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Do you know anyone who uses a pressure cooker at home? If you’re like me then you don’t. In fact, I had never even heard of this piece of kitchen equipment until a few years ago while watching an episode of Iron Chef America on Food Network.
I might be in the minority here, but I don’t think so. I really don’t know a single person who prepares meals in their home using one.
However, I have heard more about these unique products in the past couple of years, so it seems they are making a kind of comeback into common use. I’ve seen recipes on Pinterest for pressure cookers, and I have read more about them in articles on cooking magazine as well.
With that in mind, I decided to do a bit of research into the art of pressure cooking and the types of models available. I hope this information is as helpful to you as it was to me.
How Do They Work?
To begin with, you might want to know how these appliances work and why it might be useful to have in your kitchen.
It’s really quite simple – pressure cooking is the art of preparing food, using water or other liquids, in a sealed vessel which doesn’t permit air or liquid to escape such that the pressure inside the cooker will never fall below a certain preset limit.
These appliances are used for preparing food more quickly than more conventional cooking methods, which is more energy efficient as well.
Pressure cookers are able to heat food more quickly because the internal pressure from the boiling liquid causes wet steam to saturate the food. This, in turn, creates a very high-temperature water vapor, which transfers heat more quickly than dry air, which prepares food more rapidly.
For a more scientific definition of how these devices work, let’s talk numbers. First, the boiling point of water is 212°F.
The temperature will never rise above that point in any conventional cooking method because any excess heat is released into the air as steam.
In the sealed environment of the enclosed pot, the boiling point is able to increase to as much as 250 degrees because the steam is not allowed to escape, resulting in super-heated water.
Almost any food that can be cooked with steam or in water or other liquid can be cooked in one of these devices and they are ideal for preparing “one-pot” meals.
The effects of time-consuming, hours-long braising or simmering can be very effectively simulated in a pressure cooker in a much shorter period of time, often in half the amount of time or less, depending on the model and the type of food.
Certain models can also be used for home canning in glass mason jars.
Choosing The Right Pressure Cooker for You
The very first pressure cooker was designed way back in 1679 (that’s right, the 17th century, if you can believe it!) by a French physicist named Denis Papin, who was also an expert in the power of steam.
The first model designed specifically for home use, however, was introduced by Alfred Vischler in 1938 in New York City. It was a rousing success, and this led to some fierce competition between American and European manufacturers.
At that time, of course, all of these devices were designed to be used on the stovetop. There are still some stovetop models available and certain ones are very highly rated. However, digital and multi-purpose versions are now more commonly used.
If you’re not looking for a product that’s multi-purpose, a stovetop type may be perfect for you, and it takes up less room since you can store it right with your other pots and pans.
Every non-digital pressure cooker available can be used on electric, gas, ceramic, and induction ranges, which is great, and, of course, these are friendlier on the wallet than digital models.
I’ve included three helpful reviews for these stove top versions to help you decide if one of them may be right for your kitchen.
One of our favorite options that’s available affordably while offering a lot of value is the Presto 01362 6-Quart Stainless Steel Pressure Cooker.
This non-digital vessel also comes with a stainless steel rack that can be inserted into the pot to cook several different types of foods at once. A 64-page manual and recipe book is included as well.
This stovetop model is dishwasher safe for easy clean up and is equipped with a cover lock indicator that shows when there is pressure inside the device and prevents it from being opened until the heated and compressed water vapor is safely reduced.
The Presto model is well-liked on Amazon.com and is considered to be one of the best options for a low-cost entry into this type of cooking appliance.
Slightly more expensive is the Zavor ZPot 6.3-Quart Pressure Cooker. The pot is made of high-quality polished 18/10 stainless steel and it is also dishwasher safe. Like the Presto, it also works on all types of heat surfaces and comes with a recipe book. The difference here is in the safety features.
The ZPot includes a triple safety system: an automatic locking handle and locking lid to prevent accidental opening while in use, a safety valve located under the lid that activates in the case of excess pressure buildup, and a pressure regulator with pressure and release as well as clean settings.
It also has thermo heat conductive base that allows for better heat distribution for more even cooking, and it is compatible with all range tops, including induction. Available at Amazon.
One of the more expensive stovetop models available is the 6.4-quart Tramontina 18/10 Stainless Steel Pressure Cooker. Made of the same top-end stainless steel as the Fagor Splendid, this appliance is also dishwasher safe. This product, however, has the distinction of being billed as the fastest cooking option of the 19 stovetop and electric models tested by Good Housekeeping. In their review , it cooked a beef stew that normally would take 2 ½ hours in a mere 35 minutes.
Another factor that sets the Tramontina apart is that it’s oven-safe up to 350°F. It’s equipped with two pressure-level settings: a low level for fairly tender foods and a high level for tougher foods. As an added bonus, Tramontina offers a lifetime warranty on all of their products. Read actual customer reviews of this highly rated model at Amazon now .
Switching over to electric models, the least expensive option with the best reviews hands-down is the Cuisinart CPC-600 AMZ 1000-Watt 6-Quart Electric Pressure Cooker. This model is brushed stainless steel and black. It is equipped with easy-to-use push-button controls, an easy-to-read digital display, a precision thermostat, and cool-touch handles.
This model also has settings for browning, simmering, sautéing, and warming. The machine automatically switches to the keep-warm setting at the end of the cooking time and stays warm for up to 12 hours. The nonstick pot is dishwasher safe, as is the included trivet. This model seems like a good option if you’d rather have a digital product if you aren’t overly concerned with having a ton of different uses. Check out Amazon and read why folks have rated this machine so high.
For a comparable price, you can get the Imusa 5-Quart Electric Pressure Cooker, and you get more cooking options as well. This highly reviewed appliance can also be used as a slow cooker , and has settings for browning, steaming, and warming.
This appliance can be used to prepare beans, soups, chili, poultry, and other one-pot entrees and can be used to cook rice. The digital display is easy to read and use. The one downside to this model is that it doesn’t come in a stainless steel finish but is only available with a heat-resistant black plastic exterior. It does have a nonstick cooking pot for easy clean-up, though. Click here to check the best price.
The next option on our list of top pressure cookers, is the Secura 6-in-1 6-Quart Electric model. This digital variant is available in stainless steel and black with a dishwasher-safe stainless steel cooking pot. The Secura is an all-in-one rice, slow and pressure cooker, steamer, soup maker, and can be used for browning meats. It too will switch automatically to the keep-warm feature at the end of the cooking time.
The lid, as well as the handles, is cool-touch. You can set the timer to delay the start of the cycle for up to 24 hours, which is a great feature as well. This vessel has a micro-computerized temperature and time-control system with an easy-to-read and use digital display. The Secura comes with a manual/recipe book, measuring cup, rice spoon, and a stainless steel steam basket and rack, which are all nice bonuses.
This one of the most highly rated products by actual customers and should be one of the top considerations on anybody’s list.
The last option that seemed like a real winner to me was the Instant Pot IP-DU060 7-in-1 Programmable Pressure Cooker. More expensive than others reviewed, this Canadian-made product has many excellent reviews from customers on Amazon.com, and for good reason.
It can also be used as a rice cooker, yogurt maker, steamer, warmer and for sautéing/browning, and it is set up with 14 built-in smart programs for ease-of use.
It has three temperature settings for the sauté feature and three setting for the slow cooking feature, which really gives you the ability to customize your food preparation chores.
Switching automatically to a keep-warm setting at the end of the cooking time, this appliance can also be set to delay the start of the start time for up to 24 hours as well as the ability to manually set a running time of up to 120 minutes. This gives great flexibility in meal planning.
The pot is made of durable, 3-ply stainless steel, and a stainless steel steam basket is also included, along with a recipe booklet. If you’re looking for a device that has the ability to be used for a wide variety of things, then this Instant Pot is perfect for you. Read actual customer reviews at Amazon now or check out Chelsea’s detailed review of the Instant Pot 7-in-1.
Which pressure cooker is the best choice?
For me, ideally I would like a model that can also prepare rice, because I hate having a ton of different kitchen appliances. I have limited counter and cabinet space, and I really don’t see the need to have a bunch of different products cluttering up my kitchen counters.
If money wasn’t a consideration, I would love to get the Instant Pot 7-in-1. You can do so many things with it, and all the customers who reviewed it really loved theirs. At the same time, it would be nice to just be able to store it with my other pots and pans which would be possible if I were to purchase a stovetop pressure cooker. It seems like I have a choice to make, but maybe I have helped some of you make a decision of your own.
About Ashley Martell
Ashley has enjoyed creative writing since she was six years old, when she wrote her first short story. She majored in English literature at the University of Montevallo. After years of professional work, she is now a stay-at-home mom of three, who uses her craft to write about her life and adventures in and out of the kitchen.