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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Buying guide for best electric pressure cookers

Electric pressure cookers have become a hot item in recent years – no pun intended – and there's a good reason for that. Time is at a premium in today’s busy world, and electric pressure cookers can reduce cooking time by a third or more. Plus, pressure cooking helps food retain more of its nutrients, and these units are more energy efficient than cooking on a stovetop or in the oven. Some electric pressure cookers can even double as slow cookers, rice cookers, and yogurt makers.

While all electric pressure cookers work in more or less the same way, it isn’t fair to say that one works as well as the next. There are a number of factors to consider when you are choosing the electric pressure cooker that’s the best fit for you.

electric pressure cooker
Higher pressure doesn’t necessarily mean faster cooking. Use the pressure setting that’s recommended for the food you’re cooking.

How does a pressure cooker work?

Steam is the key “ingredient” used by a pressure cooker to prepare food. First, a liquid of some type is heated in the sealed inner pot along with your food, creating steam. The liquid may be broth, water, or another cooking liquid. The sealed nature of the inner pot leads to the formation of steam and, therefore, heat and pressure. The high heat and pressure cook the food inside. Different recipes require different levels of pressure.

Notably, before the food is removed, the built-up pressure must be carefully released from the appliance. This may be achieved through a quick-release function, a natural release process where the pot cools before the lid is removed, or a cold-water release method in which you place the cooker under running water.

What’s the difference between a traditional stovetop pressure cooker and an electric one?

The difference between an electric pressure cooker and a “traditional” stovetop pressure cooker lies in how the liquid is heated. A stovetop pressure cooker is placed on the stovetop and gets its heat from that heating element. An electric cooker has its own built-in heating element.

Which type is better? In truth, the best stovetop pressure cooker and the best electric cooker each offer excellent benefits. You might appreciate an electric appliance with its own heating element if you’d prefer to leave your stovetop available for other cooking tasks, such as searing meat or boiling water.

An electric pressure cooker can be used to prepare more than just meats. You can use it to saute veggies, slow-cook stew and chili, cook rice, and make yogurt. You can even use it to prepare moist desserts like cheesecake.

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Top considerations when choosing an electric pressure cooker

The three most important things to think about when considering an electric pressure cooker are its capacity, what it can do, and the safety features it offers.

Capacity

Electric pressure cookers range in capacity from 2 to 12 quarts, with most falling in the 4-quart to 6-quart range. If you’re only pressure cooking for yourself or one other person, you can get by with a smaller appliance. But if you’re pressure cooking for a large family, you might want to choose a model that can hold 8 quarts or more.

The advantage of a larger electric pressure cooker is that it can hold more food, but there are a couple downsides. First, the larger the unit, the more difficult it will be to store. Keep your available countertop space in mind when choosing your pressure cooker, or you might need to leave it out on the countertop.

Second, larger electric pressure cookers take longer to reach temperature and pressure, so it could take slightly longer to cook food in them.

Versatility

Electric pressure cookers are designed to cook food more quickly than what’s possible on a stovetop or in the oven. But some models can do much more than that. It’s not uncommon to find electric pressure cookers that double as slow cookers. Some can steam and sauté vegetables. Some can even make yogurt from scratch.

If you’re looking for a multi-cooker that can also act as an air fryer, a sous vide, a dehydrator, and more, it’s certainly possible to find a deluxe appliance with these offerings. Consider the Instant Pot. In particular, the Instant Pot Duo is a versatile multi-cooker with a bevy of features, from the ability to cook rice to the ability to steam, statue, slow cook, and pressure cook.

Safety features

Safety is paramount when choosing and using a high-pressure cooker. When in use, the pressure cooker is full of pressurized steam, which could cause severe burns if it were to open unexpectedly. Fortunately, modern electric pressure cookers have a number of safety features designed to prevent this.

The safety features found on modern electric pressure cookers include locking lids, a vent that releases excess steam in a safe and controlled manner, and cool-touch handles. Your cooker should also have some type of pressure sensor that lets you know if the unit is up to pressure or if the pressure is too high.

electric pressure cooker
DID YOU KNOW?
Why eat food prepared in a pressure cooker? Many people believe it is a healthier choice because a lot of the nutrients remain intact during the fast cooking process.
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Features you’ll find in the best electric pressure cookers

Materials

Electric pressure cookers are usually made of stainless steel or aluminum. Aluminum cookers are lightweight and more affordable than stainless steel, but they’re not as durable. If you plan to use your machine often, you would be better off investing in a more durable stainless steel unit that will hold up well over time.

Also, pay attention to the handles. These should be made of sturdy plastic or another material that doesn’t conduct heat so you don’t need to worry about accidentally burning yourself.

Ease of use

It’s crucial that you choose a cooker that’s easy to operate, especially if you’ve never owned one before. It should include a user manual with instructions and have simple pressure settings and temperature controls on the front of the unit. Some have special controls for certain types of foods. For example, if you want to prepare poultry or cook rice, you don’t have to guess which temperature or pressure setting to use.

Ease of cleaning

Some of these handy kitchen gadgets have a nonstick inner pot to speed up the cleaning process. However, in the eyes of some home cooks, a nonstick liner is not always be the best idea. The reason:  Nonstick coatings can be prone to chipping and scratching, especially in the high temperatures of pressure cooking. This can cause the nonstick coating to peel off.

If you opt for an appliance with a nonstick coating, handle it with care, and check the coating periodically to make sure it is not peeling or flaking off into your food.

An alternative to using a nonstick liner is to purchase an inner pot made of dishwasher-safe stainless steel. In this case, all you need to do is rinse out the liner, throw it in the dishwasher, and put it back in the pressure cooker for your next meal. But again, you must keep in mind the size of the appliance. You might have trouble fitting a large pot in the dishwasher, especially if it’s already full of other dishes.

Timer

Perhaps one of the most useful features offered by these units is the timer. This works well if you want a programmable pressure cooker that will work on your meal while you’re away. It’s a lot like a slow cooker: By the time you get home, your meal is ready to be eaten. Just put the ingredients in the pot and set the timer for when you want it to begin.

Pressure cookers have come a long way since their inception. Once upon a time, there was no temperature control on these gadgets – everything cooked at the same temperature. Today’s pressure cookers offer much-appreciated versatility.

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Electric pressure cooker prices

These kitchen appliances range in price from around $50 to over $200. The price you pay depends on the size of the unit and the functions it can perform.

Low-end

If you only want a small, basic model, you probably need not spend more than $75 for a new pressure cooker. These machines can be high in quality, but they are often made for beginners and are not necessarily as versatile as other machines. Do not expect to get bonus functions such as air frying or sous vide cooking from these low-cost cookers.

Mid-range 

If you want to invest in a multi-cooker that can replace your slow cooker and maybe even your crock-pot or rice cooker, plan to spend at least $75 and probably closer to $100 or $150. The priciest of these cookers have LCD displays, a multitude of cooking functions, and the ability to connect to WiFi for smart food prep options.

High-end

Although most home cooks would probably be satisfied with a cooker in the lower or middle range, there are some options that cost greater than $150 that may interest you. For example, Ninja Foodi offers electric pressure cookers with multiple bells and whistles that cost over $300. The difference between this expensive Ninja Foodi and a less-expensive one comes down to issues like capacity and features. For example, a low-cost Ninja Foodi might only hold 3 quarts of food, whereas the high-end Ninja Foodi may hold 8 quarts of food.

In that same vein, a deluxe electric pressure cooker like one made by Ninja Foodi might offer three tiers of cooking, the ability to proof dough and air fry, and smart capabilities that allow you to monitor the progress of your dinner from afar.

Some pressure cookers offer “smart capabilities.” What does this mean? The appliance may be able to sense the amount of pressure needed to cook your food perfectly and release pressure as needed without your intervention. Further, you may be able to control the appliance from another location, saving you time and steps.

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Tips

  • Safety matters, especially when you’re dealing with high pressure and high temperatures. Read the instruction manual carefully before using your new appliance.
  • Don’t fill your pressure cooker more than two-thirds full. This is a general rule to prevent food from overflowing.
  • Never attempt to open the pressure cooker while it’s in use. Unplug it and release the pressure first.
  • Always put liquid in your electric pressure cooker before use. Your cooker can’t function correctly without liquid. You should usually add about a half to one cup of liquid every time you use it.
electric pressure cooker
Your electric pressure cooker should have at least a high-pressure setting and a low-pressure setting so you can prepare different types of foods.

FAQ

Q. How do I know what pressure to use?

A. You can use a built-in setting for the food you’re cooking if your pressure cooker has one. Otherwise, you can search online for pressure cooker recipes that specify the amount of pressure needed.

Q. Can I cook anything in a pressure cooker?

A. Theoretically, yes, but you might not like how everything turns out. Pressure cookers require liquid, so anything that’s supposed to be crispy probably won’t turn out that way if you make it in an electric pressure cooker.

Some of the tastiest recipes to come out of a pressure cooker involve moist foods such as pot roast, stew, chili, and even cheesecake. Of course, if you purchase a machine with multiple functions, you can also use your appliance to prepare non-moist foods. This would include air frying crispy potatoes and dehydrating fruits and veggies.

Q. How do you release steam from an electric pressure cooker?

A. Steam release is a tricky aspect of pressure cooking, though it is much easier today than it was in the days of our grandparents and great-grandparents when steam release involved a bit of a safety risk. To release steam from this kitchen appliance, you will need to manipulate the pressure release valve. The pressure release valve is located on the lid of the appliance.

Q. How do you clean a pressure cooker?

A. Before you do anything else, unplug the unit, and allow it to cool down if it’s hot to the touch. Consult your user manual for specific instructions. In most cases, it’s a good idea to wipe the exterior with a damp cloth. The interior may have some dishwasher safe parts, like the inner pot, which you can place in the dishwasher. If you have a nonstick inner pot, take care when scrubbing the inside of the pot to use cleaning utensils that do not cause chipping or flaking.

 

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