens, rice, beans and more. To determine which popular and highly rated models are best, we put 15 electric and stove top cookers to the test, using each to make a no-stir risotto, unsoaked beans and a simple beef stew. Here’s what we found:

Best electric pressure cooker

This app-enabled version of the popular Instant Pot may cost a bit more than the brand’s other models, but it gave us the best results, has the simplest, easiest-to-use interface and even allows you to release steam via app.

Best budget electric pressure cooker

The most popular Instant Pot doesn’t have the convenience features of its Pro siblings, but impressed us with its simplicity, ease of maintenance, and — most importantly — good results at a low price.

Best splurge electric pressure cooker

The creamiest risotto in five minutes? Perfectly cooked beans and oh-so-tender stew meat? Precision cooking, hands-free steam release and a sleek, intuitive display make this pressure cooker worth the price.

Best stovetop pressure cooker

Pricey? Yes. But this high-quality design is simple to use, includes a lid that’s a snap to lock into place and, most importantly, gave great cooking results with every recipe we threw at it.

Best budget stovetop pressure cooker

With a unique one-handed lid design, durable base and easy-to-grip handles, this stovetop cooker is simple to use and delivers great cooking results for under $100.

It cooks rice — and slow cooks. It can make yogurt — and cook sous-vide. With 10 preset functions and app control, the Instant Pot Pro Plus promises to be the holy grail of small kitchen appliances, and delivers on a lot of its promise. First and foremost, though, it’s a great electric pressure cooker, with a simple interface, solid build and useful pressure-release functions that let us easily get great results on all of our test recipes.

The Pro Plus was tops when it came to results from our three recipe tests: unsoaked pinto beans, a mushroom and pea risotto and beef stew. The beans were cooked consistently throughout to a perfectly soft, but not squishy texture, whereas other models we tested left some beans hard and some practically macerated. The risotto was creamy and fluffy—after a mere 5-minute cook time (we will never constantly stir this dish for an hour ever again). The stew was just a bit thinner than the broth we made in the Breville Fast Slow Pro, but the meat and veggies all came out tender without turning anything to mush, and just a few extra minutes on the saute setting thickened it right up.

Even better, the Pro Plus made getting these results easy. Its touch control panel is so intuitive that we were up and running with just a glance at the user manual (and honestly would have been just fine without it). Unlike most other models tested, the digital panel features super-helpful status messages that ensure you always know what’s happening inside the pot: from preheating to cooking to keeping your food warm. You can select from 10 program modes (pressure cook, slow cook, rice, steamer, canning, yogurt, saute, sous vide, a self-stirring feature called NutriBoost and keep warm) or customize your own, with the option to choose from low, high or maximum pressure as well as preset low, high or custom temperatures. A dial allows you to adjust the time or temperature quickly and a delay start option lets you start cooking at a designated time and doubles as a kitchen timer. The touch screen also gets bonuses for being easier to clean than a button-heavy control panel.

Beyond the touch screen, the ability to control the Pro Plus with an app (which gives you access to more than 1,000 recipes) was genuinely useful. Not only does the Pro Plus give you stovetop-like control over pressure release, with quick, pulse or natural release options, but you can control the release from across the kitchen if you’re at all skittish about jets of hot steam.

The Pro Plus is built using three-ply stainless steel with silicone handles (making it easy to move the cooker to the stovetop or sink or to pour its contents into a bowl or container), and the 6-quart inner pot can be on the stovetop or in the oven for added convenience. An anti-spin feature keeps the pot from rattling around during the cooking process. It comes with a stainless steel steaming rack and extra sealing ring and the cooking pot, rack and lid are all dishwasher-safe. It’s also nice and compact at 13.2-inches long by 13-inches wide by 12.7-inches high and weighs about 20 pounds, so it doesn’t take up too much cabinet or counter space and isn’t a huge chore to lug around.

The Pro Plus only comes in 6-quart size, where some other Instant Pot models are also available in 3- and 8-quart options, which may be a detractor for those feeding large groups or households. It also is not compatible with the brand’s air fryer lids that some may find useful. The one-year limited warranty could be more generous and at $169.95, it’s certainly pricier than the already very capable Instant Pot Duo (see review below). But we think the Pro Plus’s app controls, simple interface, progress status bars and excellent cooking results give it the edge over the other Instant Pot models and make it the best choice overall among the electric pressure cookers we tested.

Instant Pot’s best-selling model comes with seven built-in functions (pressure cook, slow cook, rice cooker, yogurt maker, steamer, saute pan and food warmer), and also features 13 customizable programs. The digital and push-button display is large and easy to read and we appreciated that the lid can be detached for easier cleanup. The stainless steel inner pot can be tossed in the dishwasher and it’s simple to switch between low and high pressure, while a keep warm option and included steam rack offer added convenience.

During our recipe tests, we found the beans were cooked well overall, but did find some inconsistencies, with some softer than others. The risotto needed a bit more time at the end on the saute function to get it to the right creamy consistency and the stew veggies were a bit too tender, but still resulted in a tasty dish.

The Pro Plus upgrade performed better on all three recipes, and has the added benefit of a more streamlined interface, auto steam release and progress indicator. But if you’re just testing out the pressure cooker waters, this is a great option for wading in.

With  sleek design and solid performance typical of Breville’s products, we gave the brushed stainless steel Fast Slow Pro high marks for performance and features, which should satisfy advanced pressure cooker aficionados and hands-on cooks.  The Breville gives you finer control over pressure (you can adjust in tiny 0.5 psi increments) than the other models we tested. Dual sensors at both the top and bottom of the machine offer even more control when it comes to pressure and temperature, and an auto warm function kicks into gear when it’s done cooking.
And we loved how simple the cooker was to operate. The bright and easy-to-read LCD display and dials allow you to quickly choose from 11 pressure cook settings (vegetables, rice, risotto, soup, stock, beans, poultry, meat, bone-in meat, chili and stew and dessert), from low to high, and you can customize settings as well. We appreciated that the display changes colors denoting whether it’s in pressurize, cook or steam release mode. And the auto altitude adjuster is great for those cooking at higher elevations, since a longer cook time is needed as atmospheric pressure drops the higher you get above sea level.
While it doesn’t offer remote steam release like the Instant Pot Pro Plus, an auto steam release button allows you to depressurize hands-free by setting quick, pulse or natural release for your recipe in advance. The lid is hinged, removable and (hooray!) dishwasher-safe and the silicone seal was easy to remove and put back in place. It comes with a ceramic-coated inner pot, stainless steamer basket and rack and a hard-bound recipe book.
If you intend to use your electric pressure cooker often, love having the ability to really fine-tune your pressure levels, appreciate the convenience of hands-free steam release and aren’t too worried about a hefty price tag, we think the Breville Fast Slow Pro is a kitchen tool you’ll look forward to putting to work again and again.

If you prefer a simple, straightforward stovetop pressure cooker, the Kuhn Rikon Duromatic looks lovely on the stovetop and does an impressive job cooking food. We tested the 8.5-quart option (Kuhn Rikon offers the Duromatic in a wide range of sizes) and found the two-handle design easy to grab, the pressure indicator simple to read and, while the company doesn’t recommend cleaning the heavy stainless steel pot in the dishwasher, it was no big deal to hand wash it (and we know folks who have tossed their own Kuhn Rikons in the dishwasher for years with no damage).

More importantly, we got great tasting, perfectly finished meals out of the Duromatic.The risotto turned out wonderfully. “I’d never not cook risotto this way again,” one taster said. The beans were just right, as were the tender stew meat and vegetables and hearty gravy.

Using the Duromatic is a snap: Add your ingredients, lock the conical lid into place, heat the pot on high and watch the spring-loaded pressure gauge rise in the center of the lid. When you see one red line, it’s at low pressure; two red lines delineate high pressure, letting you know it’s time to turn the heat down for an evenly pressurized cook. Yes, you’ll need to keep an eye on it and adjust your burner heat accordingly, but if you get distracted, steam is automatically released to keep the pot from overpressurizing (we had to do minimal adjusting during our tests). When your cook time is done, depending on the recipe you can let the pressure come down naturally, or quick-release by moving the pot to the sink and running cool water over the rim of the lid, or press the gauge down to release pressure, with steam releasing evenly.

Now, at $250, we acknowledge this is an investment piece. But if you’re willing to spend the money, keep in mind that the Swiss company has been in business since 1926,and has produced the Duromatic since 1949, and offers long-lasting products along with a 10-year warranty, might just sway your decision.

The T-fal Clipso is a breeze to use. In our tests, the Clipso pressurized very quickly. As with all stovetop models, you bring up the heat to your desired setting, and once steam begins to release through the valve, it’s time to reduce the heat and set your timer. We quickly found the sweet spot and noted that the pot held its pressure nicely throughout the cooking time, with little need for turning the heat up or down.

Like the electric pressure cookers, all the stovetop models performed well in our recipe tests, although some earned more points for better consistency, texture and faster cook time. So while the Kuhn Rikon beat out the T-fal when it came to making beans, risotto and stew, for about $155 less, the T-fal still did an admirable job.

The model comes with a steam basket and tripod and is dishwasher safe when you remove the gasket and pressure valve. It comes with a 10-year warranty against defects or premature deterioration and, for other parts, a one-year warranty is included. And we appreciate the side handles on the pot that allow for easy maneuvering. But what sets the T-fal apart from other models is its unique lid. Designed for one-hand use, the lid clamps down on the pot with jaws that lock into place with the press of a button. Once you’re done cooking and the pressure is released (you can release it by twisting the steam release valve from the cooking icon to the steam icon), the lid opens by pressing the top of a large knob. As a safety feature, the lid will not open until all pressure is released.

The Clipso is only offered in a 6.3-quart capacity, which offers plenty of room to cook for a family of four, and is still compact for storage. For convenience and price, we believe this is a great pressure cooker for beginners and veterans alike.

Lesley Kennedy/CNN

By trapping steam inside a tightly sealed pot, pressure cookers raise the pressure under which your food cooks (typically to around twice atmospheric pressure), thus raising the boiling point of water and significantly speeding up cooking times.

Simple stovetop cookers use the heat source of your stove and need a bit of attention as you’ll need to adjust your burner to maintain proper pressure, while newer electric versions do the job automatically (and often include functions ranging from air fryer to slow cooker to yogurt maker).

While folk wisdom holds that pressure cookers are dangerous, accidents are in reality rare (and many of those that have been documented have been the result of poor maintenance or misuse). All the pressure cookers we tested come with multiple safety features and lids that lock into place, and are designed so that all pressure must be released before the lid can be removed (with some release techniques, steam is released rather loudly and aggressively and definitely startled us a few times). Some models spit out a bit of moisture as steam condenses, but many of the electric versions include condensation collectors that catch any water before it drips onto your counter.

For extra versatility, many of the models come with trivets and steamer baskets, and some of the electric models even offer air fry lids, and ship with extra sealing rings for use in different types of recipes. Some featured nonstick inner pots, which can be great for easy cleanup, but stainless pots will likely be more durable over time. The electric versions were all intuitive to use, even given the multiple functions they offered, although some did require a few extra referrals to the user manual. All allow you to manually adjust the cooking time, but our favorites were models that included cooking progress bars and auto steam release. Sometimes we worried whether those without progress indicators had actually started pressurizing.

So, electric or stovetop? Both netted similar cooking results, so it really does come down to personal preference: Do you like your cooking to be hands-on or hands-off? If you want a lot of options (Slow cook! Air fry! Sous vide!) and want to simply add your ingredients and let the machine do the heavy lifting, an electric version is for you. They generally take up more counter space, but if you use your cooker several times a week, you won’t mind and may even save space if it allows you to get rid of your rice cooker, air fryer and crock pot.

We found the stovetop pressure cookers to be simple to use and discovered they come to pressure faster than their electric counterparts. Start on high heat until the desired pressure level is achieved, then simply lower the heat to keep the pressure constant for the duration of your cook time. Of course, you’ll need to keep an eye on your cooker most of the time to be sure the pressure is at the right level.

Stovetop models have an edge on their electric counterparts in that they can be depressurized quickly by running them under cold water, allowing for recipes and cooking techniques that require more precise timing, or adding ingredients midway through cooking, or just for those who find steam release scary. Another bonus: All the stovetop models we tested were stainless steel, meaning they’re compatible with all range types, including induction. You can also use the pots to cook using other techniques like any other pot, which can be a nice space saver.

As for size, we tested 6- and 8-quart models in both versions and found the smaller options to be plenty big to feed a family of four. So if price or size are considerations, the 6-quart size (which is often also cheaper) should not disappoint.

Lesley Kennedy/CNN

Our testing pool included 15 pressure cookers in all — nine electric and six stovetop — ranging in price from less than $50 to $330, and in 6- and 8-quart capacities. And while all the models performed well in our recipe tests, which included making unsoaked pinto beans, pea and mushroom risotto and a hearty beef stew, details including construction, interface, ease, cook time and versatility resulted in varied scores. All models were easy to clean, as most pots, inserts and parts are dishwasher safe, although many lids need to be hand-washed fairly rigorously to keep odors from hanging on. And while we didn’t record any particularly bad recipe results, some required more cooking time and some definitely netted better results.

Since many of the electric models are billed as multicookers, we did take versatili

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