Best Multi-Cookers of 2021
CR’s tests find that models from Bella, Breville, and Zavor give the Instant Pot a run for its money
Not long ago, Instant Pot was the only name in the multi-cooker game. But competition has been heating up. We now test 13 brands, ranging from $50 to $600.
Does spending top dollar for one of these multitasking countertop appliances get you a better braise? The answer used to be yes—to a degree. The top-rated multi-cooker we tested in 2018, the Breville Fast Slow Pro, costs $250. That's about $50 more than the runner-up and almost $200 more than the lowest-ranked model, which was also the cheapest.
More recently, we tested the Wolf Gourmet Multi-Cooker, a hefty high-end model with a price to match. It costs $600 (the most expensive model we've ever tested) and is one of the worst performers in our tests. On the flip side, the best in our tests today comes in well under $200.
“Pressure-cook models are ideal for quickly cooking tough cuts of meat, or beans, but you won’t save a lot of time with other foods, like steamed rice,” says Ginny Lui, CR’s test engineer for countertop cooking appliances.
We test pressure-cook mode on the models that have it by cooking pork ribs and beef-and-bean chili. Then we test other dedicated functions, including slow-cooking chili and beef stew; steaming rice and vegetables; sautéing onions; and keeping food warm. Some models even boast functions for baking, air-frying, crisping, dehydrating, and sous vide.
For each test, CR staffers sample the dish and judge the food’s taste and tenderness. Testers also evaluate convenience factors, such as the clarity of the touch controls and how easy it is to program each multi-cooker, and they assess the durability of the coating on the interior pots.
Read on for reviews of seven great multi-cookers from our tests, listed in alphabetical order. CR members can also dig into our complete multi-cooker ratings.
CR's take: This 8-quart Bella is the largest pressure cooker we tested and the only model to garner a Best Buy title. It costs a fraction of many other models in our ratings and performs admirably in most of our lab tests. The 1,000-watt cooker scores Excellent ratings for both pressure-cooking and slow-cooking. The only task it does a so-so job at is sautéing.
CR’s take: The 6-quart Breville Fast Slow Pro BPR700BSS has a pressure-cook mode and—like all the cookers in this group—aces our test in that mode. But it’s also one of the best at slow-cooking, earning an Excellent rating. Our beef stew turned out tender and ready to eat in 5 hours, and the chili was tender and delicious in 7 hours. Steaming is top-notch because this 1,100-watt cooker doesn’t use pressure for that mode. (Unlike other models, the lid on this Breville doesn’t lock during steaming, so you can monitor your broccoli’s shade of green and avoid overcooking.) The ceramic nonstick coating is a cinch to clean and didn't show any scratches after testing.
CR's take: The 6-quart Cuisinart Cook Central has preset functions for sauté, steam, and slow-cook. The only preset it's missing that most multi-cookers have is a rice-cooking setting. In our tests, it scores an Excellent rating for slow-cooking beef stew and bean chili, and Very Good ratings for sautéing onions and steam vegetables. Unlike multi-cookers with a pressure-cook mode, this model is oval-shaped like most slow cookers, which is ideal for cooking large cuts of meat or racks of ribs. Plus, the tempered-glass lid lets you keep an eye on what’s cooking.
CR’s take: The 6-quart DeLonghi Livenza is a multi-cooker without a pressure-cook function, so fast cooking isn’t its promise. Slow-cooking is where it's at, and this 1,350-watt model earns a Very Good rating in that test. It also earns Excellent scores for sautéing and steaming, both tests that few models ace. This cooker has a baking function, too, which we tested with mixed results. Our chocolate chip bars were nice and chewy on top but burnt on the bottom around the corners of the pot. Like the Cuisinart above, this cooker's oblong shape is useful for bulky roasts and racks of ribs.
CR’s take: The 6-quart Instant Pot Max ups the pressure, options, and price compared with the ever-popular Instant Pot Duo60 7-in-1. The 1,100-watt Max is impressive, particularly when it comes to making rice and sautéing, but here’s our beef: Every time we made chili using dried beans in pressure-cook mode, a “Food Burn” message appeared as the cooker was reaching pressure. We had to stop, stir the chili, close the lid, and let it reach pressure again. We purchased a second model, put it through the test, and got the same error message. This didn’t happen when we made beef stew with potatoes and carrots. Instant Pot says the food-burn alert is a safety mechanism that stops heating to prevent food from burning but adds that this warning can also occur when cooking very starchy foods that settle at the bottom of the pot. To test the sous vide feature, we cooked chicken breasts for 3 hours; they were tender and delicious.
CR’s take: The 6.5-quart Ninja Foodi OP302 has a pressure-cook function, and it’s one of only two models to garner an Excellent rating in sautéing. Plus, the extended feature set is unique: This 1,460-watt cooker has a pressure lid plus a separate crisping lid that houses a fan to facilitate air-frying. It can crisp pressure-cooked food, too. We pressure-cooked a 4½-pound chicken in 35 minutes, then crisped it, and the result was a beautifully browned bird. Air-fried french fries and chicken nuggets were delicious. The dehydrate function works as promised, but you can’t dehydrate much food at once, even if you buy the $30 dehydrating rack, as we did. All these bells and whistles mean it’s not easy to move around. This cooker weighs 21 pounds without its 3-pound pressure lid, making it 8 pounds heavier than the Instant Pot Max. And because the crisping lid can't be removed from the pot, cleaning it is tricky.
CR's take: The 6-quart Zavor LUX LCD gets perfect scores in our tests for pressure-cooking succulent, fall-off-the-bone ribs; steaming broccoli and carrots; and slow-cooking thick, tender chili (a test most pressure-cook models don't excel at). The 1,000-watt cooker has a stainless steel insert, which proves to be more durable than nonstick coated inserts in our tests.