The Instant Pot has been one of the most popular appliances for several years now. Many home cooks don’t remember life before them. And yet, it wasn’t long ago that the stovetop pressure cooker was the optimal choice for pressure cooking.
In spite of their former popularity, many modern home cooks are intimidated by stovetop pressure cookers. They hiss and steam and might blow up the kitchen if not used correctly.
Is there a place for an old-fashioned pressure cooker in the new world of electric pressure cookers? Ready to learn more? Let’s dive in.
At a Glance: Isn’t Instant Pot Just a Pressure Cooker?
Yes, the Instant Pot is a pressure cooker. But it’s way more than just a pressure cooker.
The Instant Pot is truly a multi-cooker. It’s an electric pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, yoghurt maker, and sauté pan. The immense versatility is just one reason so many cooks find this appliance a must-have in their kitchens.
Both Instant Pots and stovetop pressure cookers trap steam and build pressure to cook food faster. The main difference comes down to convenience. But there are other considerations, as well.
If you need a versatile cooker and are prepared to learn how to use it, then go for the Instant Pot.
But if you prefer something with a small footprint or don’t want to learn how to use yet another appliance the Presto 8-Quart Pressure Cooker is a simple option.
The Instant Pot would also be the better option if you don’t have ready access to a stovetop as the Presto Pressure Cooker needs external heat.
Is an Instant Pot the best option for you? Or should you go with a traditional pressure cooker? Keep reading to learn more.
Pressure Cooker vs. Instant Pot: Product Reviews
Instant Pots have been wildly popular for the last few years, and it’s not hard to see why. From having multiple functions to flexible cooking times, the Instant Pot is great for the on-the-go cook.
The 6-quart (5.7 liters) option is the best for most people, but Instant Pot also offers a 3-quart (2.9 liters) and 8-quart (7.6 liters) option.
Literally, thousands of customers had high praise for their Instant Pots. They loved the versatility and how convenient it made cooking. Their biggest issues were the learning curve and the bulkiness.
This Presto Pressure Cooker holds 8 quarts (7.6 liters), so it’s large enough to cook for a crowd. You could easily fit a whole turkey or up to 2 pounds of beans.
It can cook three to ten times faster than regular cooking methods, saving you precious time in the kitchen.
Buyers were happy with the Presto Pressure Cooker. They liked the safety features, the ease of use, the budget-friendly price point, and the reliable performance. They didn’t love the aluminum sides that are prone to scratching and don’t look as nice after cleaning in the dishwasher.
Side by Side Features
In addition to pressure cooking, you can use the Presto pressure cooker as a traditional soup pot by removing the lid. You can brown meats and other food easily with the thick aluminum and stainless steel base.
However, the Presto’s functionality pales in comparison to the Instant Pot. The Instant Pot Duo has 15 one-touch cooking options. It serves as a pressure cooker, slow cooker, sauté pan, yogurt maker, steamer, warmer, rice cooker, sterilizer, and sous vide.
Instant Pot even makes a model with a built-in air fryer, although the Instant Pot Duo does not have an air fryer option.
With a springform pan, you can bake cheesecake or lasagna inside the Instant Pot. And with stackable containers, you can prepare different foods, like chicken curry and rice, simultaneously. The possibilities are almost endless.
The Presto is not a one-function appliance, but when it comes to the Instant Pot vs. pressure cooker, the winner is clear.
Winner: Instant Pot
The biggest difference between a traditional pressure cooker and an Instant Pot is the maximum level of PSI (pounds per square inch). PSI is the unit used to measure pressure. The higher the PSI, the more pressure.
A traditional pressure cooker can reach a PSI of 15 on the stovetop, while most Instant Pots, including the Duo, can only reach a PSI of 12.
That means a stovetop pressure cooker actually cooks faster than an Instant Pot. If your main goal is to save time by cooking faster, the traditional cooker wins.
Winner: Pressure Cookers
The Presto Pressure Cooker saves cooking time, but you have to be there to monitor that fast cooking. Leaving a pressure cooker unattended is dangerous.
To me, this is where the Instant Pot really shines. Much like a crock pot, you can “set it and forget it.” But unlike slow cookers, the Instant Pot has even more flexibility.
You can certainly use the Instant Pot for slow cooking, but you can also set a delay timer. This allows the food to cook at high pressure, just at a later time. You can have dinner ready upon getting home from work.
Or, you can set an earlier cook time and let the automatic warming function keep your food warm until you’re ready to eat. This is especially helpful for making rice, cooking beans, and other dishes.
I’m not a morning person, so I don’t often use my Instant Pot for slow cooking. But I frequently throw in the food right after work, go fold a load of laundry (or watch my favorite show), only to come back to a perfectly cooked meal 30 minutes later.
Whichever way you slice it, this kitchen appliance just makes life easier. Busy schedules are no match for Instant Pots. That convenience makes the Instant Pot a clear winner in this category.
Winner: Instant Pot
Pressure cookers are simple to use, but their results vary. That’s just the nature of stovetop cooking. There are variations in the heat source, heat settings, and of course, human error (cough, cough).
An electric pressure cooker applies an even, steady heat in comparison to stovetop cookers. Instant Pots also help remove the possibility of user error by having preset programs that automatically set the timing and pressure.
If you need a cooking appliance that takes the guesswork out of cooking, electric pressure cookers like Instant Pot are the way to go.
Winner: Instant Pot
Instant Pots are extremely versatile. It’s possible to make a wide variety of food, and there are so many recipes online to get you started. But with more options comes a bigger learning curve.
In fact, that was a common theme among user reviews. Even buyers who loved their Instant Pots still said it took some time to learn how to use it.
Some of this is learning how to pressure cook, while some of it comes down to personal preference. Learning the correct liquid-to-food ratios is important, as well as figuring out the digital controls.
And since the lid locks during the cooking program, you can’t open the lid and check the food. For all of these reasons, there will be some trial and error with an Instant Pot. Luckily, there are plenty of recipes and videos, like the one below, to help get you started.
The Presto pressure cooker is more straightforward. Follow these easy steps:
- Add the amount of liquid specified in the recipe.
- Check the vent pipe in the cover to make sure it’s unclogged. Place the pressure regulator firmly on the vent pipe.
- Heat the pressure cooker until the pressure regulator begins to rock slowly. Adjust heat to maintain a slow, steady rocking motion. Cooking time begins at this point.
- Cook food for the length of time specified in the recipe, then reduce the pressure. If the recipe says to let the pressure drop naturally, set the cooker aside to cool. If the recipe specifies to cool the cooker immediately, cool it by placing it under cold running water.
- When the air vent lock has dropped, the pressure is completely reduced. Remove the pressure regulator. Then, remove the pressure cooker cover and serve the food.
Winner: Pressure Cookers
I don’t like having a lot of kitchen appliances clutter my countertops, so I generally store them in the cabinets. This is definitely a challenge with my Instant Pot. There are only a couple of spots it will even fit.
The Presto Pressure Cooker, however, fits pretty much anywhere a saucepan would fit. The large 8-quart (7.57 liters) capacity might be more difficult to store, but its footprint is still quite a bit smaller than the Instant Pot.
If you need kitchen devices that save space as well as time, traditional pressure cookers win over the electric version.
Winner: Pressure Cookers
The old pressure cooker used to have a bad reputation, due to safety concerns. There were horrifying stories of exploding pots and hot food flying through the air.
Nowadays, though, these appliances come with several built-in safety features to prevent kitchen disasters.
The Presto Pressure Cooker has a cover lock, which indicates when there is pressure inside the cooker. This lock prevents the cover from being removed until the pressure is safely reduced.
Additionally, the Presto cooker has a pop-up pressure indicator and a simple steam release mechanism. There is an overpressure plug that will let off steam if it builds up excessively, which means you can cook without worry.
The Instant Pot Duo also has over ten safety features in place. For one, the safety valve releases pressure before you can open the lid, preventing burns from hot steam.
There is also an anti-block shield, which keeps food particles from clogging or blocking the steam release pipe. And the automatic lid lock keeps the lid closed during the cooking process.
Other safety mechanisms include burn detection, automatic temperature control, automatic pressure control, thermal fuse, an electrical fuse, lid position detection, and leaky lid detection.
Modern pressure cookers are completely safe with proper usage, but there’s no question that the Instant Pot has more fail-safes in place. So for safety, I would go with the Instant Pot vs. pressure cooker.
Winner: Instant Pot
Ease of Cleaning
The Instant Pot comes with a dishwasher-safe stainless steel inner pot, detachable lid, and accessories. I’ve found clean-up to be quick and easy, and loads of user reviews agree.
The Presto Pressure Cooker is also advertised as dishwasher-safe, but customers had mixed reviews about their experience with that. Several people said their pot turned in the dishwasher, and many others said to hand wash the pot.
In spite of that, most users found this Presto pot easy to clean. But for a completely painless cleanup, I would give Instant Pots a slight edge.
Winner: Instant Pot
With the multiple uses of an Instant Pot Duo, you might assume it’s significantly more expensive than the Presto Traditional Pressure Cooker. And while it is more expensive, it’s surprisingly affordable. Still, if you just want the least expensive option, the pressure cooker is it.
Winner: Pressure Cookers
Instant Pot vs. Pressure Cooker: Are there Alternatives?
GoWISE Pressure Cooker: Instant Pot Alternative
If you have your heart set on an electric pressure cooker, there are other options available in addition to the Instant Pot. This GoWISE Pressure Cooker, for example. It has a capacity of 6 or 8 quarts (5.86 or 7.57 liters, respectively), and it comes in a color choice of copper, silver, or stainless steel.
Like the Instant Pot, this GoWise pressure cooker is multi-functional. It’s a 12-in-1 model that works as a pressure cooker, slow cooker, yogurt and egg maker, steamer, rice cooker, sauté pan, canner, and more.
The keep warm setting is great for warming food. And just like the Instant Pot, this GoWISE cooker also has a delay timer. It has a non-stick inner pot and comes with a recipe guide for beginners.
Finally, the GoWISE cooker comes with a detachable cord for storage and a special pressure release button for safety.
Buyers were highly pleased with the GoWISE Pressure Cooker. They used it for cooking eggs, beans, chicken broth, and many more recipes. Some users said their cookers suddenly stopped working. Those who had this issue within the return window had good customer service, but those outside of that were out of luck.
You can expect this cooker to be similar in price, albeit slightly less expensive, than the Instant Pot.
Cuisinart Pressure Cooker: Presto Pressure Cooker Alternative
Cuisinart is known for its cookware and small appliances. This Cuisinart pressure cooker is designed for the stovetop and has a capacity of 8 quarts (7.57 liters).
This cooker offers many of the same benefits as the Presto cooker. The major pressure cooker differences lie in the handles, the dimensions, the construction, and the price.
While the Presto pressure cooker features a single, long handle, the Cuisinart has two side handles for carrying, with a lid handle for opening and closing.
Furthermore, the Presto is shorter and more squat like a saucepan, while the Cuisinart is narrow and taller, more like a stockpot.
Both pressure cookers have an aluminum encapsulated base, but the Presto has aluminum walls, while the Cuisinart has stainless steel walls. The result? This one does better in the dishwasher, and it holds in heat more effectively.
The biggest difference, however, is in the price. Expect to pay quite a bit more for the Cuisinart than the Presto.
The Advantages of Pressure Cookers & Buying Guide
How Pressure Cooking Works
Pressure cookers work via physics. When the lid is sealed, the inner pot traps steam and prevents it from escaping. This increases the pressure inside the cooking chamber. When that happens, it drives up the boiling point of liquids.
Normally, water boils at 212°F (100°C), but it can reach a boiling temperature of up to 250°F (121°C) in a pressure cooker. This means that food will cook faster without scorching.
In order for pressure cookers to work, you must add liquid to the pot. It’s also necessary to keep the lid closed. Most cookers have sealing rings and lid locks to keep the lids closed.
Check out this easy tutorial to get a good basic idea of how to use a pressure cooker:
What are the Pros of a Pressure Cooker?
Pressure cookers save time since you can cook food three to ten times faster than other methods. Most of them are made with strong, heavy-gauge aluminum for fast and even heating.
Pressure cookers save energy compared with slow cooking, which requires a low level of heat for several hours.
Pressure cooking preserves flavor and nutrients in food. The longer food cooks, the more nutrients are lost. Many people find pressure cooking to enhance the overall richness and taste of food.
Finally, pressure cookers result in less cleaning. Cooking with regular stovetop pots can leave residue on the stovetop and surrounding areas.
A pressure cooker, however, has a well-secured lid that prevents any splashes or spatters from escaping the pot. And when the cooking process is complete, there’s only one pot to wash.
Instant Pot vs. Pressure Cooker: Final Thoughts
If I had to pick between Instant Pot vs. Pressure Cooker, I would go with the Instant Pot. It just has so many uses and makes life easier, once you learn how to use it.
But if you need something with a small footprint or don’t want to spend the time learning the Instant Pot, the Presto 8-Quart Pressure Cooker is a user-friendly alternative.
Looking for another option? Check out my guide to find the best stovetop pressure cooker.