Pressure cookers have gained new popularity in the contemporary kitchen due to their ability to cook foods fast. A pressure cooker uses steam to cook foods evenly. Meats are often cooked in one-third of the usual time using a pressure cooker. Because the pressure cooker is sealed, vitamins, minerals and flavors are not lost in the cooking process. When evaluating the many different pressure cookers on the market, one important decision is whether to buy an aluminum or steel pressure cooker.
Shopping for a Pressure Cooker
The first factor to consider when shopping for a pressure cooker is its size. Consider what you want to use the pressure cooker for and how large it needs to be. Pressure cookers range in size from 2 quarts to over 40 quarts. A pressure cooker between 5 and 8 quarts will work well for most households. In addition to size, consider some other practical factors such as how easy the pressure cooker is to handle, whether it's easy to clean and what safety features it offers. These factors vary between aluminum and stainless steel pressure cookers.
Benefits of Aluminum Pressure Cookers
Aluminum pressure cookers are fairly lightweight and also more inexpensive than stainless steel pressure cookers. The lightweight quality is ideal for larger pressure cookers because it makes them easier to lift when full. Aluminum conducts heat well, which may help provide more even cooking. Some aluminum pressure cookers are specially designed for canning and come in larger sizes than stainless steel pressure cookers. Electric models of aluminum pressure cookers often have removable pots that may be used on the stove and are easy to clean.
Negatives of Aluminum Pressure Cookers
Because they are made to be inexpensive, aluminum pressure cookers do not hold up as well as stainless steel pressure cookers. They stain easily, may corrode and must be carefully cleaned. Acidic foods may develop a metallic taste when cooked in an aluminum pressure cooker. Aluminum pressure cookers may be used to saute or brown foods before pressure cooking, but because of their thinner bottoms this must be done at high temperatures, increasing the chances of burnt food. In addition, the thinner metal increases the risk of foods burning or sticking while cooking at higher pressures.
Benefits of Stainless Steel Pressure Cookers
Stainless steel pressure cookers are often heavier and more expensive than their aluminum counterparts, making them more durable and long-lasting. This type of pressure cooker does not stain and is often easy to clean. Unlike aluminum pressure cookers, the thicker bottoms allow users to saute or brown foods before pressure cooking, using lower heat and without frequent attention.
Negatives of Stainless Steel Pressure Cookers
When it comes to conducting heat, stainless steel is less effective than aluminum which means it may take longer to cook certain foods. Many stainless steel pressure cookers incorporate copper in their bottoms to remedy this problem and help heat foods evenly. The heavier material means that it will retain heat longer after cooking, so food must be removed soon after opening to prevent overcooking. These pressure cookers are also more expensive than aluminum pressure cookers and are much heavier, making larger models difficult to handle.