Looking for a healthy start to the New Year? How about a completely delicious dinner you can put on the table at lightning speed? You’re going to get all that and more with a pressure cooker. Seriously.
It was a French physicist that developed this cooking method way back in the 1670s. We’re not making that up. Nor are we exaggerating its role in the development of the steam engine.
Super healthy cooking. Old-fashioned doesn’t mean unhealthy. A 1995 study shows this is the healthiest way to cook as it preserves 90-95 percent of nutrients. (Boiling can leave you with a mere 40 percent of nutrients).
Pressure cookers operate using a combination of heat and, quite obviously, steam pressure. It’s not terribly complex; it’s more a matter of being efficient.
We’ve taken the guesswork out of choosing the best pressure cooker – whether you’re after a stovetop model or an electric pressure cooker, we know what you need. We’ve spent an incredible amount of time over the past few weeks testing, reading, and rating. These are definitely the best pressure cookers you can get.
The main control valve is virtually maintenance-free; all you need to do is rinse the lid under running water. You’ll hear the lid click when it locks into place – and the conical shape makes it easy to store.
Um, that price is no fun. And, a few units have had faulty valves that need to be checked as soon as you open your package.
This stovetop Fissler Vitaquick pressure cooker could just be the miracle your kitchen has been waiting for. It’s a professional quality pot made of stainless steel with an aluminum base that allows the entire pot to heat evenly.
Now, it is expensive; we can’t deny that. And it is basic – you don’t get a host of fancy bells and whistles, but it is top-of-the-line quality and the variety of sizes available will drive you to collect the set. Plus, they’re completely silent and steam-free which will make it an absolute pleasure to work with every single time. Just wait until you take a bite of your first meal from this pot.
Capacity? There are three sizes available, 4.5 quart, 6 quart, and 8 quart and you can stack them inside of each other for easy storage.
Easy to clean? Remarkably so. These pressure cookers can go in the dishwasher. Thank goodness!
Safety Features? The lid clicks into place after twisting to snap shut and you’ll hear it click so you know it’s safe to use. The spring-valve pressure regulator makes it easy to monitor the pressure and there is a quick release value.
Extra features? Can change between 10 psi and 15 psi for different levels of pressure; that’s not standard for stovetop pressure cookers, so we do appreciate it. There’s also a perforated insert to allow for cooking separate foods.
Other cooking methods? You could use it for other cooking methods, but if you’re going to spend this much on a stovetop pressure cooker, you probably don’t want to risk damaging it while cooking with it in other ways.
Will it break the bank? The 6-quart pressure cooker sells between $250 and $275. That’s almost ridiculously expensive. But, if you’re serious about cooking, you will splurge on it. We know it. At least it comes with a limited lifetime warranty – though there have been mixed reviews about dealing with the manufacturer.
This stovetop pressure cooker is available in sizes between 4 quarts and 10 quarts and can work on all cooking surfaces. The stay-cool handles are a nice touch, and it has dishwasher-safe parts.
Some users report the lid to be a little finicky.
This Fagor pressure cooker does pressure cooking really well. The base is exceptionally wide compared to the inner cooker surface, so you can bet you’re getting the most efficient heating possible – even if you’re steaming your meal. You can also use it for searing meat before locking the lid and continuing to cook it pressure-style.
Speaking of locking, you secure it closed on the long handle of the lid. That’s super handy and a feature you don’t find on every stovetop pressure cooker. You’re not limited to electric ranges either; you can use it on just about every heat source.
Capacity? This particular Fagor pressure cooker has an 8-quart capacity, but you can get it in sizes between 4 – 10 quarts.
Easy to clean? Totally, most of it is dishwasher-safe, including the steamer basket which is included in the box.
Safety Features? There is a safety-lock handle and a visual pressure indicator. You’ll also find a quick-release valve. We’re fans of the stay-cool handles, especially the long handle featuring the locking mechanism.
Extra features? We love the long handle which makes cooking and moving this pressure cooker between burners easy. There’s also a steaming basket in the box and a recipe booklet.
Other cooking methods? You can use it to sear meats and steam vegetables. We think that’s handy, but the design of this pressure cooker doesn’t make it conducive to using it as a standard pot.
Will it break the bank? The MSRP is about $160, but you can find it under $120 sometimes. When you do, snag it quickly. This is a quality pot but a bit too expensive at the MSRP.
There are 5 cooking settings controlled by a one press button. The digital display is useful as is the fingerprint-free exterior.
It’s not as reliable as we would like; some users report lids that just don’t seal properly.
This electric pressure cooker has pros and cons. They do tend to balance each other out which makes this right for some users – but not all. If you’re looking for a budget pressure cooker that does the job well and does just a little more than it claims, you’re in the right place. But, if you need super safety features, you’re not going to get them.
Programming is straightforward, as is the countdown. We absolutely appreciate the cool touch handles which are exactly that. But, in saying all that, it’s the price that really makes this a worthwhile buy. If they wanted to charge closer to $100, we would steer you away from this machine.
Capacity? This is a 6-quart cooker.
Easy to clean? You can wash the pot in the dishwasher, though the rest is by hand. There’s also a dishwasher-safe trivet that saves your delicate surfaces included in the mix.
Safety Features? You’ll need to fully lock this Cuisinart pressure cooker into place before it will build pressure and cook your food. But, it’s hardly the extensive safety list you’ll find with other pressure cookers.
Extra features? The handles are cool touch, which is useful at serving time. There’s also a recipe gift included, but this isn’t a feature-rich pressure cooker. Economic yes, but not much more.
Other cooking methods? In addition to low and high-pressure cooking, you can also sauté, brown, and warm your foods. The simmer feature is helpful for finishing touches. If you’re clever, you’ll be able to figure out how to use it to cook rice, but it’s not super intuitive.
Will it break the bank? Nope. And that’s one of the reasons we like it so much. You’ll pay about $70 for this electric cooker. Since it’s so inexpensive, we’ll allow it to have a few flaws.
There are 11 pressure cooking settings and a 3-way safety system on this Breville pressure cooker. The LCD display alerts you to the current operation cycle of this appliance.
The lid doesn’t detach which makes it difficult for cleaning – and sometimes storing.
We absolutely love this Breville pressure cooker. And, there are a lot of reasons to do so. We’ll start with the 3-way safety system so that you know it’s always secure. It’s electric and has all the bells and whistles you would want from a digital pressure cooker.
The LCD screens allow you to use any of the 11 preset programs or to set your own. It will even tell you when the cooker is engaged and it is safe to walk away. There are time controls, pressure controls (and indicator), and a variety of cooking methods you can use – including slow cooking. Whether it’s fast or slow cooking that you’re after, there’s nothing this lovely pressure cooker can’t do – except maybe make itself more affordable. If it were $100 cheaper, we would insist on every home having one. It’s that brilliant.
Capacity? 6-quarts – and there’s no other size available.
Easy to clean? There’s a non-stick, ceramic coating which makes it simple to clean after every use. Wiping it out is easy, but the lid does provide a bit of a challenge for some users.
Safety Features? We really enjoy the safety lid that locks into place and the automatic hands-free steam release. The 3-way safety features really do make this an incredible appliance.
Extra features? We’re sold on the digital display of this Breville pressure cooker. Sold. You can select the level of pressure that you’re after on a scale between low and high. There are 11 present cook settings and you can pre-program your favorites too. Plus, you can set cooking times between 2 and 20 hours and the automatic steam release changes according to the food on the inside. Wow. We’re not short on features here.
Other cooking methods? Yay! You can also use this for slow cooking, steaming, sautéing, searing, reducing, and just for keeping your meal warm. You kind of have to love it, right?
Will it break the bank? Not everyone can afford a $250 appliance. And price is the one thing that keeps this from being our absolute top pressure cooker fave. If you do have the funds, and you love your kitchen gadgets, we believe you’ll get over the price quickly.
6 quarts is a great size and the price is even nicer. The cover lock indicator that prevents the lid from lifting when pressure is in play is fantastic.
The top knob isn’t as sturdy as you would want it to be.
If you’ve never worked with a pressure cooker before, this might be the one you want to start with. It’s a basic stovetop pressure cooker, but it does what it says it will without any of the extra fuss. There isn’t a pressure indicator, per se, but the cover lock indicator makes it impossible to open the lid during the pressure cycle. And, there is a quick release valve.
We can’t oversell this Presto pressure cooker because there aren’t many features to oversell, but we can tell you that even tough, cheap meats come out of this cooker tender and delicious. Truly. It’s absolutely worth the price and would be our top pick if this was all about stovetop pressure cookers.
Capacity? 6-quart standard; there’s also a 4-quart size (and multipacks available).
Easy to clean? It’s super easy to clean – you can toss the whole thing in the dishwasher. How brilliant is that?
Safety Features? The cover lock indicator will let you know when pressure has built inside – and it prevents the cover from lifting until the pressure is reduced.
Extra features? This is about as basic as it gets for a stovetop pressure cooker, but we do appreciate that an extra rack is included for pressure cooking different foods without blending flavors. There’s also a 64-page instruction booklet with recipes in the box.
Other cooking methods? You could use this as a standard stovetop pot if you really wanted to, but we would absolutely advise saving it for pressure cooking. It’s so much more useful as a dedicated item.
Will it break the bank? No – and we appreciate that more than you know. The MSRP is about $70, but you should expect to pay under $50 and there’s a 12-year warranty that comes with that. You like it even more now, don’t you?
Yep, 7 different ways to cook food with this appliance – and it includes 14 microprocessor controlled programs. Plus there are 10 different safety mechanisms.
A few users report it being a little difficult to figure out the best way to operate this pressure cooker.
We love this electric pressure cooker for so many reasons. It’s a beauty that you can program and operate in loads of different ways. And, it does a lot considering the price you pay for it. The different cooking methods make dinner prep easier than you might imagine and many users believe it is the best investment they’ve ever made.
There is a pressure indicator, but it’s the safety features that make people turn to look twice at this model. Accessories needed for different cooking methods are included in the box. And, you’re not limited to the 6-quart size, smaller and larger models are available.
If you can do without the ability to pasteurize dairy products (because that’s not something everyone does, let’s be honest), you could also consider the 6-in-1 model; it’s often a bit cheaper, though there isn’t a huge difference in the MSRP. (The 6-in-1 model doesn’t have a larger size, however.)
On Prime Day 2016, this was Amazon's second best seller of the day (after the Fire TV Stick) - and you'd better believe this deserves the prime positioning given to it by the Food Network's Healthy Eats guide. Basically, this is one of the absolute best electric pressure cookers at an absolutely stellar price for what you get. Really. It's that good.
Capacity? This cooker has a 6 quart capacity.
Easy to clean? The inner pot (made from stainless steel) and the lid are dishwasher safe. You’ll need to wipe down the rest. Not too shabby, eh?
Safety Features? There are 10 different safety mechanisms at play in this model. This includes leaky lid and excess pressure detection. You can monitor temperature, and the unit will shut off if safety limits are exceeded. An anti-blockage vent prevents food from blocking the vent. Of course, there is also a safety lid lock amongst the remaining safety features. Basically, this is about as safe as a pressure cooker can be at the moment.
Extra features? The touch screen interface is wonderful to work with and there are high-pressure and low-pressure cooking settings. You also get a handful of additional attachments and accoutrements, including a rice paddle, soup spoon, measuring cup, steam rack, and condensation collector in the box. That’s in addition to the user manual and a short receipe booklet.
Other cooking methods? In addition to working as pressure cooker, this baby can be a slow cooker, a rice cooker, and a yogurt maker. It’s also good for sautéing, browning, steaming, and warming.
Will it break the bank? You can pay a lot more for a pressure cooker. But you can also pay a little less. At about $130 for a 6-quart model, we think it’s a fair price.
Some foods take a long time to cook using traditional methods. Seriously. If you’ve ever tried to transform dried beans into something like refried beans, you know just how long it takes. It’s way cheaper, but you need to put in the hours—even if you’re not standing over the stove the whole time.
Pressure cookers alleviate the time strain—usually by one-third or more. Rather than spending two or three hours on a roast, you can have it on the table in less than an hour. (Realistically between 30 and 45 minutes.)
And, speed is just the beginning. If you spend any time and energy cooking, a pressure cooker could save your life. (We’re only exaggerating a little—it really can save you time and money which many people find life-changing.)
Ask any home cook if they would like to speed up the cooking process (and save a little money) without sacrificing food quality—we’re not sure that any would decline… even if they relish their time in the kitchen.
That alone is cause to consider a pressure cooker.
But, these appliances (or specialized pots) are also healthy. Published studies demonstrate that pressure cooking retains between 90 and 95% percent of the nutrients in vegetables (specifically broccoli in the tests). Compare that to the amount of nutrients retained through other cooking methods (measured through B and C vitamins):
Pressure cookers are also energy efficient. Stovetop models can cut 70% of energy consumption spent on cooking compared to flat and rounded-bottom pots and pans. Electric models may be even more efficient depending on the wattage drawn. Between time spent cooking and power usage, pressure cookers are clear winners for green homes.
As an extra bonus, pressure cookers don’t leave those awful grease splatters on the stove or coating the interior of your oven. And, once you get the hang of using them, they’re super easy to work with—and even safer than that.
This is actually quite exciting for anyone interested in cooking or molecular biology. We’re not kidding.
Raw food becomes cooked food through heat. That’s basic. The amount of time it takes for food to cook depends on how quickly heat can be transferred to and change the molecules within. And that, by and large, depends on the amount of water in the food - and the temperature at which that water boils.
What? Doesn’t water boil at 212 degrees F? Well, yes, if you’re at sea level and you’re working with pure water. The minute you add salt to water, you reduce the boiling point (which is why it’s often used when boiling water to cook pasta).
Other elements can affect the boiling point of water too… including pressure points. The lower the pressure point, the lower the temperature at which water boils. The higher the pressure, the higher the boiling point.
With a pressure cooker, the pressure builds inside the food chamber, raising the point at which water boils, allowing you to cook at higher temperatures without water loss—and that, essentially, allows you to cook food faster without burning whatever is inside.
And, it’s the primary reason that pressure cookers are so good at retaining nutrients - the water inside your food doesn’t steal the nutrients and escape from it, carrying all the goodness away.
Once you start investigating all these benefits, it’s easy to start dreaming of your own pressure cooker. Then, it’s time to consider what’s important to you in terms of features—because there are a whole lot of options out there.
Though you may have a preference for one or the other, both electric and stovetop pressure cookers get the job done—and do so faster than other methods. But, there are a few key differences outside of where you place them in your kitchen and it’s definitely worth comparing both before settling on the one you want.
As Consumer Reports rightly points out, stove to pressure cookers are definitely faster, but they’re also noisier (with constant steam venting) and you’ll need to keep an eye on them during cooking as all adjustments must be manually handled. But, before you begin thinking these are cheaper—consider that they may range from $20 to over $200, whereas electric models tend to sit somewhere around the $100 mark.
Electric pressure cookers are quiet, easier to use, and require less supervision—but they can take as much as three times longer to achieve proper pressure as their stovetop cousins.
Pressure cooker recipes call for a certain amount of pressure (usually around 15 pounds per square inch). And, cooking with pressure requires some means to regulate it - otherwise, the pressure levels become dangerous.
There are four types of pressure regulators. Electric pressure cookers use a float valve which isn’t actually used to maintain pressure—that’s all done through the computer, but it will release the pressure at the end so you can safely retrieve your food.
Stovetop pressure cookers claim the other three types of regulators: weighted, modified weighted, and spring valves.
Weighted valve pressure regulators are the traditional kind that you’ll find on your grandmother’s pressure cooker. (She may even call it a jiggle-top regulator.) The valve rocks back and forth to allow the steam to escape and it should move rhythmically. These can be quite noisy—which can be a good or bad thing, depending on how you look at it. The noise means you can leave the kitchen and still monitor the cooking process, but then again, it can be loud. (When it’s silent, it may be cooking—but it’s not pressure cooking.)
Rather than rocking, the modified weighted valve allows steam to escape in short bursts. It’s connected to the pressure cooker rather than the vent pipe and does need a fair amount of adjusting during cooking to keep it on a steady steam release.
Most expensive of all, but with several benefits to go with it, is the spring valve regulator. These are much quieter and more efficient. A short (1”) valve pops up to show the pressure level—and, as you can imagine, it’s best not to leave the kitchen to ensure too much pressure isn’t brewing under the lid.
Regardless of the type of stove top valve, you’ll need to clean it regularly, so you’ll need to ensure easy access.
In addition, you probably want a pressure cooker with two settings: high and low. Meat, beans, and foods that would otherwise require long cooking times require the high setting. Fish, eggs, and pasta are much better done on low settings. While more settings may seem like a better investment, you really don’t need more.
Bigger isn’t better for pressure cooking. The smaller the area, the faster your pressure cooker will work. But you don’t want something that’s too small. Typical sizes are 4 quarts, 6 quarts, and 8 quarts.
Ideally, estimate one quart per person included in the typical meal and possibly a little more. Realistically, a 6-quart pressure cooker (which is the most common size) will feed a maximum of 6 people. It all depends, of course, on the food you cook—and you should never fill your cooker more than two-thirds full.
You can cook 4 cups of dry rice in a 6-quart cooker or 2.5 cups of dry beans. When it comes to recipes, the majority of them are written for 6-quart cookers. But, again, if you’re only cooking for two people, you don’t need something larger than 4 quarts. Anyone that cooks for the freezer, however, should opt for a larger size to get the most out of the machine.
At the moment, there are two primary materials used for pressure cookers: aluminum and stainless steel.
Aluminum pressure cookers are less expensive, but less durable. They’re excellent conductors of heat, but they can also warp and stain. And, because aluminum is reactive, you may experience flavor changes in acidic ingredients. It’s more noticeable with stove top models compared to the chambers of electric options.
Stainless steel cookers are, of course, more expensive, but they’ll look shiny and new for years. Stainless steel is strong, durable, and usually recommended for stovetop pressure cooking—but the material is definitely not known for its ability to conduct heat. And, these pots are much heavier, which means it’s not right for every user.
There are a few options that offer the compromise of adding aluminum-clad bases to stainless steel bodies, but these are often the most expensive of the lot.
First-time pressure cooks may want to consider a cheaper aluminum model to make sure the habit of using it sticks before looking at one with a mix of stainless steel and aluminum—but if money and space aren’t an issue for you, then go for it.
Whichever material you purchase, be sure to avoid non-stick coatings. These just aren’t useful with this type of cooking.
Safety first is true in all things—and especially so with pressure cookers. We can just imagine the accidents and injuries suffered in the development of these pots a couple centuries ago. You don’t want to go through that.
Fortunately, you don’t have to.
Most pressure cookers have safety features that seem a little over the top. But trust us, they’re not. At the very least, you should expect:
There are plenty of manufacturers out there, but you may want to spend a few bucks more on names you recognize and trust. It’s not because these pots and appliances are inherently better; it’s because you will need to replace a few parts from time to time.
The sealing gaskets should be replaced every 18 months to two years - whether you use your pressure cooker or not. (Incidentally, that’s the silicone ring inside the lid and it’s really important for safety.) Occasionally, a safety valve or another part will need replacing. While these aren’t major investments, you don’t want to spend too much time looking for them.
Whether you prefer an electric or a stovetop model, simple and accurate controls are critical—no matter how basic the cooker is. You need to know the lid lock is secured and the amount of pressure inside.
Pressure cookers that also function as slow cookers should perform equally well across all methods—and it’s important to read the reviews that apply to the other modes. There’s no point in buying an appliance that’s supposed to do multiple things but only does one well.
Pay attention to the cleaning and maintenance instructions both before you buy—and after every use. In addition to maintaining manufacturer warranties, this particular piece of cooking equipment’s maintenance is directly linked to kitchen safety.
If you’re looking for a pressure cooker that can also do pressure canning, you need to find one that meets USDA food safety standards and that’s not as easy as it may seem. There aren’t that many out there (and usually only in the 10-quart or higher range)—and it may be better to find a pressure canner that can occasionally be used for cooking if that’s your priority.
And, while you’re definitely going to be tempted to do pressure frying (adding oil to your pressure cooker)—you absolutely should not unless your pressure cooker manufacturer and manual explicitly say it is safe to do so. As you can imagine, the combination of pressure and oil is, um, dangerous to say the least.
That said, you can expect a pressure cooker to make perfect roasts, tempting stews, steamed fruit, and the most delicious risotto you’ve ever had in your entire life. Want more recipes? We seriously recommend any of these options from Serious Eats. Yum!