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Are pressure cookers worth it?

Pressure cookers have become increasingly popular in recent years as people look for ways to save time cooking. But are the time savings and convenience really worth investing in a pressure cooker? Let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons.

What is a pressure cooker?

A pressure cooker is a sealed pot with a locking lid that builds up steam pressure internally to cook food faster. The increased pressure raises the boiling point of water from 212°F to 250°F. This higher temperature cooks food much faster than conventional boiling or steaming.

There are two main types of pressure cookers:

  • Stovetop pressure cookers: These are placed over a stovetop burner. They typically have a heavier bottom for more even heating.
  • Electric pressure cookers: These have an electric heating element built into the base and are plugged into an outlet. Many have digital controls and pre-set cooking functions.

Pros of using a pressure cooker

There are several advantages to using a pressure cooker:

Saves cooking time

The pressurized environment cuts cooking time significantly, often by 70% or more. Foods that normally take a long time to cook become much faster in a pressure cooker. For example:

Food Conventional Cooking Time Pressure Cooker Time
Chickpeas (from dried) 1-2 hours 20-30 minutes
Pork shoulder 45-60 minutes per pound 25-40 minutes total
Steel cut oats 30 minutes 6-10 minutes

As you can see, the time savings are significant, especially for foods like dried beans, grains, meats, and stews.


Because foods cook so much faster, using a pressure cooker can be very convenient. You can start preparing a meal late in the day and still have it ready in minutes. The hands-off cooking is also convenient – just lock the lid and walk away while dinner cooks.

Minimal cleanup

Since pressure cookers use less liquid than conventional cooking and everything is cooked in one sealed pot, there’s minimal cleanup required. No need to dirt multiple pots and pans.

Nutrient retention

The quick cooking helps retain more vitamins and minerals compared to boiling or slow cooking methods. The pressurized environment also infuses more flavor into the food.

Energy efficiency

Cooking under pressure requires less energy than boiling or simmering foods for longer periods. An electric pressure cooker can be more energy efficient than using the stove or oven.


Modern electric pressure cookers aren’t just for cooking beans and stews. They can also cook rice, eggs, yogurt, steamed vegetables, and more. Some even have functions like browning/sauteing, slow cooking, and steaming.

Cons of using a pressure cooker

Despite the benefits, there are also some downsides to using a pressure cooker:

Higher upfront cost

Quality stovetop pressure cookers range from $40-$150+ and electric pressure cookers cost $70-$300. This is a higher upfront investment than many basic pots and pans.

Learning curve

If you’ve never used a pressure cooker before, there can be a learning curve. You’ll need to learn how to properly lock the lid, adjust heat/pressure, and safely release pressure after cooking. Following a recipe is recommended when first starting out.

Can’t check or stir food while cooking

One disadvantage is you can’t lift the lid and check the food while it’s cooking under pressure. Most recipes are time-dependent, so you have to rely on cook times.

Potential safety hazards

If not used properly, pressure cookers carry the risk of potential burns or other injuries. Newer models have more safety mechanisms, but following the manufacturer’s instructions is essential.

Not ideal for browning/sauteing

While some electric pressure cookers have a browning function, most don’t excel at searing meats or sautéing veggies. A separate skillet is preferable for browning before pressure cooking.

Takes up storage space

Pressure cookers are bulkier than regular pots, so they take up more storage space. The inner pot may be heavy for some people to lift as well.

Need liquid to pressurize

Pressure cookers require 1-2 cups of liquid in order to pressurize and cook food. You can’t cook dry foods like roasts or bread in them.

Not ideal for all foods

Foods like delicate seafood, eggs, dairy, noodles and rice generally do not turn out well when pressure cooked. Steaming, simmering or roasting may be better options.

Cost comparison

Here is a cost comparison of some popular pressure cooker models:

Brand & Model Type Capacity Price
Instant Pot Duo Electric 6 quarts $79.95
Cuisinart CPC-600 Electric 6 quarts $99.95
Breville Fast Slow Pro Electric 6 quarts $249.95
Presto Stainless Steel Pressure Cooker Stovetop 6 quarts $49.99
Kuhn Rikon Duromatic Stovetop 7 quarts $139.95

As you can see, prices can vary widely. But in general, electric pressure cookers cost $80 – $300 while stovetop models range from $40 – $150 depending on brand, features and capacity.

Factors to consider when buying

Here are some things to keep in mind when shopping for a pressure cooker:

  • Stovetop or electric: Consider your cooking needs and preferences. Stovetop models heat faster but require monitoring on the stove. Electric models are more hands-off but slower to pressurize.
  • Capacity: Think about how much food you typically cook. Smaller 3-5 quart cookers work for 1-3 people. Larger 6+ quart models allow for family meals or meal prepping.
  • Available features: Electric cookers come with pre-sets and functions like browning, slow cook, rice cook, yogurt, etc. Evaluate which extra features may be useful.
  • Price: Prices span from $40 into the hundreds. Consider your budget but don’t sacrifice safety for the cheapest model.
  • Brand reputation: Stick with well-known brands like Instant Pot, Ninja Foodi, or All American that have a good track record.
  • Safety certifications: Make sure any cooker you purchase is UL certified with built-in safety mechanisms.

Who benefits most from a pressure cooker?

Here are some of the people who may benefit most from using a pressure cooker:

  • Busy people short on time
  • Families cooking large meals
  • Those cooking dried beans, lentils, whole grains frequently
  • People who enjoy set-it-and-forget-it convenience
  • Cooks preparing tough, cheaper cuts of meat
  • Those wanting to maximize nutrients and flavor
  • Anyone wanting to save energy cooking
  • People with busy schedules who value convenience
  • Those with small kitchens who want multifunctional tools

The time savings, hands-off cooking and ability to quickly cook inexpensive dried beans and tough meats make pressure cookers especially practical for busy households.

Tips for cooking with a pressure cooker

If you’re new to pressure cooking, it can take some trial and error to get comfortable. Here are some tips:

Read the manufacturer’s instructions

Each brand of pressure cooker will have specific directions for use and safety precautions. Read the user’s manual thoroughly before first use.

Start with recipes

When first learning, stick to recipes developed specifically for pressure cooking. This will ensure you’re getting the timing, liquid amounts and pressure release methods right.

Use cooking times as a guide

Recipe cook times are starting estimates, but can vary based on the specific cooker, food size and personal taste. Get to know your machine’s times.

Properly vent the steam

Releasing pressure improperly can lead to sputtering foods. Follow the recommended venting method in recipes for even cooking results.

Add enough liquid

Pressure cookers require liquid to create steam and pressurize. Use at least 1 cup liquid for most dishes. Add more for longer cook times or larger quantities.

Avoid overfilling

Don’t fill pressure cookers more than 2/3 full for stovetop models or 1/2 full for electric models to allow for adequate circulation and steam creation.

Prevent clogging the vent

Avoid blocking the steam release valve by keeping it free of food debris. Prevent foaming by not overfilling and use natural releases when possible.

Brown meats first when possible

Browning meats in a skillet before pressure cooking enhances flavor. The moisture of the cooker prevents browning during cooking.

Use a quick pressure release for vegetables

Releasing pressure immediately after cooking helps retain the texture and color of vegetables. Letting pressure release naturally can lead to overcooking.


At the end of the day, whether or not a pressure cooker is worth investing in comes down to your cooking style and needs. The upfront cost can seem high, but convenience seekers stand to benefit greatly from the time savings and hands-off approach. Frequent cooks of beans, grains, meats and stews will get the most use out of a pressure cooker. However, they aren’t necessarily better – just different – than conventional cooking. Try out a few pressure cooker recipes using a friend or family member’s device to see if the results and process fit your lifestyle before committing to purchase one.