A pressure cooker cooks food using steam. Unlike its cousin, the slow cooker, the pressure cooker creates a sealed environment with high atmospheric pressure, usually 15 psi (pounds per square inch). At this pressure, water boils at a much higher temperature, cooking food rapidly while sealing in flavor, moisture and nutrients. Foods that would take hours to cook in a slow cooker or the oven can take a fraction of that time in a pressure cooker.
The newest models of pressure cookers have many safety features built in to avoid becoming a pressure-cooker situation themselves.
What to Look For
* '''Safety''': Very important when using a pressure cooker. Be sure the model you choose has redundant safety systems:
** Good valves with pressure regulators (five or more pressure release mechanisms), and a quick-release mechanism.
** Pressure indicator to adequately measure proper timing.
** Heavy-duty, encapsulated three-ply base for even, consistent heat.
** Foolproof moving parts for ultimate durability.
** Stainless steel will be your best bet.
* '''Capacity''': When buying a pressure cooker you will see them listed by capacity in quarts (from 5 to 24) or in liters. Usually size will correlate with price, starting at about $30 and reaching $200.
* '''Electric vs. Stovetop'''
** The main difference is the price (electric pressure cookers are more expensive).
** What gives stovetop models an advantage is their higher safety standards and easy-clean feature (most models are dishwasher-safe).
** What makes electric models stand out is their timer.
* '''Pressure''' : Most recipes for pressure cookers assume a pressure of 15 psi, which is fairly standard across the board. If you buy a cooker that uses a different pressure, you will have to alter recipes accordingly.
* '''Warranty''': Look for long warranties to guarantee a quality product.
* '''Special Features''': Timer, gadgets, etc. Browning and steaming functions. Non-stick finishes, though often they are not able to withstand the heat and intense uses of a pressure cooker.