Anyone over the age of 30 reading this will remember a time, many years ago, when their mother would be standing watching a whistling, rattling pressure cooker do its thing in their kitchen. The pressure cooker was the coveted kitchen appliance of many busy mother’s who had to not only take care of a large family, but somehow manage to feed them all in as short a time as humanly possible. Over the years pressure cookers faded into the background as microwave ovens started to take over – at least until people realized that there’s still a lot of benefits to using a pressure cooker (speed, economy, taste, functionality) over a microwave, plus they don’t explode anymore.
In fact that’s the main reason why most people won’t even consider a pressure cooker – the myth that they explode randomly no matter what you do. The very earliest, and cheapest, pressure cookers suffered from failures like this, but a modern pressure cook is designed for that never to happen.
So the purpose of this buyers guide to is to show you all the reasons why pressure cookers are so great, while also providing reviews of some of the best pressure cookers money can buy.
Table of Contents
- 1 How A Pressure Cooker Works
- 2 Reasons For Buying A Pressure Cooker
- 3 Stovetop vs. Electric
- 4 Stainless Steel Vs Aluminum
- 5 Capacity
- 6 Cooker Shape
- 7 Important Features In Any Pressure Cooker
- 8 Our Top 5 Best Pressure Cooker Reviews
- 8.1 1) All American 10-Quart Pressure Cooker Review
- 8.2 2) Presto 01362 Stainless Steel 6-Quart Pressure Cooker Review
- 8.3 3) Instant Pot IP-LUX60 Programmable Pressure Cooker Review
- 8.4 4) Kuhn Rikon Duromatic Stainless-Steel Saucepan 8-Quart Pressure Cooker Review
- 8.5 5) Fagor Helix 6-Quart Pressure Cooker Review
- 9 Finally
How A Pressure Cooker Works
Without getting into thermodynamics a pressure cooker works by simply combining heat and pressure to cook your meals. Heat is transferred from the bottom of the vessel into the water stored inside it and this water is then heated to the point where it boils to become steam. Water/steam is a far better conductor of heat than air, so using steam at high temperatures to cook food is very energy efficient. The “pressure” element in this type of cooking comes from the fact that the heat and steam is trapped inside the pressure cooker chamber, so instead of it simply pouring out of the pot into your kitchen it’s forced back down and around whatever food items you happen to be cooking. This combination of heat and pressure is what allows a pressure cooker to have entire meals ready in almost no time at all.
Reasons For Buying A Pressure Cooker
There are lots of reasons for owning a pressure cooker and these include things like the fact that it drastically reduces the amount of time it takes to cook any meal, often from hours to just a few minutes. You can cook a 3 – 4 pound chicken in a pressure cooker in just 15-minutes for example. Then there’s the fact that pressure cookers are so energy efficient, meaning that you can save anywhere from 30% – 75% on the amount of energy you use to actually cook your meals in the first place.
If you’re struggling with a tough cut of meat simply popping it into your pressure cooker for a few minutes will make it tender enough for any member of your family to enjoy, plus it will have retained all of its flavor during the cooking process. Pressure cookers are also ideal for busy homes with lots of kids, where being able to prepare a starter, main course and desert in less than 30-minutes is pretty much the only way to survive your day. These cookers are also versatile in that you can cook with the lid off to brown or braise any meats you’re using before adding any liquids later on.
Lastly if you enjoy canning foods then you’re going to need a pressure cooker to make that happen – they’re ideal for this.
Stovetop vs. Electric
You’re going to find that people are either stovetop pressure cooker fans or electric pressure cooker fans – and they’ll be pretty entrenched in their opinions too. Obviously an electric pressure cooker has a built-in heating element meaning it can be used literally anywhere in your home, whereas a stovetop model will need to be exposed to a heat source from your stove or cooker to produce the heat it needs.
Electric pressure cookers are more popular because they automate much of the cooking process with digital timers and being able to maintain a consistent level of heat, and all without you having to stand over the cooker watching it and adjusting it as you cook. An electric pressure cooker will also be slightly larger and heavier due to the fact that the heating element is part of the design.
Stovetop cookers are more popular with people for reasons including the simple fact that most of them operate in the 10+ PSI range which is needed for you to follow most of the pressure cooker recipes you’ll find online or offline. A stovetop model will also reach the required pressure a lot more quickly than an electric one and, although some people hate the idea, being able to manually adjust the heat setting on a stovetop cooker can produce better tasting meals at the end of the day.
In a professional kitchen you’re more likely to find a stovetop pressure cooker, whereas most people cooking at home will opt for an electric pressure cooker instead.
Stainless Steel Vs Aluminum
In the ongoing argument about which type of metal is best for the construction of pressure cookers both stainless steel and aluminum have their own distinct advantages and disadvantages. Stainless steel models will last longer, look better as they get older, retain heat well but are also heavier and more expensive. Pressure cookers made from stainless steel also have the advantage of not retaining some of the odors of the foods cooked inside them – something which can’t be said of aluminum pressure cookers.
Aluminum pressure cookers on the other hand are lighter, cheaper and heat more quickly than stainless steel. Aluminum pressure cookers aren’t as durable as their stainless steel cousins, so don’t expect one to last as long, with the main reason why people choose aluminum pressure cookers being that they’re “cheaper”. An ideal pressure cooker would actually have an 18/10 stainless steel shell, but have a layer of aluminum in the base to conduct heat more quickly to the cooking chamber.
The actual size of the pressure cooker you buy will depend on the number of people you’re cooking for. Just bear in mind that whatever the stated capacity of a pressure cooker is that you can fit roughly half that amount of food or liquid inside it – the rest of the capacity is required for the steam to circulate and do its thing. Generally speaking a pressure cooker with a capacity of 4-quarts should the bare minimum you’d buy, and ideally a model with a capacity of 6 or 8-quarts would better suit a family of 4 or more people.
The shape of a pressure might seem like an odd thing to bring into this conversation, but do try to avoid buying a stovetop pressure cooker with a narrow base and a wide cooking chamber. The reason for this is that the interior of the cooking chamber is going to become scorched by the heat escaping around the base of the cooker itself – it can also cause the handles on a pressure cooker to fail unexpectedly. Always choose low wide pressure cooker pots, instead of tall skinny ones – one of the very few times in life you’ll ever hear anyone say that.
Important Features In Any Pressure Cooker
So now that you know more about the different types of pressure cookers it’s time to look at individual features and why they might be important to you. The good news is that because pressure cookers don’t have many moving parts there are very few features that you’ll actually need to remember for when you’re shopping.
PSI stands for Pounds per Square Inch, and is a measure of how much pressure the cooker can use to cook your meals. Basically you should be shopping for a pressure cooker which is capable of cooking at 10 PSI or higher – 15 PSI being the ideal figure. Pressure cookers with a rating of less than 10 PSI can still cook your meals properly; it’s just going to take a lot longer. PSI is the pressure cooker equivalent to watts with microwave or convection ovens – more is always better.
Regardless of whether you buy a stovetop or electric pressure cooker it will come with a pressure regulator of some kind, allowing you and the cooker to control the pressure level inside the cooking chamber. There are 3 different types of pressure regulators: weighted valve, modified valve and spring valve, all of which should be capable of releasing pressure from the cooker when it reaches 15 PSI.
A weighted valve pressure regulator is the kind that starts to jiggle when cooking starts and automatically releases steam during the cooking process. A modified weighted valve does the same job but without any of the jiggling, it just slowly releases team during cooking instead. A spring-valve pressure regulator will simply pop up when the cooker has produced between 10 and 15 PSI, but the only problem is that you probably won’t hear a spring valve release itself, so you’ll need to watch the cooker very carefully.
To ensure that you can handle a larger pressure cooker safely you should make sure that it comes with two sturdy side handles fitted to it. Always remember that once your pressure cooker is full its weight can double or triple, so large handles are one easy way to prevent spillages and other accidents.
A cover lock should serve two functions. Firstly it should stop the cooker from building pressure until you’re ready to lock everything down, and then secondly it keeps the cover locked in place until you’re ready to reduce the pressure in your cooker.
If you want to really enjoy meal preparation with your new pressure cooker then make sure it comes with a cooking rack and steaming basket – this helps keep different types of food separate from each other, plus a lot of recipes will require you to have one or both of these. You can always buy them separately later on but why spend the extra cash when you shouldn’t have to?
Our Top 5 Best Pressure Cooker Reviews
Now folks we have our five pressure cooker reviews – covering all the important features, and prices, of some of the best pressure cookers available today.
1) All American 10-Quart Pressure Cooker Review
If want a heavy-duty pressure cooker then this model from All American might be just perfect for you – especially if you love canning. This is a high-capacity stovetop pressure cooker with an extremely efficient steam sealing system which doesn’t use any gaskets, so there’s no risk of the gasket failing. This pressure cooker is made from aluminum and can provide you with up to 15 PSI of cooking pressure. With almost 900 positive reviews on Amazon so far you really can’t go wrong by spending around $170 on the All American 10-Quart Cooker, bearing in mind that it is suitable for normal cooking, but is designed more for the avid canner.
2) Presto 01362 Stainless Steel 6-Quart Pressure Cooker Review
This more modestly sized pressure cooker from Presto is better suited to use in the average family kitchen, by smaller families. With a 6-quart capacity this cooker can have your meals ready up to 10 times faster than a regular oven, and your meals are going to taste better too. The Presto 01362 is made from stainless steel and has a pop-up pressure indicator and also features an extremely secure lid which can be locked in place for the duration of your cooking. Costing less than $50 this is also one of the more economical stovetop pressure cookers we’ve reviewed so far.
3) Instant Pot IP-LUX60 Programmable Pressure Cooker Review
This pressure cooker is a 6.3-quart electric model, the first in this roundup. The Instant Pot IP-LUX60 has a clear and user-friendly control panel with a number of pre-set functions for soup, rice, stew, steaming and even a “bean/chili” setting. This pressure cooker is also very family-friendly because the internal sensors prevent the lid from being removed while the cooking chamber is still pressurized, just one of the 10 different safety mechanisms this cooker offers. Almost 400 positive customer reviews and a price tag of under $120 means you’re getting a lot of bang for your buck with this pressure cooker.
4) Kuhn Rikon Duromatic Stainless-Steel Saucepan 8-Quart Pressure Cooker Review
With a capacity of almost 8-quarts the Kuhn Rikon Duromatic pressure cooker is big enough for even some of the larger families reading this. This Swiss-made kitchen appliance is a stovetop model which has an 18/10 stainless steel shell with an aluminum core, which allows it to heat and get to pressure more quickly. This pressure cooker has additional safety features like a lid system which locks itself automatically and there’s an easily visible pressure release valve on it too – you won’t need to guess where it is. At almost $185 the Kuhn Rikon Duromatic isn’t exactly cheap, but you are getting Swiss engineering here.
5) Fagor Helix 6-Quart Pressure Cooker Review
Important features on this Fagor pressure cooker are the 18/10 stainless steel construction and the two carrying handles for when you need to move it. This stovetop pressure cooker includes a steamer basket, and also has a triple safety system which prevents anyone from opening the cooker while the internal chamber is still under pressure. Offering cooking capabilities of up to 15 PSI the Fagor Futuro has enough capacity and cooking power for most average families. At just under $110 it’s also more of a budget-friendly pressure cooker, but a high performance appliance despite its economical price tag.
So are you ready to be part of the renaissance in pressure cooking that the culinary world is experiencing right now? You know everything you need to know about them, so go forth and shop dear readers!