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Pressure Cookers: Stovetop vs. Electric

My wife and I are considering getting a pressure cooker. We recently visited relatives who cooked up a delicious beef stew in their electric pressure cooker, so I took a look at America's Test Kitchen's recommendations for PCs. They say stovetop cookers are better overall than electric, for a variety of reasons.

Just wondering what the CH community thinks: are stovetop cookers better than electric, or does it really make any difference?

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  1. Hi, BrookBoy:

    Stovetop all the way. Invest wisely and you can pressure can, even pressure fry.

    No cords, nothing to burn out, multi-tasker, usually better build quality.

    Aloha,
    Kaleo

    1. I am a stovetop pressure cooker. Stove versions offer your flexibility that you cannot find from the electric versions. That being said, you should check to see your own priority. Maybe an electric pressure cooker works better for you. If you don't have a strong opinion, then go for the stovetop just to be safe.

      1. I've used a stovetop for my entire married life. The newer cookers are very, very good. You can buy one that has two pressure levels, and all the new ones are safe.

        I think you would be able to bring the cooker up to pressure faster on the stove, but I have no experience with the electric. That would be a major concern for me.

        I agree with the no cords note. And yes, it would be a super multi tasker, especially if you bought a set that includes a small pot and a steamer basket.

        1 Reply
        1. re: sueatmo

          Still deciding, but I think we'll end up happy no matter which way we go. Just using a PC will improve out kitchen experience immensely, and that's what we're looking for.

        2. Have you seen Laura Pazzaglia's site? (She has posted here on pressure cookers, too, so maybe you can consider her a hound.) If you haven't seen it, here's the link to her comparison of the electrics and stovetops:

          http://www.hippressurecooking.com/the...

          To what the others have said, I would add only that that electric pressure-cookers are like other stand-alone electric cooking devices --- Cuisinart Griddler, George Foreman grill, slow-cooker/Crockpots, rice cookers, etc. Some folks in some situations find them useful, but others won't.

          3 Replies
          1. re: JWVideo

            What a great blog. Had not seen it before, so I read through the comparison between electric and stovetop, and it not only made great reading, it was very informative.

            It seems the biggest difference is that stovetops are more flexible and have a higher psi range, but electrics can be set and left alone. I also like the idea that we don't have to use a flame in hot weather if we get an electric. Tough choice...

            Thanks for the link. It helps a lot.

            1. re: JWVideo

              Thanks for that link. I'd been considering an electric cooker, mostly for summer time bean cooking. I still may buy one but I am much better armed with information. "NOTE: Foods that foam during cooking (legumes, grains and fruit) should not released through the main valve (Normal Release)." This would add another 25 minutes to the cooking time - not a deal breaker but something to consider. Great information.

              1. re: MplsM ary

                hi MplsM ary, I just wanted to let you know that I've cooked dried beans in my PCs for nearly 30 yrs now, and have always done the quick release method with no problems whatsoever. I currently have a (stovetop) Fagor Duo as well as the electric Cuisinart but in the past, I've used my grandmother's Presto (with scary jiggly button) and in no event have I encountered problems with dried beans or anything else.

                All of that being said, I find that the easiest way to prepare dried beans in the summer (which is all year long for me, since I now live in the tropics) is in the crockpot. I put the beans and water in the pot (on low heat setting) when I go to bed, and wake up to perfectly cooked beans. Lately, I've been adding cubes of Maggi vegetable seasoning (boullion cubes) at the outset and my family really likes that addition, but we are not sensitive to MSG.

                Happy cooking!!!

            2. Hi Again, BB:

              If you decide to go with a stovetop model, here's where to get one suitable for pressure frying: http://www.pro-selections.com/index.cfm

              The downside (only one I can see) to these is that they operate in the 8psi range, so you need to add a few minutes to your cook time. I have one of these, and love it.

              You might also consider the All-American line (3 pressures, a pressure gauge, no gasket to replace, 1000% overbuilt/bulletproof/lifetime $$$ unit, scaled for also pressure canning), although they are not approved for frying.

              Aloha,
              Kaleo

              2 Replies
              1. re: kaleokahu

                Hi KK,

                We still haven't made up our minds, but we're getting there. Thank you for your input and your thoughts.

                We're leaning a little toward the electric, even with its limitations, because we live in Brooklyn, and the summers are often steamy. Being able to use a PC without using a flame may be the deciding factor.

                But the jury is still out. So far.

                Thanks again...

                1. re: BrookBoy

                  BrookBoy, I doubt summer is any steamier in Brooklyn than in Manhattan; and for what it's worth, I haven't found that using my stovetop PC adds to the heat in my small Manhattan kitchen. Remember, for most of the cooking time, the heat is set very low.

              2. I have this Kuhn Rikon set and really like it, although I may add a larger one at some point for larger quantities of stock and soup. I'm surprised more people don't use PCs.

                http://www.amazon.com/Kuhn-Rikon-Stai...

                1 Reply
                1. re: VitalForce

                  Yeah, when I saw my cousin make dinner in less than an hour (beef stew from scratch), I was knocked out. Decided then and there that it's time we get one.

                  Thus began my investigation and the realization that there are two types. Gonna be a tough choice, but I have a feeling that no matter which way we go we'll be happy to have a PC.

                  Thanks for the input.

                2. I am a vegetarian chef, owned several restaurants and have used the cuisnart electric pressure cooker alot and love it. Just add the ingredients, set timer and its done. Really good for beans that have not been soaked, artichoke hearts, mash potatoes..

                  1. I've used both. While the electronic one is probably easier to use, from everything that I've read, it seems that their high pressure is not as high as the stove top model. Additionally, the electronic ones tend to fail in a few years whereas the stovetop ones last for decades.

                    The stove top one is not that difficult to use. I was scared of using it because of my mother and one blowing up when I was a kid. But my mother in law uses hers all the time without any problems, so watching her use hers fearlessly really helped me get over my fear. Now you couldn't pry my pressure cooker out of my cold dead hands. I use it daily.

                    1. Get a cook top model. I have 2 (different capacities) from Fagor and like them both quite well.

                      Do not try to use a home pressure cooker as a pressure fryer. They are not intended for that purpose, it is dangerous and if there was an accident with one when trying to pressure fry it would negate any warranties from the maker.

                      There is a good website for more info www.missvickie.com and I would recommend Lorna Sass' books Cooking Under Pressure and Pressure Perfect. They are quite reliable and have excellent timing charts.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: Candy

                        Hi, Candy: "Do not try to use a home pressure cooker as a pressure fryer. They are not intended for that purpose, it is dangerous and if there was an accident with one when trying to pressure fry it would negate any warranties from the maker."

                        I thought we'd been through this before. While most home PCs are not approved for pressure frying, SOME ARE, including the Super Cooker by Fagor. http://www.pro-selections.com/categor... No warranty problems whatsoever for these models.

                        I have the 8Q Pressure Magic, and the included recipe book and instruction manual are replete with pressure frying recipes tips and instructions.

                        Aloha,
                        Kaleo

                        1. re: kaleokahu

                          I stand firm. It is a bad practice.

                          1. re: Candy

                            Hi, Candy: "I stand firm."

                            Well, I sit happy, safe and full of popcorn shrimp and broasted chicken...

                            There are folks who won't use PCs *at all* because they consider them unsafe. If you ever hear of a Pressure Magic or Fagor Supercooker injuring anyone in proper deep-frying use, I'm all ears... Oooh, deep-fied pigs ears, haven't tried those yet!

                            Aloha,
                            Kaleo

                      2. I love my pressure cooker. It is hands down the best piece of gear I own, and I own everything from immersion circulators to chamber vacuum sealers to whipping siphons. If I had to give it all away and only keep 1 thing it would be my pressure cooker. It is the most versatile piece of cookware I own by far.

                        I'd recommend buying the biggest size you can get, you will not regret it. You can always fill it not so full, but with a small one you can potentially be stuck dong multiple batches and that's a pain.

                        I'd also recommend a Kuhn Rikon pressure cooker. They are by far the nicest pressure cookers on the market. This is because they don't vent when they cook. All other pressure cookers do, and it affects the flavor a lot imo. Due to a pressure cooker heating water past 100C you don't want them to vent at those temperatures because you lose a lot of volatiles (flavors). In short, when you cook, all the things you smell are flavors that are NOT going to be in your final product. With the unvented Kuhn Rikon you save all your volatiles (flavors) due to the cooker being sealed (unless of course you get it too hot and the blowoff valve opens, but it's easy to avoid).

                        Definitely avoid an electric pressure cooker. They can't reach as high of a pressure, have lots of things that can break, are very cheaply made (compared to the Kuhn Rikon) and are not as big. The pros of an electric one are that it may heat your house a little less (though not much, and they cook things quickly anyway), and that you can just push a button to achieve consistently mediocre results. Also if you have limited stove spave I suppose an electric would be ok since you can put it off the stove and turn it on. I'd still strongly recommend a Kuhn Rikon though.

                        It is seriously a mindfuck that more people don't use pressure cookers. Being able to heat water past 100C is seriously incredible, it is almost too good to be true. It is truly a game changer.

                        I use mine to make all sorts of stocks, soups, sauces, meats, beans, purees (cook in PC then blend and sieve) anything really. I can make dried beans in like 15 minutes, the tenderest oxtail ever in under 2 hours, soups in 20 minutes. I never imagined in my wildest dreams I'd use my pressure cooker so much. I honestly wish I bought 2 pressure cookers and 1 immersion circulator instead of vice versa. The PC is always the thing that gets used most. I have the 8L and I'm going to buy the 12L soon so I can multitask @ a 20L total capacity. I've literally had times where I could be using 4-6 pressure cookers simultaneously during prep, too bad I only have 2 burners big enough to handle that in my apt, may have to buy some portable induction burners.

                        Aaaaanyway, I highly recommend you buy the biggest Kuhn Rikon pressure cooker you can get your hands on. If you're disappointed, look up into the sky to see if the sun has gone out, or check the news, see if hell froze over. Both of those things are more likely to happen than for a person not to be blown away by the capabilities of a (Kuhn Rikon) pressure cooker.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: EatFoodGetMoney

                          I've had my KR for a couple of decades now but I want to add a caveat to this comment:

                          "'I'd also recommend a Kuhn Rikon pressure cooker . . . because they don't vent when they cook..."

                          In fact, they can and do vent. It won't be much --- often less than many other brands -- provided you take the time to learn where the burner heat works best. Until you use it enough with your stove, you will spend some time fiddling with heat settings or else the KR will vent a lot.

                          I think that was the problem that Cooks Illustrated had in their last comparison test of pressure cookers. They down-rated the Kuhn Rikon for having a higher evaporation rate than others, but I'd bet they just had the heat a little too high.

                          Laura Pazzaglia took CI to task for this in one of her her blog articles. With a properly set burner, she found that the KR models have about the lowest evaporation/venting losses she has seen.

                          She also points out that the burner heat needed to maintain pressure in a KR is often less than with other brands, meaning less heat in the kitchen on those hot summer days.

                          Both findings accord with my experience.

                          One additional thing about KR longevity is that the pressure regulating parts are easy to disassemble and check. Replacement springs, gaskets, seals, etc. are readily available from the KR website and other sources. You can keep those PCs going for many decades.

                          1. re: JWVideo

                            If you are using it properly it shouldn't really vent. It took me a few tries to get it down but after that it basically doesn't vent at all.

                            The burner heat to keep a temperature is definitely a lot less than other brands as there is a big solid bottom that retains heat very well. Less water allows for quicker temp changes.

                            I definitely don't agree with CI about the KR evaporating more, it definitely has far less evaporation. Dave Arnold over on Cooking Issues has some great things to say about KR pressure cookers. I tend to agree with him on most things cooking.

                            1. re: JWVideo

                              You might find it interesting that Laura Pazzaglia gave a four-star review on Amazon to the Instant Pot IP-DUO 60 electric PC in December of 2013. Here is what she said about her rating:

                              "I'm only giving this cooker four out of five stars because although the stainless steel cooking surface is FANTASTIC compared to non-stick surfaces, it has a thin aluminum disk to distribute heat evenly only at the bottom of the cooking insert. This means that my favorite pressure cooker pasta and tomato sauce recipe that works on stove top pressure cookers or electrics with a non-stick insert will scorch in this one. Not making ONE recipe is a small price to pay for the peace of mind of not having non-stick coating and chemichals peeling off into dinner. On the plus side, the stainless steel surface REALLY browns meat - and that's a huge advantage over non-stick liners that generally prevent foods from browning well. The stainless steel insert is rugged and I don't have to worry about pressure cooking any sharp foods or using special utensils. Those who prefer the convenience of a non-stick insert can order one seperately from manufacturer."

                              Here is a link to her review:

                              http://www.amazon.com/product-reviews...

                              It's the second review down, so you'll need to scroll to it.

                              We're still deciding. We get the point about the stovetop PCs, but we're also thinking about the convenience of the electric model. I think we'll probably be happy with either type once we do get it, given that it will be a brand new cooking tool for us.

                              Thanks again for all the opinions and suggestions...

                          2. I'm in a minority here but I love my electric pressure cooker. To set it and go about my business whether salad making, taking a quick after-work shower on a hot day, or walking the puppy, I love not worrying about it.
                            Also, it's handy when the burners are full and we're cooking for guests.
                            We have the Fagor but there were fewer choices when we bought. Best wishes either way.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: debbypo

                              Thanks for weighing in. You make excellent points about the convenience of an electric cooker. What it loses in performance compared to the stovetop cooker is offset by the convenience factors. That's what is making our decision so tough.

                            2. In my opinion, while you may gain a bit of convenience with an electric pressure cooker you lose some of the flexibility.

                              First of all, most pressure cooker recipes in the states are written for 15 psi stovetop pressure cookers. All of the electrics I have seen so far run from 10 to 12 psi. That's enough of a difference that you will have to increase the cooking times to achieve the expected results

                              Many recipes call for quick release of pressure at the end of the cooking cycle, while others recommend letting the pressure decay off naturally. The former method entails either releasing the pressure valve or running the whole unit under cold water. Some, but not all electric pressure cookers allow for the quick release of the pressure valve. If you decide to go with an electric pressure cooker be sure it has the quick pressure release function.

                              Also be aware that electric pressure cookers are better insulated than their stovetop counterparts and therefore they will take longer to release the pressure naturally which can lead to overcooking your recipe.

                              None of the above are insurmountable obstacles, but just be aware of these if you choose electric pressure cooker and try to prepare a "normal" pressure cooker recipe.

                              In my opinion, the "Electric pressure cookers are better because you don't have flame heating up your kitchen." is a red herring. Yes, you use a high flame bring up the pressure, but after that you are essentially simmering pot. In my experience I have never experienced any appreciable increase in kitchen temperature while using my pressure cooker.

                              Another thing to consider when choosing a pressure cooker is capacity. Virtually all the electric pressure cookers I've seen have a capacity of 6 quarts or less. Many times a 6 quart capacity is just not enough.

                              As you can surmise from my comments I'm partial to stovetop units. I expect my Fagor to last longer than I do. Couldn't say the same for any electric unit.

                              1. We have both: Kuhn Rikon Duromatic 12 qt stove top and the Cuisinart electric. The stove top wins hands down because of its all stainless construction and the capacity. The Cuisinart is a good performer as well, but is non-stick and less capacity. I will say pushing a button is simpler than adjusting the gas to "just right", but overall I give the nod to the stove top and prefer it.

                                1. I use both. I have a Fagor duo 10 qt that I use for making chicken stock, stews, chills, large batches of soup, roasts, canning. It's a heavy duty stainless number that is far less expensive than a Kuhn Rikon, which is basically the Cadillac of PCs.

                                  I use a 6 qt electric model for things that require precise, short time cooking like rice, and things that require a lot of time like dried beans. I can set it and tend to the rest of the meal preparation. I also use it when I prepare recipes for dinner for the kids when I have to leave before they arrive home. I also use it to 'cook' cans of sweetened condensed milk into dulce de leche. It has 3 pressure settings, the highest of which is 15 psi.

                                  Not sure I could pick between the two. I find the stovetop model works best with a gas stove rather than electric.