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What to Look for in a Pressure Cooker

by Cinda Chavich

What to Look for in a Pressure Cooker

The most important thing to remember when buying a pressure cooker is that, as in all things, you get what you pay for. Decide before you shop what is important to you.

The pricier cookers have more bells and whistles, more safety features and heavier bottoms. If you're perfectly comfortable dealing with the jiggle-top technology of bygone years, there are lots of inexpensive pressure cookers available in this category. But if you need a boost to get past the fear of pressure cooking, choose one of the second-generation cookers.

Look for a cooker with a lock that makes the lid impossible to remove when there is any pressure still inside. Find out what kind of backup valve there is to release pressure if the main valve becomes clogged. In older and less sophisticated models, the valve is simply a rubber plug that will blow out and launch the contents of the cooker into your kitchen. The latest models offer one or more pressure releases that will vent the steam, not the contents, if there is a malfunction in the main pressure valve.

Do your homework (most cooker manufacturers have Internet sites that describe their products). Check out the offerings of as many stores as possible. A number of the new-generation cookers from companies like Lagostina, T-Fal, Kuhn Rikon and Presto are still only sold in specialty kitchen stores or high-end boutiques.

Try opening and closing the pressure cooker. Is it easy to lock the lid in place? Would you feel comfortable opening the cooker when it's extremely hot? Imagine lifting the pressure cooker when it's hot and full of soup or stew. Are the handles comfortable? Will they stay cool?

Look at the pressure release valve. Some release a jet of steam straight into the air, others shoot it out at an angle (saving your ceiling from a moisture bath). If there are two settings or a dial, you can release the steam gradually. Some cookers simply have a metal bale to flip - the steam comes out quickly in all directions and the bale can be very hot. Others require that you push the valve down with your finger (or a wooden spoon) to release the steam - fairly simple, but still time-consuming, since you can't just walk away while the pressure drops.

If you buy a less sophisticated model (without a spring-loaded pressure release valve) you will have to remove the pan from the heat and allow the pressure to reduce naturally, or pick up the hot pressure cooker, take it to the sink and run it under cold water until the heat and steam dissipates.

Do you plan to steam desserts in your cooker? If so, you'll want a model that offers at least two pressure settings - high (13 to 15 psi) and low (5 to 8 psi) - because most cakes and steamed puddings don't rise well when cooked at high pressure. Low pressure is also useful for delicate foods and thick sauces that tend to burn easily.

Choose a cooker that's large enough to accommodate whole roasts - a 6- to 7-quart (6 to 7 L) model is good for most families. A small, skillet-style cooker is good for vegetables and delicate foods that you want to bring to pressure and steam very quickly.

A pressure cooker with a larger cooking surface and good, heavy base will make browning easier and burning less likely.

A quality stainless steel surface is easy to clean. Some companies offer pressure cookware sets, with both deep and shallow pans that will accommodate the same pressure lid, as well as regular glass lids so that you can also use the pans for conventional cooking.






Get more info like this in 200 Best Pressure Cooker Recipes

Cinda Chavich


Pressure Cooker recipe for Green Bean and Potato Curry