6 Types of Pressure Cookers [And The Pros And Cons Of Each]

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In recent years, more and more people are finding the advantages of pressure cookers. These kitchen gadgets cook food quickly while preserving moisture and nutrition. However, not all pressure cookers are the same, and the past decade has seen a dizzying increase in types, brands, and models. These can be roughly divided between electric and stovetop pressure cookers, but each style has its own subcategories too. These include:

Stovetop

  • First generation
  • Second generation
  • Pressure canners

Electric

  • Single purpose
  • Multi purpose
    • Pressure cooker/air fryers

In this article, we'll cover the defining characteristics of each type and subcategory, their advantages and disadvantages, and some top brands and models. Keep reading to discover the best pressure cooker for you.

High pressure aluminum cooking pot with safety cover, 6 Types of Pressure Cookers [And The Pros And Cons Of Each]

Stovetop Pressure Cookers

Stainless steel pressure cooker letting off steam on a modern induction cooking hob with glass top

Stovetop pressure cookers are the oldest variety. These require an external source of heat to build up pressure inside of them, most often a stove.

These pressure cookers started to take their modern form in the 20th Century. First- and second-generation pressure cookers are defined by their valve system. Pressure canners may use either valve system but also have other characteristics that make them a category in their own right.

Because these three styles all rely on the stove, you'll need to make sure the model you get will work with your specific stovetop. Check out this article for more information on this topic: Does A Pressure Cooker Work On Induction

Let's look at each style in more detail.

First-Generation Pressure Cookers

Pros:

  • Most affordable option

Cons:

  • Noisier than other options
  • Sprays a burst of steam when at pressure, which can be jarring
  • Requires monitoring

These pressure cookers have a weighted valve that releases steam while you use them. This valve will jiggle and hiss as the steam pressure builds. Once it reaches a pressure over 15 psi, it will release a burst of steam. This is how you know the pressure is high enough and your cooking time begins.

Because these are the simplest pressure cookers, they're typically the least expensive as well. They do require monitoring to make sure the pressure is maintained.

The steam release can spray you with hot steam if you stay close to the pressure cooker. You would have to be very close for it to do any serious harm, but it can still give you a start. It is also noisier than other pressure cookers.

A stainless steel pressure cooker at the cooktop in the kitchen

Top Models

A popular brand for this style is Hawkins. Their aluminum pressure cookers are particularly affordable and a great option for gas or electric coil cooktops.

Click here to see this first-generation pressure cooker on Amazon.

Stainless steel options will work better for glass cooktops, including induction. However, they do cost a little more than aluminum models. This one from Presto is fully stainless steel, induction compatible, and still very affordable.

Click here to see this stainless steel pressure cooker on Amazon.

Second-Generation Pressure Cookers

Pros:

  • Quiet
  • Many offer different pressure options

Cons:

  • Requires monitoring

Second-generation pressure cookers use a spring valve. These are much quieter and only release steam if the pressure has built up enough for a safety release to be necessary. You will know the desired pressure has been reached by checking a short pop-up valve.

This is both a blessing and a curse. You won't have to worry about a startling burst of steam, but you will need to keep an eye on it to know when the desired pressure has been reached.

Many of these pressure cookers also have adjustable settings. These most often let you choose between 10 and 15 psi.

These pressure cookers are a little more expensive than the first-generation models but are still on the affordable side.

Top Model

The popular kitchen gadget brand, T-Fal, produces some affordable but high-quality pressure cookers. The one below is built of stainless steel, so it can be used on all stovetops.

Click here to see this second-generation pressure cooker on Amazon.

Pressure Canners

Pros:

  • Can be used for both pressure cooking and pressure canning
  • Feature a pressure gauge

Cons:

  • More expensive
  • Can't be used on most electric cooktops
  • Need more time to heat up and cool down

You can use a pressure canner as a pressure cooker but not the other way around unless explicitly stated. Pressure canners can use either first-generation or second-generation style valves, but they'll also include a gauge to give you a specific reading of the internal temperature.

Pressure canners tend to run larger than pressure cookers. They need that extra space to fit multiple quart jars with a lid in place. This larger size means they heat up and cool down more slowly than smaller pressure cookers.

This is an advantage when it comes to canning, which requires enough time at high temperatures and pressures to sterilize the food and container. It can be a disadvantage for pressure cooking, especially when preparing smaller dishes.

Their large size and weight mean they are more suited for gas stoves. Most manufacturers of electric stovetops, especially glass tops, will tell you not to use a pressure canner on their stoves.

Because they are larger, often use more material, and feature a pressure gauge, pressure canners tend to be the most expensive stovetop option.

Top Models

One of the top brands for pressure canners is All American. They produce high-quality canners that can last a lifetime, such as the 925 model below.

Click here to see this pressure canner on Amazon.

While All American pressure canners are definitely high quality, they are not the most affordable option on the block. For a budget-friendly alternative, you can try out a model like the one below from Presto.

Click here to see this pressure canner on Amazon.

Electric Pressure Cookers

Modern electric multi cooker close up on kitchen table. Woman pushing button

Electric pressure cookers are sometimes referred to as "third-generation pressure cookers." These differ enough from stovetop pressure cookers to be considered a separate category on their own. While stovetop pressure cookers require an external heat source, electric pressure cookers have built-in heating elements.

There are two main types of electric pressure cookers: single-purpose and multi-purpose pressure cookers. In recent years, some multi-purpose pressure cookers have taken on even more functionality. In particular, pressure cooker/air fryer combos have become popular and deserving of their own category.

Single-Purpose Electric Pressure Cookers

Pros:

  • Easy to use
  • More energy efficient than stovetop
  • No monitoring required

Cons:

  • Limited functionality
  • Hard to find

The earliest variety of electric pressure cookers, single-purpose pressure cookers, don't have the settings and functions of their multi-purpose counterparts.

These days, most will have digital controls and some options like delaying and selecting high or low pressure.

Top Model

These days, single-purpose pressure cookers are scarce on store shelves. Most consumers prefer the added functionality of multi-purpose pressure cookers.

This pressure cooker from Cuisinart comes close. It does have some extra functions like sauteing, browning, and keeping warm, but it doesn't have the dizzying array of buttons and settings found on multi-purpose designs.

Click here to see this pressure cooker on Amazon.

Multi-Purpose Electric Pressure Cookers

Pros:

  • Can be used for a wide variety of functions
  • More control over pressure, time, and temperature
  • No monitoring required
  • More energy efficient than stovetop
  • Options at a variety of price points

Cons:

  • Controls can be complex and confusing

By far the most popular variety among home chefs today, multi-purpose pressure cookers can just about do it all. Most will have settings for seven or more cooking functions.

These usually have different settings for making a variety of dishes as well. While this gives you a lot of control, it also means there is a learning curve when it comes to operating these pressure cookers. You'll likely need to spend some time with your owner's manual when you first get started.

Because they are so popular, there is also a wide variety available. This means that you'll be able to find them in a range of sizes, styles, and prices to suit your needs.

Top Models

The classic multi-purpose pressure cooker is the Instant Pot. Their most budget-friendly option is their 7-in-1, 3-quart model, but their larger models are also very reasonably priced.

Click here to see this Instant Pot on Amazon.

If you have a larger budget, you might consider the Chef IQ smart pressure cooker. It connects to wifi and you can control it through the Chef IQ app. It has even more features, including a built-in scale and sous-vide function.

Click here to see this smart pressure cooker on Amazon.

Pressure cooker/Air Fryer Combos

Pros:

  • Can also be used for air frying
  • Includes the same function as other multi-purpose pressure cookers
  • Doesn't require monitoring

Cons:

  • More expensive

While these could be considered in the same category as multi-purpose pressure cookers, they stand out enough to deserve their own category.

With a pressure cooker/ air fryer combo, you get all the functionality of other multi-purpose pressure cookers with the addition of a built-in air fryer. This opens up a wide range of cooking possibilities from a single appliance.

These do cost more, but they also save you the cost of buying another appliance if you also want an air fryer.

To get the most functionality out of your air fryer, check out this article: How To Air Fry Potatoes – With 10 Tasty Recipes!

Top Models

Instant Pot is another top brand in this category as well. Get all the functions of their pressure cooker with the added air fry, roast, bake, and dehydrate functions thanks to the air fryer lid.

Click here to see it on Amazon.

Another top brand in this category is Ninja. Known for a wide variety of kitchen appliances, their pressure cooker/air fryer combo is among the best.

Click here to see it on Amazon.

Final Thoughts

The series was shot on December 04th 2015 at my home.

The variety of pressure cookers can be overwhelming, but now you know the main types and top models for each type. With this knowledge in hand, you'll be ready to choose the best pressure cooker for your needs.

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