Shopping Checklist: Pressure Cookers
• Quality materials
A heavy base on the pressure cooker will ensure that the food won’t stick, and many cookers also have non-stick surfaces. Stainless steel pressure cookers offer better longevity than aluminium ones.
• Stovetop or electric?
An electric cooktop is useful if you don’t have many cooktop elements or hobs, or plan to use the pressure cooker in a few locations (perhaps take it on holidays). Stovetop pressure cookers are generally easier to clean (many have parts that can go into the dishwasher) and disassemble, and they don’t take up bench space when in use. They work on most cooktops.
• Size and weight
The volume of a pressure cooker is measured in litres and can range in size from 6 litres and all the way up to 12 litres. Smaller capacities may not fit a whole chicken or roast, so be sure to consider the volume of cooking you want to do — and what you want to cook in the pressure cooker. The weight of a pressure cooker can vary from 2.7kgs up to over 5kgs; be sure to check that you can easily lift it.
• Pressure indicators, settings
Many modern pressure cookers feature a pressure indicator that allows you to measure the internal pressure and allows you to reduce the pressure when cooking and determine when it is safe to open the lid. If your cooker offers different pressure settings then you can use these to adjust the cooking time. Operating pressure is usually indicated within a range of low and high pressure settings; the higher the pressure the shorter the cooking time required.
• Steam release valves
As the name implies, a steam release valve will release the built-up steam in the pressure cooker and reduce the need for a cool-down period once the cooking time has ended. Be sure to check how the steam is dispersed; ideally it should be directed upwards and away from you when released.
• Double locking lids
For extra safety, it is best to consider a pressure cooker that features double locking lids. It should be easy to use and lock securely in place.
• Ease of cleaning
Electric pressure cookers have a heating element, so they cannot be washed in a dishwasher. Look for a pressure cooker that is easy to clean, maintain and store away. Remember, cracks and crevices can easily trap food and make cleaning difficult. Dishwasher-safe stovetop models are available.
• Supplied extras
Most pressure cookers will include a steaming basket, rack/trivet, and many cookers also include a recipe book. Look for the inclusion of a detailed instruction book too to help you get the most from the pressure cooker. Consider ongoing costs such as additional racks and baskets, and how much they will cost to replace if lost or broken. Some manufacturers also supply glass lids separately so you can use the pressure cooker as a saucepan.
Most pressure cookers offer long-term warranties -- many up to 10 years -- but it is a good idea to read the fine print on what the manufacturer will cover. Some warranties are limited to 12 months for manufacturing defects, and may exclude defects caused by the misuse of the product.
• Replacement parts
If you take care of your pressure cooker, it should last a long time. Correct cleaning and storage, especially of the seal (gasket), is advised. Make sure any parts that may be lost or damaged over time — such as the seals, lids, handles, baskets and racks — can be easily replaced. Check the cost for any replacement parts. Manufacturers recommend replacing the gasket every 12 months depending on use.