Despite the compelling benefits pressure cookers offer — such as cooking food up to 70% faster — some people are wary of them. This handy appliance has unfortunately earned a dubious reputation for making a mess by literally blowing its lid. And yes, the original pressure cookers were inclined to do so.
However, the modern iteration of the pressure cooker is designed with built-in safety features that make it trustworthy. Today’s pressure cooker also includes elements that ensure your food gets cooked evenly and in record time. And some, like the bestselling Instant Pot Duo Nova Seven-in-One Electric Pressure Cooker, can perform multiple functions.
One important consideration when shopping for pressure cookers is the choice between electric and stovetop models. Each offers its own benefits and drawbacks that could significantly affect your cooking experience.
What to know before you buy a pressure cooker
What you need from your pressure cooker
There is an abundance of pressure cookers from different brands, designed with different capacities, able to perform different functions and sold at different price points. For this reason, you should figure out what kind of dishes you’ll prepare in it, the approximate number of people you’ll serve and the price you can afford to pay for the appliance.
You’re not limited to one brand
Instant Pot is perhaps the most well-known brand for high-quality pressure cookers, but it’s certainly not the only one. Other reputable manufacturers also produce and sell well-made, durable pressure cookers that help you prepare delicious dishes.
There are different sizes available
Pressure cookers are sold in different sizes, starting at two liters and topping out at 20 liters. Make sure you choose the best size for your needs. Otherwise, you could end up cleaning and refilling the pressure cooker multiple times if the capacity is too small or wasting food if it’s too large.
If there’s one feature that separates modern pressure cookers from their predecessors, it’s the safety lid lock. This safety feature stops pressure from escaping from the appliance, thereby preventing injuries and ruined meals. You must release the safety lock in order to open the lid.
Another feature that makes pressure cookers safe is updated pressure valves. These valves work by suppressing unnecessary vibration while food is cooking. This function keeps the contents of the pressure cooker inside where they belong.
Three-ply encapsulated base
The even heating of today’s pressure cookers is due in large part to the three-ply encapsulated base. This feature stops the formation of hotspots in their tracks, preventing your food from drying out or burning. You can also use less heat to thoroughly cook food.
Electric pressure cookers vs. stovetop pressure cookers
In general, electric pressure cookers are low maintenance and easier to operate than stovetop pressure cookers. One drawback of electric models is how long it takes them to reach the pressure required to cook each dish. It can take them three times longer to reach it than their stovetop counterparts.
If you’re looking for speed, stovetop pressure cookers are the clear winner over electric cookers. Their browning ability is also superior. That said, they tend to make more noise and you’ll need to pay closer attention during the cooking process.
In general, you can expect to pay anywhere from $30 to $300 for a safe, well-made pressure cooker that lets you prepare evenly cooked dishes.
What are the basic essential features I should look for in a pressure cooker?
A. Safety should be top-of-mind when you’re shopping for a pressure cooker. Choose a model that has a safety lid lock, gasket-release system, metallic plug and updated pressure valves. When it comes to even distribution of heat, you’ll want a pressure cooker designed with a three-ply encapsulated base.
Is a stainless-steel or aluminum pressure cooker better?
A. Each metal has its benefits. Stainless-steel pressure cookers tend to last for many years due to this metal’s durability, but they’re also the more expensive option. Aluminum pressure cookers are sold at a lower price point. They’re also easy to clean and they conduct heat well.
How do I clean my pressure cooker?
A. The answer to this question depends entirely on the model in question. Some pressure cookers require you to wash all of the components by hand. Others are dishwasher safe once you remove a few parts. Regardless of the model you choose, always use a cloth made of soft material like microfiber to clean the components that can’t go in the dishwasher.
Which pressure cooker should I get?
Best of the best pressure cooker
Instant Pot Duo Nova: available at Amazon
Our take: More than just a pressure cooker, this bestseller offers seven different functions, has the capacity to cook food for up to six people, is designed with more than 10 safety features and includes one-touch control of 13 programs.
What we like: The Instant Pot Duo Nova is a great pick for beginners due to its advanced microprocessor. This technology continuously monitors and adjusts the temperature, pressure, heat and time. As a result, the Duo Nova produces results that are delicious and consistent. It also cooks food up to 70 percent faster than other methods.
What we dislike: A few buyers reported mechanical failures ranging from loss of power to the appliance catching on fire and smoking.
Best bang for your buck pressure cooker
Prestige Popular Aluminium Pressure Cooker: available at Amazon
Our take: This ISI-certified pressure cooker conforms to all international standards and is sold at an affordable price point.
What we like: Prestige Popular constructed its pressure cooker from virgin aluminum and designed it with a thick base and strong lugs. The appliance is available in a wide range of capacities, from two liters to 20 liters. Safety features include a metallic safety plug and a gasket release system.
What we dislike: Not all buyers were satisfied with the quality of this pressure cooker, commenting that it doesn’t fare well in comparison to the brand’s earlier products.
Honorable mention pressure cooker
T-fal P45007 Clipso Stainless-Steel 12-PSI Pressure Cooker: available at Amazon
Our take: This well-made pressure cooker is designed with an encapsulated base that’s compatible with all cooktops and distributes heat evenly for perfectly cooked dishes.
What we like: The stainless-steel construction of this appliance enhances its durability and longevity. A chef who’s cooking solo can open and close this pressure cooker easily courtesy of the one-hand system. Once you remove the pressure valve and gasket, the appliance is safe to run through the dishwasher.
What we dislike: Some buyers reported that components of the pressure cooker fell off or fell apart after a few months.
Megan Oster is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money.
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