Pressure cookers are among some of the most advantageous appliances in any kitchen. The benefits of pressure cookers over their close relatives, slow cookers, are many. By applying pressure while cooking they are able to help reduce cook times, add extra flavor, reduce kitchen heat, and cut down on energy costs. Many pressure cooker reviews fail to encompass just how versatile these appliances are—and we’re here to clear to set the record straight!
What Are Pressure Cookers
Pressures cookers are simple devices that allow pressure to build up, to a controllable level, in a way that impacts the boiling point of liquids. This might seem a bit nuanced at first glance though we assure you it makes a big difference! Take water for example; it’s boiling point is 212 degrees and it offers little ability to be able to heat beyond that temperature. Scientists long ago realized that atmospheric pressure had an impact on boiling points. They realized that making tea at their beach houses was a much faster process than making tea at their mountain retreats. The reason being is the pressure of the Earth’s atmosphere! At sea level, there is a higher atmospheric pressure which allows the boiling point to be slightly larger than at higher elevations. Pressure cookers are designed to magnify this principle by allowing pressure to build up inside them while cooking. This is done in a controlled manner (hopefully) and releases an amount of steam dependent on user settings. Higher pressures mean higher cooking temperatures which mean shorter cook times and many other benefits.
The Benefits of Pressure Cookers
Now that we have a clearer understanding of how do pressure cookers work we can begin to discuss the benefits they bring to the table. First, it’s important to note that not all pressure cookers are created equally. Many of the best pressure cookers on the market also double as slow cookers. This added functionality has been developed as consumer demand has grown aware of the many benefits of pressure cookers. There are still quite a few options out there for dedicated pressure cookers—such as those used for canning—but the best pressure cookers for most kitchens are often combination appliances.
Lowers Cooking Time
One of the primary benefits of pressure cookers are their ability to have a remarkable impact on cook time. The added pressure, which allows for a higher cook temperature, enables your favorite recipes to be cooked faster. For more info on how to convert traditional recipes for use in pressurized environments, check out this great pressure cooker time chart from HIPCooking. There is no scientific formula for how to calculate these times unfortunately. Many manufacturers provide conversion charts along with their user manuals, but even these are sometimes best guesses. To convert the cook times of your favorite recipes to pressure cooker times you’ll have to do some experimenting on your own!
Increases Flavor (usually)
Imagine that drawer in your kitchen that has just a few too many things in it (you know the one). Now imagine all those things as flavor in a recipe. To get more things (flavor) into your drawer (recipe) you would either have to take others out or cram new ones in on top of the existing junk (wonderful flavor). Pressure cookers work in a conceptually-similar fashion inasmuch that they press down on the flavor in your recipes. This type of pressure can help produce flavoring and increased moisture retention similar to the way that brining can—just with a different approach. This isn’t always a guaranteed benefit but is seen more times than not. Just remember that your pressure cooker is going to help liquids absorb more flavor as well with the higher temperatures which will also help distribute flavor better as well!
Reduce Kitchen Heat
This isn’t always an issue but for some it can be a strong selling point of pressure cookers. Boiling things on stove tops release a lot of steam heat into the air, as well as the thermal energy from the stove tops. Electric pressure cookers help to address both of these temperature concerns. Just like slow cookers, pressure cookers have built-in heating elements that are connected to the plug-in cords they operate by. This means you can use them on any surface and are not required to use stove top heat. Not all pressure cookers work by electrical power—canners come to mind first—but the majority of modern ones do. If you opt to go with a pressure cooker/slow cooker combination unit you’ll almost certainly find that it functions through electrical power.
Reduces Energy Costs
Speaking of electricity, one of the benefits of pressure cookers is that they consume less energy than slow cookers. There’s no exception to the laws of thermodynamics here; pressure cookers are just designed to necessitate lesser cook times which in turn consume less electricity. For example, if your favorite slow cooker recipe takes 4 hours to cook on the High Heating setting (assuming it maintains a near boiling point temperature) a pressure cooker might be able to easily ensure the same degree of cooking in as little as 2 hours. That’s 50% less energy consumption with the same end results! This is rarely as easily to calculate, or estimate, but the general rule stands; pressure cookers will use less electricity than slow cookers. This benefit isn’t limited to slow cooker recipes either, it can be used on anything where boiling water is an integral part of the recipe. Rice, boiled eggs, and pasta can all be cooked faster when using a pressure cooker!
Pressure cookers have been around, conceptually, for hundreds of years. Early models were deathtraps that required open fires and risky chefs. Today, we are afforded incredible modern options that feature built in electronic controls, WiFi control in some cases, and can ever serve dual roles as slow cookers as well. The benefits of pressure cookers are many and but the best way to understand them is to start experimenting on your own. Taking your favorite slow cooker recipes and adjusting for lessened cook times should be quite an easy task, but may require some fine tuning. Overall, there’s not enough good things we can say about pressure cooking!