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Home & garden.

12 July 2021

How we test pressure cookers

Find out how we uncover the pressure cookers that won't cause you any stress in the kitchen.
Lisa Galliers
Vegetables cooking in a pressure cooker

Our pressure cooker tests reveal the best kitchen gadgets that are worthy of claiming precious countertop space in your kitchen. These are the pressure cookers that will leave you with a pot of delicious stew or perfectly cooked risotto, rather than a bowl of sticky sludge or chunks of meat burnt to the bottom of the pot.

We test electric pressure cookers from the leading brands, with each machine subject to nearly 70 assessments and tests. This ensures each pressure cooker not only cooks well, but heats quickly and, more importantly, cools down quickly so your food isn’t overcooked by accident. Our reviews answer the most critical questions you have about pressure cookers, including:

  • How well does it cook stews and casseroles?
  • How well does it cook a risotto?
  • How well does it cook beans?
  • How quickly does it heat up and cool down?
  • How easy is it to set up for cooking and to clean afterwards, inside and out? 
  • How useful are the instructions?
  • Is it safe?
  • Should I buy it?

Find out which models will give you a stress-free dinner in our pressure cooker reviews.

How well does it cook stews and casseroles?

We test pressure cookers using a beef and vegetable stew recipe. We check how long it takes for the stew to be cooked, and assess whether it’s evenly cooked, with tender meat and a rich and tasty sauce. A good pressure cooker will be able to cook the meat and potatoes evenly, so you won’t end up with mushy potatoes or hard, chewy beef chunks, or a watery liquid instead of a rich sauce.

How well does it cook a risotto?

Risotto isn’t easy to cook, but in a pressure cooker you could be whipping up this rice dish in next to no time. The recipe we use includes courgettes, so we can see if the pressure cooker can handle cooking the rice as well as these delicate vegetables. We assess how well the rice is cooked in the time specified, and check to see if the risotto is stuck hard to the bottom of the pot or has turned to sludge, instead of a rich risotto with evenly cooked rice and courgettes.

How well does it cook beans?

This test reveals the models that can handle cooking dried beans in a fraction of the time it usually takes. No more overnight pre-soaking needed with a pressure cooker - simply soak beans and pulses for an hour and then leave to cook for 20 minutes. A good pressure cooker will produce a pot of well-cooked beans, rather than turn them into mush.  

How quickly does the pressure cooker heat up and cool down?

How quickly a pressure cooker heats up and cools down will depend on what you're cooking and how much you're cooking. Different ingredients require different methods of pressure release. Stocks or rice, for example, need to be left alone so the pressure cooker can naturally come back down to a safe pressure. Other dishes, such as stews or casseroles, can have the pressure released more quickly - usually via a valve you can manually open. On some models, this happens automatically as part of the cooking process. 

We measure how quickly a pressure cooker gets up to the highest pressure, and then time how long it takes to get back down to a safe pressure using the natural method - which is where a pressure cooker is left to it's own devices to release the pressure. We use the same test methods across all appliances, and we can see some real differences. Pressure cookers that have an easy-to-use pressure-release system, or do this automatically, tend to be quicker to drop pressure that those that don't.

How easy is it to set up for cooking and to clean afterwards both inside and out?

Like many kitchen gadgets, if a pressure cooker turns out to be too tricky to use or a pain to clean  it will most likely end up in the back of a cupboard. To compare models, we check there are no places for dirt to get trapped, reveal which parts are dishwasher-safe and tell you which parts need extra effort to keep them looking like new. 

How useful are the instructions?

Pressure cookers aren’t too complicated to use, but electric pressure cookers that double up as a multicooker can seem complicated, which is why a good set of instructions is important. We check the manual provided with each pressure cooker to make sure it gives adequate guidance, so you can get the best out of your new gadget.

Is it safe? 

All pressure cookers we test undergo safety checks, based on the current British Standards. Checks include making sure the safety gasket can’t be in the wrong position and that the pressure cooker can’t be opened accidentally. We also run a decompression test and we check that the pressure cookers can be safely opened. We make sure that lids lock into place correctly, and that any steam release is angled away from the user, so you can be sure the pressure cooker you buy has been thoroughly checked.

Should I buy it? 

All the tests above, plus others, contribute to the overall test score for each pressure cooker we review. Because we know some things are more important to you than others, some elements are given a greater importance in our test score.

  • 49% Cooking performance, broken down as follows:
    • 27% beef stew
    • 12% risotto
    • 10% beans
  • 30% Ease of use 
    • Cleaning external surfaces
    • Cleaning inside
    • Moving about
    • Instructions
    • Setting up
    • Programming
  • 21% Heating and cooling
    • Heating-up time 
    • Time for pressure to drop
    • Energy consumption

A pressure cooker needs to score 80% or above to be deemed a Which? Best Buy. Any pressure cooker scoring 45% of below will instantly become a Which? Don't Buy.