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Best Instant Pot 2021: ranking the top multi-cookers that we’ve tested

Best Instant Pots 2021
(Image credit: Future)

The best instant pots can speed up your daily meals and offer a multitude of cooking methods in one kitchen appliance, saving you time and space.

You can pressure cook, slow cook, steam, bake and stew in these multi-cooker, while some even double up as the best air fryers letting you make healthier fries, chicken wings and other indulgent treats with far less oil than deep frying.

Instant Pot is the term often used to describe these multi-cookers, because it was one of the first brands to market with these multi-functional appliances, but you’ll also find brands such as Ninja, which also makes some of the best blenders and best coffee makers, along with Breville and Crock Pot offering some of the best Instant Pots on the market. 

As well as considering the different cooking methods offered by the best Instant Pots and multi-cookers, you should also look at the capacity and whether it's sufficient for the number of people you have to cook for. On top of that, look out for multi-cookers that have inner pots that can be used on the stove and are dishwasher safe to make sure you have as few utensils to wash-up as possible.

We’ve put the most popular Instant Pots and multi-cooker to the test, cooking up currys, stews, rice and even vegetables to find out which are the best Instant Pots available to buy right now.

The best Instant Pot and multi-cookers of 2021: ranked

Instant Pot Duo Evo Plus

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1. Instant Pot Duo Evo Plus

The best Instant Pot

Reasons to buy
+ Inner pot can be heated on all hob types + Cooking progress indicator offers much more control+ New steam cover diffuser makes steam release safer 
Reasons to avoid
- More expensive than original Instant Pots - Recipe app can be difficult to use 

Instant Pot’s newest kid on the block may be pricier than previous iterations, but it really can do it all. The Instant Pot Evo Duo Plus sets out to replace ten kitchen appliances including a pressure cooker, slow cooker, steamer, yogurt maker, and warmer but it’s got more cooking modes (48 in total) than ever before, making it in our eyes, the best Instant Pot you can buy right now. 

Faster both when cooking and when releasing pressure, it's available in 6 quarts / 5.7-liters or 8 quarts / 8-liters. The pot itself can now be used on the hob to sear food before cooking, too and has handles, so you can take the pot straight to the table.

The most powerful Instant Pot to-date, it has a 1200w heating element compared to the 1000w element found in the Instant Pot Duo, which reduces the preheating time. A new plastic diffuser covers the pressure release vent, so there's far less sputtering and a gentler emission of steam. There’s even a dial that makes it simpler to select a cooking mode, while a larger LCD screen has also been slightly tilted upwards, making it easier to read when you’re busy in the kitchen

Read our full review: Instant Pot Duo Evo Plus 

Instant Pot Duo V2 7-in-1 Electric Pressure Cooker

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2. Instant Pot Duo V2 7-in-1 Electric Pressure Cooker

The best affordable Instant Pot

Reasons to buy
+Large capacity+Makes batch cooking a breeze+Instant and slow cooking capability
Reasons to avoid
-Pot can't be used on the hob-Hands-off approach won’t be for everyone

The predecessor to the Instant Pot's latest multi-cooker, the Instant Pot Duo, is just as effective when pressure cooking, slow cooking, steaming, and making yoghurt, but with a more affordable price its the best Instant Pot for those on a budget.

It has 14 cooking modes, and true to its name, the Instant Pot speeds up lengthy cooking times, although not quite as quickly as its older sibling. The hotter or higher pressure you cook food at, the longer you'll need to wait for the pressure to reduce in the pan. In our review, we found in some cases this meant an extra 20 minutes of waiting until the pressure valve popped down - but as this is a safety mechanism, we’re not going to penalize Instant Pot for it. It also has the ability to delay cooking for up to 24 hours, and the automatic keep-warm feature holds the temperature of the food until you serve it for up to 10 hours.

A compact model with searing, steaming and roasting under the lid, the pot may not be able to be used on the hob, but this Instant Pot still packs a punch bringing a much-needed update to the pressure cooker design. 

Read the full review: Instant Pot Duo V2 7-in-1 Electric Pressure Cooker 

Ninja Foodi Max - Instant Pot alternative

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3. Ninja Foodi Max

The best Instant Pot alternative for large families

Reasons to buy
+Ideal for large families+Impressive crisping technology+Wise range of cooking techniques
Reasons to avoid
-Bulky on the countertop-Expensive

Adding air frying, grilling and dehydrating to the long-list of cooking methods offered by the best Instant Pots, the Ninja Foodi Max Multi-Cooker really can do it all, although some methods are more effective than others.

Roasting a whole chicken in the Ninja Foodi Max Multi-Cooker resulted in tender meat that was still moist but had a crisp golden skin, but chips weren’t as successful as they weren’t cooked through - if fries are your thing the Ninja Foodi Dual Zone air fryer would be a better purchase.  We also used the dehydration setting to make our banana chips, and while the results were tasty, the six-hour program is probably a little too long compared to popping to the shop.  

The digital control panel and dial make it easy to select the cooking mode you want, while adjusting the time and temperature. The 8-quart (7.5-liters) pot means you can cook enough to feed up to six people in one go and there’s a good choice of accessories including a cook and crisp basket for chips and a two-tier reversible rack to cook mains and sides simultaneously, which is good for layering vegetables with meats, poultry or fish.  

The priciest Instant Pot alternative we've reviewed to date, it’s bulky and isn’t the kind of appliance that will blend into the background in a kitchen but for those with plenty of mouths to feed, it could be a worthy investment.  

Read our full review: Ninja Foodi Max Multi-Cooker

Breville the Fast Slow Pro on a kitchen countertop with brocolli

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4. Breville the Fast Slow Pro

The most stylish Instant Pot alternative

Reasons to buy
+Stylish design+Simple to use+Six cooking functions
Reasons to avoid
-Can’t cook small quantities-Hinged lid requires screwdriver for removal

With the ability to pressure cook, slow cook, reduce, steam, sear, and sauté, the Breville Fast Slow Pro is extremely versatile. Simple to use, beginners can choose from the range of presets for dishes including stew, risotto, and rice, while seasoned cooks can manually adjust the time and temperature to ensure the meal is cooked to perfection. 

Most Instant Pots and multi-cooker don't chart high in the style stakes but with a brushed stainless steel finish and a neat and streamlined design, this is certainly one of the better-looking multi-cookers we've tested. 

On test, we found the Breville the Fast Slow Pro cooked meat so it was tender and succulents while vegetables and rice were cooked through but not soggy or mushy. Although the presets aren't as detailed as we'd have hoped - for example, the rice program doesn't state what type of rice it's designed for, so you made find yourself experimenting with time and temperature to ensure dishes are cooked to your liking. 

It has a 6-quart/ 6-liter capacity so you'll easily be able to feed a small family or batch cook using the multi-cooker, and there's also a choice of accessories including a stainless steel steamer basket and a rack for use inside the cooking bowl.

Read our full review: Breville the Fast Slow Pro

Instant Pot Duo Crisp & Air Fryer on a kitch countertop next to a bowl of rice

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5. Instant Pot Duo Crisp & Air Fryer

Best Instant Pot for air frying

Reasons to buy
+11 cooking functions including air fry+8-quart/ 8-litre capacity+Simple to use
Reasons to avoid
-Doesn’t come with steaming accessories as standard-Cooking pot isn’t non-stick

Love fries but worry that air fryers don’t offer enough cooking methods? Then the Instant Pot Duo Crisp & Air Fryer is worth considering - it builds on the Instant Pot’s ability to pressure cook, slow cook, and steam with the addition of an extra lid that provides an air frying function that can roast and bake too.

It has a large 8-quart/ 8-litre capacity, making it great for those feeding several mouth or planning to batch-cook, and offers plenty of customization when it comes to cooking temperature and timing. It’s simple to use, with 11 presets for different dishes and a large, clear LCD display that offers a countdown timer. 

On test, we were impressed by some of the dishes we cooked in the Instant Pot Duo Crisp & Air Fryer. The Thai chicken curry and beef chilli resulted in tender but succulent meat, and in the case of the curry, was falling off the bone. 

However, when we followed Instant Pot’s recipe for chunky fries, they weren’t crisp enough for our taste. Similarly, the broccoli we steamed was mushy and over-cooked after following the Instant Pot’s suggested timing and temperature. You will need to spend some time experimenting with the right cooking duration and temperature for various dishes - but once you’ve settled on the settings that suit you, we think this Instant Pot will prove one of your most-used kitchen appliances.

Read our full review: Instant Pot Duo Crisp & Air Fryer

Ninja Foodi Multi-Cooker - Instant Pot alternative

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6. Ninja Foodi Multi-Cooker review

The best Instant Pot alternative for air-frying alongside pressure cooking

Reasons to buy
+Impressive crisping technology+Good choice of accessories
Reasons to avoid
-Bulky-Expensive

With a smaller capacity and fewer cooking functions than the Ninja Foodi Max, the Ninja Foodi Multi-cooker is not quite as expensive but still pricier than most of its competitors. It’s certainly not any less capable than the best Instant Pots on the market, however. 

It offered up the same air-fried chicken with crispy skin and succulent meat but again left us disappointed with rock-hard chips. That said we were impressed with the dishes cooked when using the slow cooking and pressure cooking settings. There's also a 30-minute Keep Warm function that kicks in to stop your meal from spoiling.

It comes with a 6.3-quart / 6-liters pot so you'll easily be able to feed a small family or batch cook using the multi-cooker, and there's also a choice of accessories including a 3.2L removable frying basket, grilling rack, and extra lid for when pressure cooking

However, it's one of the most cumbersome multi-cookers on the market. Its bulky lid opens to the side on a hinge meaning it can’t be fully opened while tucked underneath a kitchen cupboard so if space is at a premium it may not be the multi-cooker for you.  

Read our full review: Ninja Foodi Multi-Cooker

Crock-Pot Express with accessories on a kitchen countertop

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7. Crock-Pot Express

Best affordable Instant Pot alternative

Reasons to buy
+Inexpensive+Simple to use+Can cook a range of dishes effectively
Reasons to avoid
-Cooking pot can be tricky to slide in and out-Doesn’t come with a steam basket

 Crock-pot has also been known for its slow cookers, but this Instant Pot alternative that can slow cook, steam, sauté and pressure cook, has cemented the brand’s reputation for affordable and easy to use multi-cookers.

During testing, the Crock-Pot Express achieved the same standard as more expensive multi-cookers when it came to cooking meat so it was tender, succulent and falling off the bone, as well as ensuring rice was cooked perfectly - retaining some bite rather than soggy grains that form large clumps. 

We did find it was fiddly to slide the bowl in and out of the cooker and to keep the price down it only comes with two accessories - disappointingly one of them is not a steamer basket. Instead, you’ll need to use the rack that comes with the multi-cooker for vegetables. On test, we found that several broccoli florets slipped through the bars boiling in the water below rather than steaming - creating a soggy mush - so if you prefer your veg slightly crisp, you may want to use an alternative cooking method. 

That said, this multi-cooker, which has a 6-quart/ 6-liter capacity so you'll easily be able to feed a small family or batch cook, is great value for money and suited to those on a budget.

Read our full review: Crock-Pot Express

Lakeland Mini Multi Cooker - Instant Pot alternative

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8. Lakeland Mini Multi Cooker

The best basic multi-cooker for small portions

Reasons to buy
+Compact+Great for making 1 or 2 portions
Reasons to avoid
-Overflows if too full-Few cooking options

While it might feel like the world of Instant Pots and multi-cookers only caters for families the size of the Waltons, Lakeland’s Mini Multicooker makes slow cooking for one a viable option. 

This machine strips it back to the bare essentials in a small, compact, and convenient model, that still covers rice, yoghurt, porridge and bread proving.

However, don't get too ambitious with those portion sizes – overdo it, and you'll be left with a messy overflow to clean up once your brew starts bubbling. It's also the least versatile machine on this list, at least in terms of pre-set cooking options to work with.

Read our full Lakeland Mini Multi Cooker 1.8L review

How we test Instant Pots?

To see how Instant Pots and multi-cookers stack up, we’ve spent hundreds of hours whipping up curries and chillies, preparing batches of rice and even steaming portions of vegetables, comparing the end results. We’re looking for meat that falls off the bone but is still tender and succulent, rice that’s fluffy but still with some bite and crisp vegetables. We’ve also compared how easy they are to use and just how much they speed up cooking by. 

We evaluate each model on how many different cooking methods it offers, how durable and easy to clean the body and parts are, how loud it is in use and when releasing pressure and how hot the exterior casing gets. We’re also assessing how simple each multi-cooker is to use and whether you need to read the instruction manual before cooking, whether recipe inspiration is provided and the useful accessories such as racks and trays it comes with. 

How do Instant Pots work? 

Instant Pots use a combination of steam and high pressures to cook foods quickly. A pot inside the machine creates steam, and the lid has a secure seal which means that no heat can escape. A thermostat within the machine detects and regulates the temperature of the steam so that your food doesn’t overcook. Find out more in our full feature answering is an Instant Pot a pressure cooker? 

Instant Pots don’t just use pressure to cook food, some models also air fry your food by circulating hot air around the cooking pot to give you crispy results. These appliances have been designed to carry out the functions of several appliances but all in one unit. 

What can I cook in an Instant Pot?

The best Instant Pots offer a range of different cooking methods, which means there's a plethora of different dishes that can be created in Instant Pots and multi-cookers. Slow cooking means you can use cheaper but tougher cuts of meat and cook them low and slow to make casseroles and stews, while pressure cooking speeds up cooking times, making it great for ribs and chicken wings. However, you can even bake cakes, air fry foods like fries, and even cook hard-boiled eggs in an Instant Pot. You can find an extensive variety of recipes at instantpot.com.

Instant Pots vs Ninja Foodi 

Instant Pot and Ninja Foodi are two of the biggest names in the multi-cooker world and are regularly compared to see which is best. Both brands create a wide number of appliances including everything from air fryers to blenders. 

As you might expect, the larger and more feature-heavy appliances from Instant Pot and Ninja Foodi are more expensive, but generally speaking, Ninja models are normally more expensive in general. 

It’s also worth comparing how easy these machines are to clean. Ninja Foodi machines feature a cooking pot with a non-stick coating so you shouldn’t need to scrub for hours to get rid of any food. Instant Pots have stainless steel pots but both of the brands’ pots can be placed in a dishwasher. 

We’ve compared these brands in detail, to find out which came out on top, read our Ninja Foodi vs Instant Pot feature.