Time for a pressure cooker buyers guide. Since there are so many different makes and models available, it can be a little difficult finding the best pressure cooker particularly if you are new to this more traditional piece of kitchen kit. Things have come a long way since the 1970’s when pressure cooking really took off. New cookers are safer, easier to use, and easier to clean, so there is no reason why you shouldn’t be enjoying speedy recipes that use up to 70% less energy and taste delicious.
These are just a few of our favorite pressure cookers.
We will have a look at why these three are our recommended buys in a moment. First though, before you hit the shops it is time to consider just what it is you need to look for in any new pressure cooker for the home kitchen.
Pressure Cooker Buying Guide
There are several key points to consider:
Decide what you are most likely to be using your pressure cooker for, before you buy. This will help you choose the size, and also the material. Larger aluminum for canning, and more medium sized stainless steel for home cooking.
Of course this will depend a lot on how many pressure cookers you want to buy, and what you plan on doing with it! In general an 8 to 10 quart pressure cooker is the real work horse; large enough to accomodate a whole chicken, and not too big to be taking up valuable kitchen space.
Serious home canning experts will probably want a 21 quart or larger, to fit in as many jars as possible when preserving foods. Don’t forget to take into account your stove type too. All American canners for example are not considered safe to use on flat top stoves because they are so heavy!
Not all pressure cookers are created equal. Ideally, for most cooks that want to deal with stews and hot-pots in the quickest time possible a 15psi pressure will wanted. There are occasions when you might want to cook something a little more delicate, such as fish, and so it is nice to have the option of a lower pressure (usually 10psi) to switch to.
Whilst many smaller pressure cookers will simply allow you to select a pressure, and then wait for it to be achieved, true pressure canners should have a pressure gauge allowing you to monitor the progress and safety of the canning process more exactly.
Always buy a cooker that reaches 15psi since this is the pressure most recipes are made for. If you buy one that does not reach such a high pressure you will need to adjust all recipes and wait longer for your finished meal.
Gaskets and Valves
Unless you go for a metal on metal pressure cooker (which are more expensive), you will probably need at some time to replace silicone gaskets and perhaps valves too. Do check before you buy that these accessories are readily available.
Depending on what you plan to cook you may think a steamer basket is a “must have” item, or simply another thing to find a home for in your kitchen. Likewise, for additional glass lids that turn your pressure cooker into a traditional stock pot. They can be very useful or a total waste of your extra money, depending on what other cookware you already own. Don’t just go for the one with the most “extras” unless those extras are really beneficial in your kitchen.
Pressure Cooker Safety
All new pressure cookers should come with safety features that you trust. A locking mechanism in the handles will ensure you cannot open the pan when pressurised, or start to pressurise it without a proper seal on the lid.
Choose a cooker that has been listed or approved by an independent testing organization to be certain that your pressure cooker meets or exceeds certain quality and performance standards that have been independently verified. Underwriters Laboratories (UL) is the most usual testing organization used.
- Old style weighted valves, that jiggle and rock are what most of us think about with pressure cooking. They whistle with steam when pressure is reached, and then jiggle gently to let you know pressure is being maintained correctly.
- Modified weighted valves are quiet and will let steam out in spurts as necessary. This means you need to keep an eye on them to notice when pressure is first reached.
- Spring valves make no noise ans simply pop out when pressure is reached so again you will need to watch carefully. These are used a lot on modern pressure cookers that offer variable pressure settings.
Whether the cooker uses a weighted pressure valve, modified weight valve or spring valve does not affect the safety of the cookware, so choose whichever you prefer.
Pressure Cooker Reviews
Well, according to us at least. After researching pressure cooker makes and models, and reading many customer reviews, guides and instruction manuals we think we have come up with the top pressure cookers to suit the home cook.
Best Mid Price Pressure Cooker
The Fagor Duo Pressure cooker offers great quality, and precision with both 10 and 15psi levels to choose from. Plus it looks good too.
A steamer basket included priced at under $100 for an 8 quart model make this our preferred choice if budget will allow.
The handle is really comfortable, and the whole thing is very easy to use. Plus its stainless steel which we think is a must for home cooking.
Best Low Price Pressure Cooker
Stainless Steel Presto Pressure Cookers are a good bet if you are not planning on doing lots of pressure cooking. They are basic, but will do the job well enough, and with a 6 quart model usually available for under $50 they are an economical choice.
You do only have one pressure setting which is fine for many, but does reduce the flexibility of the product. With 18/10 stainless steel body this feels strong enough but my money is on the Fagor lasting longer.
Best Pressure Cooker Canner
For those that will be doing a lot of canning, or even occasional bouts of canning, and want something to leave to their grandchildren it has to be the All American Pressure Cooker.
The sheer weight of this is massive. The controls are so clear, precise and easy to use, and everything is easily replaceable (though it feels like you won’t be worrying about such things for many years). The 3 pressure settings and the metal on metal seal give the best overall seal and feeling of safety, providing you don’t have an induction hob. Aluminum is often a cheaper material, but this is American made and built to last. High quality aluminum that won’t be easy to dent or bend mean these are the preferred way to carry out home canning in kitchens across the country, and once you try using one it is obvious why.
Best Electric Pressure Cooker
However, I understand that some want more hob space and so creating an electronic gadget to cook your beans is an advantage. Based on customer reviews, brand history, and the way the product has been upgraded and improved, we have settled on the Cuisinart pressure cooker pictured.
It is flexible, with multi-functions to choose from, and very easy to start using, but I am still not a fan of the more limited pressure you get with electric models.
Finally More To Think About…
Using internet reviews, particularly those from real customers is a great way to find out if your selected brand is as good as the makers say it is. However, don’t forget mistakes sometimes occur, so one bad review should not be given too much weight when compared with hundreds of good ones.
Also, don’t forget that pressure cooking is a skill, and though modern appliances are very easy to get the hang of, they still require a little practice to get used to. One meal is not enough of a testing ground for any pressure cooker!