For those who are looking into buying a pressure cooker, it may seem that the options are endless. Even if you already have one but plan to upgrade, the various types, styles and other considerations can be a little daunting. However, there are a number of things to consider that can make your choice much easier.
The first thing to consider when looking into buying a pressure cooker is the material. There are two types most commonly seen: aluminum and stainless steel. While both have their benefits, the differences between the two may be important. For most people, aluminum is the way to go because it's simply the less expensive option of the two. It is also much lighter, and owing to aluminum's heat conduction, it provides a more uniform, reliable performance. The downside of aluminum is that it will have issues with pitting and staining. Those things don't really impact the cooking but it can be off-putting for some.
Stainless steel is the pressure cooker material of choice. Professional chefs typically lean more towards stainless because it is more durable. It's also a bit heavier, and definitely more costly but, stainless is also non-porous, which makes it safer. When choosing the stainless steel option though, it is vital that you choose a cooker that offers a layered base. This is because stainless steel isn't the best conductor, and those with layered bases perform much better. You may also find an electric pressure cooker in either stainless or aluminum.
When you are looking for a pressure cooker, you'll notice that they are typically sold by the size of their capacity. You have to bear in mind though that the actual useable capacity isn't going to be the same. It's going to be about one half to two thirds of the liquid capacity listed. That will vary from food to food, though. That isn't a bad thing. The excess space is needed so that steam can build inside the cooker. The most popular sizes are four and six quart, though an eight quart cooker is also very useful. If you are looking for an electric pressure cooker, it will likely be in that size range.
The four quart models are usually best if you're not using it for a full family. If it's just you and a partner, or just a single, these are great for whole meals. For families, however, a four quart pressure cooker may only be good for one course. The six quart model is usually the best bet for more people than that and most recipes you'll find around are created for the six quart cookers. Moving into the eight quart, this is great for large batches of food. Depending on your needs, choose accordingly.
There are much larger sizes if you need them. Large pressure cookers and canners typically range in 16-23 quart sizes and are typically used for canning low acid foods. These aren't generally recommended for cooking unless you're routinely working with large groups of people.
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