In the same fashion the sous vide has invaded kitchens everywhere, pressure cookers are yet another viral cooking hit.
At some point, and especially during these colder months, we all crave a hearty, slow-cooked meal. And even though slow cookers are a trusty kitchen staple, not everyone has the time or patience to wait 8 hours for a pot of chili—Enter the pressure cooker.
2019’s Best Pressure Cookers: Score Sheet
|Best Pressure Cookers||Amazon Score||Blueprint Score||Overall Score|
|Presto Stainless Steel 8-Quart||4.4||4.2||4.3|
|Instant Pot Duo 6-Quart||4.5||4.8||4.6|
|Breville Multi Function Cooker||4.1||4.5||4.3|
|CrockPot Express 6-Quart||4.2||4.0||4.1|
What is a Pressure Cooker?
A pressure cooker uses a air-tight, locking lid over a cooking pot to capture cooking steam, building immense pressure within the pot and resulting in lightning speed cooking. The components of a pressure cooker are virtually the same, whether stovetop or electric. At the very basic level, you will have a deep vessel or pot that holds the food you will cook, and a screw-on, lockable lid with a sealing ring that seals the steam in. The pressure cooker lid includes a vent pipe and pressure regulator to release the pressured steam when the cooking is complete.
The heat building inside the pot gets hotter than boiling. The hotter the pot, the more pressure inside the pot is created. And the more pressure that’s accumulated ultimately results in a shorter cooking time. For instance, a pot roast broiling in the oven or slow cooker can take up to 6-8 hours, versus 45 minutes in a pressure cooker.
Types of Pressure Cookers
There are two main types of pressure cookers that can be found for home use: stovetop and electric. Before deciding on which type of pressure cooker is best for you, let’s weigh the considerations, pros, and cons for each.
Stovetop Pressure Cookers
Before the days of electrical gadgets, stovetop pressure cookers were the tool of choice. They’re a little bit bulkier than a stock pot, and can be stored in the same place as general household pots and pans. They’re easy to assemble and use, use the heat from a stovetop to cook, and don’t have any electrical cords or digital hardware to maintain.
However, stovetop pressure cookers have limited functionality. With the stovetop variety, you’re pretty much limited to sautéing and pressure steaming. If you don’t envision yourself using your pressure cooker for slow cooking, rice cooking, or yogurt-making (seriously!), then a simple stovetop cooker might be what you’re looking for.
Stovetop pressure cookers can be intimidating for those new to this cooking technique, however. The onus is on the chef to monitor the temperature of the pressure cooker, and make sure the pot sealed correctly during cooking. The last thing you want is an explosion of hot steam in your kitchen. Prevent accidents by being especially careful opening the lid with thick and/or oily foods. You should also give your food enough time to rest even after all the steam has been released through the vent pipe. Better safe than sorry!
By carefully reading recipes and instructions, and with a little practice, anyone can master the stovetop pressure cooker.
Electric Pressure Cookers
There are entire social media accounts and blogs dedicated to electric pressure cooking (ever heard of the Instant Pot?). With the recent virality of the Instant Pot, we’d be surprised if you haven’t considered adding one to your kitchen repertoire.
The Instant Pot, and other varieties of electric pressure cookers, have a slew of functions, programmed settings, and even sizes. You can expect to find settings for steaming, sautéing, slow cooking, rice cooking, and many more. In general, the box will contain the pressure cooker, a removable pot insert, a locking lid, and an instruction/recipe book. Some models may include add-ons like steam baskets and stirring spoons.
There are a few downsides to electric pressure cookers, however. The price tags, with good reason, are significantly higher than the stovetop varieties. No matter what type of pressure cooker you opt for, using them properly and safely should always be at the forefront of your mind. Electric pressure cookers have so many functionalities that it can be overwhelming to read through the instruction manual. This is one appliance, however, whose instruction manual shouldn’t be glossed over. Even though the lids lock in place until the all the steam has been released, users should still exercise caution. Pressure cookers, no matter how you slice it, get really hot. One should always be careful.
Best Stovetop Pressure Cooker
“Hands down, this is the BEST addition to my kitchen in 39 years of cooking.” -Jill, Amazon Reviewer
- Budget friendly stovetop pressure cooker
- Capacity of 8-quarts
- Made of tri-clad stainless steel to ensure even cooking
- Includes stainless steel steaming basket and recipe/instruction book
- Lid locks into place, and pressure regulator maintains cooking pressure on it’s own
- Indicator on lid let’s you know when there is still steam inside the cooker, and lid will not unlock until indicator says it’s safe
- “Quick-cool” steam release option available
- Compatible with induction stovetops
- Reviewers have noted trouble with the sealing ring (gasket), and having to replace it after some use
- Because it’s a stovetop cooker, functionality is limited
- Pot handles do not have handles for secure gripping
Best Electric Pressure Cooker
“I use this for everything! How did I live without this before???” -Amazon Reviewer
- Easily the most popular, and most reviewed, pressure cooker on the market
- Boasts itself as a seven appliances in one
- Functions include: pressure cooking, steam, sauté, rice/multigrain cooking, warm, manual, and even yogurt (incubating)
- Made of sturdy stainless steel
- Box includes removable and dishwasher safe cooking pot, steam rack, lid, and serving/mixing utensils
- Adjustable temperature, pressure levels, and start times with digital screen
- Extra safety measures include: steam release, lid lock, temperature control, leaky lid and position detection (notifies you if lid isn’t secure)
- Pre-set programs for beans/chili, poultry, stew, and more
- Available in a variety of sizes, including 3, 6, and 8 quarts
- A Smart Instant Pot, controllable via wifi, is also available with even more functions
- The learning curve for mastering all the Instant Pot’s functions can be high
- Some reviewers have complained about the Instant Pot dying not long after the year warranty has expired
Best Luxury Electric Pressure Cooker
“Breville makes wonderful products and this combo slow/pressure is no exception.” -Jezebel, Amazon Reviewer
- The Breville Multi Function Cooker includes 11 cooking functions including, vegetables, rice, steam, sauté, slow cook, soup, stock, beans, and many more (even risotto!)
- The LCD screen changes colors to indicate types of cooking
- Safety features include hands-free steam release, locking lid, and a safety valve
- Cooking bowl is removable and and coated in non-stick ceramic
- Steam basket and rack accessories are included
- Easy-to-use dials and buttons to select features and settings
- Removable lid is dishwasher safe
- The most expensive pressure cooker on our list, but a great option for those that love and trust Breville products
- Reviewers have noted that the pot retains food smells even after thorough cleaning
- It’s a bit bulkier than the other electric pressure cookers on our list
Best Budget Pressure Cooker
“Great value and I’d say on par with that other popular brand. Only drawback is it’s Teflon coated pot vs the [stainless] steel one, but at least cleanup is a breeze.” -Target Reviewer
- Crock-Pot is synonymous with one-pot cooking, and has stellar brand recognition
- The most affordable pressure cooker on our list
- Multi-cooker includes settings for slow cooking, pressure cooking, brown, saute, meats, stews, rice, desserts, and more
- Removable teflon non-stick cooking pot is dishwasher safe
- Safety features include airtight locking lid and steam release valve
- Delay start timer, so you can program for later
- Includes stainless steel steam rack, recipe book, and serving spoon
- Digital screen displays the timer, and cooking settings are indicated by lights above the corresponding button
- Reviewers have noted pesky error codes showing up on the digital screen when moisture level is too low
- “Keep Warm” setting is only 4 hours, versus 10 in the Instant Pot
- Reviewers would prefer a stainless steel versus teflon cooking pot
Cleaning Your Pressure Cooker
Unlike regular pots and pans, pressure cookers need a little extra TLC to get them clean when you’re done cooking. It’s important to take the extra steps for three big reasons:
1. There are a lot of nooks, crannies, and extra parts that if not properly cleaned, can build up stains, odors, and even transfer to other foods you cook.
2. It extends the life of your likely expensive pressure cooker.
Most stovetop cooker parts are dishwasher safe. Virtually every electric pressure cooker has a removable lid and cooker pot that can be cleaned in the dishwasher, as well. But even throwing the lids in the dishwasher may not be thorough enough.
It’s especially important to clean the vent pipe on the lid of the pressure cooker after each use, stovetop and electric alike. Any sort of blockage in the vent pipe can prevent steam from escaping properly, and even cause explosions. We recommend getting your hands on pipe cleaners (yes, the ones from the craft store), and using them to thoroughly clean and dislodge food buildup in the vent pipe after each use.
Proper cleaning techniques are crucial for any kitchen appliance, and it’ll extend the life of your products and make it worth the money spent.
Add-Ons + Accessories
Luckily for us, the rise in pressure cooking means we get a bunch of add-ons and accessories piggy-backing off their popularity. Didn’t know you needed a sous vide egg bites mold for you pressure cooker? Now you do!
Here are a couple of our favorite accessory sets for electric pressure cookers:
Our Favorite Recipe Books + Blogs
By now you may be convinced that a pressure cooker would be a great addition to your registry and kitchen. But if you’re new to pressure cooking, getting started may feel like a doozy. No worries, however. There is so much pressure cooking content and recipes available to help get you started, and of course, we have our favorites.
Everyday Instant Pot by Alexis Mersel for Williams Sonoma
Williams Sonoma produces some of the best cookbooks out there, and Everyday Instant Pot is no exception. Don’t worry if you don’t decide on an Instant Pot, however. Once you become familiar with your pressure cooker (read the manual!), these recipes can be adapted to your cooker’s functionality.
Kat Kinsman from Extra Crispy
We love Extra Crispy’s recipes, and we especially love Kat Kinsman. Kat is arguably Instant Pot’s biggest fan, and her Instant Pot recipe videos are fun, hilarious, and approachable, with Kat’s signature quirky twist. How about sweet and spicy pickled fruit? We’re totally here for it.
The Kitchn has a great selection of pressure cooker starter recipes and techniques. They’re familiar, delicious, and a great kicking off point for a lifetime of pressure cooked meals. While you’re there, check out their library of recipes and see if you would be able to adapt them to your pressure cooker. Oh, the possibilities!
The revival of the pressure cooker, and it’s modern electric updates, are here to stay. Ultimately, people love convenience. If you could get a multi-function tool that cuts cooking times down to a fraction—all without sacrificing flavor—why wouldn’t you do it? No pressure, but we’re sure a pressure cooker is a perfect addition to any registry and any kitchen. Bon appetit!
Ready to add a pressure cooker to your registry?