Pressure cookers offer a healthy, convenient way to cook your favorite meals. According to Fine Cooking, pressure cookers use 50-75% less energy, and foods cook much faster than with conventional cooking methods.
But you don’t need convincing. You already want a pressure cooker. The question is: how do you choose the right one?
If You’re on a Tight Budget
High-end pressure cookers can cost $200+. That’s a hefty investment for a cooking tool that you probably won’t use all the time.
If you’re on a tighter budget, there are a few things to look for to ensure you buy a good model that will give you satisfactory results.
Accurate Pressure Indicator
The pressure cooker you choose should be able to reach 15psi (pounds per square inch), which is the industry standard. Some budget-friendly models are not capable of reaching this psi level, so check the product description to make sure it can before you buy.
Also, check to make sure that the cooker has an accurate indicator so that you know when the pot reaches the appropriate level. Having an accurate indicator eliminates a lot of guesswork.
Stove Top Model
Electric pressure cookers are nice, but they typically come at a higher price. You can buy a higher quality stove top pressure cooker for the same price of a low-end electric cooker.
Stove top models are also preferred by experts, like America’s Test Kitchen.
Aluminum may not be the material of choice by professional chefs, but it’s an affordable one and still conducts heat efficiently.
While you can still find budget-friendly stainless steel pressure cookers, aluminum is by far the most affordable option.
So, if you’re on a tighter budget, consider an aluminum stove-top cooker with an accurate pressure indicator.
If You Want a Programmable Model
Maybe you want a pressure cooker because it will save you time on cooking. But what if you want to take convenience once step further by using a programmable cooker?
While convenient, these models have some extra features, which means there are more things to consider when choosing a model.
Programmable pressure cookers are only available in electric form. These cookers, although more expensive, are far more convenient than their stove-top counterparts.
Just like a slow cooker, an electric pressure cooker is a “set it and forget it” type of appliance. Simply fill it up with your ingredients, plug it in, choose your settings and go.
When choosing a programmable model, consider the size. While this is an important thing to consider for any pressure cooker, it becomes even more important with an electric cooker.
Size is important for two reasons:
- You want to make sure the pot is large enough to hold enough food to feed everyone.
- You want to make sure you have enough space in your kitchen for the cooker.
Six-quart models are really popular, but many people find that they’re just not big enough to feed more than just a few people. An eight-quart model will allow you to cook for more people, and the price difference is negligible.
Despite having a larger pot, the 8-quart models are still compact enough in size to fit in most kitchens with ease.
Consumer Research says a 6- to 8 -quart model can feed a small- to medium-sized family.
Programmable pressure cookers have different food settings that take most of the guesswork out of cooking. From soup to poultry, rice, porridge, multigrain and more, these settings automatically cook foods at the right pressure level, temperature and time.
Different pressure cookers have different food settings and programs. Check to make sure that the cooker model you’re considering has the right settings for the foods you want to prepare. You’ll often find the settings for a dish listed inside your favorite pressure cooker cookbook.
Timers and Adjustments
The whole point of buying a programmable model is to be able to set a timer, and let the cooker do its thing. That said, some electric models have food settings, but no timer.
Along with food settings, you want to make sure the model you’re considering has a timer and other adjustment settings. Some allow you to adjust pressure levels, while others allow you to do other things, like prepare yogurt, slow cook your food or sauté your vegetables.
These additional settings allow you to enhance the flavors of your foods and make the pressure cooker more versatile in the kitchen. The sauté function, according to Instant Pot, can be used to thicken sauces after cooking, or it can be used to reheat foods.
If You Want a Stainless Steel Model
Stainless steel pressure cookers are the preferred choice by cooks, and that’s because they offer excellent heat conductivity without changing the flavor of foods.
There are many things to consider when choosing a stainless steel pressure cooker:
Stove-top or Electric?
Stainless steel pressure cookers come in both stove-top and electric forms. The right one for you will depend on your personal preferences and needs.
Stove-top models tend to be more accurate in terms of reaching the appropriate PSI, and they typically cook foods more quickly.
Electric models take longer to reach the appropriate PSI, but they offer convenience and virtually hands-off cooking.
Straight Sides, Thick Bottom, Wide
If you choose a stove-top model, you want a wide pot that has straight sides and a thick bottom. The wider pots are easier to see inside, and they give you more space to brown foods without crowding the pan.
Thick bottoms are important because they allow for less fluctuations in pressure. Straight sides also mean that the pressure and heat is evenly distributed inside of the pot.
America’s Test Kitchen explains the importance of these three features in the video below: