HOME > Chowhound > Cookware >


Should I get a pressure cooker?

I love cooking soups, braises, stews...often with beans and meats that require long time cooking. I generally make these in one of my Le Creuset Dutch ovens, and let it simmer all day. I have a Crock Pot, but do not like it. Somehow everything coming out of it has a similar taste...probably just me, but I don't like it a bit and therefore rarely use it. Recently I have been thinking more about getting one of the new high-tech pressure cookers to use for these long cooking dishes. Is it likely that I will prefer the results over those I get with a Crock Pot, or does a pressure cooker simply do the same thing, but much faster. I generally don't mind having something simmer on the stove for hours, but am wondering if I would really like a pressure cooker....or, if like my Crock Pot, it would it wind up in the garage. Any thoughts?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. i love my pressure cooker, though i go through periods when i use it all the time, and periods when i don't touch it.

    but short answer - yes

    1. To me:

      Pressure cooker: mainly for the initial step of cooking beans and other dried legumes, and tough meats for further incorporation in a final dish (e.g., pressure cooked beans are cooked in just water, with all other ingredients being added in a final cooking step).

      Braising: a complete slow-cooked dish that includes various ingredients and steps (e.g., coq au vin or boeuf a la bourguignonne).

      Crock pot/slow cooker: great for 1 - 2 cooking: prep stew or "BBQ" shredded meat ingredients, throw in pot, turn on, go away for the day, come back, voila!

      1. I recently got a pressure cooker and I do like it, although, I don't yet consider myself super experienced at it, yet, so I can only give you a beginner's perspective. I also have a crockpot that I use quite a bit during winter when we want hearty, warm foods.

        I felt I was somewhat misinformed about some of the "hype" (if you can call it that) about a pressure cooker, ie., that it's so fast. The rule of thumb I've heard is the pressure cooker takes 1/3 the time that it takes to cook whatever it is using conventional methods. But, 1/3 is the amount of cooking time needed "under pressure". But, you also need to plan in the amount of time it takes to come to pressure (which for me has been averaging about 8 minutes) and to come down from pressure (which takes about 15 minutes). It depends on the recipe and your pressure cooker, of course, but while it's quicker than conventional methods, 25 minutes is not the same as 7 minutes...so, you need to allow for that.

        Also, you can't really go far from your kitchen (or at least I don't yet feel comfortable doing so) while using your pressure cooker. You can definitely do other kitchen chores, but, you need to be there when it reaches pressure (so you can adjust the heat down) and, when its time under pressure is complete (so you can turn the heat off)... And, you have to have a constant awareness of what it's doing while under pressure in case some adjustment is needed. You can more or less walk away from a crockpot or even a Dutch oven and go do some gardening or your laundry, but you really can't with a pressure cooker. During that time I find myself puttering about cleaning up the kitchen, getting other parts of the meal ready, or getting lunches ready for the next day. The pace feels very relaxed to me, which is a good thing.

        Honestly, I still find myself doing things like beans and rice a day or two in advance (like before) on weeknights, just like before. But it is still time efficient and energy efficient.

        Here are a couple of posts about recipes I adapted for my pressure cooker and how they came out (soup) http://www.chowhound.com/topics/52451... and (pork loin) http://www.chowhound.com/topics/52451...

        Hope that helps!


        3 Replies
        1. re: The Dairy Queen

          TDQ mentions pressure time coming up or down as a factor. Quite right, but coming up, over a strong burner or induction is fast, as only a small amount of food and water in a confined space has to reach pressure, usually less than a crock pot or dutch oven. Each situation is different, but time coming up is no biggie, just needs a careful watch for a few minutes.
          Time coming down does not take long with quick release, maybe two minutes. But I have watched cooks or chefs put a very hot pressure cooker under a stream of water in the sink to achieve immediate low pressure. It is quite amazing to observe, and I don't know if the warranty applies, but it works, and those carrots or greens come out perfectly coloured.

          1. re: jayt90

            I've read that a major factor in "better" pressure cookers is how much water they vent before comming up to pressure (and in holding pressure). Less loss means you can start with less water which means they come up to temperature faster so the whole cycle can be quicker.

            To really optimize you probably need to experiment a bit with just how much your pressure cooker vents over time. If you put 4" of water in your PC, heat it to full pressure, and hold it there for an hour, then cool it, how much water is left? If you have 3" left, well, maybe you could have started with just over 1" and quartered your heat-up time. Of course... don't cut things that close because you don't want the thing to run dry.

            Water loss rate is my main complaint with the tramontina PC compared to the Fagor -- it doesn't seal very well (the regulator passes more steam all the time and the gasket they included is too stiff or something so it doesn't always seal perfectly) so I need more water to start so... well, it's fine if I'm cooking a big pot of beans but I don't use it otherwise. I got it cheap so I'm not complaining.

            As for cooling the cooker in water at the end... the manual that came with my Fagor specifically allows/recommends the practice but also says you should not do that with older pressure cookers because they can draw a vacuum and suck water in IIRC...so it probably depends on the cooker.

            1. re: jayt90

              I've tried beans using both an induction burner and a regular gas burner with 4 different pressure cookers (2 prestos, 2 Fagors) and it's taken about 5 minutes every time, one time almost 10 minutes, to come to pressure.

              And, isn't the decision as to whether to "quick release" the pressure vs. letting it come down to pressure sort of built into the particular recipe? If you look at the recipes in the booklet that come with your pressure cooker or at Lorna Sass' recipes, they will specifically tell you whether to let the pressure come down naturally or whether to quick release. If the recipe calls for the pressure to come down naturally and you use quick release, won't your product be slightly underdone compared to what the recipe intended? I've heard you can compensate for using quick release vs. coming down from pressure naturally by cooking just a smidge longer under pressure, but I'm still learning the particular personality of my pressure cooker and haven't tried fiddling with that yet.


          2. Sam has nailed it (as usual): use the pressure cooker as a quick tool in constructing a dish that might take hours of conventional cooking.
            The p.c. is great for stock as well, especially chicken or vegetable. The temp. is a bit high for fish or veal.
            And it is great to experiment with it, as in steamed dishes, or Boston brown bread. (I haven't done that yet, but when I do it will only take a few minutes, and the recent models of p.c. are fail safe.)

            1. As someone who teaches pressure cooking, I can elaborate on why you might want to use a pressure cooker, reiterating some of the responses below -- time savings, energy savings, and add that generally the nutrition value is higher because of the faster cooking, and usually using the liquid that you've cooked in. But for me one of the top reasons that I use the pressure cooker has to do with the texture and flavor of the food that comes out of it.
              You can cook carrots in about 2 minutes at pressure (and it really only takes about 1 minute to get it there) and quick release the pressure, and you will see bright orange carrots that are still in the shape which you cut them. The flavor is more intense, and if you add seasonings of any kind they tend to get infused into the food rather than being on top of the food. Lorna Sass, my pressure cooking mentor, summed it up in one of her books, "Two hour taste in just 20 minutes." (Or less, depending upon what you are cooking.)
              To address the issue of staying the in kitchen, you do need to stay nearby and have a timer to remind you to go back to turn off the pot. If you prefer not to think about it, you can get an electric pressure cooker that shuts itself off but so far I have not found one that I really like. I am still looking.
              I highly encourage you to get a pressure cooker as it sounds as if it will surely meet your needs.

              5 Replies
              1. re: The Veggie Queen

                I think you have convinced me. Being the expert you are could you please 1) recommend a size...I generally cook for two, and never for more than four, and 2) with cost not being a significant factor...I generally like to get the best product for something like this which should last a long time...what brand is your favorite, and what would be your second choice?


                1. re: josephnl

                  I highly recommend Fagor as being the best value for the cost. You want to likely either get a Duo or Futuro, the latter being the more sleek, European-type pot. A good all around size is a 6-quart, although you can do just 1 cup of rice or beans in an 8-quart.
                  Some people really like their Kuhn Rikon cookers and others WMF. I have use the KR and they are good but more expensive than Fagor. I have no experience with WMF. Magefesa can also be OK but you have to have a good idea of which model you want and I can't very easily discern one from the other.
                  After about 5 years of almost daily use, I finally had to replace a gasket in one of my Fagor cookers. Your cooker can last you a lifetime as it basically does not have moving parts. The gasket is about it.
                  You will likely be happy that you got a cooker. It changed my cooking life.

                2. re: The Veggie Queen

                  Forgive my confusion, but doesn't the amount of time it takes to come to pressure depend? I can see that carrots, which don't take that long to cook even conventionally, would only take a minute to come to pressure and need a couple of minutes under pressure, but the things I've been cooking have been beans (of several different varieties now), rice, soups, and a pork roast. I've experimented with 4 different types of pressure cookers. It takes a good five minutes for the beans and soup stock to come to pressure because you've got to heat all that water up enough to produce the pressure.

                  And as far as coming down from pressure naturally vs. using quick release--doesn't that depend on the particular recipe you're using? I guess it's just my bad luck in which recipes I've chosen, but haven't had a single recipe using either Lorna Sass' book, the booklet that came with my pressure cooker, or the recipes I got from a friend of mine who teaches pressure cooking that calls for quick releasing the pressure. I imagine recipes for cooking vegetables (which are so delicate) would call for quick release, but I haven't used my pressure cooker to cook a lot of vegetables yet (except for the soup I linked to) because I just don't find that vegetables don't take that long to cook conventionally, at least, not the kinds of vegetables you see this time of year. (I've only had my pressure cooker about 3 months...)

                  Don't get me wrong, I think pressure cookers are great and good for the earth (because of the energy efficiency) and I wish everyone would use them, but I think it's important for people to have the complete facts so their expectations are set appropriately. I personally haven't found owning a pressure cooker life-changing, but I don't teach pressure cooking either. :). I think it's a great tool in the kitchen for cooking legumes and beans in particular.


                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                    You are correct that vegetables don't take that long conventionally versus the pressure cooker. But when you can make vegetable soup in 3 minutes at pressure with all the vegetables looking vibrant, it's amazing. Yes, it does take some time to get to pressure but that's what cooking is about.
                    I have to admit that I usually use less liquid than the recipes call for and the pressure comes up rather quickly.
                    The quick release is for foods that would overcook if you left them too long which I recently accidentally did with some new potatoes which really only required 2 minutes at pressure, not the usual 3. I had mashed potatoes --- delicious but not what I had in mind.
                    Keep using your cooker, you might warm up to using it more.

                    1. re: The Veggie Queen

                      I'm not complaining about pressure cooking or "cool" to using my pressure cooker; rather, I'm just trying to impart enough information to the OP so he can have some realistic expectations about how long it really takes to cook things. He specifically mentioned an interest in cooking beans, meats and stews. To suggest that everything takes one minute to come to pressure or even that one minute is typical of anything other than vegetables or that quick release is used most of the time is not very helpful to someone trying to make a decision about what's right for them.


                3. I am a big fan (and advocate) of pressure cookers. Not so hot on crock pots. I can't see having a kitchen without a pressure cooker. I can easily see not owning a crock pot (I don't, though I've had them in the past).

                  The core advantages of pressure cooking have been well covered in this thread.

                  One point I'd elaborate on is that pressure cookers, unlike crock pots, aren't single use utensils. A crock pot is basically a crock pot. You aren't going to make spaghetti in one. You can make whatever you can make with the one or two temperature settings they usually have. A pressure cooker is first and foremost a rather nicely designed small (6-8 qt) soup/stock pot. They tend to have thick bottoms to distribute heat evenly (because you can't easily stir with the lid on, and people often run them at full heat to reach pressure quickly) so they can also brown foods. The typical start of a pressure cooker dish for me is to heat up the pot, add some oil, garlic, onions, spices and the like, then the meat, and finally add liquid and other ingredients. That's something you can't really do in a crock pot (won't get hot enough), and you often can't do in soup or stock pots because they have thinner bottoms (uneven heat).

                  I use my pressure cooker all the time... often with no intention of pressurizing it.

                  Regarding the results...IMO pressure cookers don't meld flavors as much. Oh, they do more than the same amount of time in a non-pressure cooker, but if you cook the same dish in a pressure cooker and crock pot, the pressure cooker flavors will be brighter (less damaged) and more discrete (less blended). Is that good or bad? Depends on the recipe and your preferences.

                  Some soups (those with distinct and intense flavors) seem to be much nicer out of a pressure cooker. Others (more the classical stew/blended flavor dishes) benefit from extended melding time. In my case I have a foodsaver with a jar sealer and a stack of 1qt jars, so I'll make a pot of soup (usually a little on the thick side) in the pressure cooker, transfer it to quart jars, evacuate, and then refrigerate the jars. 24-48 hours that way usually smooths the flavor blending and produces something I might argue was better than a long simmer (Because the flavors and nutrients weren't harmed by so much long term cooking). I make them a bit thick so I can make additions when I open the individual jars...

                  Get a good pressure cooker (I have a Fagor 6L and a Tramontina 8qt ... both are modern and of similar design but the Fagor is MUCH better IMO) and it won't let you down.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: gimmeflavor

                    One way to get more "meld" is to decrease the size of the cut of the vegies. Bigger chunks are more "discrete" (good term) and smaller chunks "meld" more.

                    This is true no matter the cooking style (except high heat fast sauting like a stir fry) It may not fit with your other ingredients, so adapt accordingly.

                    I *love* to use the pressure cooker for brown rice, and it really speeds up cooking time for artichokes. (For artichokes you have to get a sense of how long to cook depending on their size, because you can't check during.)

                    We've have a Fagor 6 qt. for years, and like gimmeflavor use it for a lot of thngs. Actually, we use it far more often as simply a great pot. It's great for popping pop corn!

                    1. re: Richard 16

                      Fagor has six lines of pressure cookers. Which one do you have/like?

                      1. re: josephnl

                        Good question...it doesn't appear to be listed on that site.

                        After some searching I think mine is a "vita plus convex" 6 liter... dunno how I managed to get that when it seems to be more Euro-targeted. The closest equivalent appears to be the duo but I'm not sure the dual pressure feature matters that much.

                        I also discovered that the first pressure cooker I used, the one my parents got when I was growing up, was a Fagor Classic or "pressure magic". They still use it. Looks to be bloody expensive though ($280 for a 6qt) and I remember it was a major purchase. Worked well though and you could pressure fry in it (not that we ever did).

                  2. I love my pressure cookers. I do have 2. I don't have the time for slow cookers. There are so many amazing things you can make with them...even a cheese cake. I'm not kidding. Lorna Sass has a great book for beginners and her timing of recipes is really accurate.

                    I have 2 Fagors, a 6 & 12 qt. My boss has a Kuhn Rikon and wishes he had a Fagor. He finds the KR too fiddly.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Candy

                      Do you really have a Fagor 12 quart? I thought that the biggest that they come is 10 quart, which is plenty large.
                      I am a Fagor fan, too. And have a whole bunch of them, using my 4 and 6 quarts the most.
                      I say that pressure cookers are for people who want to know what they can cook right now. Slow cookers are for people who can and want to think in advance, and don't care if their food is mush.

                      1. re: The Veggie Queen

                        Yea, a 12, it was a special deal. But you are right, 10 is their regular largest.

                    2. My 2 cents . . . I have a very very very cheap one and I love it for making stews. Get the beef to fall apart as if it was cooked all day in a very short time. It is also great for cooking the dried beans I use to make chili (I make a killer 3 bean chili . . . er remember when chili with meat was call Chili con carne? And now I've come to realize some chili is almost all meat)

                      8 Replies
                      1. re: Alacrity59

                        Before I start, please don't yell at me for being a heretic......

                        I bought an electric pressure cooker from QVC about a year ago. The demonstration on TV was what hooked me. I LOVE it. For me, it as easy as a crock pot to use, but the results are much more flavorful. One of these days, I will probably gradute to a "real" PC, but right now the electric one fits my needs. I do a lot of Mexica/Southwest cooking, so beans are a staple. I no longer buy canned beans or dothe cook-all-day thing -- just a 1 hour pre-soak, and about 25-30 minutes in the cooker results in the most flavorful beans. Pulled pork is dynomite, and beef stew is wonderful. I may even relegate my bulky slow cooker to a shef in the basement since I don't even think about using it any more.

                        I have a number of Indian friends who use PCs all the time. Wonderful for vegetables, but also economical when cooking space and fuel is at a premium.

                        By the way, there is a great pressure cooker web site out there. http://missvickie.com/

                        1. re: PattiCakes

                          Any pressure cooking is better than none. You are not a heretic. I, for one, am all for people doing whatever works for them.
                          The Indians (from Asia) use them because they eat lots of legumes and don't have much fuel. They are essential cooking equipment for them, and could be here, too.
                          I have a website also but I believe that I am not allowed to post it.

                          1. re: The Veggie Queen

                            Thanks! I did a little prowing around CHOW, and was able to find another good website that I believe I can reference: www.pressurecooking.com

                            It looks like an excellent resource. I like the fact that it offers pressure cookers, advice and a pretty interesting looking DVD.


                            1. re: The Veggie Queen

                              You are allowed to post your link as long as there is other chowish info in your post. Or, you can add it to your "profile". Please do post it. Here's a link to the rules about posting links. http://www.chowhound.com/topics/36760...


                              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                We do permit non-hypey, non-commercial sigs at the end of otherwise chowful postings. However, we primarily encourage people to share their website information via the blog field in their profile. People who are interested in what you have to say will check out your profile and see the link, and there's no concern about whether the post itself is promotional.

                                1. re: The Chowhound Team

                                  Thanks, my fault. I thought the link was a useful one, but I understand now how the rules work. I appreciate your setting me straight in a constuctive, rather than judgemental manner!

                                  1. re: PattiCakes

                                    No problem. We were really just taking this opportunity to clarify what the rules were so there would be no confusion or misinformation about what we permit and what we encourage.

                        2. I bought a Kuhn Rikon pressure cooker about a year ago- a 3.5 quart (I typically cook for two) for around $100. I have used it at least once every day since.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: opehlia payne

                            It's impressive that you use it every day. I use my 4-quart Fagor a lot but when I want to make a few cups of beans, the 4 quart is just too small. I find that it's even difficult to make enough vegetable soup to have any left over. I use my cooker a lot for cooking once, freezing and not cooking the next time.

                            I always tell people that you can cook just 1 cup of rice (not always so efficiently, though) in any size cooker but you can't fill the others more than one-half to two-thirds full, depending upon what you are cooking.

                            1. re: The Veggie Queen

                              Perhaps because there are only the two of us at home, it's easy for me to get enough from my 3.5-quart with some left over. I've thought about getting a larger one for those rare occasions when we "entertain".

                              For rice, I have a 3-cup rice cooker. That does plenty of rice (or oatmeal) for us both to get two full helpings each.

                              It sure is nice to be able to have beans every day without constantly soaking overnight.

                              1. re: opehlia payne

                                When camping and I don't want any leftovers, even a 1 1/2 qt is enough for 2 people. :)

                                1. re: paulj

                                  That's a great idea: a small p.c. while camping, in addition to the cast iron frypan, or dutch oven!

                          2. Interesting discussion. I am thinking of a getting a pressure cooker just for cooking dry beans. I seem to have a hard time getting my beans done to my satisfaction. I like them soft, but not with the skin wrinkling or coming off everywhere or the beans breaking apart while they are still half hard. I love the texture of canned beans, but the last time couple of times I bought canned black beans I wasn't that pleased with the color or flavor and I thought I should be able to do better myself. I'm sure this very much depends on the brand.

                            I don't add anything to my beans except maybe garlic and some herbs while cooking - and often not even that. I live in an area where a lot of people buy beans, so I don't think I'm getting "old" beans. I use some very heavily filtered water - it doesn't even contain chlorine. I usually use a crock pot on high for my beans after soaking overnight.

                            I wouldn't use the pressure cooker for steaming vegetables because for me, the microwave is a genius at steaming vegetables. I use the steam bags which require no added water, vent the vegetables perfectly, and they come lovely and very evenly done and not soggy or dripping wet.

                            So, it is true that a pressure cooker does a beautiful job of cooking dry beans? If I could get them soft with the skin smooth and mostly intact I would be very happy.

                            7 Replies
                            1. re: audreyhtx1

                              The only safe thing to say about cooking beans in pressure cooker is that it is faster. It is harder to control the doneness - since you can't just open the lid and sample. It takes time to cool the pot, open it, taste, and then bring it back up to pressure if it needs more time.

                              You might be better off figuring out why you having problems with the beans now. Is the the variety of bean, age, soaking method, or something else.

                              1. re: paulj

                                I agree Paul but the PC has worked very well when the beans are presoaked and I've used MissVickie's website http://missvickie.com/howto/times/tim... for the cooking times of different bean varieties. If you need to check for doneness do a quick cool down under the faucet and you can get it back to temp and up to pressure in a minute or two. I would advise anyone who would like to do beans, braises and stews in a short time to consider a PC. I use mine a lot for making stock

                                1. re: paulj

                                  Thanks for the advice. I decided to try something else first. I went to my local Mexican grocery and bought their store brand (locally packaged) beans - pinto and black. Then I cooked them the normal way - rinsed well, soaked overnight in the slow cooker and then cooked on high in the slow cooker for 3 to 4 hours (with lard, onion, garlic and epazote), salt when soft, then cook another 30 mins. I don't change the soaked water as IMO I lose too much color and flavor. This is for the basic beans. After this they are ready to be prepared as frijoles charros or refritos.

                                  The texture of either bean was PERFECT. Beautiful smooth skins but not tough in any way, minimal breakage, beautifully soft too - and then you can control how much softer you want them by just cooking a little longer.

                                  So apparently the freshness of the beans was everything! My problem is solved. Thank goodness I discovered my local Mexican grocery. I'm set now!!!

                                  1. re: audreyhtx1

                                    They are for so much more than beans though. If you want to cook a whole chicken quickly there's no easier way imo. Just stick it in the oven to brown after you pressure cook it.

                                    1. re: olympia

                                      Speaking of chicken, I use my large electric pressure cooker to make chicken soup. Just use your favorite recipe including all the called for ingredients. Cook on high for 35 minutes. I recommend not adding salt until after the soup is made. Thus, giving you a clearer broth.
                                      Fantastic! A Jewish mother would be proud.

                                      1. re: twinwillow

                                        I use mine for it too but probably in a different way. I'll sweat some minced onions and then add a chicken breast and brown it. I'll cover partially with chicken stock and then add the steamer basket with my carrots. In another pot I'll cook my noodles and when the chicken onions and carrots are done I'll shred the chicken, add more stock and throw in the carrots and noodles. The onions are almost like the onions in onion soup - really flavorful and almost just melt in the soup. Yum, now I want some!

                                2. re: audreyhtx1

                                  i use mine for beans all the time. works wonderfully. in fact i wanted to throw some beans into a corn salad for tonight, so i just threw a half cup into a small PC, just now

                                3. Pressure cookers are great but they seem to not get good press. You very rarely see chefs cook with them on TV or suggest it in cook books. I guess people think it's an 80's thing and so do not use them. I use mine mainly for soups but have started using them for cooking belly of pork which often requires 2-3 hours. But with the pressure cooker you can probably half that.

                                  I would say get one and have a go it might take a bit of experimenting to get times right but once you do I think it will convert you.

                                  1. A pressure cooker is wonderful for camping. On a little portable gas stove in about 20 minutes you can make very good hearty one-pot meals like beef stew and its variants.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: Querencia

                                      I bought a small Hawkins (Indian) PC just for that use. My camp stove has an integral windscreen, which places tight limits on the size of pots that work. Fortunately the 1.5L pot fits perfectly. It has enough space for cook a simple beef stew for 2 (no left overs). It expands the types of meat that I can cook in a short time without using too much fuel.