The best Instant Pot used to be very difficult enough to choose due to the huge number of excellent multi-cookers made by Instant Pot. Nowadays it's even harder, because multiple brands have jumped on Instant Pot's bandwagon and made products that are the same combination of pressure cooker, slow cooker, mini oven and hob/hotplate. There are a few that then bundle in the same functionality you find in the best air fryers. There's a kind of arms war to see who can get the largest number before the phrase '-in-1 cooker' with the range going from 7-in-1 to 17-in-1.
According to the internet, which is never wrong, the Instant Pot brand was started in 2009 by a Canadian gent called Robert Wang. A radical reworking of the humble hob-top pressure cooker, Wang’s invention continues to sell under the same brand name. As noted, many other manufacturers have 'paid homage', let's say, to the Instant Pot and made me-too products. As a result, the name ‘Instant Pot’ has almost become a generic term among consumers, especially when searching for said product on the internet. Nevertheless, since Instant Pot owns the rights to the name, other manufacturers use the term multi cooker (or multicooker) when advertising their wares. It's like when we all called every vacuum cleaner a ‘hoover’, much to the chagrin of Hoover.
An Instant Pot-style multi cooker is basically an electrically-powered table-top multi-cooker that performs a variety of cooking methods from pressure cooking and steaming to sautéing and slow cooking. Some models can also air fry and steam fry and even bake cakes. Instant Pots and multi cookers are mostly aimed at those who enjoy the speed and convenience of pressure cooking and steaming. A lot of people enjoy their health benefits, compared to getting takeways or ready meals, and in many cases I would say they’re aimed at people who either can’t cook very well or don't have time to.
For the sake of simplicity, we will mostly use the term multi cooker when describing any of these amazing products, whether they’re made by Ninja, Sage, Tefal or anyone else. Although obviously we'll call the ones made by Instant Pot, Instant Pots.
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The best Instant Pots and multi cookers you can buy
Instant Pot started the trend in do-it-all multicookers and it’s been a howling success in most regions in the world but specifically the USA. If you’re in the market for just one model from this wildly successful brand, then this is the one for you.
Aside from all the usual functions like pressure cooking, slow cooking, steaming and sautéing, this keenly-priced 11-in-1 model can also air fry a whole bird, roast a small pork loin or make chips. And everything is crisped to near perfection.
Available in two sizes – 8-litres and 5.7-litres – the Instant Pot Duo Crisp & Air Fryer may not be the prettiest looking model on the shelves – that is shared by the Ninja and Tefal below – but it’s easy to use, extremely competent and pretty quick at producing dishes when compared to conventional cooking methods.
Read our full Instant Pot Duo Crisp + Air Fryer review
The 9-in-1 Instant Pot Duo comes in three different sizes – 3-Litre (3 quartz), 5.7-Litre (6 quartz) and 8-Litre (8 quartz) – and is perhaps the most 'classic' Instant Pot and the model Amazon sells in high quantities.
The 3-litre version reviewed here is one of the most popular for couples and soloists and can be used to tackle any kind of cooking task alongside being a pretty awesome pressure cooker. While it's possible to whip up rice (not the best rice it has to be said), or steam anything you fancy, you can also slow cook food or use the warmer function to keep dishes on standby ready for serving. We're big fans of the yoghurt-making function too.
Central to operation is the main control panel on the front of the appliance. This is wonderfully simple to use, with nine main smart programs that allow you to quickly select popular food cooking options. Soup, Meat/Stew, Bean/Chili, Rice, Porridge and so on, as well as Manual control means you’re able to tailor the Instant Pot to produce your favourite recipes with little in the way of manual labour.
If you’re after an Instant Pot-branded multicooker that’s reasonably priced and commendably efficient, you can’t go wrong with this one of these three variants.
Although it shares a very similar skill set as the Instant Pot Duo Crisp & Air Fryer above, the 11-in-1 Ninja Foodi goes a step further by being able to air fry without needing a change of lids. It's also got a steam fry function, which is inarguably the very best way to cook a small 2kg chicken or up to five drumsticks to succulent perfection and with the crispiest skin you’ve ever tasted. Simply pour 125ml of water into the main pot, fill the crisper basket with chicken, select Steam Air Fry and retreat for 25 minutes. Job done.
The Ninja Foodi 11-in-1 has a 6-litre capacity (6.34 quartz in American measures), which is an ideal size for soloists, couples and one-child families. Its three main cooking modes – pressure cooking, combo-steam and air fry – are selected by moving the ‘SmartLid Slider’ from left to right, and each main mode is subdivided into various cooking methods like steam air fry, standard air fry, steam bake, grill, sear, steam, slow cook and standard pressure cooking.
The Ninja Foodi 11-in-1 SmartLid is not only one of the best looking multicookers on the market, it’s also one of the most multi-talented models you can buy, period. Highly recommended.
Sage wades into the multicooker battleground with a considerable update on its popular Fast Slow Pro model. In typical Sage fashion, the 6-litre Fast Slow Go comes with a host of pre-programmed one-touch settings for a variety of ingredients – soup, stew, rice, risotto, soup, beans, meats, etc – and provides the option to either pressure cook, slow cook or keep warm. It will also whip up a yogurt if required.
Granted, it didn’t produce the type of flaky rice we expected even after following the manual’s recipe, but it did produce an exceptional beef stew, meltingly tender beef short ribs and a pretty good massaman curry, considering that we used the pressure cooker, which isn't how we'd usually do it. Similarly, the risotto setting turned out something way more palatable than expected but it is still a very weird way to make a risotto.
Although multicookers of this nature seem daunting at first, the Sage was very easy to get a handle on once we’d actually started using it.
• Read our full Sage Fast Slow Go review
The Tefal Cook4me Touch is quite costly but then it's more like having a personal chef than a mere cooking device. This handsome pressure multi cooker features an interactive water-resistant touchscreen interface that lets the user select from over 150 10-minute recipes.
Impressively, it even allows you to search a recipe in three ways: starter, main course and dessert; length of cooking time; or, best of all, by the ingredients available in your fridge. Simply call up a recipe of your choice and follow the step-by-step instructions for both prepping and cooking. It’s as simple as that.
Though its bowl has a capacity of just six litres, the Cook4me Touch has a useable capacity of four litres which means it’s a good size for two-to-four people and up to six if making a stew. Aside from its pressure cooking prowess, this multicooker also steams and stir fries. And if you connect it to the Tefal app, you can monitor the progress of your cooking from another room while you relax with a G&T, safe in the knowledge that your own personal chef is slogging away in the background. Well worth a punt.
As its name suggests, the Instant Pot Duo Plus is like the Instant Pot Duo only more so. What it does is very similar to the standard model but the quality of finish is higher. The Duo Plus has a capacity of eight litres – around 8 quarts – and is a real monster of a machine that delivers all kinds of program modes to let you cook soup, broth, porridge and rice along with preset programs for pressure cooking, slow cooking, sautéing and sous vide. It even sterilises stuff.
The Instant Pot Duo Plus 9-in-1 is one of the heftier models in the company’s ever-growing multi cooker range and as a result you'll need to be prepared for its extra weight and larger size. However, the bonus here is extra capacity and the ability to handle just about anything when it comes to mealtimes.
What is an Instant Pot or multi cooker?
According to the internet, the Instant Pot brand was started in 2009 by a Canadian gent called Robert Wang. A radical reworking of the humble hob-top pressure cooker, Wang’s invention continues to sell under the same brand name. However it’s not just the Instant Pot that makes instant pots. Many other manufacturers have since jumped on the bandwagon with their own takes on the product. As a result, the name ‘Instant Pot’ has almost become a generic term among consumers, especially when searching for said product on the internet. Nevertheless, since Instant Pot owns the rights to the name rather like Hoover did when we called every vacuum cleaner a ‘hoover’, most other manufacturers have opted for the term ‘multicooker’ when advertising their wares.
An Instant Pot-style multicooker is basically an electrically-powered table-top multi-cooker that performs a variety of cooking methods from pressure cooking and steaming to sautéing and slow cooking. Some models can also air fry and steam fry and even bake cakes.
Multicookers are mostly aimed at those who enjoy the health benefits, speed and convenience of pressure cooking and steaming and in many cases they’re also aimed at people who can’t cook very well.
For the sake of simplicity, we will mostly use the term multicooker when describing any of these amazing products, whether they’re made by Instant Pot, Ninja, Sage, Tefal or anyone else.
Why are multi cookers and Instant Pots so popular?
The Instant Pot-type multicooker has been a huge hit in America and it’s easy to see why. This funky-looking box of tricks is actually a multi-faceted machine that does the job of at least six or seven other appliances in your kitchen. That's the reason each model comes with a ‘6-in-1'to 12-in-1’ tag, which gives you an indication of its capabilities. And that’s before you’ve even started exploring the true potential of the appliance. While it offers lots of convenience, and minimum hassle when it comes to cooking food, the versatility and quality of results from multi-cookers are what appeal most.
When it comes to size variety, there’s a model of multicooker to suit any kind of requirement. Hence, if you’re cooking solo there’s a lean, mean machine for you. Conversely, if you have to prepare gargantuan dinners for large family gatherings then there’s a pot with your name on it, too. In fact, in the USA there are a whopping 22 variations on the theme in the just the Instant Pot range alone.
Oh, and fear not if you baulk at the thought of owning a pressure cooker, picturing it exploding or blasting you with red hot steam. Today’s pressure-cooking models have been cleverly engineered so that they’re safe, intuitive and easy to use with no worries on the operational front. And anyway, these talented multi-cookers do way more than just cook under pressure.
So, without adding any more corporate confusion into the mix, let’s head straight to our selection of the best instant pots, multicookers, whatever you want to call them you can buy today.