What Do I Do With: The Electric Pressure Cooker Question

Fagor 670040230 Stainless-Steel 3-in-1 6-Quart Multi-Cooker

This post is a little different from my usual "what do I do with" questions. Instead of an ingredient, I'm asking you, my loyal readers, about a kitchen appliance. I occasionally receive email from a reader, asking about electric pressure cookers. I have never used one; all my pressure cookers have been stove top models. I vaguely remember reading that stove top models are better than electrics, but I couldn't remember why. I decided to research electric pressure cookers; the next time I'm asked, I want a better answer than "because that's how I've always done it."

Electric pressure cookers seem like a good alternate to stove top models. I like the idea of set it and forget it pressure cooking...set the timer, then get on to something else. No messing with getting the burner to the right heat to hold the pressure. Also, a pressure cooker with a timed delay feature sounded great. A delay means I could leave beans soaking in the cooker, and when the soaking time was complete, the PC would turn on and cook the beans. And, finally, a few of the electric pressure cookers could also be used as rice cookers or slow cookers. As an Alton Brown groupie, I'm always a fan of multitaskers.

Now, there is some downside. First, it's yet another kitchen appliance. (I'm running out of room with all my gadgets - I'd have to trade something in to make room for the new cooker.) Second, almost all the electric pressure cookers are 6 quart models. They are not made in the wide range of sizes as stove top pressure cookers.
*With pressure cookers, size matters. Pressure cookers need airspace to come up to pressure. A pressure cooker can't be filled past 2/3rds of the listed size, or it won't have enough air to pressurize.

Then I found the big issue. In electric pressure cookers, "high pressure" is significantly lower than high pressure in stove top cookers. Stove top PCs have a high pressure of 15 pounds per square inch (psi), electrics only come up to about 10 psi. That is closer to the low pressure on stove top cookers than it is to high pressure.

What difference does that extra 5 PSI make? I downloaded the Fagor Electric Pressure Cooker manual, and compared it to my Fagor stove top PC's manual. Generally, the cooking times in the electric were 30% longer than the stove top model. As an example: beef brisket cooks in 35-40 minutes at high pressure in the stove top PC. It takes 50-60 minutes in the electric cooker. Why is that important? Well, pressure cookers are sold as a way to speed up cooking. 60 minutes for brisket *is* quicker than the usual 3+ hours...but 40 minutes is even faster. Does the convenience of the set it and forget it electric make up for the extra time? Also, Lorna Sass, Miss Vickie, and all the other sources of pressure cooker recipes and write their recipes for a high pressure of 15 psi. I have to multiply my cooking time by 1.3 every time I try a new recipe? I'm sure I'll forget that at the worst possible time.
*And pressure cooking is more timing dependent than most other forms of cooking, because you can't check on how things look as they cook. Once a cooker is up to pressure, it can't be opened, unless you take the time to bring the pressure down, then back up when you're done.

All that said...I've never used one myself; everything I'm sharing here is from reading the literature, not personal experience. So, I'm throwing the question out to my readers:

Have you used an electric pressure cooker? Like it? Dislike it? What are the advantages and/or disadvantages? Share your experiences with us in the comments section, below.

*And...I am such a weakling when it comes to new kitchen toys. After everything I've read, I don't think I'd use an electric pressure cooker enough to justify the purchase. But I still kind of want one. Darn it.

Here are the three cookers I've been asked about. Again, not a recommendation, but they are the ones that I've heard about second-hand. I would love to hear about personal experience with any of these pressure cookers.

Fagor 670040230 Stainless-Steel 3-in-1 6-Quart Multi-Cooker

Cuisinart CPC-600 1000-Watt 6-Quart Electric Pressure Cooker, Brushed Stainless and Matte Black

Instant Pot® 5-in-1 Electric Pressure Cooker, 6.33Qt, Latest 3rd Generation Technology, Brushed Stainless Steel
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elle pee said...

Well researched post, Mike! I like that you compared the cooking time between different models from the same manufacturer.

I would add two other drawbacks to electrics.

1. You cannot do a quick-cold-water release for obvious reasons. But the point of this release is to open the pressure cooker in about 20 seconds, versus about two minutes of letting the pressure come out of the valve. Why is this a drawback?
- Delicate things like veggies and fish cannot be stopped "immediately"
- Foamy foods like beans, a liquor poach, or grains could spurt out foam and liquid out of the valve while pressure is released.

2. The other drawback is that all models, except one, have a non-stick liner. When that is shot, you need to purchase a new liner or new pressure cooker if the manufacturer does not sell the liner separately.

BTW, never use the delay timer with recipes containing meat! You don't want to eat meat that has been sitting in the pressure cooker at room temperature for 2-8 hours before being cooked!



P.S. Thanks for the link to my blog on your side-bar!! It appreciated since I'm still trying to get noticed through the web fluff!!!

hip pressure cooking
making pressure cooking hip, one recipe at a time!

Leese said...

a long time ago i was also looking for an electric pressure cooker that would also multi-task, and hold a 15 psi. I did not want the 6 qt because i wanted air space so was looking for at least 8 qts. I found:

Cooks Essentials, their oval 8 qt. has 15 psi.

I never got it because it was oval and i was looking for round, but now i'm thinking oval might be ok.

what are your thoughts? anyone else use this one? maybe there is a reason no one makes an 8 qt 15 psi electric pot?

Anonymous said...

I purchased a Cooks Essential 6 qt. Electric Pressure Cooker. I primarily purchased the pressure cooker to tenderize wild game as my husband and I both hunt. I have previously used a stove top pressure cooker and had a bad experience with it. Chalk it up to being an inexperienced cook and a young bride just setting up a household and learning to cook.
I really like the electric pressure cookie for my needs and life style. It has three psi setting 5,10,15, it also has a browning feature which is awesome, it doubles as a slow cooker or steamer. You can set it, walk away, cook or clean something else and not worry about. It will beep to let you know that it is done…If you’re in a hurry you can release the steam pressure valve by hand. Clean up is a breeze. The only thing bad I have to say about it is that it is cumbersome and takes up a lot of shelf space. Other than that, it tenderizes deer and wild boar fantastic. I also use it for cheaper cuts of meat for stews and have also made an awesome pot roast in it. This is ideal for someone who is not a gourmet cook and wants great flavor in a reasonably fast cooking time.
I truly enjoy your blog and I always come away with a neat idea or new cooking trick. I look forward to receiving your blog. Thank you. cjc

MikeV @ DadCooksDinner said...

@ell pee:
Good information. I use a cold water release all the time, and I didn't think of that as an (obvious) issue with electrics.

And, you're welcome for the link - I'm happy to link to blogs as interesting as yours!

I'm going to have to check out Cooks Essentials - I hadn't heard of them until now. (See the post by Anonymous, below)

Thank you for the first-hand experience. And...wild boar? I'm impressed - I've wanted to cook wild boar since I had some wild boar tacos at Momocho's in Cleveland.

Matt said...

I've got a Russell Hobbs 8 quart electric pressure cooker that I'm very happy with... Mine is a few years old, but I know that their current models do 15 PSI at the high pressure setting.

I don't pressure cook a ton, mainly for meats and beans, and have been very happy with this particular model.

Give 'em a quick google, for the most part they get very good reviews, but they definitely aren't the cheapest options around.

MikeV @ DadCooksDinner said...


Thank you, I'll check them out.

Deb said...

I have a Cuisinart electric that is the best. I gave away my rice cooker and another appliance to make room for it. (Look at blog hippressurecooking for instructions on cooking perfect hard boiled eggs in one. ) I use your brined beans recipes all the time now. I've never had anything other than an electric PC and it works every time for me. I have cooked dinners for family for over 30years and I only wish I had a PC when my kids were young! But it's great for a 2person 50 something household too.

MikeV @ DadCooksDinner said...


Thanks for the recommendation - I'm looking at one as a late Christmas present for myself...

Mary said...

Most of this entry seems to be complaining that electric pressure cookers don't reach 15psi., and the author considers this the 'big issue'. Given that several comments have pointed out that actually, several do, isn't it time this was revisited?

Mike V @ DadCooksDinner said...

Sure. See here: http://www.dadcooksdinner.com/2012/03/things-i-love-cuisinart-electric.html

efromor said...

I love my Fagor Electric pressure cooker. I admit I am afraid of the old stove top models. It does so many things, and does them well. The only trouble is finding recipes that are for this model. I want to cook a brisket next week for my mother. I saw above that it takes an hour, but you didn't say how many pounds? Do you have a good recipe?

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