This is single-handedly, the most useful piece of kitchen equipment I own, which is why it warrants its own post. With such a wide array of uses, if you can only own one pot, for whatever reasons, buy a pressure cooker. There are both stovetop and electric models available, both with their own benefits and differences.
For speed, flavor, and ease of use, I cannot recommend pressure cookers enough. I personally own a 6 quart electric “Kitchen Living” brand, and a Presto Super Six 6 quart stove top pressure cooker/canner. My only regret with either of these is that they are not bigger, but I will be upgrading my stove top sometime this year. 6 quarts is actually a great size for feeding less than four people, it just leaves me lacking when making stock or sauces sometimes.
Growing up, I never got to realize just how useful a pressure cooker could be. It was used almost exclusively for beef barley soup, and I just never grasped its full potential. As I grew older, started cooking, and learning about some of the science behind it, I don’t know how I could have been so blind.
At pressure, water boils at 240F, as the majority of all meats and vegetables is water, this means it cooks faster. This also means that the pressure can force the flavors in the cooking liquid into the proteins, adding flavor penetration an tenderness beyond belief. High pressure also means that what would take hours or overnight on a stove, such as simmering stocks or sauces, can be done in under 2 hours. Total time for my beef stock is 2 hours and 30 minutes. An hour roasting in the oven, 75 minutes under pressure, and prep time. My four hour BBQ sauce takes 25 minutes and tastes as good or better.
From here out, I will be separating this article into stove top and electric. Both have their ups and downs, but it’s easier to take in just one at a time.
Stove Top Pressure Cookers
An immediate benefit to a stove top model, and why I recommend it so highly if you can only have one pot, is that it is a functional and working pot. Stove top pressure cookers and canners cook at a higher pressure than their electric brethren, 15 psi for high, and ususally one or two options of lower pressure. Cooking at a higher pressure means it cooks faster still than an electric. But it also has the benefit of being your saute pan. Feel
free obligated to brown your meats and saute your vegetables in the pot before cooking. All of the stuck bits, all of the flavors absorbed into the oil, really add to the flavor and taste of the dish, and also, being preheated to brown helps it come to pressure quicker as well.
If you are shopping for a stove top pressure cooker, you need to take into consideration the size, especially if you are looking for a pressure canner as well. My six quart makes plenty of food for a family of four, I just want it to be larger for making stock. It also holds 5 to 6 pint jars for canning, which is great for canning what I cook in it, but for quart jars or large batches, it leaves me a little bit out of luck.
You also want high quality steel, good gaskets, and and easy to read pressure gauge. Fagor makes a full line of highly recommended pressure cookers, but the top of the line seems to be Kuhn Rikon. I have no personal experience with either of these, but both brands come highly recommended and look spectacular.
For quick pressure relief, you can run these under cold water. It goes without saying, that’s not an option for an electric anything.
Electric Pressure Cookers
With an abundance of features, buttons, and functionality, electric pressure cookers should not be overlooked. Most will come with slow cooker options as well as timed cooking, so not only doubling its functionality, but adding to convenience. Electric do not hold pressures as high as their stove top counterparts, averaging 10 to 12 psi on high across brands. This difference in pressure equates to a difference in cooking times. The average adjustment is 20% more for an electric than stove top. My personal electric PC manufacturer says mine is 8 to 10 psi, but Adjusting my times to 12 has never caused a problem.
You want to look for a flat bottom in the inner pot. It really helps but is not necessary. I have a domed bottom and can still saute onions and garlic just fine. You also want to look at the buttons and settings it has available. A “sear” function comes in great handy, but a slow cooker option really helps with functionality. Getting more uses out of any product for the same shelf space is always a good thing.
If the manufacturer does not specifically state that it’s also a canner, DO NOT CAN IN AN ELECTRIC. Sure, they may hold up just fine, but you only need one mistake, and the walls aren’t strong enough to contain a rupture. While this may not be a big deal for some, if you are interested in canning in your electric, look specifically for ones that say they can.
Probably the best selling, and highest reviewed electric is the InstantPot duo. It has full functionality, including a yogurt mode, the Smart has bluetooth links to recipes and program options. The prices won’t break the bank either. When my current PC dies, I will be replacing with the Duo, supposedly, they have an 8 quart coming out, and that really has my attention.