Choosing an electronic pressure cooker
There is a lot to consider when you are looking to buy a pressure cooker. Making sure you get the right pressure cooker for your needs can be a little bit overwhelming as there are a lot to consider. Here are some of questions you should be asking yourself:
- What size will suite you?
- What price range are you looking at?
- What functionality are you looking for with in a pressure cooker?
The information below will help you get closer to finding the right one for you:
How does a pressure cooker work?
The concept behind a pressure cooker is really very simple but very clever. A pressure cooker will help you cook food much faster than the normal way and still keep all the characteristics of meats etc that have been cooked for a long time. Pressure cooking your food saves you time and money as cooking meals becomes a lot more efficient.
Here is how it all works: Increased pressure delays the boiling of the water so that it boils at a much higher temperature and so will cook the food much faster.
The pressure inside the pressure cooker can get to 15PSI (Pounds per Square Inch) and this means that the temperature is around 250degrees F which is about 120degreesc C.
When a pressure cooker is started, it starts off at normal boiling point but as the pressure rises, so does the temperature. Once the cooking cycle is finished, then the pressure is reduced in a controlled manner until it is safe to open the cooker.
The older models would rely on heat from the stove and so the environment inside the pressure cooker was not as well controlled as modern ones which can have their own internal electric heater (electric pressure cookers) that allows them greater control of the cooking process.
The most obvious advantage of this system is that it cooks much faster and so requires less energy (more cost effective). This is a great plus for many people who don’t have the time to spend in the kitchen to cook using normal methods.Another advantage to pressure cooking is that less water is needed and as a result of this, less of the vitamins and minerals are leached.
Another less obvious advantage of pressure cookers is that it greatly reduces the time to cook food for those living in high altitudes as the higher you go the less atmospheric pressure and so the lower the temperature and well you guessed it – the longer it takes to cook a meal.
If you want to read up a bit more, here is a link on how pressure cookers work
Do pressure cookers work?
The short answer to this question is yes they do, however, this will be subject to the quality of the pressure cooker that you want to buy. The better the pressure cooker, the more you are going to be able to do with it. Having said this, even the more basic ones will do the job. I have said this before, it is always a good idea to know what you want to be able to do, before you start looking at whatever product you are looking to buy. The principle is the same when you are shopping, if you have a shopping list when you walk into the shop then you are more likely to get the things that you need and and not over spend.
What is the difference between an electric pressure cooker and a stove top pressure cooker?
- Really the biggest difference between the two is the fact the stove top version will almost always achieve a higher internal pressure, making the cooking process a little faster. The cost of making the electric pressure cooker cook at the same pressure as the stove top version would make it potentially 3 times more expensive then it is already.
- Heat source from the stove top comes from the stove while the electric is internal.
- Electric pressure cookers don’t really need to be monitored, but they will require more time to get to the max temperature and pressure.
- Electric pressure cookers take almost twice as long to cool down compared to the stove top as they cannot be taken off the heat source (as you can with a stove top pressure cooker). You have to wait for the electric coil to cool down, couple this with the fact that they are insulated, and so the heat takes longer to dissipate (for the electric version).
- The above point also makes the electric pressure cooker way more efficient(up to 60% more!) than the stove top brother. The reason being more of the heat is kept in the electric pressure cooker with less electricity being used.
How much time can you save using a pressure cooker
The basic answer this is “a lot!” This will vary depending on what you are cooking. It is less for veggies etc., but when you get to cooking things like stews, you really will see the benefits of using this – for example you can get an oxtail done in around 40 mins – that would be the same for most stews as well. That time will produce properly cooked juicy and tender meat that falls off the bone and melts in your mouth. We think this is the reason why pressure cookers are making such a big comeback as they really are a massive time saver for busy families (and a money saver as a small bonus).
What are the top brands of pressure cookers?
Presto- they have been around for a long time and have been making all sorts of good quality products. They started making pressure canners back in 1905 and in 1939 introduced the first saucepan style pressure cooker. https://www.gopresto.com/
Cuisinart – They have an awesome range of products covering most of the kitchen and are well established as a company producing quality kitchenware including their pressure cookers www.cuisinart.com/
Fagor – These guys produce very modern and stylish looking products for the kitchen and are best suited for people who have modern homes www.fagoramerica.com/
Hawkins – These guys make 65 models of pressure cookers. Because they focus in this area they have some pretty specialized products and are worth a visit www.hawkinscookers.com/
How to select the right model pressure cooker for you?
This is the big question really – and the answer is … it depends. Sorry if that is not what you are expecting, but bear with me and I will elaborate. There are a wide range of pressure cookers, all with differing features and capabilities. The question really at this stage of your journey is what I need this product for?
One of the things that winds me up when I am looking to buy something is all the fancy marketing and in your face advertising. Easily side step all of this by actually taking time to think about what you are going to be using it for and then hunt for the model that has the features that will best suite your needs.
Here are some of the features that you should maybe consider
Budget– what can I afford to spend on this? (I am a big advocate of buying the best I can afford, even if this means waiting a little while to get the required money for the gadget that I want. It has been my experience that buying cheap will almost always cost more in the long run).
Size – pressure cookers range in size – make sure that the one you are looking at is the right one for your requirements. They range from 4 quarts up to 23 quarts (those are used more for canning). I have a smallish pressure cooker here at home as there are only three of us and I like to use it to make casseroles and stews.
What size pressure cooker is best?
The size of the pressure cooker is very important. Most pressure cookers are sold by how much liquid they can hold. This can be a little bit misleading as the actual usable capacity of the cooker is about 2/3 of the capacity. You need the extra space for the steam to build inside when it is sealed. The most popular sizes on the market are 4-quart, 6-quart and 8-quart. I have given a few of the advantages of each of these to help you have a better idea of what you might be looking for.
4-quart Pressure Cookers
This is perfect for single or couples. You might get away with this if you were using this for one course in a family meal. You can do a whole meal for one or a couple with a 4-quart.
6-quart Pressure Cookers
This is the most popular size for most families. It is good for most foods and it should be noted that most recipes are developed for this size cooker.
8-quart Pressure Cookers
If you have a larger family then this is the one for you. You can also use this one for making large batches of stock.
I always like to go a bit bigger when it comes to pots etc. for cooking as experience has taught me that it is easier to use a bigger pot to cook a smaller meal then the other way round. Have you ever tried to cook a meal in a pot that has been full to the brim?
Other functions – Some of the higher range pressure cookers will be able to do other jobs like slow cooker or rice cooker. If you are looking for more than one gadget, this might be a good way to save a bit of money and space in the kitchen.
What features should you be looking for when you compare pressure cookers?
Regulation of pressure – This can vary from product to product but I would be trying to get something that is up to 15PSI. If you read the science stuff at the top then you would know that the higher the pressure the quicker the cooking is.
There are three types of valves that are used on the stove top pressure cookers.
Weighted valve – The important thing if you’re looking to buy a pressure cooker with a weighted valve, is to make sure that it is removable so that you can inspect to see that there are no blockages when you use it. With this you can adjust the stove heat so that you get a steady rocking motion (yes I did just say that).
Modified weighted valve – This is attached to the cooker but does not rock but intermittently releases steam to maintain the 15PSI. These types of pressure cookers are a little more expensive then the weighted valve pressure cooker.
Spring valve – This is the most expensive of the three types and usually has a little pop-up valve that indicates the pressure. Some spring valve pressure cookers will require less water than the others. You will have to watch this one to see when it is at the right pressure and adjust your stove accordingly.
Cover Interlock System – You should always choose a pressure cooker with a cover interlocking system. This will prevent the steam from building up until you have properly locked the cover down, it will also keep the cover locked until the pressure is at a safe level to open.
Cooking rack – Having a pressure cooker that comes with a cooking rack will allow you to cook foods about the liquid – this will help you cook several foods together without the flavours all getting mixed up.
Another thing that I would look for is the base, if you going for a stainless steel pressure cooker then it is important to go for a thick based cooker (bimetal or trimetal base). This will help eliminate scorching and give you a good spread of heat over the base when you are cooking.
Other features that you might want to look into are things like whether or not the pot has a helper handle, a good idea if you have weak wrists or injuries.
I have found this video that is quite good at giving some advice on some of the areas that we have been talking about
There is a lot to take on board when you are looking at pressure cookers, and can be a little daunting if you are not sure what you need or have much to go on. My suggestion is to read some of the reviews that people have left on the product to help give a better idea of what to look for.