The Best Electric Multi-Cookers of 2018By Bethany Kwoka
Instant Pots, so hot right now. Everyone from The New York Times to your old high school friends on Facebook are talking about them. And for good reason: An electric multi-cooker, like our favorite Crock Pot Express Crock Multi-Cooker (available at Amazon), can transform your weeknight dinner routine and expand your cooking repertoire. What used to take an hour now takes 20 minutes, and recipes that once dirtied all of your pots and pans now only require you to wash a pot, a lid, and your cutting board.
But before you add yet another gadget to your already crowded kitchen cabinets, it's worth learning what a multi-cooker is, and which model might be best for you. The answer to the first question is easy. A multi-cooker is a countertop appliance that combines the functions of a slow cooker, rice cooker, pressure cooker, yogurt maker, and more in one unit. It allows you to cook almost anything you’d like in a single pot, quickly and without overheating. You can think of it as the one-stop shop of the home cooking world.
Given the spectacular success of the Instant Pot, we wanted to put it to the test and see if it really is a cut above the rest. To that end, we researched the various models and brands on the market, then tested four of the most popular and well-regarded. We judged them on ease of use for different recipes, how tough they were to clean, and of course, how well the food turned out. By the end, I knew which one I’d clear space on my counter for.
Here are the best electric multi-cookers, in order:
- Crock-Pot Express Crock Multi-Cooker
- Instant Pot Duo Plus 9-in-1 (6 Quart)
- Midea MY-SS6062
- GeekChef 11-in-1 Multi-Functional Pressure Cooker
Updated September 22, 2018
Crock-Pot Express Crock Multi-Cooker
Crock-Pot Express Crock Multi-CookerBest Overall
With decades of experience in making slow cookers, Crock-Pot clearly knows what it's doing in the kitchen. That experience shines through with the Crock-Pot Express Crock Multi-Cooker, a user-friendly gadget that aced nearly every test we put it through. It narrowly beat out the Instant Pot Duo Plus, mostly based on how intuitive it was to cook with, how seamlessly the lid worked, and how easy it was to clean.
For most multi-cookers I tested, I had to carefully read the recipe and then consult the manual before I started cooking. But with the Crock-Pot, I could simply skim the recipe and press the appropriate button. It was the little things that really made this machine for me, like the button that says “Rice/Risotto” instead of needing to pick between “Rice,” “Multigrain,” or “Pressure Cook.” It was the ability to manually adjust both the temperature and the pressure, and the lid that slid perfectly into place every time. Even better, the Crock-Pot was the only multi-cooker with a nonstick inner pot. This made cleanup a breeze, shaving precious minutes off the time it took to execute quick weeknight dinners. (If you’re not a fan of nonstick, or would prefer to use a metal spatula rather than silicone or a wooden spoon, it may be worth looking to the Instant Pot Duo Plus, instead.)
The only issue I had with this multi-cooker was its size. It has a larger footprint than the other models we considered, which meant it looked like a behemoth astride my tiny kitchen's counters. That said, no multi-cooker is going to squeeze into a corner or fit neatly on a shelf. Personally, I found this one well worth the space.
Instant Pot Duo Plus 9-in-1 (6 Quart)
Instant Pot Duo Plus 9-in-1 (6 Quart)
The internet has lost its collective mind over the Instant Pot, and I understand why. The Instant Pot Duo Plus 9-in-1 has 14+ functions, including “steam,” “sterilize,” and “cake.” But if you start to feel overwhelmed, you can always Google your question and come away with an avalanche of blog posts, Facebook forums, and YouTube videos to guide your way. For novice cooks looking for a community to help with recipes and reassurance, the Instant Pot is perfect. (Fortunately, recipes designed for the Instant Pot work just as well with most other multi-cookers. You just won’t be able to chime in to the Instant Pot-specific conversations.)
The reason there's a growing online community around this gadget is because it works like a charm. The soup I cooked tasted like grandma’s, the risotto was delightfully creamy, and the yogurt turned out tangy and bright. The “Sterilize” function was also a great bonus, helpful for preparing the pot to make yogurt.
While it wasn't as intuitive as I would have liked—and the lid occasionally tripped me up—I have a feeling the Instant Pot will edge out your current slow-cooker, and your rice cooker, and your favorite steaming method and... you get the idea.
How We Tested
I'm Bethany Kwoka. I love a good, healthy dinner—and I love to cook! However, I have zero patience when it comes to being hangry on a Tuesday night. By the time I get home from work, I’m exhausted and starting to fantasize about takeout. The last thing I want is to spend an hour and a half slaving away over the stove.
This made me the ideal candidate to test multi-cookers. I also enjoy leftovers for lunch (and who doesn't love saving money?). In other words, bulk cooking—easily accomplished in a 6-quart multi-cooker—is my friend. If you similarly strive for leftovers, or are cooking for a large family, a multi-cooker makes a lot of sense.
So after some initial research, I cleared my countertop, tucked away my 6,000 other kitchen gadgets, and convinced my similarly time-constrained housemate to give me his thoughts on the results.
The Initial Lineup
Before selecting our final list of multi-cookers, we looked at a total of 16 Instant Pots and competitors. We passed over some of the earlier Instant Pots, as the newer models (like the Duo Plus) offer features we wouldn’t want to pass up. Otherwise, we chose the ones with the best combination of high reviews, great features, and reasonable pricing. (If a multi-cooker was twice the price with half the features, it didn’t make the cut.) We exclusively tested moderately sized 6-quart versions, although you can find many of these multi-cookers in 3- to 8-quart models.
To ensure each multicooker was a good all-rounder, I tested three recipe types. A classic comfort food (chicken noodle soup), a date night special (saffron risotto), and a finicky breakfast bowl (yogurt from scratch). I used the same ingredients for each, and took detailed notes about how easy or difficult it was to select the cooking functions and times, how the food came out, and how tough the multi-cooker was to clean.
I also noted any surprises. Did the milk heat up to the right temperature for making yogurt? Did the multi-cooker flash a weird symbol during cooking? Did the steam valve spray hot milk everywhere and startle me so much I accidentally threw a recipe book across the room?
For cleaning, I did everything by hand. While most models say they're dishwasher safe, I don't own a dishwasher. I probably wouldn't put this pot in one anyway, for fear of hurting the pot and because it would take up more space than it’s worth.
I also took into account how helpful the manual was (and how much I needed to use it while cooking), whether or not it came with a recipe book, whether you could manually set cooking temperature and pressure rather than rely on pre-programmed functions, and whether or not those pre-programmed functions worked as expected. All of these were important in assessing the overall ease-of-use for these multi-cookers.
One of the nice things about multi-cookers is that with enough time spent consulting the manual and Googling your questions, you can figure out even the most confounding of tasks. That said, if a multi-cooker left me wondering whether or not my food would be edible when it was finished, I took that into account.
One cooking note: I learned quickly that you should have all of your ingredients ready to go before even turning on your multi-cooker. These things work fast, so your ingredients should be prepped and ready to go before you start.
Other Multi-Cookers We Tested
Though the Midea MY-SS6062 looked quite different from the other multi-cookers—a white cube in a world of circular silver pots—its performance was undistinguished. The circular dial, menu display, and unhelpful manual made it tougher to use than more conventional rivals. I spent a fair bit of time guessing whether or not I was cooking something correctly, just hoping that I hadn't ruined the food. Everything ultimately tasted fine, but the inability to adjust the time of certain cooking functions (for instance, yogurt is stuck on 6 hours when most recipes call for almost 10), bumped this one down my list.
GeekChef 11-in-1 Multi-Functional Pressure Cooker
GeekChef 11-in-1 Multi-Functional Pressure Cooker
The GeekChef 11-in-1 Multi-Functional Pressure Cooker looked just like the other models, but constantly kept me on my toes. Regardless of recipe, I found that I always had to consult the manual, and even after doing so I was never quite sure whether what I was doing was right. So while the food turned out well, the cooking process was a guessing game that required me to cobble together hybridized instructions from Instant Pot tutorials I found online. The GeekChef also didn’t provide as much flexibility with pre-set cooking functions as I would have liked, as there were minimum times for some functions, which meant I needed to set a timer.
If you're shopping for small kitchen appliances, check out our guide, The Best Toaster Ovens.