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Electric Pressure Cookers

Published January 2013
UPDATE: JULY 2016
Our winning electric pressure cooker, the Emeril 1,000-Watt 6-Quart Electric Pressure Cooker by T-fal, has been discontinued. The Cuisinart 100-Watt 6-Quart Electric Pressure Cooker is now our top-rated model.

How we tested

Electric pressure cookers offer one big advantage over stovetop models: You don’t have to watch the pot—you can set it and walk away. And many models will produce great food in your absence, too. But we’ve found electric models to have several disadvantages.

Convenience at What Cost?

First, they usually hold only 6 quarts—probably because their surrounding housing makes them quite large—whereas we prefer the more practical capacity of an 8-quart cooker. (We found one 8-quart electric model, but because of its confusing controls, poor durability, and weak performance, we could not recommend it.) Inside electric pressure cookers, food actually cooks in a small liner pot, like that of a rice cooker. These pots have a nonstick coating, which is far less durable than stainless steel stovetop models—we saw dings and worn areas in the nonstick coating after just a few uses—and the pots are light, slippery, and unanchored, so they spun around as we stirred food. Because they lack handles, they also felt dangerous when we needed to pour off hot liquid. Their heating elements are weaker than those of a stove, so browning food in them can be challenging (some more so than others—the worst kept switching itself off as we sautéed). And all switch to “keep warm” mode after cooking. While this seems good, the downside is that many recipes call for a quick release of pressure to stop cooking. So you have to return just when cooking is done to vent steam and manually shut off the pot, or food will overcook. We also discovered that they can switch to “keep warm” mode during cooking when there’s not enough liquid in the pot—a problem when cooking large pieces of meat such as a whole chicken or meatloaf. And storage is an issue: Electric cookers take up a lot of space compared with stovetop models, which can also be used as regular stockpots or saucepans (some manufacturers separately sell plain lids for this purpose).

The Best Electric Pressure Cookers

Given these factors, we prefer stovetop models, but if you want an electric cooker, we recommend, albeit with caveats, our winner, which was easiest to use, cooked best, and lost the least amount of liquid through evaporation. Close behind in design and performance was our runner-up.

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The Results

Winner
Recommended

Design Trifecta 360 Knife Block

Admittedly expensive, this handsome block certainly seemed to live up to its billing as “the last knife block you ever have to buy.” The heaviest model in our testing, this block was ultrastable, and its durable bamboo exterior was a breeze to clean. Well-placed medium-strength magnets made it easy to attach all our knives, and a rotating base gave us quick access to them. One tiny quibble: The blade of our 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a little.

$248.64*
Recommended

Schmidt Brothers Downtown Block

This roomy block completely sheathed our entire winning knife set using just one of its two sides—and quite securely, thanks to long, medium-strength magnet bars. Heavy, with a grippy base, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard made this model extra-safe but also made it a little trickier to insert knives and to clean; the wood block itself showed some minor cosmetic scratching during use.

$141.90*

Schmidt Brothers Midtown Block

This smaller version of the Downtown Block secured all our knives nicely, though the blade of the slicing knife stuck out a bit. With a base lined with grippy material, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard afforded extra protection against contact with blades but made it a little harder to insert knives and to clean; the wood itself got a little scratched during use.

$67.99*
Recommended with Reservations

Swissmar Bamboo Magnetic Knife Block

This small, scratch-resistant model had a stable, rubber-lined base and could hold all our knives, though the blade of the 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a bit. But inch-long gaps between its small magnets made coverage uneven and forced us to find the magnetic hot spots in order to secure the knives. Its acrylic guard made it safer to use but harder to insert knives and to clean.

$49.93*
Not Recommended

Messermeister Walnut Magnet Block

This handsome block was done in by its shape—a tippy, top-heavy quarter-circle that wasn’t tall or broad enough to keep the blades of three knives from poking out. It lacked a nonslip base, and its extra-strong magnets made it unnerving to attach or remove our heavy cleaver. Finally, it got a bit scratched after extensive use.

$129.95*

Epicurean Standing Knife Rack 12"

This magnetic block sheathed all our knives completely, though with a bit of crowding. But it was hard to insert each knife without hitting the block’s decorative slats on way down, and because the block was light and narrow, it wobbled when bumped. Worse, we couldn’t take it apart, so splatters that hit the interior were there to stay. Additionally, the outside stained easily, and when we wiped it down, the unit smelled like wet dog.

$99.95*

Kapoosh Rondelle Knife Block

This model stabilized knives with a mass of stiff, spaghetti-like bristles that shed and nicked easily after extensive use, covering our knives with plastic debris. While all our knives fit securely, several of the blades stuck out, making this unit feel less safe overall. Finally, though the bristles could be removed and cleaned in the dishwasher, their nooks and crannies made this block hard to wash by hand.

$24.99*

Kuhn Rikon Vision Knife Block, Clear

This plastic block required us to aim each knife into the folds of an accordion-pleated insert that was removable for easy cleaning but got nicked easily with repeated use. Because we could only insert the knives vertically, longer knife blades stuck out; a cleaver was too wide to fit. The lightest model in our lineup, this block was dangerously top-heavy when loaded with knives.

$35.88*