How to Choose the Right Pressure Cooker: A Buyers Guide

This entry is part of a series, Pressure Cooking 101»

"There never was a good knife made of bad steel." - Proverb

When it comes to pressure cookers, and all cookware for that matter, the above quote is a great place to start.  High-quality and heavy-gauge steel is the most important criteria to look for.   No matter how great the features or components they're all for nothing without quality materials.  We are in luck because not only is the metal makeup in the cookware you are considering likely to be labeled clearly on the box or on the bottom of the piece itself, many of the name brand cookware manufactures use quality materials by default.  Always know what materials go into the products you buy, especially if used for cooking.

Stainless Steel & Three-Ply Bottom

Choose a pressure cooker that is made of high-quality durable stainless steel.   Not all stainless steel is the same. Look for the label or bottom stamp to indicate "18/10 Stainless Steel" (a composition of 18% chromium and 10% nickel) which indicates the makeup of the metal.  Chromium and nickel add the following advantages:

  • Stain and corrosion resistance. (stainless steel must include at least 10.5% chromium to be considered stainless.  A greater amount of chromium adds to its durability)
  • Shine. (nickel works to increase the protective layer that chromium forms and also adds gleam and shine)
  • Learn more about how stainless steel is made: (video)

Accurate Pressure Indicator & Quick Release

A pressure cooker capable of reaching 15psi (pounds per square inch) is the accepted standard for most pressure cooker recipes.  Often taken for granted, be sure the model that you select is capable of reaching this level.   Also look for an accurate indicator that will clearly indicate when this level has been reached (pop-up indicator, colored marker, etc).  The less guesswork the better.

Look for a pressure cooker with a quick release option built into the pressure regulator.  Modern pressure cookers allow this mechanism to quickly lower the pressure inside the pot without losing the heat.  With the pressure quickly equalized the option will allow the addition of other ingredients from the recipe and then allow the cooking to resume with the switch back to pressure cooking.

pressure cooker closeup

Fagor pressure cooker with locking lid and quick pressure release option

Safety Features

Modern pressure cookers offer many safety features that pressure cookers of the past simply did not.  If overpressure occurs modern pressure cookers vent excess steam from a valve stem with an audible "hiss".  If pressure were to continue to rise the sealing gasket on a modern pressure cooker would be pushed out through a designed safety aperture in the lid safely venting the pressure.

What Size Pressure Cooker Should I Buy?

Should I buy the 4 qt quart pressure cooker or the 6 qt pressure cooker?  It depends.  Take into consideration the number of portions you often prepare, your storage space, your budget, etc.  We agree with Vickie Smith's recommendations of a 6-quart pressure cooker as the minimum and a 7- to 8-quart model if you can afford it.  Remember the pressure cooker can only be filled two-thirds full for most foods and only half full for foods that foam or froth during cooking.

"While even the largest pressure cooker is capable of cooking the smallest amounts of food, large amounts cannot be cooked in a smaller one."

Warranty & Accessories

While a good pressure cooker is likely to last several decades, a smart shopper will consider the quality of the company and its pledge to stand behind its products.  Replacement parts like gaskets will not be covered and we recommend choosing a name brand company where pressure cooker parts and accessories will be available.

Avoid Non-Stick

We would recommend that you avoid non-stick pressure cookers for several reasons.  The first is the simple fact that the non-stick surface simply does not last.  The second and most important is the health issue surrounding non-stick coatings.  We won't go into the debate about the safety or lack of safety when using non-stick coating in cookware but we will say that we have chosen as a family to simply avoid it when at all possible.

Where to Buy

Most department stores that feature a large selection of cookware will probably have a few models to choose from but you will always be able to find a better selection if you shop online.  We have put together a collection of modern pressure cookers that meet the above criteria and have either personally been reviewed through our hands on testing or that come highly rated from other long time pressure cooker fans.

If you do consider purchasing a pressure cooker through our store any proceeds will be used to offset the costs of maintaining this website with a portion of the sale also going to support the efforts of C-CAP.  We can't thank you enough!  Here is a link to our pressure cooker store.

Read more from this series of articles. 


Thanks for reading.

"I was 32 when I started cooking; up until then, I just ate." ~Julia Child  
Why learn pressure cooking?
It's 7 pm. The end of the work day stomach rumbles...

In one hand, a take out menu. In the other hand, the refrigerator door...its contents staring back almost as blankly as we are towards them. We want a homemade meal, but also want something quick and simple to make.
1. Simple and quick recipes requiring basic skills to become proficient in the kitchen.
2. Quality ingredients, not necessarily 100% organic, but meals without artificials and chemistry class additives.
3. To understand more of the story of our food and take small steps towards self-reliance.

It's true, there are many benefits to pressure cooking: the time savings, the taste, a small step towards self-reliance, sustainability... but the real benefit is in what we learn as we redefine our relationship with food. Good food can be fast. Good food can be easy.

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