Pressure Cookers - Electric Or Old-School?
Often regarded as a bit of a novelty, the pressure cooker is steadily building in popularity. Sales have soared over the past few years and show no signs of slowing down. As other cooking appliances come under pressure from a new contender, the following thought may have crossed your mind: why should I buy a pressure cooker?
For one thing, they’re much faster than traditional cooking methods. With a pressure cooker, you can have a beef stew ready in under an hour; a risotto takes half the time it normally would. Your food will be more tender than it would be otherwise too, as the steam from pressure cookers permeates your food, cooking it in all directions simultaneously.
One last bonus to using a pressure cooker is that, as there’s no way for steam to escape, pressure cookers retain more nutrients like vitamins that are normally lost in the cooking process.
Faster, tastier, healthier - these cookers seem like a dream come true! But you can’t just run off and buy one: There are a lot of pressure cookers out there, from portable ones that you can use on a camping stove to giant food caskets packed with electronics and sensors.
If the thought of you picking a pressure cooker out from the crowd has left you feeling the pressure, it’s time to hit the safety release with this buyer’s guide! We’ll tell you how to use these machines, pit hob pressure cookers against electric, and suggest a few of our personal favourites. Let’s get started!
How to use a pressure cooker
How you use a pressure cooker depends on whether you use a stovetop pressure cooker, also known as a hob pressure cooker, or an electric one.
Using a stovetop pressure cooker is very similar to using a normal pan. You fill the cooker with your ingredients, place it on your stove at a high heat, and wait until the cooker comes to pressure - the cooker will tell you when it’s ready with an indicator, which is usually mechanical and built into the handle.
Now all you have to do is keep the cooker at a consistent temperature and wait for your food to cook. Once the time’s up, you can let the pressure cooker cool down naturally or run it under the cold tap for a couple of minutes to speed up the process.
Most hob pressure cookers have a quick release valve that lets all of the steam out in a single jet. Just make sure not to stand in its path if you use this option!
As easy as a stovetop pressure cooker is to use, an electric pressure cooker is even easier. Almost every stage of the cooking process is automated. All you need to do is plug your cooker in, key in the settings for your meal on the control panel and let the pressure cooker do its thing.
Of course, the method you use is only half the story when it comes to cooking, you also have to think about what you’re putting inside your pressure cooker. The best kind of recipes to use a pressure cooker for are those that take a long time: Stews and casseroles that contain pulses, lentils, beans and tough cuts of meat are best, though that’s not all you can use them for. Homemade stocks, soup and steamed vegetables are all options. Some clever cooks have even used their pressure cookers to make homemade yoghurt!
You can also find recipes floating around the internet and among the pages of cookbooks that are tailored specifically for pressure cookers, with tested timings, so make sure to look out for them!
Are pressure cookers safe?
You may have heard tales of pressure cookers building up too much pressure inside their system and exploding - yikes! Luckily, tales of kitchen hand grenades are greatly exaggerated. Even at their maximum pressure, consumer pressure cookers don’t build up any more pressure than what you’d find in a fizzy drinks can, nowhere near enough for steel pots to explode.
Modern pressure cookers are quite safe to use. They’ve got built in safety valves and gaskets that release excess steam and prevent the pressure from building up to unsafe levels. Just like any kitchen equipment, as long as you follow the instructions fully, using a pressure cooker is perfectly safe
What’s the difference between hob and electric pressure cookers?
While both types of pressure cooker use the same physical process to cook food, and are suited for the same recipes, there are a few key differences between them, and both types have their pros and cons.
In order of seniority, we’ll start by taking a look at stovetop pressure cookers.
Hob pressure cookers are one of the fastest ways to cook food around, and this is their main draw. Compared to traditional methods like broiling, a hob pressure cooker is three times faster!
Another clear advantage to stovetop pressure cookers is that they double as a regular saucepan. Just remove the lid and the rubber lining and you can use them to cook pasta, boil vegetables or poach eggs.
The lack of electrical power is another bonus, meaning that you can use them anywhere. As long as you’ve got a consistent heat source that’s hot enough the hob pressure cooker will cook your food. That you can use them on a portable gas stove makes them great for camping trips - there have even been reports of people using their pressure cooker on a barbeque!
The biggest problem with hob pressure cookers is that they can be difficult for newcomers to use. It can take a few tries for inexperienced cooks to keep a stovetop pressure cooker at the right pressure and failure means ruined food. You’ve got to keep a constant eye on your cooker, making sure that the pressure is staying at the perfect level for the recipe. For those of us who like to read a book, check our phone or have a conversation while we cook, these appliances aren’t ideal.
That’s hob pressure cookers covered, so let’s get electric! Like grunge rock, Tamagotchis and The X-Files, electric pressure cookers are a product of the 1990s. Unlike the other three, these amazing appliances are still going strong!
As we mentioned in the section above, electric pressure cookers are easy to use. You won’t have to monitor the pressure levels of your cooker, or adjust the temperature. This isn’t just a matter of laziness. As we described earlier,traditional pressure cookers aren’t easy to use.
There are other benefits to using electric pressure cookers too. Most electric pressure cooker pots are lined with a non-stick coating, so you don’t have to worry about your food latching onto the bottom of the pot and burning. Many also have scheduling and delay functions in their circuitry. Set them up right and you won’t even have to be in the house for your electric pressure cooker to cook food. This makes them a great choice for busy households. So far electric pressure cookers seem to be miles ahead of their rivals.
But don’t count stovetop pressure cookers out just yet. They’ve got one big advantage over their electrified cousins: speed. The power of pressure cookers is measured in pound per square inch (psi). The higher the psi number, the more pressure builds up in the cooker’s pot, and the faster your food cooks.
While almost all stovetop cookers can reach 13-15 psi, it’s more complicated for electric pressure cookers, as their maximum pressure varys on make and model. On the whole, though, they’re weaker, with some reaching a maximum pressure of only 6 psi. On average, electric pressure cookers can only cook food twice as fast as traditional methods - they’re left in the dust by hob pressure cookers.
There are other cons as well. That non-stick coating we mentioned earlier might be useful, but you have to be careful what utensils and ingredients you stick in the pot to avoid scratching it. And with more complicated electronics inside, there’s more that can go wrong. An electric pressure cooker might last years, but a traditional pressure cooker will last decades.
So, to sum up. In the standoff between stovetop pressure cookers and electric cookers, stovetops are quicker on the draw and more reliable, but electric pressure cookers are more accurate and easier to use.
Prestige Medium Dome Pressure Cooker
The Prestige Medium Dome Pressure Cooker is a standard, dependable hob pressure cooker that’s well suited to home regular home cooking. The lid, which secures tightly onto the pressure cooker’s body, comes with a safety valve built into the top. Its six litre capacity isn’t the largest around, but it’s enough for families and batch cooking. It’ll work with all kinds of hob types, including induction.
Prestige is a recognisable brand that’s been producing high quality kitchenware for decades. If you want to be absolutely sure your new cooker will work properly, a prestige pressure cooker is the way to go. Prestige also make their own spare parts, which you can find pretty easily (some are even available at OnBuy!). So if something does go wrong with your pressure cooker, you won’t have to throw it out.
This prestige pressure cooker has one flaw though. It’s got only one high pressure, 12psi setting. This stops you from cooking more delicate food in your pressure cooker, like hard boiled eggs (unless you want to turn your fresh eggs into rubber bouncing balls). What’s worse is that 12psi is by no means the highest a hob pressure cooker can go. If we had to settle for a pressure cooker with one setting, we’d have liked to see one with more oomph.
The Hawkins 1.5 Litre Pressure Cooker
We mentioned earlier that you can use a traditional hob pressure cooker on a camping stove. Most of the pressure cookers in our guide for buyers maybe a little too large to warm on such a small flame, but that’s not true for the Hawkins 1.5 Litre Pressure Cooker! Designed for pressure cooking on-the-go, this pressure cooker is small enough that it’s easy to take it camping with you.
Its small size is its strongest selling point, but this hob pressure cooker has other selling points. Its lid fits into a seal that surrounds it from the outside and expands under pressure. This traps the lid in place, meaning it can’t be opened until the pressure drops. A great safety-conscious bit of design.
Unfortunately, the Hawkins 1.5 Litre Pressure Cooker’s greatest strength is also its worst weakness. When you use this pressure cooker you’re limited to making meals for an absolute maximum of two people.
The Morphy Richards MyPot Pressure Cooker
There’s no doubt in our minds, the Morphy Richards My Pot is the best looking pressure cooker in this buyer’s guide! With its spherical shape and white and black stripy colour schemes with green highlights, this pressure cooker looks both inviting and futuristic.
Looks are important, but they’re by no means the only benefit that this pressure cooker enjoys. With five cooking modes and ten preset functions, this electric pressure cooker can replace almost every other appliance in your kitchen! It’s not just a pressure cooker, you can also sear, steam and slow cook your food inside its roly-poly body. However, its main focus is still pressure cooking, and it has an admirable number of presets for meals as diverse as chilli, pasta, and even rice pudding. For kitchens low on space, this gadget is a must have!
So what’s the catch we hear you ask? Well, just like the Hawkins 1.5 Litre Pressure Cooker, the Morphy Richards MyPot is on the small side. It’s got a four litre capacity, which means you’re looking at small portion sizes. It’s not enough to outweigh the benefits of this pressure cooker, but it’s certainly a drawback.
Instant Pot Duo
While the last two pressure cookers were a tad on the small size, that’s not something shared by the next machine on our list, the Instant Pot Duo. It’s a bit of a monster, with a seven 7 litre capacity that’s great for big families. It might take up more physical room in your kitchen, but you’ll still save space: Just like the Morphy Richards MyPot, this pressure cooker deals with more than just steam. It has multiple cooking modes, among them is a sauté mode that’s great for adding a little crispness to your food.
Another feature, surprising for its big size, is that this pressure cooker is very quiet. Most pressure cookers, even electric ones, let off quite a bit of steam as they cook your food. The design of the Instant Duo releases excess steam slowly, so it barely makes a whisper.
Okay, now onto the bad side: We’ve heard reports that its silicone seal does more than trap steam. Apparently, it also absorbs the aroma of strongly-smelling foods and deposits them back into subsequent dishes. This is a big problem if you want to use the Instant Pot Duo for lots of different foods, particularly those with strong flavours. The problem can be alleviated a little by cleaning the seal thoroughly between every meal, though.
Prestige Smart Plus
Hello hello, another Prestige pressure cooker! We couldn’t resist putting another hob pressure cooker from this great brand in our buyer’s guide, and once you read on about the Smart Plus you’ll soon see why.
The Prestige Smart Plus is just like the Prestige Medium Dome Pressure Cooker, ‘plus’ a couple of extras. One advantage the Smart Plus has over its fellow Prestige pressure cooker is its safety valve. If the Medium Dome is like a steam prison, the Smart Plus is Fort Knox. The zero pressure valve can’t be opened until absolutely all of the pressure is gone. You’ll have to wait a little bit longer, but that’s a small price to pay for safety.
While the Medium Dome only comes in stainless steel, the Smart Plus is also available in anodised aluminum, which is super tough. If you want kitchenware that takes a beating, this is the pressure cooker for you!
So if the Prestige Smart Plus is so great, why did we include the Medium Dome at all? As with so many things in life, it all comes down to price. The Smart Plus has more features than other hob pressure cookers and its price reflects it. If you’re willing to go all out on your pressure cooker purchase then the Prestige Smart Plus is for you. Otherwise, there are some more economical pressure cookers in this edit.