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It seems there’s an appliance for everything: one for making rice, another for slow cooking soups and stews, and many more for steaming, air frying, dehydrating, pressure cooking, and so on. While a healthy collection of kitchen appliances allows you to make a variety of dishes, it also requires plenty of storage space and creates more dishes to wash. The solution? Replace several appliances with the convenience of a multi-cooker, which has multiple functionalities.
When I first learned about multi-cookers, I was an instant converter. One appliance to replace my rice cooker, slow cooker, pressure cooker, and more? Sign me up. I bought my first multi-cooker more than four years ago and have since used it on a weekly basis to make rice, beans, soups, veggies, and much more.
Before you join me in the multi-cooker life, a big consideration to make is what functions you definitely need. If this is more for making beans and rice than sous viding and yogurt-making, don't pay for presets you won't use. You also should buy the size most useful for you and your life. Households with four or more people will need larger models, while a single person can get away with a small one.
However you plan on using your multi-cooker to streamline your kitchen, here are the best multi-cookers around.
Best Overall: Instant Pot Duo Crisp + Air Fryer 11-in-1 (8 Quart)
What We Love: 11 pre-programmed functions, large capacity
What We Don’t Love: Large footprint
Instant Pot is a well-known brand and maker of multi-cookers, though the brand is often pegged as the go-to maker of pressure cookers. Spoiler alert: Instant Pot pressure cookers are multi-cookers since they offer several additional cooking programs. This 11-in-1 model pressure cooks, sautés, steams, slow cooks, sous vide, warms, air fries, roasts, bakes, broils, and dehydrates all with one appliance. However, it’s a large unit that requires ample storage space and, at 22 pounds, might be too heavy to store away.
Jenna Helwig, author of "The Multi-Cooker Baby Food Cookbook," exclusively uses and recommends Instant Pot multi-cookers, not only for families but for everyone. "I have stuck to the Instant Pot brand for several years now and would recommend the Duo 11-in-1," she says. "It's a straightforward model with plenty of functions. You can use an Instant Pot to make brown rice, applesauce, dried beans, risotto, and even yogurt. It can do all that and much more."
With 11 different functions, you may wonder if the Instant Pot is confusing or difficult to use. "Once you get your multi-cooker, dive right in and use it as soon as possible," advises Helwig. "If you’ve never used one before, it may be intimidating, but practice makes perfect. Once you get past the learning curve, these appliances are really intuitive and you’ll find yourself enjoying it." Of course, we have a guide to help you use an Instant Pot.
Dimensions (LxWxH): 14.8 x 13.6 x 14.2 inches | Capacity: 8 quarts | Wattage: 1500 W
Best Budget: Hamilton Beach 4.5-Quart Digital Multi-Cooker
What We Love: Affordable, multiple settings for rice and grains, 14 pre-programmed settings
What We Don’t Love: Smaller capacity, doesn’t slow cook, pressure cook, or air fry
If you’re looking for a basic multi-cooker on a budget, consider this Hamilton Beach model. It allows you to make various types of rice and grains, sauté, steam, simmer, sear, and keep warm. While the bells and whistles of fancier multi-cookers are nice, they might not be necessary for your everyday cooking.
The nonstick inner pot is removable and dishwasher safe for easy cleanup. It also includes a steaming basket for rinsing rice or steaming vegetables without oil. The easy-to-use interface of the unit has more than a dozen functions, including delay start and a programmable timer.
However, those specifically looking to slow cook, pressure cook, and air fry should note this model does not have those cooking functions. Still, with 14 pre-programmed settings, this appliance does a lot more than your average rice cooker. It automatically shifts to a "keep warm" setting when done cooking, which is a thoughtful touch.
Dimensions (LxWxH): 10.63 x 11.5 x 12 inches | Capacity: 4.5 quarts | Wattage: N/A
Best for Large Families: Ninja Foodi 8-Qt. 9-in-1 Deluxe XL Pressure Cooker and Air Fryer
What We Love: Nonstick coating, two-layer rack, safety features
What We Don’t Love: Pricey
Many multi-cookers have the same functions, so they can pressure cook, slow cook, air fry, steam, and more. What sets them apart? The Ninja Foodi stands out for several reasons. The large capacity allows up to a 7-pound chicken or eight chicken breasts to feed a family. Cooking with Ninja's proprietary TenderCrisp technology, which locks in moisture and creates a crispy exterior, combines the best of a pressure cooker and air fryer in one.
This multi-cooker offers nine pre-programmed functions to elevate your cooking: pressure cook, air fry, steam, slow cook, yogurt, sear/sauté, bake/roast, broil, and dehydrate. Inside, you'll find a dishwasher-safe ceramic-coated basket and a 2-layer reversible rack. Ninja also designed 14 safety features, so you won't end up with a messy kitchen. Though it’s a pricey unit, this model replaces several appliances, and the stainless steel exterior looks nice on countertops.
Dimensions (LxWxH): 16.1 x 14.6 x 14.3 inches | Capacity: 8 quarts | Wattage: 1760 W
Related: The Best Instant Pots
Best Compact: COMFEE' 6-in-1 Stainless Steel Multi Cooker
What We Love: LED display, easy to clean
What We Don’t Love: Small capacity, less versatile than other models
With a 2-quart capacity, this is a compact multi-cooker that’s perfect for small kitchens or anytime you need a portable one. Though it’s small, it has six 1-touch programs: white rice, brown rice, steam, slow cook, quinoa, and oatmeal. It can also still fit up to 8 cups of cooked rice and handle other everyday tasks like hard-boiling eggs.
It’s made of durable, food-grade stainless steel, which is easy to clean by wiping it down with a cloth. The nonstick inner pot and all the included accessories—steaming tray, measuring cup, and serving spatula—are dishwasher-safe. If you’re concerned about safety, this model has built-in overheating protection. It also has cool-touch handles to prevent contact with hot surfaces when opening the lid.
Dimensions (LxWxH): 9 x 8.8 x 9.52 inches | Capacity: 2 quarts | Wattage: 650 W
Related: The Best Rice Cookers
Best Design: De'Longhi Livenza All-in-One Programmable Multi-Cooker
What We Love: LCD screen, easy to clean, precisely calibrated temperature settings
What We Don’t Love: Pricey, only 5 cooking modes
When looking at multi-cookers, they can all start to look the same. Many have a similar cylinder shape and some variation of stainless steel and black finish on the exterior, design cues from pressure cooking. This is why the De’Longhi Livenza model stands out for its sleek and sophisticated design and interface. It’s shaped much like a slow cooker, so it takes up more horizontal space than vertical space. This design is excellent for leaving out on the countertop instead of stowing away under the cabinet. The stainless steel finish and LCD screen add to the sophistication and the desire to show it off.
For those looking for an intuitive multitasker, this model is easy-to-use. The left dial sets your program, while the right helps you set the exact temperature needed. While having several functions and settings is convenient, it can also be overwhelming. This De’Longhi model has a simplified interface, making it easy to select one of the five cooking modes: brown and sauté, steam, rice, bake, and slow cook. Once you're done, the internal handled pot is safe to go in the dishwasher.
Dimensions (LxWxH): 12.4 x 18.1 x 10.8 inches | Capacity: 6 quarts | Wattage: 1350 W
Related: The Best Slow Cookers
The Instant Pot Duo Crisp 11-in-1 (view at Amazon) is our top pick because its versatility is unmatched. While many multi-cookers have rice cooking, steaming, and slow cooking capabilities, this model also air fries, dehydrates, pressure cooks, broils, and more. For those on a budget, the Hamilton Beach (view at Amazon) is a sound choice for making the basics. While it has fewer bells and whistles, it’s perfect for cooking the basics like grains and vegetables.
What to Look for When Buying a Multi-Cooker
When looking for the right multi-cooker for your kitchen, the search starts with size. The standard capacity for a multi-cooker is about 6 quarts, which can yield approximately 24 cups of cooked rice. Some models for larger families can hold 8 quarts or more of cooked food, while smaller units can hold as little as 2 quarts.
The sweet spot for you depends on the size of your family and how much food you intend on cooking at a time. If events and batch cooking are a regular part of your lifestyle, opt for a larger size. For compact kitchens, a smaller capacity will do the job just fine while saving on space.
Like any small kitchen appliance or tool, you’ll want to ensure your multi-cooker is equipped with safety features. This is especially true if you have small children in your household. Many multi-cookers have safety mechanisms to eliminate errors and prevent accidents. This can include cool-touch handles, locking lid, built-in overheating protection, automatic keep-warm function, pressure control, temperature control, and more. If your multi-cooker can pressure cook, safety is an extra important consideration.
At its core, a multi-cooker is a small kitchen appliance that cooks rice and other types of food. A multi-cooker usually has options to cook grains, steam and sauté vegetables, and cook soup, though more sophisticated units can have more than a dozen pre-programmed cooking functions.
Some of the more pricey models can replace your air fryer, slow cooker, pressure cooker, dehydrator, vegetable steamer, rice cooker, and more. They may even have options for broiling, roasting, and sous vide cooking. If versatility is important to you, look for a model that offers a handful of cooking functions with preset buttons for easy use.
Can you make canned foods in a multi-cooker?
Electric multi-cookers with pressure cooking functionalities can be used to make canned foods. High temperature and pressure are required to make canned vegetables, meat, poultry, seafood, and other foods in a multi-cooker. You will be limited by size though, which might make a pressure cooker a better investment.
Can you bake in a multi-cooker?
Some multi-cookers allow you to roast and broil like you would with your oven. Depending on the model, you can use a multi-cooker to bake various foods, such as baking a cheesecake. You can get by with it, but for more complex desserts, stick to your regular oven.
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Lacey Muinos is a food, nutrition, and wellness writer with a growing collection of kitchen appliances and gadgets. She has been a multi-cooker converter for more than four years and doesn’t see herself going back anytime soon.
Read Next: The Best Pressure Cookers