5 Electric Pressure Cooker Buying Tips + 3 Top Recommendations
Electric pressure multi cookers are having their moment, and it’s a mind-bending task to choose from the flood of literally hundreds of choices available right now. I’m sharing my tips on what to look for to select the best cooker for your needs. Then, I share my top three can’t-go-wrong recommendations based on my tips & experience.
1. Choose a Dependable Manufacturer
During the life of a pressure multi cooker, some parts will wear and will need to be occasionally replaced. This is the biggest reason I recommend not purchasing a multi cooker from a no-name brand. I field thousands of requests from readers who need to track down replacement parts. Unfortunately, all too often, the no-name company has disappeared or is out of business – leaving a cooker that just needs a $10 part completely useless.
That’s why choosing a dependable pressure cooker manufacturer that sells replacement parts and are easily reachable should be your first consideration.
2. Get At Least Two Pressures – High & Low
Make sure the electric pressure cooker you choose has at least two pressure cooking pressures – all of the ones I recommend do. Most multi cookers already pressure cook at “high pressure”, but having “low pressure” is important for when you want to pressure cook delicate foods like eggs, fish, and pasta – or want to ensure your veggies are not overcooked.
Some brands offer 8 or more pressure settings – the extra pressures are fun to have for experiments but no recipes have actually been written and tested for them (yet).
3. The Specialty Programs You Do & Don’t Need
There are some functions that need to be specifically programmed into the cooker, while you can “fake” others. Here are the most popular additional functions you’ll find on the market:
Yogurt Making – if the ability to make yogurt is important to you, make sure the cooker has a specific “yogurt program” – a specially programmed time and temperature range. There is currently no way to “hack” your multi cooker to make yogurt if the manufacturer has not already programmed it to do so. If your multi cooker does not have a yogurt program, it can only be used as a receptacle for a “no yogurt maker” recipe you can easily find on the internet (that will actually work with any pot).
Rice Cooking – if the cooker doesn’t have a rice program- that’s OK. We already have a way to get perfect rice using the pressure cooking program. So it is not essential to have a specific button for rice cooking if your follow our cooking times and liquid ratios.
Slow Cooking – if the ability to slow cook is important to you, then you need to make sure the cooker has a specific “slow cooker” program. Each brand will differ on how many slow cooker settings are included and at what temperature the use – so check the specs before pulling the trigger. Although you can pretty much pressure cook any slow cooker roast, stew or soup there are still some types of recipes that really only work in a slow cooker.
Pressure Canning– if the multi cooker has a “pressure canning” setting – run away! According to the USA National Center for Home Food Preservation, no electric pressure or multi cookers have been approved for pressure canning (follow the link for details). You can still use an “electric pressure canner” to pressure cook (if you’re already stuck with one) but otherwise, it’s a god idea to avoid manufacturers who don’t adhere to basic safety guidelines.
Specialty Egg, Cake, Chili & etc. Programs -these other specialty programs are just pre-set times and pressures which can be programmed manually into the cooker. Just follow our recipes and instructions on how to pressure cook eggs, steam bake a cake, and make chili! These particular “pre-set time and pressure” programs should not make or break your cooker-buying decision.
4. What’s Watts Got to Do With It?
Actually, the watts are everything to an electric pressure cooker – the higher the wattage, the hotter the heating element will burn and the faster the cooker will reach pressure. This doesn’t seem like a big deal now, but when you’re at home staring at the pressure cooker to start those minutes will seem like hours. A 1000watt pressure cooker can take an average of 13 minutes to reach pressure, while a 1300watt one will do it in five.
So in the wattage department, go big or go wait.
5. Size It Right
My rule of thumb is to consider 1 qt/L per person – so a 6L pressure can be used for six people or less, and an 8L for eight people or less. Unless you have a special situation, I don’t recommend going under 6L – that way, even if you’re cooking for two, you’ll still be able to pressure cook two to three recipes at once by stacking them vertically.
Be sure to check this chart to see exactly how much food you can cook according to the size of the pressure cooker you select.
The Top Three Multi Cookers
I’ve received, literally, a boatload of pressure cookers from manufacturers but these are the best electric cookers I’ve seen to date. They’re all very similar quality, but each has its own special features and quirks. So here’s a capsule review of each and a comparison chart to tease out the differences between them.
Breville Fast Slow Pro –This is the most automated of all three – it releases its own pressure when the cooking is done (three different ways). Also, when it comes time to release pressure from the valve manually there is no need to actually touch the valve – pushing a button from the front programming panel. Unfortunately, there is no yogurt program and you cannot set a delay timer to start cooking while you’re out of the house.
Fagor LUX –This is the fastest pressure cooker of the bunch. It’s the only electric offering the more advanced and efficient spring valve (previously only seen on stovetop pressure cookers). The LUX’s super-charged hot plate ensures this cooker reaches pressure in almost a third of the time it takes for the other two on this list. You can’t disable “keep warm” ahead of time but this just means that you need to be there after a “Natural Pressure Release” to disable it.
Instant Pot DUO –This is the most popular multi cooker, and is backed by a large community of experts and cooks. But, because it was the first 7-in-1 multi cooker, it is slightly less advanced than the other two cookers on this list. Plus, the company continues to produce older models while releasing new ones creating confusion about what each model and version can and can’t do. So, choose your Instant Pot model carefully to get the one with all of the programs and options that are important to you.
Fast Slow Pro
|Keep Warm||enable or disable |
|automatic||enable or disable
(V2 and above)
|Delay Start||No||up to 6 hours||up to 24 hours|
|Slow Cooker Program||High, Low||High, Low||High, Medium, Low|
|Pressure Valve Type||Weighted Float||Spring Valve||Weighted Float|
|Automatic Pressure Release||Yes||No||No|
|Insert Bowl Materials||ceramic coated||ceramic coated|
steel insert can be
from the manufacturer)
(additional non-stick or ceramic insert can be purchased directly from the manufacturer)
|Heating Element||1100 watts (6qt)||1300 watts (8qt)||1200 watts (8qt)|
|Minimum Liquid Requirement||1-4 cups||1/2 cup||1 1/2 cups|
|Available sizes||6 quart only||4, 6 or 8 quart||6 and 8 quart|
|Review||Review||Coming-up||Consult SMART Review|
|Get it||Amazon||Amazon or manufacturer coupon||Amazon or manufacturer coupon|
Don’t forget that you can watch all three of my recommended multi cookers in action in our Pressure Cooking School videos!
Have more questions? Leave us a comment! Already have one or two of these pressure cookers? Please share what you like best about them with our readers, below.