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Instant Pot pro crisp vs Ninja foodi max: We put the two leading brands to the test

They can both steam, grill, air fry and more, but which kitchen gadget would come out on top?

Qin Xie
Wednesday 29 September 2021 17:26
<p>These devices are designed to switch from pressure cooking to slow cooking at the touch of a button</p>

These devices are designed to switch from pressure cooking to slow cooking at the touch of a button

Steamers, grills, slow cookers and air fryers – our kitchens are so packed with different gadgets and appliances that it’s often hard to find any space to do actual food prep. But what if there was one gadget that could replace all the others? That’s where multi-cookers come in.

These multi-functional devices are designed to combine a whole host of different ways of cooking so that you can switch from pressure cooking to slow cooking at the touch of a button. And even better, their delay timer and keep warm functions mean your dinner is always ready when you are, instead of the other way round.

Having tested two top-of-the-range multi-cookers – the Ninja foodi max and the Instant Pot pro crisp – we can honestly say that the promises are true.

We were able to set the timer and then leave for our daily walk, before returning to a perfectly cooked dinner, no waiting by the stove needed. And the Sunday roast? It now takes just a fraction of the time. But perhaps best of all, the washing up is minimal as everything goes into a single dishwasher-safe pot.

Only one question remains: which is better?

Read more:

How we tested

The Ninja foodi max and Instant Pot pro crisp are extremely similar. They have almost all the same functions, are around the same size and even come with a similar price tag. It’s only fair, therefore, that we tested the same repertoire of recipes for these, ranging from soups and stews to sweet potato fries and, the holy grail, a whole roast chicken.

We looked for how easy different functions were to use, how clear the instructions were and of course, whether the results were any good. Here’s what we found.

Ninja foodi max 9-in-1 multi-cooker

Buy now £230, Ao.com

  • What you get: Main machine with air fryer lid attached, separate pressure lid, a 7.5l non-stick removable cooking pot, a two-tier rack (mainly for steaming), an air fryer basket with stand
  • Functions: pressure cook, steam, slow cook/yoghurt, sear/sauté, air crisp (air fry), grill, bake/roast, dehydrate and keep warm
  • Capacity: 7.5l
  • Power: 1760W
  • Weight: 11.3kg
  • Dimensions: 35cm x 42cm x 38cm

Ninja has long been the market leader for multi-cookers and the Ninja foodi max 9-in-1 multi-cooker is the biggest and most function-packed model they do.

It’s a squat machine that takes up a little bit more room on the counter than the Instant Pot version (£249.99, Instantbrands.co.uk), but its looped handles make it easy to carry from storage to counter. The enormous 7.5l capacity is great for cooking for bigger families and the wider, shallower dimensions of the main cooking pot means it’s much better for cooking things that need a bit more room, like a whole roast chicken or a joint of ham.

Read more: 7 best pressure cookers to get dinner on the table in a flash

We had great results using the Ninja foodi max. Using the pressure cooker setting, for example, we were able to make seriously flavourful soup in 15 minutes, without stirring once. The air fryer basket also rendered perfect sweet potato fries in no time. But our favourite function on this machine has to be the steamer, as the two-tier tray really helped to double the capacity when we needed it.

We also loved the fact that the air fryer lid was attached to the base of the machine. You just leave it upright when you’re using the pressure lid. This meant we didn’t need to find anywhere to store it when not in use or when it’s hot, and it just snapped into place when we needed it.

The non-stick surface of the main cooking pot made it super easy to clean and most of the time we just needed to give it a simple wipe. That said, if you have a stick blender with a metal rather than plastic attachment, you’ll have to decant the soup into another container before you can blitz it as otherwise you can damage the non-stick surface. You also have to be careful when lowering the stainless steel steaming racks into the pot for the same reason.

Read more: 7 best blenders for smoothies, soups and sauces

Another downside we found was that all of the functions are controlled using the central dial, rather than via one-touch buttons. It means you might have to scroll either backwards or forwards to get to the one you want, before pressing another button to use the dial to adjust the timing or temperature. In use, we kept accidentally switching it on and off, and then having to start over again. It doesn’t take that much more time of course, but it’s also not as convenient as it could be.

Instant pot pro crisp 11-in-1 multi-cooker

Buy now £249.99, Instantbrands.co.uk

  • What you get: Main machine, a pressure cooking lid and a separate air fryer lid (also used for baking, roasting and grilling), 7.6l stainless steel inner pot, steam rack, air fryer basket with stand, dehydrating tray, and protective pad storage lid
  • Functions: pressure cook, sauté, slow cook, steam, sous vide, air fry, roast, bake, grill, dehydrate, and keep warm
  • Capacity: 7.6l
  • Power: 1500W
  • Weight: 11.88 kg
  • Dimensions: 37.6cm × 31.9cm × 39cm

Instant Pot’s Pro Crisp multi-pressure cooker and air fryer only launched in the UK in summer 2021, so it’s relatively new to the market, although the brand has been making multi-cookers with a special focus on pressure cooking for years. They also have the Instant Pot duo crisp and air fryer (from £179.99, Instantbrands.co.uk), which is virtually identical in function and capacity; the pro crisp is essentially a sleek looking upgrade with an improved lid and display.

Read more: 8 best rice cookers for flawless, fluffy results every time

Compared to the Ninja foodi max (£230, Ao.com), the pro crisp is much taller and more compact, so it doesn’t take as much room on the counter, but it does require a higher overhead space for storage. At 7.6l (8l is mentioned in some places, but we found the working capacity is 7.6l), the difference in the amount of food you can cook is negligible.

Like the Ninja foodi max, the pro crisp has two lids, but they are both removable. This design means it’s easier to access the pot and there’s no need to worry about accidentally burning yourself on the hot air fryer lid. The downside of course is that you’ll need somewhere safe to put the lid down when it’s hot – Instant Pot’s solution is a heat-resistant protective pad that doubles as a storage cap. This is useful when you have a big kitchen but can be a game of Tetris when you don’t.

Another benefit of the Instant Pot is that the inner pot is stainless steel – so you don’t need to worry about using metal utensils – and it can be used on the stove, so it’s even more versatile. However, because of the high temperatures hitting the pan, the metal can discolour easily. This doesn’t affect its use, but it can look unsightly.

Read more: 8 best bread makers for delicious homemade loaves

We loved the results from the Pro Crisp. The pot came up to pressure more quickly than Ninja’s version, which reduced cooking time, and we were much less likely to accidentally knock the pressure valve into the vent position. We were also impressed by the speed with which it produced crispy sweet potato fries – the results were actually much better than the standalone air fryer we had, with zero shaking of the fryer basket needed. For roasting chicken though, the narrower cooking pot meant that we had to go with a smaller bird to make sure it fit properly.

The verdict: Ninja foodi max vs. Instant Pot pro crisp

On paper, the Ninja foodi max and the Instant Pot pro crisp are extremely similar. They have virtually the same functions, are around the same size and are sold for around the same price. To be honest, they both delivered great results.

But after testing the machines for a few weeks each, we found ourselves leaning towards the Instant Pot pro crisp. It’s marginally more expensive, but we felt it was worth it for the small features that saved us a bit of extra time.

There’s the stainless steel pot for example, which we don’t need to worry about scratching with metal utensils. There’s also the intuitive and easy to use control panel, where any of the functions can be selected just by pressing a button, and you can adjust the timing and temperature for each of the functions as well. Plus, it will even remember the settings from the last time you used it so there’s no need to reprogram it every time you use the machine.

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Still keen to deck our your kitchen with new useful gadgets? Then don’t forget to check out the best electric hand mixers on offer right now

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.

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