Kristen Hicks on August 29, 2016 2 Comments Table of Contents What is a Pressure Cooker? Why You Should Buy One Types of Pressure Cookers Factors to Consider While Shopping Customer Reviews of Popular Brands If you spend much time cooking, you’ve probably come across recipes that suggest using a pressure cooker. With all the different cooking appliances available these days, you may wonder just why you would possibly need one more thing. Our guide below will give you a better idea of why you should own a pressure cooker, the benefits of this cooking style and the main factors you should keep in mind while browsing your options. What is a Pressure Cooker? A pressure cooker is defined as any air-tight vessel, be it an electric appliance or cookware, that utilizes the build-up of steam to quickly cook food. By heating up a small amount of liquid within the closed vessel, you create steam that is unable to escape. This build-up of steam will increase the temperature and pressure within the vessel, and, ultimately, cook the food inside. Why You Should Buy a Pressure Cooker The concept of pressure cooking was first thought of back in the 17th century. As you can imagine, this cooking technique has evolved quite a bit since that time. However, the advantages of pressure cooking have remained pretty consistent over the years. But, despite the deep history of this cooking technique, do you really need a pressure cooker? No, probably not. The truth is that you could likely cook many of the same foods and recipes without buying a pressure cooker. However, there are many benefits that come with owning one, and it will greatly improve your day-to-day meals. Here’s a few benefits you should expect from using a pressure cooker. Have You Found the Best Pressure Cooker? 1. It Will Save You Time This has always been the biggest selling point of owning a pressure cooker. You can cook many of your favorite recipes in less time than they take with other cooking methods. Where a pot of soaked beans will normally take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour to cook on the stove, a pressure cooker will have them done in less than 10 minutes. From pot roast to chicken to chili, you will be able to dramatically slash the time it takes to cook all of your favorite foods. 2. Your Food Will Retain More Nutrients Research has shown that pressure cooking can help retain many of the vitamins and nutrients within various types of food. Arguably, this cooking style is better at retaining nutrients than any other cooking method. Cooking food for longer periods of time means that some of the liquids you’re cooking evaporate, and nutrients start to get cooked out. Since pressure cookers cook the food at a faster rate and retain more of the liquids, you enjoy more of the nutritional benefits of the foods you eat. 3. It’s Better for the Environment Those time savings amount to energy savings as well. A pressure cooker will take far less time than a cooktop or oven, which means using less energy. In regard to total cooking time, a microwave may be able to cook at a quicker pace, but it often requires more power to operate and you still have lower-quality food with all the nutrients being nuked. By using a pressure cooker, you slash the amount of time and energy required per each recipe, yet still retain the food quality and nutritional benefits. 4. It Involves Less Cleanup When you cook on the stove or range, you end up with splatters, spills and crumbs that all have to be cleaned up, and done so relatively quickly before it “bakes” onto the surface. You also end up with additional pots and pans that need to be taken care of. With a pressure cooker, you can eliminate many of these extra pots and pans. Many recipes call for you to combine foods into the unit, allowing you to only worry about cleaning the cutting board, knife and other prep required. 5. Your Food Will Be More Flavorful A pressure cooker makes use of the liquids in the pot, rather than letting them evaporate away and take some of the flavor with them. Your flavors get trapped in with the food itself. This leaves you with a tasty and savory meal, not only retaining all the vitamins and nutrients, but the delicious flavors as well. 6. Don’t Worry, Modern Pressure Cookers are Safe And if you’re worried about old stories of pressure cookers exploding, don’t fret. Yes, it has happened in many kitchens, but pressure cookers have become safer and safer as the technology continues to evolve. With so many brands manufacturing these devices, the demand from consumers have forced safety innovation making these just as safe as other cooking techniques. When used properly, these small appliances are just as safe as your oven or stove. Types of Pressure Cookers If you’re convinced of the benefits and ready to think about buying, you have two main types of pressure cookers to choose from. 1. Stovetop Pressure Cookers Shop for a Stovetop Pressure Cooker on Amazon Stovetop pressure cookers are, as the name suggests, heated on your stove rather than using their own power source. They’re usually of a comparable size to other pots and pans you’re likely to have in your cupboards and can be stored alongside them. They work faster than electric pressure cookers. They don’t take as long to start up (what you’ll see called time to pressure), and you can get to your food faster once it’s done (what you’ll see called release time). You do need to keep an eye on stovetop pressure cookers when they’re in use and adjust the heat manually as you go. You’ll also need to make use of your other kitchen timers, as most models don’t have one built in. One big benefit of stovetop pressure cookers in comparison to electric is their resilience – you can count on most models to last you a couple of decades, especially if you get one made of stainless steel. Benefits: Faster to cook with. Easy to store – require no counter space. Last a long time. Have a higher PSI. Are usually pretty affordable. To Keep in Mind: Require more attention. You have to use an external timer. 2. Electric Pressure Cookers Shop for an Electric Pressure Cooker on Amazon Electric pressure cookers are popular with chefs who want an easier cooking experience. While it takes longer to get started cooking with them and you have to wait longer to remove the food when its done, while it’s cooking you can leave the pressure cooker and shift your attention to other things. The cooker itself monitors the temperature and makes any needed changes so you don’t have to worry about it. Electric pressure cookers are a bit more efficient in terms of the amount of energy they use but, as the heat source is built in, they tend to be much bulkier than stovetop models and take up a lot of counter space. Because their PSI isn’t as high (so they never reach as high a level of pressure as most stovetop cookers), the timing providing in many pressure cooker recipes won’t be quite right and you’ll have to learn to adjust. Unfortunately, the electric components usually mean the pressure cookers don’t last nearly as long as stovetop models do. While some brands may hold out longer, you should only count on these to work for a few years at most. Benefits: Easier to cook with. Better energy efficiency. Heat source and timer built in. To Keep in Mind: Tend to cost more. Take longer to cook with. Big and bulky – take up counter space and are harder to store. Low PSI. Factors to Consider While Shopping There are a lot of similarities in the pressure cookers you’ll find on the market, but there are a few key differences and features that you should keep an eye out for. To help you find the best pressure cooker for your unique situation, we’ve listed out a few things to keep in mind while shopping. PSI PSI (pounds per square inch) is the measurement of how much pressure your pressure cooker can cook with. The unofficial standard for pressure cooking is 15 PSI – this is what most of the recipes you find will use. Ideally, you want to find a pressure cooker that gets up to 15 PSI (you won’t find any that go above that). Most stovetop pressure cookers will reach that level, however many electric pressure cookers will only get up to 10 or 12 PSI. With these, you still get all the benefits of a pressure cooker, in comparison to other types of cooking, but don’t get as much of them as you do with 15 PSI. Safety Any pressure cooker you buy should have a lid that fits secure and tight, as well as strong handles that are easy to grip, so you don’t risk dropping it. Your pressure cooker should also have precision valve pressure regulators that make sure enough steam gets released and regulates the internal pressure while you’re cooking. You also want to look for a pressure cooker with a locking feature for the lid – if you remove the lid from a pressure cooker while it’s cooking you’re likely to end up with some burns from the splattered food and steam. As long as you’re buying a pressure cooker made within the last few years, it should have the standard safety features you need. If you come across an older first-generation pressure cooker for sale, don’t bother. Even if the price is attractive or the vintage look calls to you, the safety concerns make using it a bad idea. Even if you’re going with a modern model with the standard safety features, do take time to read the manual. When dealing with the levels of heat and pressure involved in pressure cooking, simple errors can turn into serious burns. Obviously, these are extreme circumstances, but it can happen if you don’t operate the device in the appropriate manner. As long as you follow the instructions for your pressure cooker, you shouldn’t face any serious risk. Cost Most pressure cookers fall somewhere within the $50-$200 price range. You’ll find a lot of reasons for the price differences. Some of the main ones are the material the pressure cooker is made of, the size of it, the reputation of the brand, and the accessories that come with it. While it’s not a hard and fast rule, electric pressure cookers tend to be a bit more expensive. Do your research before going for the cheapest option. In many cases, spending a little more upfront for your pressure cooker will save you money over time in energy costs (and save you loads of time as well). Pressure Settings Since 15 PSI is the accepted standard for pressure cooking, not all devices even come with more then one pressure setting. Many consumers that use pressure cookers may not ever feel a need or desire to switch to a lower setting. But some models will come with multiple settings – they could be labeled low (usually 6-8 PSI), medium (usually 8-13 PSI) and high (13-15 PSI), or have more informative names like warm, steam, brown, and slow-cook (check your manual for the level of PSI in that case). These lower settings may be used on occasion for items like delicate seafood (lobster or shrimp, for instance), vegetables you’d like to keep crispy, and sometimes rice. Oftentimes, you will find these devices branded as multi-cookers, as they have the ability to act as a slow cooker and rice cooker. For many people, a multi-cooking device may be the best choice. Size & Capacity When deciding on the size of your pressure cooker, you need to consider two main things: how much food you’ll be wanting to make at a time, and how much space you have in your kitchen. The latter consideration is a little easier to handle with a stovetop pressure cooker, which can usually be stored with your pots and pans. An electric pressure cooker is a little trickier, however, as you’ll either need counter space or a sizeable cabinet for it. The capacity of the cooker itself is typically measured in quarts. Like most kitchen appliances, these can range from small to unusually large. For most people, however, a simple 8-quart or 10-quart pressure cooker will suffice. Keep an eye out for devices that offer multiple pot sizes. While they may be more expensive, this will give you more flexibility to select different sizes to match the recipe you’re cooking. Valve Types The pressure-regulating valve on your pressure cooker is an important part of what makes its use safe. Different pressure cookers will offer different types of valves to serve this purpose though. The spring valve is a pop-up valve that lets you know the pressure level. It’s available on most higher-end models and is valued by many consumers because it’s the quietest option and uses less energy. You may also come across models with weighted valves or modified weighted valves, these will both do the job but they make you aware of pressure levels through a rocking motion that can get loud and requires you to pay close attention. Material The two primary materials that pressure cookers come in include: stainless steel and aluminum. Stainless steel pressure cookers will be more expensive and heavier, but are known for durability. Aluminum models are lightweight and have a lower price point, but the weaker material gives them a shorter lifespan. Although stainless steel is widely regarded as the superior model, aluminum does cook more evenly. Many stainless steel models come with a layered base to help make up the difference, so if you go with stainless steel be on the lookout for a model that includes this feature. You may also occasionally come across a pressure cooker with a non-stick interior. While the idea of easier cleaning may be tempting, the non-stick material doesn’t usually fare well with the high pressures you’ll be cooking with and won’t last long, so non-stick interiors are best avoided. Extra Features to Consider: Those are the most important considerations, but here are a few extras that are worth keeping an eye out for: Cooking Rack: Most pressure cookers come with a cooking rack. These are useful for steaming vegetables or any other types of food that you want to keep above the water line. These will allow you to cook multiple types of food, within the same unit. You may be able to find a cooking rack as a separate add-on. Recipe Book: While a book of pressure cooker recipes are not a necessity in the days of the web, some devices will have a recipe book packaged with them. It can be a nice value-add for coming up with ideas for ways to use your pressure cooker. With that said, here are the top-rated pressure cooker cookbooks on Amazon. Different Sized Cooking Pots: You’ll likely find yourself wanting to cook different quantities at different times and having the appropriate size of pot can come in handy. Pressure Canning: Some larger models can be used for pressure canning as well, but you shouldn’t try pressure canning with any pressure cooker unless the manual specifies that it’s safe to use it for such. Warranty: A warranty is always a good sign that a company stands behind their product and you can count on it to last. Likely, you won’t ever have to use it, but it’s nice to have, nonetheless. Popular Brands of Pressure Cookers Once you have a pretty clear idea of what you most want in a pressure cooker, you need to consider the best brand to go with. Since stovetop pressure cookers can be counted on to last for so long, you don’t want to end up with a brand that doesn’t last as long as your pressure cooker itself does or you might end up having to buy a whole new pressure cooker in a few years when all you need is one small part. We checked out the consumer reviews of some of the most popular brands on the market to get an idea of what customers think of them. All American All American is known for selling very large high-end pressure cookers. If you want a pressure cooker that can cook especially large quantities, can be used for pressure canning, and you have a lot of money to spend, their models get pretty solid reviews. For most consumers looking for a pressure cooker though, they do and hold more than you’ll need and you can find good alternatives at much lower prices. Cuisinart Cuisinart is a well-known brand when it comes to kitchen appliances. Perhaps better known for their coffee makers and countertop toaster ovens, Cuisinart has certainly carved their name into homes and kitchens all around the world. With a reputation for well-made and affordable appliances, Cuisinart’s line of pressure cookers are no different. Finding critical reviews is going to take some work. While hunting for the best pressure cooker, Cuisinart is one brand you should definitely be at the top of your list. Fagor Fagor is largely regarded as one of the most trusted brands in the pressure cooker market. They’re mostly known for their stovetop models, although they make electric pressure cookers as well. Fagor falls in the mid-range for pricing and gets points from customers on durability (most models come with a 10-year warranty) and ease of use. Fissler If you’re looking for high-end and luxurious, Fissler pressure cookers may just be the best fit for you. They offer a wide range of sizes and features, with the majority of their cookers being stainless steel. They are more expensive, but the feedback from customers indicate that it is worth the extra cost. The look, the feel, and, most importantly, the quality of the food you cook within, are all praised within the reviews. A Fissler pressure cooker should definitely be on your list to consider, if you can afford it. Mirro Mirro is another popular brand that you will come across while shopping for a pressure cooker. They have lots of options and sizes to choose from, all within a reasonably affordable price range. The feedback from customers seems to be wholly positive, especially for their larger capacity units, with their highest-rated pressure cooker being 22-quarts. While this is great to see, unless you’re looking to cook for commercial-purposes, this unit will be far too large for your average homeowner. With that said, Mirro is still a brand to look into while browsing your options, but keep a close eye on the reviews as you go smaller in size. Nesco If you’re leaning toward getting an electric pressure cooker, Nesco models have plenty of options to choose from, as well as pleased customers praising them along the way. After looking over their options, it seems that the most popular device is the 3-in-1 digital cooker (PC6-25), as it offers a variety of cooking settings. Reviewers comment on how easy their device is to use and how fast it works, but they also warn that (as is typical of electric pressure cookers), you can’t count on these to last as long as a stovetop pressure cooker. Take that for what you will, but if have your eye on an electric pressure cooker, this is one brand you should look into. Prestige Prestige is a brand you will likely come across in your search. They have many options to choose from, including a wide range of quart sizes. Prestige pressure cookers tend to fall in the more affordable price range, and the reviews seem to reflect that. Generally, their devices get decent reviews from customers, but they do have their fair share of critics proclaiming their disappointment. With so many pressure cooking options and brands available for you to choose from, this may just be one that you want to skip over. Presto Presto is well known for pressure cookers that fall on the lower end of the price range. They offer both aluminum and stainless steel models and mostly sell stovetop pressure cookers, but do have electric models as well. While they don’t have the strong reputation of some of the other brands on the market, for beginners who aren’t prepared to spend much on their pressure cookers, many customers seem satisfied with their Prestos. T-Fal T-Fal is another popular brand when it comes to pressure cookers. Perhaps best known for their selection of pots, pans and other cookware, T-Fal does score pretty high among reviewers of their pressure cookers. Out of all their cookers we analyzed, the reviews were overwhelmingly positive and filled with praise. The only critical reviews we found all seemed to be focused around steam coming out of the device, but these were few and far between. T-Fal is a brand that you should consider, just be sure to take a close eye at what other people are saying about the specific model you are considering. Conclusion No matter which size, brand, or model you decide to buy, you can count on a pressure cooker delivering faster meals that keeps more nutrients packed in. You’ll enjoy the main benefits regardless, so to settle on the right pressure cooker, you just need to figure out what other factors you value most.