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Published Mar 2, 2022 1:18 PM

French physicist Denis Papin changed the world with his invention of the “steam digester” in 1679. This beta model exploded a year later. Papin eventually got it right and his device, which was built to extract fat and gelatin from bones, was perfected over the years to become the modern pressure cooker. But which pressure cooker is the best of them all?

Some pressure cooker brands are so ubiquitous, including one that’s currently going through your head right now. And while the pressure cooker market is saturated with less-than-perfect models, we’ve compiled the best pressure cookers available that will not only make dinner but make it quicker than ever. 

How We Picked The Best Pressure Cookers

Methodology 

Pressure cookers truly only need to do one thing: cook things fast. The science of pressure cooking can be boiled down pretty easily. These machines expel air from a cooking vessel while trapping the steam produced by the food cooking inside it. By doing this, the pressure cooker raises its internal pressure which unlocks higher cooking temperatures, which means faster cooking. However, a good pressure cooker should be able to do more than simply make a batch of bone broth. Here are some things to consider when weighing your options: 

Countertop vs. Stovetop: There are some who eschew electric pressure cookers, and it’s hard to fathom why. Stovetop models leave a lot of guesswork as far as internal pressure and only do one thing. Would you keep any vessel in your kitchen that did one thing and one thing only? Countertop electric models don’t require a heating surface, are virtually foolproof, and come with enough settings to do everything from cooking rice to making yogurt. Because they’re electric and come with their own handles, they’re perfect for small kitchens, RVs, and even college dorms. Every single model we feature here will be a countertop electric model. 

Customs and Presets: On the front of any pressure cooker control panel, there are typically a bunch of buttons that unlock presets to cook beans, rice, eggs, meat, veggies, and other pressure cooker-friendly foods. Better models will let you cook on the lower end of the heat spectrum too, to make your pressure cooker double as a Crock-Pot. A steamer basket is also a nice out-of-the-box accompaniment. But so is a built-in “sear” or “saute” mode for browning meat or making stir frys. Some machines offer even more versatility and double as air fryers. Regardless of what any given pressure cooker can do, it must first and foremost be a pressure cooker. Using preset modes shouldn’t be any more difficult than simply turning the machine on. 

Size and Footprint: One could argue that there’s no wrong way to design a pressure cooker, and it would be easy to agree. After all, food comes in all shapes and sizes. Cooking a whole chicken can be done in most models, but will it come out in one piece? Some models seem to be built around cooking specific foods and depending on your weeknight meal lifestyle, it might make sense to buy a weirdly-shaped machine. The most important thing to consider about size and shape is where you’re going to keep your machine. Some machines are too large for smaller cabinets. Most of the time, machines park nicely on top of a fridge. Or, if you go for a more premium model, you can show it off by parking it on a countertop. 

The Best Pressure Cookers: Reviews and Recommendations

Best Overall: CHEF IQ

Best Overall

The CHEF IQ LCD screen is easy to navigate when dinner rolls around. CHEF IQ. Jaime Carrillo/Interesting Things

Why It Made The Cut: This pressure cooker isn’t just sleek, it’s space-age, with a built-in LCD monitor that takes the guesswork out of dinner planning. 

Specs: 

  • Dimensions: 13 inches L x 13 inches W x 13 inches inches H 
  • Weight: 10.4 pounds
  • Presets: Over 1000

Pros: 

  • LCD Screen with presets for countless cooking styles
  • Built-in scale for precision cooking
  • Companion app syncs up to phone for a user-friendly experience

Cons:

  • Pricey

The CHEF IQ dubs itself a “smart cooker,” and as dubious as it sounds, it couldn’t be a more fitting moniker for this pressure cooker. Don’t look for a cheap plastic control panel here. There’s a full-blown LCD touch screen to select modes to cook everything from pot roast to quinoa.

Dry goods cook especially well here because there’s also a built-in scale. It not only weighs the dry ingredients, but the amount of water to put in so that rice, pasta, and beans cook precisely. Aside from that, the user experience makes this fun enough to play around with even when you’re not making dinner. On nights when the eternal question comes up (what the hell do I make for dinner?), scrolling through the CHEF IQ companion app will not only inspire but educate with completely guided recipes that include video demonstrations. It’s difficult to fathom where pressure cooker technology goes from here. 

Best for Longevity: Mueller UltraPot, 6-Quart

Best for Longevity

Mueller Ultra pot is easy to use, but equally easy to maintain. Mueller Austria

Why It Made The Cut: The Mueller UltraPot is engineered to be easy to use, but more importantly, easy to maintain. 

Specs: 

  • Dimensions: 16.14 inches L x 13.07 inches W x 13.07 inches H
  • Weight: 16.11 pounds
  • Presets: 15

Pros: 

  • Great build quality with attractive display
  • Easy rubber gasket maintenance 
  • Built to last

Cons: 

  • Runs a little hot, even on low settings

Pressure cookers can last for years and years, so long as you regularly maintain them. It doesn’t require any deep mechanical knowledge, but the upkeep can be cumbersome on many models, except the Mueller UltraPot.

Electric pressure cookers get their tight seals using rubber gaskets. These gaskets, as well as the area on the lid where these gaskets lock into, require regular cleaning. Mueller takes the guesswork out of this arduous task by letting you remove the gasket system entirely anytime it needs to be cleaned or replaced. Aside from speedy maintenance, the device comes with all the presets one wants in a pressure cooker. There’s a caveat here that’s a bug or a feature, depending on your cooking styles. Slow cook settings run a little hot, but some cooks (myself included) prefer a pressure cooker run a little hotter than colder. 

Most Versatile: Ninja Foodi XL 14-in-1, 8-Quart

Why It Made The Cut: Ninja’s popular entry in the pressure cooking market doubles as a pretty solid air-fryer. 

Specs: 

  • Dimensions: 15.39 inches L  x 14.21 inches W x 14.25 inches H
  • Weight: 25.1 pounds
  • Presets: 14

Pros: 

  • A pressure cooker that also “frys”
  • Large cooking capacity
  • All inner components are dishwasher safe

Cons: 

  • Massive, and quite heavy

Pressure-cooked food, especially meat, is often moist and delicious, but occasionally comes out looking a little pallid. Most pressure cookers can cook a whole chicken in half an hour, but only Ninja Foodi XL 14-in-1 can make one that actually looks appetizing. 

The Ninja’s patented “Steam Crisp” technology cooks food fast while accomplishing something few pressure cookers can do: browning. We eat with our eyes first, after all. This doesn’t end with caramelizing meat. Ninja Foodie XL doubles as an air fryer. It even comes with a dedicated air-frying basket, and a multi-tiered insert to cook up to three layers of food at once. If you find yourself having to feed a bunch of people at once, this is a godsend feature. Just make sure you check the measurements of your kitchen before buying it. It takes up quite a bit of space, and clocks in at just over 25 pounds so moving it on a regular basis could become a chore.

Best Small: Instant Pot Ultra Mini, 3-Quart

Best Small

Instant Pot Ultra Mini is a small but powerful pressure cooker. Instant Pot. Jaime Carrillo/Interesting Things

Why It Made The Cut: The most popular electric pressure cooker brand has countless makes and models, but the Ultra Mini is one of its best offerings. 

Specs: 

  • Dimensions: 13 inches L x 12.5 inches W x 12.5 inches H
  • Weight: 11.83 pounds
  • Presets: 10

Pros: 

  • Attractive blue LCD display
  • Presets are customizable
  • Compatible with plenty of Instant Pot accessories

Cons: 

  • Takes extra steps to use than other Instant Pot models

There is perhaps no brand more synonymous with pressure cookers than Instant Pot. And while the brand has expanded its product line to include everything from dutch ovens to air purifiers, it still makes some solid pressure cookers, like the Instant Pot Ultra Mini.

This model lies somewhere near the top of the Instant Pot pressure cooker line. Fancier models claim to do sous vide, but the results are dubious at best. With the Ultra, you can rely on every single one of the ten cooking presets, whether you’re sterilizing jars for preserves or making a week’s worth of Greek yogurt. All the presets allow you to customize time and pressure levels, which works using a handy dial. The LCD screen is an attractive addition and offers far more information for the cook to monitor before, during, and after cooking including temperature fluctuations.

Best Space Design: Cuckoo Q5 Superior, 5-Quart

Why It Made The Cut: This attractive pressure cooker comes with all the functions you want, and a few you didn’t know you needed.

Specs: 

  • Dimensions: 18 inches L x 14 inches W x 13 inches H
  • Weight: 17 pounds
  • Presets: 8

Pros: 

  • Gorgeous, futuristic look
  • Safe and quiet steam release
  • Musical touch screen interface

Cons: 

  • Less efficient use of space

Most pressure cookers, even on the higher end of things tend to all run together, design-wise. The Cuckoo Q5 Superior multi-cooker is a clear outlier. 

This popular Korean brand doesn’t just look like a Star Trek prop, it’s got some space-age features as well. The LED screen operates by touch and lets you customize speed, cook time, and even the amount of pressure. The inner pot is stainless steel, so for efficient heating and cooking. Cuckoo gets hot and stays hot until dinner is ready. And while it’s a good bit clunkier than other models, it’s attractive enough to live on your countertop. It’s an appliance you can use to wow friends and dazzle enemies. Plus, it even responds to voice commands and has a self-cleaning mode. Let’s see an Instant Pot do that. 

Things to Consider Before Buying a Pressure Cooker

Size

Pressure cookers come in a myriad of styles, but they also come in different sizes. They come as small as three quarts and as big as 12 quarts. However, both ends of the size spectrum are a little unwieldy. Larger models tend to cook food less efficiently. After all, every time you set your pressure cooker to cook food, it has to build up pressure. If there’s more space between the top of the food in the pot and the lid, expect your food to take longer than usual. Besides, a six-quart model still makes enough chow to feed an army. To that end, it’s difficult to recommend a three-quart model, even if you’re cooking for a smaller family. If you must have a smaller model, the Instant Pot Ultra Mini is a good standby. You can’t make bone broth or fit a whole chicken in a smaller pot, so it’s way less versatile. As someone who lives in a two-person household, a six-quart model is a weeknight workhorse. 

You Get What You Pay For

The great thing about pressure cookers is they are incredibly popular. This is a double-edged sword because the market is flush with many shoddy products that aren’t worth the small amount of money invested in them. Price points are difficult to stick to as far as recommendations go because they’re always fluctuating with pressure cookers. However, if the device in question costs less than $70, you should probably stay away. Retail price, of course. If there’s a discount available at a lower price (and there often is), feel free to jump on it.

Is a Pressure Cooker Right for Me?

A pressure cooker is one of those devices that you may not need until the day it seems not only a welcome addition in your kitchen but a necessary one. There are countless recipes online for easy and affordable weeknight dinners to  whip up in less time than it takes to order Postmates. There are less obvious features that I’m a fan of. My CHEF IQ cooks rice better than any rice cooker I’ve ever owned. It’s also a great way to cook a lot of food fast, like chickpeas or oatmeal, which makes it one of the best meal-prep tools around. It’s great for buffet-style parties and potlucks too, as various “Keep Warm” settings help make these devices makeshift chafing dishes. Forget the potato salad. Show up to your next shindig with an Instant Pot full of nacho cheese and then sit back and let the praise roll in.

FAQs

Q: What is the best electric pressure cooker?

Best, when it comes to pressure cookers, is a relative term. The CHEF IQ comes with plenty of smart features to make it an excellent value, but the Mueller UltraPot, 6-Quart is far more affordable.

Q: What’s the best pressure cooker for canning?

An electric pressure cooker isn’t recommended for canning as they don’t allow enough space for glass jars. A dedicated pressure canner may be a smarter buy.

Q: What is the best air fryer pressure cooker combo?

The best air fryer pressure cooker is the Ninja Foodi XL 14-in-1. If you already own a pressure cooker, you may be able to buy a special attachment lid to make it into an air fryer. 

Final Thoughts on Pressure Cookers

If you don’t own a pressure cooker: How? Why? These countertop marvels dish out some of the most impressive feats in the kitchen quickly and efficiently. The absolute top-of-the-line pressure cooker is the CHEF IQ, which isn’t just sleek, it’s smart, with a gorgeous LCD screen and companion app. If you absolutely must have a smaller model, the Instant Pot Ultra Mini packs a lot of power into its three-quart model. Those looking to save on countertop space should seek out the Ninja Foodi, which is a pressure cooker that doubles as a pretty reliable air fryer. 

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