Electric Pressure Cookers

Published January 1, 2013. From Cook's Illustrated.

Electric pressure cookers offer one big advantage over stovetop models: You don’t have to watch the pot—you can set it and walk away. But we’ve found electric models to have several disadvantages.

Overview:

Electric pressure cookers offer one big advantage over stovetop models: You don’t have to watch the pot—you can set it and walk away. And many models will produce great food in your absence, too. But we’ve found electric models to have several disadvantages.

First, they usually hold only 6 quarts—probably because their surrounding housing makes them quite large—whereas we prefer the more practical capacity of an 8-quart cooker. (We found one 8-quart electric model, but because of its confusing controls, poor durability, and weak performance, we could not recommend it.) Inside electric pressure cookers, food actually cooks in a small liner pot, like that of a rice cooker. These pots have a nonstick coating, which is far less durable than stainless steel stovetop models—we saw dings and worn areas in the nonstick coating after just a few uses—and the pots are light, slippery, and unanchored, so they spun around as we stirred food. Because they lack handles, they also felt dangerous when we needed to pour off hot liquid. Their… read more

Electric pressure cookers offer one big advantage over stovetop models: You don’t have to watch the pot—you can set it and walk away. And many models will produce great food in your absence, too. But we’ve found electric models to have several disadvantages.

First, they usually hold only 6 quarts—probably because their surrounding housing makes them quite large—whereas we prefer the more practical capacity of an 8-quart cooker. (We found one 8-quart electric model, but because of its confusing controls, poor durability, and weak performance, we could not recommend it.) Inside electric pressure cookers, food actually cooks in a small liner pot, like that of a rice cooker. These pots have a nonstick coating, which is far less durable than stainless steel stovetop models—we saw dings and worn areas in the nonstick coating after just a few uses—and the pots are light, slippery, and unanchored, so they spun around as we stirred food. Because they lack handles, they also felt dangerous when we needed to pour off hot liquid. Their heating elements are weaker than those of a stove, so browning food in them can be challenging (some more so than others—the worst kept switching itself off as we sautéed). And all switch to “keep warm” mode after cooking. While this seems good, the downside is that many recipes call for a quick release of pressure to stop cooking. So you have to return just when cooking is done to vent steam and manually shut off the pot, or food will overcook. We also discovered that they can switch to “keep warm” mode during cooking when there’s not enough liquid in the pot—a problem when cooking large pieces of meat such as a whole chicken or meatloaf. And storage is an issue: Electric cookers take up a lot of space compared with stovetop models, which can also be used as regular stockpots or saucepans (some manufacturers separately sell plain lids for this purpose).

Given these factors, we prefer stovetop models, but if you want an electric cooker, we recommend, albeit with caveats, our winner, which was easiest to use, cooked best, and lost the least amount of liquid through evaporation. Close behind in design and performance was our runner-up.

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  • Product Tested

    Results Key:

    Good ★ ★ ★ Fair ★ ★ Poor
  • Prices are subject to change.
  • Recommended with Reservations - Winner

    Emeril 1,000-Watt 6-Quart Electric Pressure Cooker by T-fal

    Browning was fairly easy and efficient with this model; stewed meats emerged fork-tender and juicy; and baked beans were mahogany, with a tender, melting texture. We’d prefer a larger capacity (it’s only 6 quarts) and some kind of handles on the nonstick cooking pot to make pouring easier. In addition, the pot switched to “keep warm” mode during cooking when we cooked whole chicken and meatloaf, both with less than 2 cups of liquid—a potential problem when cooking recipes with larger pieces of meat.

    • Cooking ★★★
    • Ease of Use ★★
    • Evaporation Loss ★★★

    $119

  • Recommended with Reservations

    Cuisinart 1000-Watt 6-Quart Electric Pressure Cooker

    This model is very similar to the Emeril model in its design and cooking results (food was slightly less stellar than the top model but quite good). It allowed more evaporation over the course of an hour than the top model, and we would prefer a larger capacity, not to mention a less slippery nonstick liner when pouring out stock. Like our winner, this pot switched to “keep warm” mode during cooking when we cooked whole chicken and meatloaf, both with less than 2 cups of liquid—a potential problem when cooking recipes with larger pieces of meat.

    • Cooking ★★★
    • Ease of Use ★★
    • Evaporation Loss ★★½

    $99.95

  • Not Recommended

    Fagor Stainless Steel 3-in-1 6-Quart Multi-Cooker

    While we recommended this model (with reservations) in the past, we have since found new rivals that performed better. Tomato sauce scorched, and we noticed black sheets of burned sauce in the serving bowl that released from the nonstick pot. The 6-quart capacity was a drawback, and the slippery pot was difficult to grasp while pouring hot stock through a sieve.

    • Cooking ★½
    • Ease of Use ★½
    • Evaporation Loss

    $89.99

  • Not Recommended

    Maxi-Matic Elite 8-Quart Digital Pressure Cooker

    We had high hopes for this 8-quart cooker, but they were quickly dashed. The gasket is a pain to replace after cleaning, and the bottom of the nonstick pot became stained and the coating felt worn after cooking tomato sauce. Its control panel is poor (you push “brown rice” for “browning”), and it often shut off while we were sautéing. The crêpe test revealed uneven browning.

    • Cooking
    • Ease of Use ½
    • Evaporation Loss ★★½

    $105

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