We tested four stovetop pressure cookers, priced from $135 to $616, in the CHOICE labs.
Use our review to help you:
- decide what to buy
- compare features and performance
- find out what to look for.
On this page, you'll find the brands and models we tested and information on how we test.
Why buy a pressure cooker?
Pressure cookers are known for making hearty meals fast, which is great if you have a big family to feed. The catch? You’re unlikely to get a cooked meal from go to whoa in, say, 45 minutes. You'll need to factor in extra time for searing meat, for example, and for the contents of the cooker to cool down before serving.
What is a stovetop pressure cooker, and how does it work?
All four stovetop models in our test are essentially a simple pot with a lid that seals and locks in the steam to build pressure. The internal temperature of the cooker then becomes higher than the boiling point of water. Once it reaches the appropriate pressure, the heat can be turned down and the pressure is maintained. This increase in temperature reduces the actual cooking time for most foods (we find it’s slower than the standard absorption method for cooking rice).
How long will it take to cook a meal?
While the actual cooking time may be drastically reduced, however, you still need to factor in time for searing the meat, and for the cooker to build pressure before the cooking actually begins and then to de-pressurise at the end of cooking before you can open the lid. As an example, cooking lamb shanks in a pressure cooker may take only 40 minutes of actual cooking time. But you’ll need to add on about 10 minutes to sear the meat, a further 10 minutes to build pressure, plus a few extra minutes for cool down – so all up, about 60 minutes.
Times will also greatly depend on the temperature of your food. If you’re cooking food straight from the fridge – as most people usually do – you’ll need to add even more time. High-altitude locations will also take longer again to cook, as a lower atmospheric pressure also means lower pressure in your cooker, hence more cooking time.
That said, an hour of pressure cooking is still less time than, for example, the 1.5 hours typically needed to cook lamb shanks in an oven (or longer if you like to slow cook them), or about eight hours in an electric slow cooker.
How much can I cook?
You also need to think about quantity – you can cook a large batch of shanks in the oven for the same period of time, but these cookers can only manage enough for four people. You may also have to get your butcher to cut the shanks to fit your pressure cooker, as we did.
Safe and sound
Don’t let the stories of pressure cookers exploding put you off – multiple safety features have made this a thing of the past. Modern pressure cookers come with safety features such as pressure indicators, double-locking lids, pressure valves, over-pressure safety systems, and steam release valves.
- Fissler Vitavit Comfort Pressure Cooker 3F130567
- Hawkins Ekobase
- Silit Sicomatic T Plus 6.5L
- Tefal Acticook 6L
How we test
Fiona Mair, home economist from CHOICE's test kitchen, assesses each appliance by cooking chilli shredded beef and lamb shanks:
- For the chilli shredded beef (with dried beans) test, she looks for a rich, fully flavoured sauce, tender beans, and meat that falls apart.
- The lamb shanks test assesses how well each product can cook melt-in-your-mouth meat that falls off the bone, with good flavour development.
Ease of use
Fiona assesses how easy the cookers are to assemble, store and clean. She also considers the external temperature of the cooker surface, handles, and pressure valve during operation.
Ease of use is broken down into the following categories, equally weighted:
- ease of assembly and storage
- quality of instructions
- ease of using pressure valve and functions
- and ease of cleaning (including general cleaning and disassembly of parts for cleaning).