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What is better a pressure cooker or Instant Pot?

Pressure cookers and Instant Pots are both kitchen appliances that utilize pressurized steam to cook food quickly. They have become increasingly popular in recent years among home cooks looking to save time while still preparing healthy meals. But which is better – a traditional stovetop pressure cooker or a newer electric model like the Instant Pot? There are pros and cons to each when considering factors like versatility, ease of use, safety features, and price. This comprehensive comparison will examine the key differences and help you determine which appliance best fits your cooking needs and lifestyle.

Quick Answers to Key Questions

What are the main differences between a stovetop pressure cooker and an Instant Pot?

The main differences are that stovetop pressure cookers must be used on a stove burner to build pressure, while Instant Pots are electric all-in-one appliances with built-in pressure cooking settings. Instant Pots also have extra functions like slow cooking and yogurt making.

Which is safer to use?

Instant Pots tend to have more built-in safety mechanisms than stovetop pressure cookers, making them generally safer for beginners. But stovetop models are safe when used properly.

Which is more versatile?

Instant Pots are more versatile since they can pressure cook plus slow cook, sauté, steam, make yogurt, and more. Stovetop pressure cookers primarily just pressure cook.

Which is easier to use?

Overall, Instant Pots are simpler to operate thanks to their electric controls and preset buttons. Stovetop pressure cookers require manually regulating heat and pressure.

Which is less expensive?

Stovetop pressure cookers are significantly cheaper, with basic models starting under $50. Instant Pots start around $80 and increase in price with more features.

Stovetop Pressure Cookers

Traditional stovetop pressure cookers have been around for generations and work by trapping steam inside a locked pot to build intense pressure, raising the boiling point of water high enough to drastically decrease cooking time. They are called “stoves” or “stovetops” because they must be used on a cooktop burner to generate heat and pressure. Here are the key features and functions of stovetop pressure cookers:

– Main Components: Stovetop pressure cookers consist of a lid that seals and locks onto a pot. The pot has a heavy bottom to evenly conduct heat. The lid has a venting valve to release pressure and a pressure regulator to maintain the desired pressure level. Most also have a safety fuse that blows if pressure gets dangerously high.

– Pressure Levels: Most stovetop cookers have two pressure settings – high (15psi) for quick cooking and lower (5-10psi) for delicate foods. The user regulates pressure by adjusting heat on the stove burner. Electric models are also available.

– Cooking Process: Food and liquid are added to the pot. The lid is locked into place forming an airtight seal. Heat is applied to the pot and the liquid starts to boil, releasing steam that builds pressure. Once desired pressure level is reached, heat is lowered to maintain it. Pressure is quick-released manually after cooking.

– Materials: Modern stovetop pressure cookers are primarily made from stainless steel with an aluminum core in the pot bottom to conduct heat. Some have nonstick cooking surfaces. Rubber or silicone gaskets provide the airtight seal.

– Sizes: Stovetop pressure cookers typically range from 4-8 quarts, with 6 quarts being the most common size for family meals. Smaller 1-3 quart sizes are also available.

– Price Range: Basic stovetop pressure cookers start around $30-60 for 4-6 quart sizes. Higher end models with more features and better materials can range from $100-300.

Advantages of Stovetop Pressure Cookers

– Excellent for pressure cooking – reach high pressures fast to decrease cooking time up to 70%.
– Lower starting price points. Basic models are very inexpensive.
– Compact, lightweight size for easy storage.
– Can be used on all types of cooktops including induction.
– More control over pressure levels.
– Typically larger max capacity than electric models.
– Can brown/saute ingredients before pressure cooking.
– Easy to find replacement parts if needed.

Disadvantages of Stovetop Pressure Cookers

– Require manual operation and monitoring during cooking.
– Generating and regulating pressure can have a learning curve.
– Must have compatible stove to use.
– More frequent and difficult venting of pressure.
– Not automated or programmable.
– No other cooking functions besides pressure cooking.
– Not many extra safety features.
– Louder with more steaming and noise while building pressure.

Instant Pot Electric Pressure Cookers

The Instant Pot is a category of electric pressure cookers that have surged in popularity in recent years. Instant Pots utilize built-in electric heating elements to generate steam and pressure, offering user-friendly presets and extra cooking functions. Here are the key qualities of Instant Pots:

– Main Components: Instant Pots have a stainless steel inner pot with heating element. The lid contains a floating valve for sealing and pressure release. Control panels have digital displays and preset buttons.

– Pressure Levels: Most Instant Pots reach a max pressure of 11-12 psi on high setting. Low pressure settings are also available. Pressure is automatically regulated.

– Cooking Process: Food is added to pot and lid secured. Desired cooking program is selected and adjusted as needed. Instant Pot automatically builds pressure, maintains it, and releases it when done.

– Materials: Instant Pots utilize stainless steel cooking pots with nonstick or stainless steel lids. Control housing is fingerprint-resistant stainless steel. Internal components vary by model line.

– Sizes: Standard Instant Pot sizes range from 3-8 quarts but mini and maxi sizes are also sold. 3-6 quarts are common for family meals. 8-quart is best for large batches.

– Price Range: Basic Instant Pot models start around $80-130 for the 6-8 quart sizes. Higher end “Smart” models with app connectivity and extra features range from $150-250.

Advantages of Instant Pots

– Extremely user-friendly with preset one-touch programs.
– Safer pressure release – mostly automatic.
– Delay start and keep warm functions allow hands-off cooking.
– Extra cooking functions beyond just pressure cooking add versatility.
– Locking lids and other safety mechanisms give peace of mind.
– More affordable than most standalone electric pressure cookers.
– Generate less noise while building pressure.
– Can be used anywhere with access to an outlet.
– Programmable for simpler operation.
– Large range of sizes from 3-8+ quarts available.

Disadvantages of Instant Pots

– More expensive starting prices than stovetop models.
– Large footprint takes up more storage space.
– Heavy – not highly portable.
– Inner pot size limits capacity for very large batches.
– Preset programs can restrict more advanced users.
– Longer minimum cook times than stovetop cookers.
– Parts not as easily replaced or serviced.
– Durability issues reported on some models.

Comparing Cooking Times

One of the biggest considerations when choosing a pressure cooker is how quickly it can cook foods. Here is a comparison of average cooking times for common foods in stovetop pressure cookers versus Instant Pots:

Food Stovetop Pressure Cooker Time Instant Pot Time
Chicken breast (frozen) 8-10 minutes 15-20 minutes
Beef stew 15-20 minutes 20-30 minutes
Chili (dried beans) 8-12 minutes 25-40 minutes
Vegetable soup (fresh) 1-2 minutes 5-10 minutes
Pot roast 40-60 minutes 60-90 minutes
Hard boiled eggs 4-6 minutes 4-8 minutes
Rice 2-4 minutes 4-7 minutes
Oatmeal n/a 20 minutes

As shown, stovetop pressure cookers provide faster cook times overall, especially for quick cooking foods like vegetables. However, Instant Pots are not far behind on most foods. And they allow hands-off cooking of dishes like oatmeal that stovetop models can’t make.


Safety is a key consideration with any type of pressure cooker since building intense steam pressure can be dangerous if not regulated properly. Here is how stovetop and electric pressure cookers compare in terms of safety features and risks:

Stovetop Pressure Cookers:

– Include backup safety valves/fuses to release excess pressure.
– Newer models have more safety mechanisms than older ones.
– Require staying near cooker to regulate heat and pressure.
– Risk of burns from steam released when opening lid.
– Historically involved in more pressure cooker explosions/injuries.
– Require diligent monitoring and following safety precautions.

Instant Pots:

– Have multiple redundant safety valves and sensors.
– Lid automatically locks and won’t open under pressure.
– Release pressure automatically when cooking finishes.
– Anti-block shields prevent food clogs.
– Safer track record with fewer explosions/injuries reported.
– More automated so less monitoring needed.
– Considered safest for beginners.

While no pressure cooker is foolproof, Instant Pots do typically offer more safety protections than your average stovetop model. However, stovetop cookers remain safe for experienced users who follow proper precautions and manufacturing standards have improved over the years.

Ease of Use

Convenience and learning curve are also important considerations when choosing between stovetop and electric pressure cookers:

Stovetop Pressure Cookers

– Require manually regulating heat/pressure.
– Building and releasing pressure takes more hands-on work.
– Following recipes can be trickier.
– More parts to disassemble for cleaning.
– Louder hissing and steaming during cooking.
– Need compatible stovetop to operate.

Instant Pots

– One-touch preset buttons greatly simplify cooking.
– Just select program and adjust time.
– Automatically regulate and release pressure.
– Pot and lid clean up easily in dishwasher.
– Quieter and contained pressure/steam release.
– Portable to use with any electric outlet.

For beginners who want a foolproof cooker, Instant Pots are significantly easier to use straight out of the box. Their plug-and-play operation makes recipe cooking nearly effortless. However, experienced cooks may prefer the greater manual control of stovetop pressure cookers.


Versatility in cooking methods is another point of differentiation between the two cooker types:

Stovetop Pressure Cookers

– Excellent pressure cooking ability.
– Can brown/saute ingredients before pressure cooking.
– Primarily just used for pressure cooking recipes.
– Steam basket inserts available for steaming.
– Compatible stove required for searing and simmering.

Instant Pots

– Pressure cook, slow cook, sauté, make yogurt, steam, warm, etc.
– One appliance with multiple cooking functions.
– Can pressure cook then use slow cook automatically.
– Extra functions like making yogurt not possible on stove.
– More all-in-one cooking without extra appliances needed.

The multitude of cooking functions — pressure cook, slow cook, sauté, yogurt maker, warmer — make Instant Pots considerably more versatile than standard stovetop pressure cookers. You can cook a wider range of recipes in an Instant Pot using its varied cooking settings.

Price and Value

Here is how stovetop and electric pressure cookers typically compare in terms of price and overall value:

Stovetop Pressure Cookers

– Start around $30-60 for basic 4-6 quart models.
– Often less than $100 even for higher end options.
– Excellent value for just pressure cooking on a budget.
– Replacement parts are inexpensive if needed.
– Less electronics/technology so simpler to repair.

Instant Pots

– Start around $80-130 for entry-level models.
– Climb to $200+ for high-end “Smart” models.
– More costly but provide additional cooking functions.
– Convenience and features improve value for money.
– Value depends on number of functions utilized.
– Costlier repairs/parts.

Stovetop pressure cookers provide great bang for your buck if you just want a standalone cooker. But pricier Instant Pots can justify their cost for buyers wanting multi-use appliances. Instant Pot’s technology does come at a price however.

Maintenance and Durability

Ease of maintenance and long-term durability are also points of distinction:

Stovetop Pressure Cookers

– Easy to repair seals/gaskets and replace worn parts.
– Quality models can last decades with proper care.
– Stainless steel creates durable exterior.
– Extended boiler can cause mineral deposits.
– Requires more scrubbing to clean.

Instant Pots

– Inner pot is easily washed but exterior prone to scratches.
– Electronics can fail or malfunction after a few years.
– Mixed durability reports on some models.
– Shorter lifespan than stove pressure cookers.
– Difficult for user to troubleshoot issues.
– Costly to have serviced if broken.

Simple stovetop pressure cookers tend to have better longevity and repairability. But well-cared for Instant Pots typically still provide years of service. Proper maintenance is recommended for both appliances.


So which is better – a stovetop pressure cooker or an Instant Pot electric model? There are convincing arguments on both sides. Stovetop pressure cookers are fast, affordable, durable and provide unmatched pressure cooking ability. But they require close monitoring and involve some learning. Instant Pots are extremely convenient with their preset programs and extra functions, but they are pricier and don’t have as long a lifespan.

Ultimately the right choice depends on your cooking needs and preferences. For beginners or those wanting a multi-cooker, Instant Pots are easier and offer more versatility. But experienced cooks on a budget may prefer a basic stovetop pressure cooker strictly for speedy pressure cooking. You can’t go wrong with either appliance. But understanding the key differences allows you to determine which is better suited to your kitchen.