Types Of Pressure Cookers
Pressure cookers have been used for many years and still remain quite popular in the kitchen for cooking. There are different types of pressure cookers available on the market to choose from.
The reason for this popularity is because cooking with a pressure cooker is faster, which reduces the cooking time by up to 70%. The cooking process basically involves putting some liquid and the ingredients into the specially designed pot to cook, which is sealed tight for pressure build-up.
It is this fluid sealed inside which creates wet hot steam to cook the meal faster and also maintain nutrients. Simple physics laws of pressure are applied to this method of cooking, which reduces factors that can slow down cooking such as drafts on a stove or big volumes to heat inside an oven.
As the years go by, the pressure cooker manufacturers have improved the technologies and features of pressure cookers. This has led to different types of pressure cookers which offer more safety and functionality.
Pressure cookers can be grouped into generations as they continue to advance and change.
In this article, we will discuss the differences between the three “generations” or types of pressure cookers, as well as discuss single-featured or multi-featured pressure cookers, and compare pros, cons, features, value, etc.
What is a pressure cooker?
As briefly explained above, it’s a device or kitchen appliance that relies on building up significant pressure within an airtight container to cook your food. They can be powered by either the stovetop or a simple electric plug, depending on the style (which we will discuss below).
They are comparable to the results from a slow cooker, which also typically rely on liquid-based recipes for a successful finished product since the moisture stays contained in the container in both the slow cooker and the pressure cooker.
The difference between a slow cooker and a pressure cooker is that the pressure cooker prevents the moisture from escaping, whereas slow cookers often are not airtight. This increases the pressure, which increases the heat, but with the extra moisture contained you don’t get dried out food when you’re done like you would at higher temperatures within an oven. You may even find that some of your cooking comes out better with being pressure cooked, due to increased moisture vs. oven cooking.
Types Of Pressure Cooker In Terms Of Generation
First Generation – Traditional, or “Old Style”
This is the oldest type of pressure cooker which had only basic features and they were limited in terms of safety. The pressure cooking is based on a weight modified valve that releases pressure to the pot. Basically, this valve wobbles around during cooking to regulate the pressure within the cooker, but it’s loud.
The pressure cooker only has a single pressure level which is hard to control the pressure levels. Due to the valve, this type of pressure cookers is very noisy which sounds like a whistle.
Second Generation – Updated Traditional
An improved type of pressure cooker with newer features and improved safety than the old pressure cookers. The spring valve replaces the weight-bearing valves, which means these pressure cookers are quieter and admittedly less obnoxious to use.
The second-generation pressure cookers also use indicators to determine the pressure levels inside the pot. They do not release steam unless the lid is open.
With a pressure selector dial in place, the noisy behavior is eliminated and makes for easy pressure control. Most of the stovetop pressure cookers are based on the second generation which combines the traditional and modern style.
Third Generation – Electric Pressure Cookers
These types of pressure cookers come with advanced features and use electricity as the source of energy, whereas the first two generations rely on stovetop-powered cooking. You can refer to them as the third generation.
The electric pressure cookers have become popular with different brands offering top-notch technology. For example, some of the brands with great pressure cookers are Instantpot, Crockpot, and T-fal, among others.
Just like the second generation, they use a spring-loaded valve to handle the pressure. They also have microchips that are pre-programmed for different settings creating easy steps to cook meals. This renders these a pretty completely hands-off cooking experience.
Since most of these come with loads of automated features, these electric pressure cookers eliminate the need for supervision of the appliance. It’s easy to use and set the settings for cooking. Some of the nice features you’ll find with these appliances include timer settings, dual pressure settings, keep warm features, auto-pressure release when cooking is complete, and more.
Different brands manufacture electric cookers with multi-functions offering pressure cooking, slow cooking, saute, steamer, and more. It right to say they are convenient and easy to use, especially when many brands also offer a substantial variety of accessories that can replace many other kitchen appliances. You may find you no longer need a separate slow cooker, rice cooker, or even skillet in your kitchen storage.
Types Of Pressure Cooker In Terms Of Functionality & Features
Some pressure cooker offers single or multiple functions which present options and variety to choose from. It is economical to use a multi-function appliance because it saves money than a single dedicated appliance.
Single Purpose Pressure Cookers
The single purpose pressure cookers are capable of only handling one pressure setting. They are designed to offer a dedicated type of pressure without extra settings.
It may be a stovetop pressure cooker or an electric pressure cooker designed specifically with a single pressure setting. Most of the traditional pressure cookers are single-purpose pressure cookers.
Multi-Purpose Pressure Cookers
These pressure cookers come with multiple features and pressure settings to enable multi-cooking of different foods. Options for different pressure settings and temperature controls are common. You are likely to only find these multi-purpose features on the newest, electric pressure cookers.
A multi-purpose pressure cooker can function as a slow cooker, rice cooker, steamer, warmer, and much more. Investing in one of the multi-purpose cookers can replace several appliances in the kitchen, and yet the investment cost is often surprisingly low for these appliances.
Although their prices can often be higher than the simple stovetop pressure cookers, they are reliable and convenient to cook with, and the versatility alone offsets much of their cost.
How To Use Pressure Cookers
What are the advantages of using a pressure cooker?
1. Moist foods in less time.
As mentioned above, pressure cookers add more moisture to your foods, do to the airtight container preventing moisture loss. This means you get juicy meats even at high temperatures, which normally means dry and hard to swallow. The high pressure equates to a higher temperature, so this speeds up your cooking times significantly, which makes these an excellent appliance to have on hand for those rushed weeknights.
The other bonus here is that while high temps in the oven cook faster but sometimes at the expense of taste, you may actually find that your foods are even tastier after a sit in the pressure cooker, despite the high-temp/high-speed cooking applied.
2. Reduces time spent during meal prep.
The most modern of the pressure cookers — the multi-functional, electric pressure cookers — are even capable of cooking frozen foods straight from your freezer and having them done and delicious in surprisingly short times. It’s possible to have a chicken dinner with potatoes and veggies, all from the freezer, cooked in just one pot in about 30 minutes or less!
With less time needed for remembering to thaw your frozen meats, or spent pre-cooking some ingredients before they hit the pressure cooker, you’ll spend less time on your meal prep days getting things ready for the week.
With multiple functions found in one appliance — like having a family-sized amount of rice ready in about 10-15 minutes — you may find yourself often using it as a “kitchen helper” for meal prep. Instead of spending 30-60 minutes cooking the rice before it’s called for in a recipe (or cooking it the day before to save time), you’ll be able to get the rice cooked and ready by the time the rest of your ingredients are ready for the skillet or soup pot!
3. Newest models offer almost completely hands-off cooking.
When you can just toss a few ingredients into a pot, push a couple of buttons, and come back to a completely ready dinner in 20 or so minutes, that’s a meal prep or busy parent’s dream come true. With the new electric, multi-function pressure cookers, you can literally do this. Sure, an oven-baked casserole may offer the same hands-off, unwatched convenience, but you’ll likely have to wait for the oven to pre-heat. There is no pre-heating involved when using a pressure cooker!
Do keep in mind, however, that while you can leave the house while slow cooking, it is NOT recommended to leave the house with a pressure cooker running.
4. Pressure cookers preserve more nutrients than many other cooking methods.
With a small amount of liquid required and a shorter cooking time, the nutrients within your already healthy foods are exposed to fewer damaging forces, which means the nutrients are not reduced or damaged as much as they cook be after long oven roasting times or super high-heats in a skillet. Since pressure cooking is essentially a method of steaming food, it’s almost no reduction in nutritional value, per an NIH study.
What are the disadvantages of using a pressure cooker?
1. You won’t get the same crisp as other cooking methods.
When high amounts of steam (aka moisture) are involved in your cooking method, you cannot expect to get a perfectly crisp finish without an additional step (and likely an alternate appliance) needed. You could cook chicken wings from frozen in a super short time, for example, and the meat would be cooked to a safe temperature but the texture would probably make most people gag. You’d want to toss them into the oven or a good air fryer to crisp them up afterwards.
Besides a lack of crisp, other foods that can be affected by the excess moisture such as soupier oatmeal, applesauce, etc.
2. Despite the word “pressure,” you cannot can foods in them.
And you cannot count on foods reaching quite the right temperature for food safety prior to canning. Most foods that require pressure canning for safe storage need to reach 250`F for 15 minutes. The pressure cookers reach boiling to about 242`F, which is not quite high enough. Unless your model of pressure cooker allows for precise pressure and timing control, skip the risk and buy a real pressure canner instead.
3. The seals can be annoying to clean.
Depending on the exact model and design of your chosen pressure cooker, you may find it cumbersome to clean the appliance. While the newer electric pressure cookers have inserts that are removable and often dishwasher safe, the pressure lids typically cannot be submerged and often require hand wiping with just a wet cloth. There may also be steam catchers and other little nooks and crannies that should be cleaned to avoid build-up or possible mold growth.
Look carefully at the cleaning instructions for any pressure cookers you’re considering to see if that part of their use fits your needs.
4. Electric, multi-functional pressure cookers have a learning curve.
While some settings on these devices may be very straightforward (like measuring the ingredients and simply pushing “rice” to cook rice), for many of your typical dinner recipes you may find you have to specially refer to the instruction manual to know how to use it.
Whether it’s using a food-labeled button for a completely different food (to shortcut the pressure and timing settings) or knowing what you need to manually configure for proper, safe cooking, these can take some time to really get the hang of before you’re using them without a manual. You’ll also have to take into account the pressure cooking times for the different ingredients within your recipe, which may affect the overall settings.
Definitely not as simple as “low” vs “high” on a crockpot!
In short, when purchasing a pressure cooker, it’s great to know the type of pressure cooker and its capabilities. A pressure cooker is a vital appliance to have in the kitchen for fast and healthy cooking.
Meanwhile, with many different types of pressure cookers on the market, choosing one can be overwhelming. If you prefer a versatile pressure cooker, the electric ones mostly have multi-purpose functions.
Stovetop pressure cookers are also a great type of pressure cooker which is faster than the electric pressure cookers.