Pressure cookers: Buyers' Guide
The humble pressure cooker is often overlooked in favour of modern pots and pans; if the thought of a pressure cooker brings back memories of your mother cooking soup in a difficult-to-use, loud, screechy pressure cooker, we’re here to set the record straight.
Pressure cookers can actually make cooking a whole lot easier – and healthier, too; with shorter cooking times food retains its nutritional value and vitamins better than in a standard pot. Plus, pressure cookers can cook food up to 75% faster too and, add to this the fact that mess is confined to one pot, this kitchen marvel actually turns out to be rather a canny investment.
Still not convinced yet? Read on…
How does a pressure cooker work?
Pressure cookers work like an ordinary pot but are sealed tightly with a lid so that cooking time is greatly reduced. Valves release air slowly so that pressure doesn’t build, meaning the lid doesn’t pop off and your food stays firmly inside the pan and not on the ceiling!
Aluminium vs. stainless steel
Aluminium pressure cookers are lightweight, cost-effective and heat well. After continued use the aluminium does shoe signs of use, though this shouldn’t affect the cooker’s ability to cook. If you’re looking for a cheap pressure cooker then an aluminium number should be your go-to.
Stainless steel. Stainless steel is durable and heavier than its aluminium counterpart, meaning it retains that high shine finish for years. On its own, stainless steel is not a great conductor of heat so it’s best to opt for a pressure cooker with an added disk of aluminium on the bottom of the pan. Stainless steel cookers are considered easier to clean and less absorbent of odours and flavours.
Most pressure cookers are sold by the size of their total liquid capacity (though the actual usable capacity is around half or two thirds of this number). Use our guide below to determine which size would be best for you and your family. If all you’ll be using your new cooker for is to cook small meals then consider saving yourself some money and getting a smaller size. If you like to cook big, bountiful meals for lots of guests then a bigger size may be a better investment.
The most popular pressure cooker sizes are 4-quart, 6-quart and 8-quart liquid capacities.
4-quart is a good size for a small household of one or two people, or for making one course of food, such as potatoes.
6-quart is ideal for families of two or more and can accommodate most foods.
8-quart is perfect for you if you have a large family or enjoy making big batches of food.
Early pressure cookers were a little dangerous to say the least, with very little safety features and lots of fiddly parts, but modern day cookers have been totally revamped with added safety specs:
Handles on both sides of the pot for easy lifting
Pressure release settings for quick de-pressurizing
Safety valve to release excess steam
Locking device so that the pressure cooker is unable to be opened until pressure is at a safe level.
Pressure indicator that shows when the cooker is under pressure and when the pressure is released.
All pressure cookers come with a pressure regulator, which indicates and controls the pressure inside the cooker. There are 3 types of indicator available and all do essentially the same thing, which to choose depends on which you find easiest to use:
• Weighted valve pressure regulator (jiggle top)
• Modified weighted valve pressure regulator
• Spring valve pressure regulator
Make sure your pressure cooker can reach 15psi and that the pressure is set to this number when cooking as it is the most common pressure needed to cook.
Cover interlock A cover locking system works to ensure that a pressure cooker cannot be used unless the cover is properly locked.
Pressure release Recipes will call for ‘cool cooker at once’ or ‘natural pressure drop’ pressure release methods.
The ‘cool cooker at once’ method requires the cooker to be placed under cold running water or in a pan of cold water depending on the food being cooked.
The ‘natural pressure release’ requires that you simply remove the cooker from the heat source and let the pressure drop of its own accord.
Pressure cooker accessories
- A spare gasket
- A clear glass lid
- Steamer basket
- A cooking rack
Preserving food with your pressure cooker
If you like the idea of preserving your own homegrown or home-produced foods, investing in a pressure canner is a wise move. You can still cook small amounts of food in a pressure canner, though it will take longer to heat up, and it allows you to preserve your own vegetables or fresh foods.
What to cook in your new pressure cooker
Pressure cookers are ideal for cooking lots of foods such as soups, stews, potatoes, chilli, Bolognese, vegetables, meat and fish.
• Never leave your pressure cooker unattended; they cook fast, meaning anything that’s left on the heat for too long will be overcooked and less tasty.
Now you’re clued up on everything you need to know about pressure cookers you’re ready to start to compare deals and offers and find the best pressure cooker for you.
Before choosing your perfect model be sure to check out pressure cooker reviews online to guarantee you’re getting the best model for your money.
Head over to our shopping and comparison pages where we’ve done all the legwork for you to bring you the best prices for pressure cookers on sale in the UK. Whether you’re looking for a cheap pressure cooker or a designer model you’re guaranteed to get it at the best price.
Once you’ve found a deal that catches your eye, click the offer and you’ll be transferred to the website of your chosen independent retailer where you can simply click and buy – easy!