Pressure cookers buying guide

How to buy a pressure cooker that's right for you

The Cuisinart CPC-600A Pressure Cooker has a 6 litre capacity, digital thermostat and push-button controls. (Image credit Sheldon and Hammond)

The Cuisinart CPC-600A Pressure Cooker has a 6 litre capacity, digital thermostat and push-button controls. (Image credit Sheldon and Hammond)

Jargon Buster: Pressure Cookers

Gasket: A gasket is a ring that forms a gas-tight seal which does not allow air or steam to escape between the pot and the lid. While old pressure cookers had rubber gaskets, the new gaskets are now made of silicon or other polymers. This not only creates a better seal, but silicon is less likely to become cracked and brittle with age like rubber products.

kPa: This is the abbreviation of kilopascals, and it is the standard metric unit for measuring air pressure.

Locking mechanism: Depending on the type of pressure cooker you select, it should have at least two locking mechanisms to ensure the lid stays shut when it is in use, and that it cannot be accidentally opened. The lock mechanism may be a sliding or twisting lock or it maybe a pin lock mechanism for example.

Operating pressure: This refers to the rated pressure inside the cooker; the higher the pressure, the faster the cooking time. You will see this measured in either kPa or PSI, for example the operating pressure may be indicated as 55 (kPa)/ 8 (PSI) and range up to 103(kPa)/15 (PSI).

PSI: This is the acronym for Pounds per Square Inch, and it is the standard imperial unit for measuring air pressure.

Pressure indicator: A pressure indicator is a visual gauge that shows you what the pressure is inside the cooker (as it increases and decreases). This will help you to adjust the cooking temperature, as well as see when the pressure has decreased enough to open the cooker after the desired cooking time has expired.

Pressure settings: Modern pressure cookers will offer multiple pressure settings, which allow you to set the pressure that the food will be cooked at, thereby increasing or decreasing the desired cooking time. While with ovens we talk about the cooking temperature, with a pressure cooker the heating method is measured as a pressure setting (measured in kPa or PSI).

Rack/trivet: A rack, or trivet as it is also known, is a standard feature of a pressure cooker and it looks like a metal plate with holes in it. Generally it will be made of aluminium of stainless steel or, in the case of electric pressure cookers, plastic. The rack is used to lift the food off the bottom of the cooker. They come in a range of sizes, but look for a rack that covers the cooker’s diameter, as smaller racks may be of little use.

Steam release valve: This is a quick release feature that allows steam to be safely expelled without losing heat. It is best to use this in short bursts to release the steam in a controlled manner.

Steaming basket: A steamer basket is generally made out of stainless steel, and most will have a handle and feet. It will fit the diameter of the pressure cooker. It suspends the foods above the liquid line, allowing you to cook different foods at the same time, as well as reducing the intermingling of cooking flavours, which is desirable when cooking vegetables.

Tags indoor appliancescooking applianceskitchenspressure cookerskitchen applianceshome appliances

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Amanda Conroy

Good Gear Guide

1 Comment

Johnson Peacock

1

The pressure cookers from the 1970's and 1980's were noisy, spitting pots that often created more mess than great meals. Today, pressure cookers are back in style and have come a long way with more features that make them easy to use and much safer. I had never seen one until my wife showed me at the cooking store the other day. The new pressure cookers have a quick-release option which cooks food even faster and eliminates using excessive water to cool things down. Presssure cookers resemble other kitchen pots but their lids are a bit different. The lids are built to comletely seal the pot so that the contents can boil easily inside the pot. You get higher cooking temperatures and much shorter cooking times because the steam produces an increase in pressure. It all sounds a little too complicated for me, but they do work and the food I've tastest so far is actually pretty good. Pressure cookers come in 4 to 8 quart sizes, but a 6 quart size is what most recipes are made for. You want to choose a pressure cooker that has a detachable pressure regulator so you can adjust the pressure to low, medium or high. A higher temperature on the inside of the pot will decrease cooking time and safety valves vent the steam.

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