- Food and Cooking
Tips on buying the best pressure cooker
Why choose a pressure cooker?
Pressure cookers can be intimidating. There are countless stories out there about exploding ones. The reality is that only old pressure cookers are prone to explode, the new models are extremely safe and easy to use. Pressure cooking is worth getting into as it produces delicious and healthy food in a lot less time than ordinary cooking. Risotto takes only five minutes to prepare, a stew takes less than an hour.
Pressure cookers function based on the principle that under pressure, the boiling point of a liquid is higher. As the cooker is sealed, the pressure inside the cooker begins to build. The pressure raises the boiling point of water from 212 to 250 degrees, and produces steam. The hot steam 'bombards' the food, making it cook faster. This process uses less energy than ordinary cooking, and produces a richer flavour as no molecule can escape from the pressure cooker.
What is it made of?
Pressure cookers can be made of two materials. Aluminum and stainless steel. It is best to avoid pressure cookers that are made of aluminum. They are less resistant than those made of stainless steel. Heavy usage will result in deformation and stains. Aluminum pressure cookers are cheaper, but if you plan on using the pressure cooker for years, I would advise you to save up, and buy a pressure cooker made of stainless steel.
However, stainless steel is not a good conductor of heat. A pressure cooker made of nothing else, but stainless steel would contain hot spots. These are areas which are significantly hotter than others. These translate to longer cooking time. To purchase the best pressure cooker, select one that has an aluminium disc attached to the bottom of it. This way, you get the best of two worlds.
How big is it?
The most popular pressure cookers are the 6 quart models. However, I advise you to buy a bigger one, unless you have a tiny kitchen. There are two reasons for this. First, it is impossible to fill a pressure cooker more than up to 2/3 of the way. All the juices from the ingredients will stay in the cooker, which will require space. Second, some recipes require bigger models. I recommend an 8 quart model. This allows you to cook larger meat like whole chiken, turkey legs, ribs.
Juicy meat and crispy vegetables made with a pressure cooker
Wide or tall?
When given the chance, go for the wide models. A wide bottom provides bigger cooking surface. This is more efficient, and you have to spend less time browning meat before closing the cooker. A wide cooker's inside is easier to reach when cooking, the food easier to see. The useful models are the ones around 7.5 to 9 inches in diameter. The best ones are 9 inches wide.
Can it handle 15 pounds of pressure?
A pressure cooker is essentially a sealed vessel that does not allow air or liquid to escape below a pre-set pressure. The higher the pressure, the shorter the cooking time. Cooking under 15 pounds of pressure would take away the speed advantage of pressure cooking. Longer cooking defeats the purpose of pressure cooking, as you do not save any energy by doing so. Also, you will need to adjust your recipes. Most pressure cooker recipes are written for 15 pounds pressure.
Electric or stovestop?
Electric pressure cookers have grown in popularity in recent years. Newbies to pressure cooking like them as they are easy to use, but new pressure cookers are a constant source of headace. They come with a shorter warrantee than their stovestop counterparts. The programmable feature reduces your options. For example, rapid cooling is impossible, which prevents you from prepairing tender-crisp vegetables. Electric pressure cookers are harder to repair, parts harder to replace. A good stovestop model will make life easier, allow you greater freedom, and serve you for a lifetime.
Does the handle matter?
Never buy a pressure cooker with only one short handle. You will burn your fingers far too many times. A long handle offers leverage when locking the lid in place. Having a shorter helped handle on the opposite side of the bottom unit is a must. It is hard to lift an 8 quart model full of food with only one handle.
A second, small handle is a must
Old or new?
Old pressure cookers might be cheap, but they can be unsafe, and hard to repair.
If the manufacturer of the pressure cooker is out of business, parts are hard to obtain, a manual almost impossible to find.
An old pressure cooker's bottom can be bumpy which prevents proper conduct of heat. The lid might not fit the bottom easily. If the vapor is allowed to escape, the pressure cooker is useless.
If the pressure regulator doesn't fit well, the cooker is unable maintain pressure as indicated. This damages the purpose of pressure cooking.
All of the above can result in a useless pressure cooker.
Avoid non-stick interiors
Non-stick interiors can not withstand pressure cooking. Interiors peel off as the result of sustained pressure. These parts end up in the food as well as the fumes fluorocarbons release.
You can not use metal utensils as these damage the non-stick finish.
Your new pressure cooker will serve you and your loved ones for a lifetime. It is vital to find the best pressure cooker out there. Save up some money and buy a pricy, but better model. This investment will pay for itself in a short time by reducing your energy bill and saving you time.
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