How to Buy the Best Pressure Cooker

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What's on This Page

Which Pressure Cooker Do I Recommend?

Helpful Links

The New, Modern Pressure Cookers

Stainless Steel

Avoid Aluminum Pressure Cookers

Avoid Non-Standard Pressure Cookers

Avoid Non-stick Interiors

Name Recognition

Avoid Used Pressure Cookers

Avoid Electric Models

Avoid Buying Old Style Pressure Cookers

Which is the Best Pressure Cooker?

Avoid Cheap Pressure Cookers

Size Matters

Handles Are Important

Canning is a Science

 

 

How to select the right model...

If you plan to purchase a pressure cooker for the first time, or if you are considering upgrading to a newer model, you'll be faced with a variety of choices when you begin shopping for a pressure cooker. To help with your decision, we've prepared this buyer's guide so you’ll be able to determine the model that is best suited to your needs.

 

What is the difference between aluminum and stainless steel pressure cookers?

 

Aluminum pressure cookers are lightweight, low cost, and provide uniform heating performance due to the excellent heat conduction of aluminum. With heavy use, however, aluminum cookware will stain and pit and, although this doesn’t affect how it cooks, it’s important to note aluminum’s intrinsic weakness. Economy is the main reason to choose an aluminum pressure cooker.

 

Stainless steel pressure cookers are nonporous, slightly heavier, and more expensive than aluminum models. The extremely durable nature of stainless steel will provide years of use with a beautiful high luster finish. However, by itself, stainless steel is not a good conductor of heat, so it’s best to select a model with a layered base, usually a disc of aluminum bonded to the outside bottom of the pan. This will greatly improve the heating characteristics and performance of a stainless steel pressure cooker by eliminating “hot spots” that would otherwise be common in stainless steel cookware.

 

What size pressure cooker is best?

 

Most pressure cookers are sold by the size of their total liquid capacity even though the actual usable capacity of a pressure cooker is one half to two thirds of its liquid capacity, depending upon the food being cooked. The extra space left in the cooker is necessary to allow steam to build inside the unit. Although, there are many sizes of pressure cookers in the marketplace, the most popular sizes are 4-, 6-, and 8-quart liquid capacities. We’ll explore the advantages of these popular sizes to help you determine the best size for your needs.

 

4-quart: A good size for singles or couples or for making one course for a family, such as potatoes or vegetables. Whole meal recipes for one or two people can usually be accommodated in a 4-quart pressure cooker.

 

6-quart: The most popular size for many families of two or more. It can accommodate most foods and most pressure cooking recipes are developed for a 6-quart pressure cooker.

 

8-quart: This size is good for larger families and is also an excellent capacity for making large batches of stock.

 

NOTE: Large-size pressure cooker/canners (16-, 18-, and 23-quart models, for example) are also available and used generally for pressure canning meats, vegetables, and other low-acid foods in pint and quart jars. For pressure cooking use, these large size canners are usually suitable only if you are cooking for a very large group.

 

What is the best brand of pressure cooker?

 

Over the course of time, many different companies have manufactured pressure cookers. Because the pressure cooker you purchase today should be expected to provide many years of service, it is important to select a brand that will allow you to get the most from your investment. Therefore, the following guidelines should be considered when making your selection.

 

Choose a brand from a company that has been in business for a number of years and has a stable financial track record. To keep your pressure cooker operating properly and safely for many years, you will have to periodically replace a few inexpensive parts (just as you would replace spark plugs and fan belts on your car). You need to be confident that the brand you purchase today will be from a company that will be in business for years to come in order to assure a supply of the proper parts. Parts are not interchangeable from one brand to another, so don't select a "brand X " model simply because it is less expensive.

 

Buy a brand handled by a reputable retailer. This could be a local store of a national chain, a department store, a well-established kitchen store, your local hardware dealer, or a respectable web retailer. You may want to select a retailer that also stocks the replacement parts you will eventually need.

 

Select a brand that has been listed or approved by an independent testing organization. This will ensure that your pressure cooker meets or exceeds certain quality and performance standards that have been independently verified. Underwriters Laboratories (UL) is the testing organization familiar to most Americans.

 

Which pressure cooker features should you look for?

 

NOTE: If you have not done so already, it is best to review the How To Select The Right Model For Your Needs section to determine the type and size of pressure cooker you want before studying these specific features. If you are not familiar with pressure cooking, you may also want to check out the How To Use section which provides a detailed explanation of how a pressure cooker works.

 

PRESSURE REGULATOR: Every pressure cooker must have a means of indicating and controlling the cooking pressure inside the pot. Over the years, many types of pressure regulators have been designed to perform this function. There are basically three styles of pressure regulators. They are all somewhat different from each other, but will, ultimately, provide the same results with your recipe. The first is a weighted valve pressure regulator (sometimes called a jiggle top), the second is a modified weighted valve pressure regulator, and the third is a spring valve pressure regulator. Regardless of which one you choose, always select a regulator with a maximum operating pressure of 15 psi (pounds per square inch). This is the standard pressure used in pressure cooking. Virtually all recipes are written for a pressure of 15 psi and if the operating pressure on your cooker is lower than 15 pounds, you will not realize the maximum time savings.

 

Weighted Valve: The weighted valve pressure regulator is placed on top of the vent pipe, which is a small opening in the cover of the pressure cooker designed to allow excess steam to escape during cooking. Always select a pressure cooker that has a removable pressure regulator. This is important because you will want to examine the vent pipe before each use to be sure it is clear, and clean it if necessary. Weighted valve pressure cookers regulate the pressure inside the unit with a rocking motion. When you hear and see the pressure regulator begin to rock, the cooking time begins. Adjust your heat setting to a lower temperature to maintain a slow, gentle rock. This type of regulator will automatically release steam from the cooker in order to maintain 15 psi (pounds per square inch), the pressure needed on most pressure cooking recipes. Maintaining a slow and gentle rock, however, is important because it keeps the steam release to a minimum. The rocking motion also provides a continuous audible and visual indicator that the pressure cooker is operating properly and maintaining the proper cooking pressure. If your cooker becomes completely quiet, you will know -- before it’s too late -- that your recipe needs attention. Pressure cookers with this type of regulator are modestly priced.

 

Modified Weighted Valve: The modified weighted valve pressure regulator is attached to the cooker. It does not rock, but, instead, intermittently releases steam in short bursts letting steam escape when needed to maintain 15 psi. Cooking time begins when steam begins to escape from the regulator. It is sometimes difficult to tell when steam begins to escape, so you must watch carefully. You will need to adjust your heat setting to a lower temperature to maintain a slow release of steam. Pressure cookers with this style of regulator are modestly priced, sometimes slightly higher than the weighted valve regulator.

 

Spring Valve: The spring valve pressure regulator features a short pop-up valve (about 1”) that indicates the level of pressure inside the cooker. It usually offers two cooking pressures, most likely 10 and 15 psi, although the one used most often will be 15 psi. This type of regulator is not audible, so you will need to watch the pressure cooker carefully to see when is has reached the appropriate pressure and adjust the temperature on your stovetop to maintain the level of pressure needed. Pressure cookers with this type of regulator are more expensive than those with the other regulators.

 

NOTE: Pressure cookers with any of the above regulators are completely safe to use. Although they maintain pressure by using different types of regulators, you won’t notice a significant difference in how they perform with your recipes. Although less liquid may be required when using a pressure cooker with a spring valve regulator.

 

COVER INTERLOCK: Always choose a pressure cooker with a cover locking system. This important device will prevent pressure from building until the cover is properly locked and locks the cover until pressure is safely reduced. Not all pressure cookers offer a visual pressure indicator, but for those that do, it serves as an additional safety device to signal if there is pressure inside the cooker. In addition to the aforementioned safety features, always look for secondary pressure relief mechanisms that are designed to release pressure in the unlikely event that the vent pipe should become blocked.

 

COOKING RACK: Select a pressure cooker that comes with a cooking rack or basket. This will allow you to cook foods above the cooking liquid. In addition, when pressure cooking several foods at once, the rack or basket will enable you to keep foods separated so flavors will not intermingle.

 

PRESSURE RELEASE: Recipes will call for either the “cool cooker at once” pressure release method or the “natural pressure drop” method depending on the food being cooked. Cookbooks refer to these methods in slightly different terminology, so it’s important to understand the meaning of each phrase. Always follow the directions in the recipe for the cooling technique recommended.

 

With the “cool cooker at once” method, place the cooker under cold running water or in a pan of cold water to quickly and easily release the pressure in the unit. The cold water releases the pressure inside the unit quickly and neatly. Some cookers feature a Quick Pressure Release Knob. With this, the cooker is moved off the heat source and the Quick Pressure Release Knob is activated sending a considerable spray of hot steam into the kitchen. If this method causes sputtering, it will be necessary to run cold water over the cooker to release the pressure.

 

For a “natural pressure release”, you simply remove the cooker from the heat source and let the pressure drop naturally, or of its own accord.

 

HANDLES: Pick up any pressure cooker you are considering and handle it as you would at home. Make sure the handles feel comfortable and secure. Better models of pressure cookers have ergonomically designed handles for comfort and ease of handling. A 6-quart or larger pressure cooker should have handles on both sides of the body to aid in lifting the unit. Many times one side will have a smaller "assist" or "helper" handle for this purpose.

 

BASE: If you purchase a stainless steel pressure cooker, be sure to look for a model that has a bimetal or trimetal base, typically an aluminum-clad bottom. This feature virtually eliminates scorching and provides excellent heat conduction and easy cleaning.

 

INSTRUCTION/RECIPE BOOK: It’s vital to have a comprehensive instruction and recipe book packaged with your pressure cooker. It should have both clear, detailed operating instructions and a good selection of basic pressure cooking recipes. Unlike other instruction manuals, your pressure cooker manual will be referenced often.

 

WARRANTY: Look for a pressure cooker that offers an extended warranty. Reputable companies offer at least a 10-year warranty.

 

COST: Prices will vary widely depending on the “bells and whistles” on the various models you review. Although we are not mentioning brands, all of the types of pressure cookers described on this web site are completely safe to use, and if they have met the criteria in this Buyer’s Guide, they will cover your cooking needs nicely.

 

   
   

Which is theBest Pressure Cooker?

People always want to know which is the 'BEST' pressure cooker. There is no easy answer because this is largely a matter of personal preference based on your needs, and your budget. Keep in mind that whatever brand of pressure cooker you buy, it should be expected to give you a lifetime of service, so shop wisely and invest in the future. Here's some practical information to help you make an informed decision on purchasing a new pressure cooker.

Let The Buyer Compare and BEWARE! When considering which pressure cooker to buy be sure to read the product information carefully and beware of catchy advertising slogans, or fancy marketing. Think twice about companies that charge outrageous amounts of money for "new products" which are nothing more than an ordinary pressure cookers. There are many heavily advertised "pressure cookers" that only cook at low pressure (Cooks Essential, T-Fal, Turbo Cooker, Prestige Cooker). There are pressure cookers cannot even reach the standard 15psi pressure. Pressure cookers that do not meet the accepted standard of 15psi means you will have to adjust pressure cooker recipes which are designed for 15psi. See more about pressures...

Stainless Steel

Buy a Stainless Steel model with a triple wall bottom (SS-aluminum core-SS, or copper), it will minimize burned foods, heats faster and retains heat longer, which translates to improved energy efficiency and a saves a little money on fuel bills over time. You can use a SS P/C on any heat source from gas to electric, camp stoves, BBQ grills, charcoal, wood fires (done that) and even solar stoves. SS will last at least 25 years, your kids will inherit it.

Name Recognition

Buy from a long established company and avoid the heavily marketed fads. You will need new seals every now and then, so you'll want a reliable company where you can still purchase replacements, parts and accessories in the future. Cooks Illustrated rated the Magefesa from Spain number one, and the Swiss made Kuhn-Rikon, is number two, both are excellent. Fagor is rated number three. All offer several models that are good buys for the money.

While there are many manufactures from Europe, India and Asia that make excellent products that are well liked in their respective countries, it may be difficult to find replacement parts for them in America.

Remember - Do the research to locate several sources of replacement parts BEFORE buying.

Size Matters

Buy a large size, remember you can only utilize 2/3 of the actual volume of the pot, or 1/2 in the case of cooking dried beans. Five quarts is the minimal useful size, even for singles and couples if you intend to get the most out of your cooker. An 8 quart model if the most useful, giving you the option to cook large roasts, whole chickens, beef ribs, turkey breasts, etc. The larger size is not just for family sized meals, even singles and couples will benefit from preparing foods in larger quantities to freeze for quick meals later on.

The larger models also make it easier to fit inside the various accessories like pans, dishes, bowls, pots and such that will extend the usefulness of your investment. (See my PIP recipes and instructions) Buy a tall pressure cooker rather than a shorter model. If you ever decide you want to can a half dozen pints of jam or a couple of jars of pickles, the taller, deeper cookers are better suited than shallow pans.

Any pressure cooker less than 5 quarts will not be big enough to cook a meal for you family, soups, dry beans, or large foods. The small size limits the use of accessories too. Small, or specialty pressure cookers are useful as a second pressure cooker. The pressure frypan, which is designed for braising, not pressure frying, is also handy to prepare a sidedish.

Handles Are Important

Buy a cooker with a long handle and a shorter helped handle on the opposite side of the bottom unit. Unlike cookers with two short handles, the longer handles protectS your fingers from touching the hot pot, make it easier to carry a heavy pot and provides some leverage when locking the lid in place.

The New, Modern Pressure Cookers

If you are looking to buy a pressure cooker, today's second generation cooker models with their improved valve systems and multiple safety features the perfered choice. The old style 'jiggle-top' cookers are still being manufactured, but they do not compare to the improvements to be found in the new generation cookers.

The modern pressure cooker easier to use, 100% safe and foolproof. They are quiet and come to pressure quicker than the old jiggle top models. Look for as many as 6 redundant safety features, improved valves and pressure systems with a 'pop-up' pressure indicator that take the quesswork out of pressure cookeyThe same triple clad bottom found on the best quality cookware eliminates hotspots that caused scorching.

Canning is a Science

A pressure cooker is used to prepare meals, but a pressure canner is used to safely process jars of food for storage. The two are not interchangeable.

If you enjoy canning a pressure canner is a useful investment. Canning requires updated, tested canning recipes, specialized equipment and accurate timing based on your altitude to safely process canned foods for home consumption. Canning rules have changed dramatically, so if you want to be creative try painting, but don't alter safe, tested canning recipes., and never attempt to can a homemade recipe.

Avoid Buying Old Style Pressure Cookers

The original, old style 1st generation pressure cookers are still being made and sold, and they remain the most familiar cooker to most Americans. Today's modern pressure cooker offers more bang for your buck with a newer, and much improved 2nd generation cookers. You will find more benefits and safety features and easier use to offset the extra cost.

 

Which Pressure Cooker Do I Recommend?

I recommend the Kuhn Rikon, this Swiss made, stainless steel,pressure cooker is an excellent example of the newest advances in today's, new modern pressure cookers. Not only are they highly rated by actual users, but in real world kitchens, they are easy to use and 100% safe. Ultra quiet, these closed system cookers lose very little steam. With less steam vented you can use less water during cooking to minimize the loss of important nutrients and vitamins.

There are 2 pressure settings (10 and 15psi) are clearlyindicated on the popup valve stem so there is no guessing about which pressure setting you are using. They have a 3-ply bottom which means that they hold the pressure with a very low flame. They come to pressure very quickly and all that means you won't have a problem with scorched foods. It also translates to a signigicant energy cost savings. Replacement parts are readily available through many vendors.

The Spanish made Fagor is my recommendation for budget conscious shoppers. It is comparable to the Kuhn Rikon but the lower price tag makes up for the slight differnces in quality and a the somewhat slower response times. Replacement parts are widely available as is large variety of accessoriy insert pans

Many of you have asked where to buy the best, modern pressure cookers. I have linked up with Amazon.com so you can now buy with confidence and get a great price and FREE shipping directly through the Internet's best super store.

Avoid Aluminum Pressure Cookers

Over time, unclad aluminum will become pitted, and those tiny cavities collect food particles and become a breeding ground for germs. Cooking or storing high acid foods such as tomato-based sauces will increase then likelihood of pitting, sometimes in just a few hours. Aluminum cookware also has a tendency to develop dark stains that are difficult to clean. Aluminum is an excellent heat conductor, but it is also thin and hot spots can develop in aluminum pressure cookers that will scorch foods. The metal can leach into cooked food, and while sources discount any problems with ingesting aluminum, many people do not want it served with the food they eat. Read more about aluminum.

Aluminum cookers also have a tendency to warp out of true round because they are so lightweight and subject to damage if dropped or mishandled, and once that happens the pot won't come to pressure.

Avoid Non-Standard Pressure Cookers

Buy a cooker that will cook at the standard 15psi. There are some pressure cooker that will not reach the standard pressure (Prestige, T-fal) which means you will always be adjusting for longer cooking times and the results may not be as expected. Longer cooking times defeats some of the benefits of using a pressure cooker for speedy cooking and energy savings. Read the manufacturers's specifications before buying and avoid pressure cookers that donot conform to standard pressure settings.

Read carefully, many well known and very pricey pressure cooker s do not reach the standard pressure setting of 15spi. If you buy one of these brands, you will be forever adjusting every recipe and increasing the cooking times. That defeats the entire concept of economical, energy-saving, ultra fast cooking that preserves the most nutrients in your food.

Remember - pressure cooker recipes have been designed to meet the standard 15psi setting since 1917. Excepr where indicated, every recipe on my website and those in pressure cooker cookbooks will use this setting

Avoid Non-stick Interiors

Regardless of the manufacturer's claims, non-stick interiors have a hard time withstanding the pressure cooking environment. Often times, the finish will not last the lifetime of the cooker itself as interior finishes chip and peel and those particles end up in the food your family eats. To avoid damaging the finish you cannot use most utensils or accessory items and that limits the recipes you can cook and the usefulness of your cooker.

Many surface finishes use fluorocarbons and release fumes at higher temperatures. See more under Health Concerns About Non-stick Cookware.

Avoid Electric Models

Electric pressure cookers seem to be plagued with problems. Yes, they attract novice pressure cooker users who are unsure of pressure cookery, and that helps convince newcomers to "graduate" to the standard stovetop model. If you are contemplating an electric appliance be aware that the very short warrantee -- usually only 1 year compared to 10 with stovestop models -- is a telling indictment of problems to come.

There are fewer safety mechanisms on electric models than on stovetops. Most electric cookers have a smaller capacity. Another drawback is the lack of infinate control options available to users. There is no means of rapid cooling for delicately steamed foods such as tender-crisp veggies like the stove top models which can be placed. All those limitations will minimize the usefulness and cooking options.

Avoid Used Pressure Cookers

Used, hand-me-down, or second hand pressure cookers are a constant source of problems. If you are thinking about trying to resurrect your grandmothers ancient pressure cooker leftover from World War II era, or couldn't resist that yardsale bargain, then read my 10 Point Safety Check List.

Avoid Cheap Pressure Cookers

Save up your pennies and wait until you can afford a good pressure cooker because they will last a lifetime with minimal care. Think of it as an investment, and remember your pressure cooker will get a lot of use and will pay or itself in short order by saving you time and energy costs and well as cooking great 'fast' food..

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10 Point Safety Checklist

Test Drive Your Pressure Cooker

Choosing the Best New Cooker

Used Pressure Cookers

History of the Pressure Cooker

Vintage Pressure Cookers

How To Buy a Pressure Cooker

Parts and Service

Pressing Cooker Testing

Where to Shop with No tax or Shipping

   

 

 

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