After updating this list for the second time to include four new pressure cookers and an additional slow cook test, we've awarded the Instant Pot Ultra our top spot as the best multi-cooker for most people.
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. A pressure cooker, like our new favorite Instant Pot Ultra(available at Amazon for $83.77), 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, it's worth learning what a pressure cooker is, and which model might be best for you. The answer to the first question is easy. An electric pressure cooker—also known as a multi-cooker—is a countertop appliance that combines the functions of an old-school stovetop pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice 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 compare it to other brands to see if it really is a cut above the rest. So, we researched the various models and brands on the market, originally testing four of the most popular and well-regarded pressure cookers in early 2018. We then discovered and tested three more contenders at the year’s end. And ultimately, we tested four more—updating this article with the latest and greatest models. 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. After such extensive testing, we knew which ones we’d clear space on our counters for.
After putting a new crop of pressure cookers through their paces, the Instant Pot Ultra rose to the top as our new favorite (though our former favorites are still worth the money). Not only does it match the Instant Pot Smart WiFi in cooking ability, but the updated interface offers a simplified dial and comprehensive display that takes the uncertainty out of cooking times. Rather than buttons, a dial lets you scroll through the myriad of cooking functions and an intuitive press of the same dial allows you to customize times and pressure. The best part of the new display, though, is the progress graph. Once you start the cooking process, this graph appears at the bottom of the display and keeps you appraised on how far into the preheating, cooking, or “keeping warm” process you are. So unlike the other Instant Pots, you’re not left wondering how long it will take for the cooking process to start.
While you do have the ability to customize your cooking time and setting, it also comes standard with 16 pre-programmed recipes ranging from soups to sauté to cake. Each one of these we tried worked well and was easy to alter to fit our specific recipe. Another nifty feature we enjoyed was the ability to update the cooking parameters while cooking was in progress. So, if you’re like us and will occasionally add the wrong time to your cooking timer, this is a great bonus.
A final feature that improved the cooking process was the updated steam release valve. While most other pressure cookers have a single valve that you adjust to release a steam plume, the Instant Pot Ultra has a small, separate nob you adjust to start the steam release. This meant we were far less likely to spray ourselves with the steam and felt far safer about this part of the process—that's an important safety feature. We also loved that the stainless steel inner cooking pot inside of the Instant Pot is dishwasher safe, making it easy to clean.
So while our new top Instant Pot doesn’t come with a WiFi-connected app, it still earns the top spot based on its excellent cooking performance, new interface, and updated steam release.
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. Once our top choice overall for its ease of use, it’s now our pick for best value, as it’s available for $30-40 cheaper than comparable Instant Pot models.
For most multi-cookers we tested, we had to carefully read the recipe and then consult the manual before cooking. But with the Crock-Pot, you can simply skim the recipe and press the appropriate button. It’s the little things that really made this machine, 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 only one of two multi-cookers we tested 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 models instead.)
The only issue with this multi-cooker may be its size. It has a larger footprint than the other models we checked out, so it looks like a behemoth if using it in a tiny kitchen. That said, no multi-cooker is going to squeeze into a corner or fit neatly on a shelf.
If you’re looking to go beyond the typical Instant Pot functions—and have a little extra money to spend—we recommend checking out the Ninja Foodi Pressure Cooker. This behemoth of a multi-cooker combines pressure cooking, steaming, slow cooking, and air frying all in one. It’s basically a mini kitchen.
With two different lids, one for pressure cooking and one for air frying and crisping, we were able to not only complete the chicken soup, veggie chili, and risotto tests with ease, we were also able to make a complete meal of rice with baked tofu and crisped veggies. The only tricky test was the yogurt, as this multi-cooker does not have a yogurt function. However, after a quick online search, we learned that you can use the dehydrate function to keep the yogurt at the proper temperature. So while a bit less creamy than the batches done with the Instant Pot, the Ninja made tasty yogurt even without a dedicated program.
By far the biggest added benefit to the Ninja is the air crisper lid. This allows you to easily crisp up meat, tofu, or vegetables without turning to your oven. While it works best to make dinner for one or two people (we tried batch cooking with this function and it worked, but not as well), it’s ideal if you don’t care about leftovers. Within 20 minutes, we were able to make a full meal that didn’t require pressure cooking—ultimately making this the most versatile multi-cooker yet. And if the recipe book is to be believed, the meal potentials are practically endless.
The downsides: It’s pricier than most of its competitors and takes up some serious counter space. While smaller than having both a pressure cooker and an air fryer, the cooker itself is larger than an Instant Pot and comes with multiple lids and accessories that will need to go somewhere.
Hi, we're Bethany and Cassidy. Both of us love to cook but work full-time, so coming home and having to prep dinner and lunch for over an hour gets exhausting, fast. Needless to say, we're both pressure cooker fans—and having each contributed to this piece more than once, we know our stuff.
Bethany tackled the initial pressure cooker research and product round-up in late 2017. She cleared her countertop, tucked away her 6,000 other kitchen gadgets, and convinced her similarly time-constrained housemate to give her his thoughts on the results.
Cassidy, our kitchen editor, updated this article in December 2018 (almost a year after its initial publication) to include three new models: the Instant Pot Smart WiFi, the Taotronics TT-EE007 Multicooker, and the Black and Decker Electric Multi-cooker. She used the same exact recipes as Bethany throughout testing (see: the two gallons of yogurt in her fridge), and compared all her notes and scoring to the original results before re-ranking our picks. While she owns a dishwasher, she also hand-washed everything (pruned fingers and dry skin be damned) for comparison.
In May of 2019, Bethany came back to testing to include a new slow cook test and four new models: the Instant Pot Ultra, the Instant Pot Duo, the Breville Fast Slow Pro, and the Ninja Foodi.
The Initial Lineup
Before selecting our final list of multi-cookers, we looked at a total of 20 Instant Pots and competitors. We passed over some of the earlier Instant Pots, as the newer models (like the Instant Pot Smart WiFi) offer features we wanted to check out. 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 pressure cooker was a good all-rounder, we tried three recipe types in our first round of testing: a classic comfort food (chicken noodle soup), a date night special (saffron risotto), and a finicky breakfast bowl (yogurt from scratch). Then in our update, we added a slow cooker chili to see how these appliances measured up to a traditional slow cooking device. We 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 pressure cooker was to clean.
We also noted any surprises. Did the milk heat up to the right temperature for making yogurt? Did the Instant Pot flash a weird symbol during cooking? Did the steam valve spray hot milk everywhere and startle us so much we accidentally threw a recipe book across the room?
For cleaning, we did everything by hand.
We also took into account how helpful the manual was (and how much we needed to use it while cooking), whether or not it came with a recipe book, whether or not 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 pressure cookers.
One of the nice things about these appliances 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 cooker left me wondering whether or not our food would be edible when it was finished, we took that into account.
We also quickly learned that you should have all of your ingredients ready to go before even turning on your pressure cooker. These things work fast, so your ingredients should be prepped before you start.
Pressure Cooker, Slow Cooker, or Multi-Cooker?
Given how many different types of kitchen gadgets are on the market these days, it’s helpful to know the difference between a pressure cooker, a slow cooker, and a multi-cooker. In brief, a slow cooker—often referred to as a Crock-Pot—cooks or simmers food at a relatively low temperature for a long time. It’s frequently used to make stews, briskets, or anything that you might want to prep before heading out for the day and eat when you get home from work.
A pressure cooker speeds up this process by sealing food and liquid in a pot and using the trapped steam from cooking to quickly raise both the temperature and pressure. Once the food is cooked, you can release the steam via a small valve, allowing you to open the sealed container. Pressure cookers are great for quickly making a meal that would otherwise take an hour or two. Older pressure cookers—think pre-Instant Pot craze—went directly on the stove, but these days they’re largely electric and live on your counter.
A multi-cooker is simply an electric cooking device that combines multiple functions, such as slow cooking and pressure cooking and yogurt making, into one device.
In our experience, most electric pressure cookers—including the Instant Pot—are actually multi-cookers. But before you buy one, make sure it has the functions that you’re most likely to use. For instance, if making yogurt at home is important to you, check to be sure your pressure cooker has that function (since making yogurt relies on a totally different capability than pressure cooking). These gadgets are extremely versatile, and ideal for quick cooking when you don’t want to dirty all of your pots and pans—or don’t want to turn on your oven.
Other Pressure Cookers We Tested
Instant Pot Smart WiFi 6 Quart
The recently-released Instant Pot Smart WiFi is everything a multi-cooker can (and should) be: fast, efficient, precise, intuitive, and perfectly capable of replacing most other devices in your kitchen. The Smart Wifi is Instant Pot’s update to the Smart Bluetooth, a middling product that suffered from poor app maintenance and connectivity issues. Luckily, this version faces none of those issues, and instead provides a handy 8-in-1 appliance with the convenience of WiFi connectivity, allowing you to set, monitor, and control your multi-cooker from virtually anywhere. Beyond this new technology, the Smart WiFi shares most of its DNA with the existing Duo Plus, save for the latter’s “Sanitize” function.
If a smart-connected device sounds too complicated to have in the kitchen, don’t worry—the Instant Pot Smart operates just fine without the app, too. While we did use the app at points throughout testing, we usually fell back into entering controls manually (this is our job, where else did we have to be?) and found it incredibly easy to use. Our coworkers and Cassidy's housemates loved both the risotto and yogurt made in this Instant Pot and while the chicken for the soup was slightly “shredded” by the pressure-cooking process, the flavor of the final result was still strong. It’s worth noting that when the Instant Pot changes between modes, the beeps are LOUD, which can be helpful or annoying—but you can turn the sound off if you’re trying to sleep.
If you’re into micro-managing your dinner, this model also allows you to choose between “Less,” “More,” and “Normal” settings for each preset. If you’re not that kind of person, it also comes with 750+ pre-programmed recipes that simply let you press a button and forget about the meal until it's done, something no other multi-cooker can claim.
If you’re looking for a more basic multi-cooker, the Crock-Pot Express Crock Multi-Cooker, which was our original best overall (and now our best value pick) or the Instant Pot Ultra may be more your speed.
The Instant Pot Duo Plus 9-in-1 has 14+ functions, including “Steam,” “Sterilize,” and “Cake" (if you want to compare models, check out our Instant Pot buying guide) . 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, this 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 into the Instant Pot-specific conversations.)
The reason there's a growing online community around this gadget is that it works like a charm. The soup we 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—the only function missing on our top choice, the Smart WiFi.
While it wasn't as intuitive as I would have liked—and the lid occasionally tripped me up—I have a feeling this Instant Pot could still edge out your current slow cooker, and your rice cooker, and your favorite steaming method and, you get the idea. If you’re looking for a comprehensive Instant Pot with a longer history and larger user base than the Smart WiFi, this is your best bet.
If you told us that the TaoTronics TT-EE006 Electric Pressure Cooker was a new Instant Pot model that had the wrong name printed on it, we would believe you. The sleek, sophisticated cooker has a panel almost identical to that of the IP Duo Plus, and its blue-on-black display is even more attractive, with all necessary information displayed clearly. I was also consistently impressed by this multi-cookers speed and power—its sauté function worked like a charm, it got milk even hotter (without boiling) than the Instant Pot when it came time to make yogurt, and it produced some seriously flavorful risotto.
But what the TaoTronics model has in power it seems to lack in some precision and control, which resulted in slightly-lumpy yogurt and overcooked chicken noodle soup. The hot heat of the pot also made it harder to clean at the end of each test, because there were often bits of burnt food stuck to the bottom. It’s a powerful, attractive cooker that can do just about anything the IP Duo Plus can, but you might not get the same perfect precision with all your recipes.
For our second testing update, we decided to go back to the basics and test the Instant Pot Duo alongside the rest. While we initially opted to leave this one out in favor of pressure cookers with more features, the Duo remains one of Instant Pot’s top sellers—making it a worthwhile test. But after putting the Duo through its paces, we have to say that it ranks firmly in the middle of the pack.
The Duo made good soup and decent risotto but flubbed on the slow cooker chili. Even after 12 hours of slow cooking, the onions were not cooked and the chili was more soup than a thick stew. It also struggled with yogurt, unable to bring the milk up to the proper temperature without switching out of the yogurt function and into sauté. It was also the slowest to come up to pressure during cooking, often leaving me to wonder if we had set it correctly at all. With so many other options on the market—including a few updated Instant Pots—we would personally skip the Instant Pot Duo in favor of a slightly more robust pressure cooker.
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. We spent a fair bit of time guessing whether or not we were cooking something correctly, just hoping that we 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 six hours when most recipes call for almost 10), bumped this one down the list.
We were honestly disappointed by the Breville Fast Slow Pro Pressure Cooker. While it was a favorite out of the box due to the beautiful, easy-to-use interface, multitude of pre-programmed options, and attached lid, it ultimately fell toward the bottom of the pack. We had to consult the manual while making the soup (ultimately ending up with tougher vegetables than the recipe indicated), and despite a seemingly endless array of cooking options, there was no yogurt function at all. And unlike the Ninja multi-cooker, we were unable to produce yogurt with the functions that were available. In a similar vein, we loved the idea of an attached lid, but the reality was rather frustrating. It took twisting the lid a very particular way to get it to close, which we could never seem to get right on the first or even third try.
On the positive side, the interface and recipe options were phenomenal. Similar to the Instant Pot Ultra, the scroll through the interface was easy to use and offered a lot of cooking options. As well, it had one unique feature we wish the Instant Pot included, which was an auto-release steam valve. This meant that in the pre-programmed recipe when it was time to release steam from the pressure cooker, it did so automatically. This made the Breville a true set-and-forget cooker—but only if you were using one of its pre-programmed functions. For its high price point, we were expecting much better.
The GeekChef 11-in-1 Multi-Functional Pressure Cooker looked just like the other models but constantly kept us on our toes. Regardless of the recipe, we always had to consult the manual, and even after doing so, we were never quite sure whether we were doing it right. So while the food turned out well, the cooking process was a guessing game that required us to cobble together hybridized instructions from Instant Pot tutorials we found online. The GeekChef also didn’t provide as much flexibility with pre-set cooking functions as we would have liked, as there were minimum times for some functions, which meant we needed to set a timer.
Another nonstick model in our round-up, the Black and Decker Electric Multi-Cooker was a breeze to clean after every one of our tests. Unfortunately, clean-up was one of the only areas in which it excelled. The risotto turned out more like plain paella rice than creamy risotto despite following the recipe book’s directions, the soup was full of overcooked veggies, and the pot consistently took a longer time than other cookers to get to the desired temperature and pressure.
So, why the issues? While the Black and Decker model looks a lot like the standard, Instant Pot-esque multi-cooker in terms of design, it lacks most of the buttons and functionality that make these devices so appealing—common functions like “Sauté” and “Pressure Cook” have been replaced by “Browning” and “Manual,” even though the manual control doesn’t allow you to alter the temperature or degree of pressure. Oh, and there’s no “Yogurt” button at all—so you may as well make your breakfast on the stovetop. While my yogurt came out fine, we didn’t appreciate having to do it the old-fashioned way (with constant stirring and temperature-taking) inside a shiny new device.
Between the lack of features, the odd chemical smell that came from the pot while sautéing the onions for risotto, and the absence of alert noises that made us forget to depressurize at the right time, the Black and Decker multi-cooker has a lot of room for improvement.
Bethany is a freelance contributor for Reviewed. An avid home baker and aspiring home cook, she reviews and writes mostly about kitchen gadgets (with the occasional fitness review thrown in). Her specialty might be fancy desserts, but she's never met a batch-cooked dinner recipe she didn't like.
Outside of her work for Reviewed, Bethany is a content creator working on clean energy and climate change at a regional non-profit and runs a tabletop game at her local comic book shop.
Cassidy covers all things cooking as the kitchen editor or Reviewed. An experimental home chef with a healthy distrust of recipes, Cassidy lives by the "Ratatouille" philosophy that, with a few techniques and key tools, anyone can cook. Since joining Reviewed in mid-2018, she's produced in-depth reviews and guides on everything from meal kits to stand mixers and the right way to cook an egg.
We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.