Ovens are Inefficient.
You’ll know what I mean if you’ve ever opened a conventional oven to check on dinner, and as you open the door, that huge wave of super hot, dry air washes up over your face, and the smell of the food in the oven rolls over so strong, wafting out of the kitchen- this is the experience of oven inefficiency.
By just checking on food once or twice this way, you’ve already lowered the temperature in the oven to below the required point to cook meat, meaning that the oven will then have to basically re-start to finish cooking.
Worse though, is the flavor loss, trapped within all that scent that disappeared (smelling so great while it did). That scent is actually made up of tiny food particles suspended in invisible water vapor that evaporated out into the super-dry air of the oven, and you’re not getting that flavor back.
There is a better way. Below we look into the top ways a pressure cooker can solve these issues in a fun, easy, delicious, affordable way.
1. Do I Need a Pressure Cooker?
Great question to ask right off the bat; do I even need one of these things?
If you’re on the raw diet, also known as the paleolithic diet (and you’re not planning on breaking the diet), then by all means, you will not need a pressure cooker.
But if you’re like most people and you like your food cooked, then yes, you’re going to want a pressure cooker.
Pressure cookers are basically how nature intended food to be cooked.
Conventional ovens let big amounts of heat out, and dehydrate the flavor out of the food.
Pressure cookers instead form an airtight seal and fill with steam, increasing the air pressure and thus increasing the boiling point of water, thus elevating the food’s temperature to above the usual boiling point.
The building pressure inside the sealed environment keeps pressing that heated, very moist, fragrant air and steam against your dinner, so it cooks fast without drying outor losing flavor.
This is called heat transfer, and pressure cookers have the best, most even, efficient heat transfer in all of cooking, no one even argues this.
So it’s no wonder why pressure cookers cook meals 70% faster than a conventional oven, and for 75% less energy. It’s just an all-around better, tastier, healthier, more efficient way to go.
Because pressure cookers seal the steam in, that’s also sealing in the flavor. So you won’t smell your food as much while it’s cooking, but you’ll smell (and taste) it even more strongly once it’s cooling off.
2. Is a Pressure Cooker Worth The Money?
The main reason people get pressure cookers is because food from a pressure cooker tastes better. Not only that, but the moisture is retained in the food, vitamins, minerals, and other healthy nutrients get trapped in the food by a pressure cooker, meaning that not only will your food taste better, but it’ll be better for the health of you and your family, too.
Pressure cooking also makes food easier to eat, for example, hard boiled eggs cooked at a low temperature in a pressure cooker are much easier to peel.
For restaurants, professionals, and anyone short on time, it’s also a relief to know that pressure cookers are more than twice as fast as standard conventional ovens.
Further, cooking a meal for one takes the same amount of time as cooking a meal for eight when you have a pressure cooker, because the time it takes to cook food with one of these doesn’t even change if you up the size of your portions. That’s where the heat transfer efficiency of the pressure cooker really affords a lifestyle improvement.
The only main drawback to pressure cookers over a conventional oven is that you most likely don’t already have a pressure cooker sitting in your kitchen.
Given these issues, we can see a wide range in pressure cooker prices. Smaller, less advanced pressure cookers run cheaper than a microwave, and compare in cost to a rice cooker or toaster. Higher-end pressure cookers with bigger capacity and more robust technology and features (like cooking delay timer, or the ability to let food simmer after finished cooking, so it won’t burn) can cost into the hundreds.
Every pressure cooker is a bit different so it’s wise to complete your due diligence so you feel comfortable with what you’re paying and what you’re getting.
Getting a first pressure cooker for a household can be a no-brainer once you know all the facts, but which cooker is going to be best?
3. Aluminum vs Stainless Steel Pressure Cookers
There is a stark difference between aluminum versus stainless steel when it comes to pressure cooking.
Aluminum is a choice for faster heating time, because as a thinner, more lightweight material, the aluminum conducts heat better than stainless steel. It also weighs less, and thus has a shorter life expectancy.
With a still very fast heating time when compared to other methods of cooking, stainless steel pressure cookers are heavier, stronger so they dent, wear, and chip far slower, they last longer through the decades, and since they are so much heavier, it follows that they are slower conductors of heat, so it takes just a tad longer for stainless steel pressure cookers to heat up than their shorter-lived aluminum cousins.
The Pros and Cons For Aluminum Vs Stainless Steel Pressure Cookers
In the end, aluminum pressure cookers are lighter weight, heat up faster, and cost less.
Stainless steel pressure cookers are heavier, longer-lasting, and are much more durable, while also costing more.
The pros and cons here don’t need to be sugarcoated, but it’s also not unheard of for a kitchen to have multiple pressure cookers to cook separate dishes or courses at the same time.
4. Electric vs Stovetop Pressure Cookers
Stovetop cookers give you more of a hands-on feel when heating and cooking your food. This may be what you want, but keep in mind, about half of the heat is lost on a stovetop, so in comparison to electric pressure cookers, it’s not a very energy-efficient way to go if you’re concerned about that.
With the stovetop, you’re also not getting the ability to have your pressure cooker automatically shut itself off, which is a huge benefit for the sometimes-forgetful among us who still don’t like burned food.
Related reading: Electric or Stovetop Pressure Cooker: Which Is Right for Me?
5. Pressure Regulation in Pressure Cookers
Since pressure cookers introduce a new number in cooking (pressure, in the United States measured in pounds per square inch, or psi), it is one tiny new extra thing to keep track of. Usually the ideal pressure recommended for cooking is 15 psi, which is an industry standard.
So just like keeping an eye on the temperature in the oven, it’s also important to keep an eye on the pressure (as well as temperature), in a pressure cooker.
Weighted valve pressure regulators are the most standard way of regulating pressure in a pressure cooker. These have a release function that rocks back and forth, making noise as it rocks, to signify that it’s releasing pressure and that the food is cooking.
Other pressure regulators are more expensive, like spring-loaded regulators or modified weighted valve pressure regulators, take away the auditory aspect, so you have to visually watch the pressure cooker, and your kitchen stays quieter.
7. Pressure Cooker Capacity
Getting the size right is important for any purchase.
Typically four or five quarts is the perfectly sized pressure cooker for a single person, a couple, or a chef creating a side dish.
Six quarts is a good size for cooking for three to four people, and eight quarts is a good target for larger families or cooking big feasts for five or more hungry folks.
There are also specialty pressure cookers out there that go all the way up above 20 quarts, but these are more for commercial purposes.
Keeping in mind, not only are there 4 cups in a quart, but pressure cookers should only be filled up to about two thirds of their total stated capacity.
Related reading: Power Pressure Cooker Reviews
Overall, we humans started out cooking on campfires, and after graduating to conventional ovens, and maybe microwaves in the busy modern era, there’s no doubt pressure cookers are the new standard in culinary deliciousness and efficiency.