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Buying Guide: Pressure Cooker



Honestly, pressure cookers, slow cookers and traditional Dutch ovens can share the same techniques for stewing, braising, making stocks or soups and sauces. Still, pressure cookers deserve their popularity for make these recipes intense flavors like traditional Dutch ovens do in faster way.

There’re various types of these tools. But, by sources of heating, they can be separated into stovetop and electric pressure cookers. No one better than other, there’re pros and cons for both.


Pressure Cooker Buying Guide

Stovetop vs Electric

  • Stovetop Pressure Cooker. If you suppose for earning the most efficiency of pressure cooking, pick stovetop versions. These cookers can reach higher pressure; some models can reach true 15 psi. Moreover, most quality products have wide base and thick clad bottom, which yields noticeably superior searing, browning, or caramelizing than electric pots for better flavors and textures. They have longer lifetime, as well.

    Unless for canning, which foods won’t directly attach to the pots, choose stainless-steel over aluminum pots. They’re more durable and non-reactive to acidic and alkaline foods.

    In general, stovetop versions suit for ones who love to try advanced cooking techniques that need high pressure temperature and lesser evaporation, speed up pressuring process, or even save their budget by investing long last cookware.

  • Electric Pressure Cooker. if you wish to get the nice results by set-it-and-forget-it-process. Moreover, most electric pressure cookers these days are multi-cookers. This means: you can cook several techniques in one pot.

    Electric machines are good for those who are too busy or nervous to find the right tuning but want successful cooking results, look for an all-in-one pot for save counter spaces, or just need a fool-proofed pressuring machine.


    Stovetop
    Stovetop Pressure Cooker
    Stovetop cookers are superb performance and cost-efficient tool, but needs more skill for hitting the sweet spots.
    • 2 pressure levels. High: 13-15 psi and Low: 6-8 psi.
    • 3 pressure release methods: quick, normal (by open valve) and natural (do nothing).
    • Manual regulate the heat.
    • Faster cooking process and pressure release.
    • Excellent searing/browning.
    • Durable and easy to maintenance. Most are lasts more than 10 years.
    • Various sizes available: 2 - 8 quarts for regular use and roomy 10 - 41 quarts for canning.
    Electric
    Electric Pressure Cooker
    Electric machines allow for ‘set-it-and-forget’ operation since all duties are automatically done by pre-setting.
    • 1 or 2 pressure levels, depending on models.
    • Lower pressure level: 8 - 12 psi[1].
    • Automatic pressure release, but slower than stovetop versions.
    • Most models are multi-cookers. More versatile for other cooking techniques.
    • Longer cooking time than stovetop versions.
    • Automatic Keep Warm.
    • Shorter lifetime. (electronic lifetime)
    • Limited sizes, 4 to 8 quarts.


Regulations

Every pressure cooker must have a method of controlling the pressuring process. For decades, the heat regulation has been improved. Say, the 30-year of Granny’s pot totally differs from modern pressure cookers, like Fissler or even Fagor. There’re basically 3 styles for pressure regulators;
  • Weighted-valve Regulation (so called Jiggle Top). After WWII, this type of cookers was widely spreading. This old-fashioned method uses a weigh (or jiggle) placing on the top of the vent release tube to allow excess steam to escape during cooking. When pressure builds, it will force to lift the weight and release of steam, for regulating the temperature and pressure inside. When hearing jiggling sound, the cooking time begins. This regulator will automatically release pressure for maintain 15 psi.

    Still, the problem is: it’s hard to monitor internal temperature and maintain good pressure inside. Moreover, you will want to examine the vent tube before each use to be sure it is clear, for safety issue. This type of regulator is widely found in canning pressure cookers.

  • Modified Weighted-Valve Regulation. This modified version intermittently releases pressure in short bursts when reach 15 psi. Cooking time starts when steam beginning to escape, which requires carefully monitoring. Like traditional jiggle type, it’s still louder and hard to operate than modern spring-loaded valve type. Presto products are using this regulation.

  • Spring-Loaded Valve Regulation. This modern regulator has spring-loaded release valves that will ‘pop up’ when pressuring. It has 2 pressure levels and allows for adjust the heat without venting steam. Also, without jiggling sound, this quiet cooker requires to watch the ‘pop up’ level to release pressure manually and safely, if need. Most newer models, for examples, Fissler, Kuhn Rikon, t-Fal and Fagor use this regulation.

  • Automatic-Released Valve Regulation is found in electric pressure cookers. The suitable pressure is completely automated and adjusted by the built-in thermostat controlling the temperature of inside the pot to be within a safe range, based on the type of food being cooked.

    The regulation of each product is different in detail and makes different pressure levels. Instant Pot, for example, has the patented pressure sensor mechanism to keep pressurizing between 10.12 to 11.6 psi[2].

    Some models, such as Breville Fast-Slow Pro, has dual sensors for more precisely temperature control.

Cost to Pay

For stovetop type, it costs wide price ranges, from $20 to $300, and mostly diverges by type of regulator and craft. The spring-loaded valve cookers are more expensive than jiggle top ones. Still, since this type of cookware is naturally a plain metal pot with reliable safety mechanisms, picking the high-priced ones mean worthy investment than splurge---you’ll get more quality and safer tools that last for long, maybe 10 to 20 years or longer.

Size by size, electric pressure cookers are typically pricier than stovetop ones, around $70 to $300 for most 6-quart capacity. The more duties and features, the more price. Consider buying the functions you’ll use to save your money.

Know Before Buying:

Apart from type of pressure cookers: stovetop or electric cookers and regulations, there’re things you should know before buying these products:
  • Stovetop vs Electric. In short, for expecting cooking results and faster operation, go for stovetop cookers. If you mean to do set-and-forget cooking, pick electric pressure cookers, instead.

  • Regulator. For stovetop type, we prefer spring-loaded valve type than traditional jiggle-top by the reason of effectiveness and safety features. They give more intense flavor with less cloudy, quieter, and easier to operate[3], but much pricier.

  • Size. For normal culinary uses, the 4 to 8 quarts are capable. According to America’s Test Kitchen[4], while 6-quart cookers are popular, the bigger size is more value as you can fill 2/3 of capacity as a maximum level and some recipes, such as chicken stock, don’t fit 6 quarts. And you can make 3 quarts of stock in the same pot. We prefer 6 to 7 quarts for fitting most recipes and cooking techniques.

  • Shape. Like other tools that acquire braising and stewing methods, searing and browning yields superior results and regulate heat. Pick ones that have short straight sides and wider base. Also, thick metal disk (all over) base or multi-clad, like good cookware, bottom makes more evenly and better searing.

  • Safety Features. The good products must have reliable safety features, includes locking lid system, safety release valve and pressure control, in at least.

  • Ease of Use. Whether stovetop or electric cookers, the good pressure cooker should be easy to use. As the reason, modern spring-loaded valve cookers are preferable. Some models, such as the Kuhn Rikon Duromatic, have the knob to twist for leave release pressure without holding. For electric type, look for ones that easy to understand and set up.





Footnotes
  1. Laura Pazzaglia, Pressure Cooker PSI FAQ: the stuff you didn’t think to ask about pressure, Hip Pressure Cooking, April 2013.
  2. Safty Features of Electric Pressure Cooker, Instant Pot.
  3. J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, Why Anything Slow Cookers Can Do, Others Can Do Better, Serious Eats, 2016.
  4. Stovetop Pressure Cookers, America’s Test Kitchen.







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