9 Key Advantages and Disadvantages of Pressure Cooking

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Pressure cookers are amazing, and while they’ve been around a long time, they have come back into popularity over the past few years. But while I know a little bit about them from using them a little over the years, I wondered what some of the specific advantages and disadvantages of pressure cooking were.

So I did a little research. Here’s what I learned:

The advantages of pressure cooking are cutting cook time by 2/3, less mess & less loss of nutrients. Disadvantages include not being able to cook certain items together due to differing cook times, not being able to check food midway for doneness or seasoning & also estimating cook times in higher altitude locations.

But there’s a lot more to know and understand about pressure cookers, so let’s dig in a little deeper.

If you’re looking to buy any small kitchen appliance, don’t forget to check out my Recommended Products Page (click to see my page) which breaks down all my best picks by category.

I always hand select items that I either own, have used, or have researched well to ensure they are great items. I also give not only top of the line as well as inexpensive alternatives so my choices work for any budget.

What is a pressure cooker?

A pressure cooker seals the food in an airtight container, which kind of looks like a Crock-Pot.

Some are electric and sit on a counter while other types are designed to cook on a stovetop.  Depending on the type and size, they can range anywhere from $40 to almost $300.

Pressure cooking cooks the food in a liquid (often broth, but water can work too). Because the container is airtight and doesn’t allow any of the moisture to escape, it allows you to cook the food in a shorter time but it will taste (and have the texture) of something braiser much longer.

Often you can save about two-thirds of the normal cooking time by using a pressure cooker.

Pressure cookers usually cook at 242°, which generates a lot of heat. Because the pressure cooker is airtight, all that steam has nowhere to go but into the food.

They also have a valve that monitors and releases the pressure from the steam inside, and often have a gauge so you can monitor the pressure.

Because the pressure cooking adds moisture to whatever you are cooking, things like roasts, which would typically be pretty tough if cooked for a short time, become juicy and tender in a much shorter time.

Thus, when you get home late from work and realize that there’s nothing in the pantry that’s easy to throw together for dinner, the pressure cooker can be your best friend. Just throw some boneless chicken breasts or tenders (even from the freezer) and some chunks of carrot and potato in with some stock or sauce, and a tasty dinner can be ready in about 8-10 minutes.

Do follow your cooker’s manual for cooking times to ensure whatever you throw in will cook fully in roughly the same amount of time.

Stovetop vs electric pressure cooker

Generally speaking, stovetop models are better at browning and in some cases, quite a bit faster than the electric pressure cookers. They tend to be noisier also when they vent steam through the pressure release valve during the cooking process.

Stovetop pressure cookers are also a little more limited in what they can prepare (harder to steam rice, for instance).

Electric pressure cookers tend to be easier to operate and need less monitoring during cooking. Another plus for electric pressure cookers is that they are nearly silent for most of the cooking process.

They are noisy only when the pressure gets released when the cooking is done.

When the pressure does get released, however, the food can spray onto the inside of the lid. Since that part isn’t removable or able to be washed in a sink or dishwasher, it can make cleanup a little more challenging.

So there are pros and cons to both types, but if you want to set it and forget it, and cook things like rice, you’ll probably want an electric pressure cooker.

Not sure if your pressure cooker’s noises are normal?

I wrote a recent article that breaks down what noises are and AREN’T OK with your Instant Pot or pressure cooker. It’s normal for a pressure cooker to make some noise or expell some steam and pressure.

But you want to make sure you know the difference!

What’s the difference between a pressure cooker and an Instant Pot?

Instant Pot is a brand name for a specific type of electric pressure cooker.

These are currently all the rage. Both pressure cookers and an Instant Pot feature:

  • Browning food
  • Sautéing food
  • Steaming
  • Pressure cooking

In addition, the controls for both types are easy to use and understand and have more options and flexibility than a traditional stovetop pressure cooker. They are also both simple to wash.

Advantages of an Instant Pot over an electric pressure cooker:

  • Instant Pots have a stainless steel cooking pot (as opposed to non-stick)
  • They can also double as a Crock-Pot style slow cooker
  • You can set a delay timer (so your food starts cooking and stops cooking exactly when you want it to)

Of course for some, just the fact that Instant Pots don’t have a non-stick cooking surface is a plus as that means it won’t be flaking off into your food. Since you can ditch your Crock-Pot if you have an Instant Pot, it’s also a space saver.

Can I can foods with a pressure cooker?

The short answer is maybe.

There are devices called pressure canners which are very similar to stovetop pressure cookers. The biggest difference is pressure canners tend to be much larger so you can place your glass mason jars inside and let is seal them. They also tend to have more precise controls for setting the pressure.

Electric pressure cookers and specifically the Instant Pot is NOT designed for canning food and should not be used that way.

At 15 pounds of pressure, water boils at 250°F. Thus, high pressure and temp eliminate bacteria faster, which is essential for canning foods safely. If your pressure cooker doesn’t allow you to set precise pressure, it’s probably not a good idea to use it to can foods.

So if you have a stovetop pressure cooker and it’s large enough to hold your jars, check your product manual for recommendations on canning.

All that being said, the old-school method for canning, which I have done, just calls for a large pot (like a pasta cooker) of boiling water and time; no fancy gadgets needed.

What are the best foods for a pressure cooker?

Most kinds of meat cook extremely well in a pressure cooker.

Virtually any food items which can be steamed or braised can be cooked in a pressure cooker, such as:

  • Chicken 
  • Beef (even ground)
  • Roasts
  • Potatoes
  • Firm vegetables
  • Beans (using dried beans)
  • Rice (especially useful for speeding up the cooking of brown rice)
  • Soups

You can even make some desserts such as cheesecake in your pressure cooker, sometimes getting you better results than in an oven.

What are the worst foods for a pressure cooker?

Mealthy is one of the top brands of pressure cooker.

In their product manuals, they caution against using a pressure cooker for, or at at least frequently monitoring foods that can get extra frothy or foamy. These kinds of foods can more easily clog the steam pressure valve and create a potentially unsafe amount of pressure inside the cooker.

But other food items won’t work well in a pressure cooker because of the texture they will have when done.

Thus, use caution, or avoid using a pressure cooker for:

  • Oatmeal (or other cooked cereals)
  • Applesauce
  • Most kinds of pasta
  • Anything you want to be crispy or would normally fry

Is pressure cooking unhealthy?

The short answer is no.

Cooking foods take the nutrients out of the food. Thus, it makes sense that cooking food for a shorter amount of time means more nutrients will remain in the food when it’s done.

So compared to most other methods of cooking food, a pressure cooker is far healthier.

Does pressure cooking destroy nutrients?

Another common complaint against pressure cookers and loss of nutrients in the food is the fact that we’re boiling.

In reality, pressure cookers use a relatively small amount of water and because of the heat and pressure, it gets turned into steam pretty quickly. Thus, especially paired with the shorter cooking time, pressure cooking leaves a lot more nutrients than foods typically boiled on a stovetop.

A recent study by the National Institutes of Health compared different cooking methods and how they affected nutrient loss.

The found, overwhelming, that steaming, which is how the pressure cooker works, was by far the best method in terms of retaining the highest amount of nutrients in the cooked food.

  • Stir-frying reduced nutrients by 18%
  • Microwaved food saw a 16% reduction in nutrients
  • Boiling had a 27% reduction in nutrients
  • Steaming saw virtually no reduction in nutritional value

Do Pressure cookers explode?

Pressure cookers, like Crock-Pots, have been around for a long time.

In the old days, there were genuine concerns about pressure cookers building up too much pressure and being dangerous. You’d hear the hissing and it would sound like a ticking time bomb if the pressure valve got clogged or if you set the cooking time too long.

Sometimes that delicious stew grandma was making ended up on the kitchen ceiling if she hadn’t put the lid on correctly.

However, the pressure cookers being made today are extremely safe. They are easy to use and have better gauges and valves for monitoring the pressure before problems arise.

I will say that unlike lifting the lid on a Crock-Pot, you can’t just check the status of your food while the pressure cooker is cooking. In fact, not being able to monitor the food or adjust seasoning while it’s cooking is one of the big downsides.

Because of the immense pressure, you have to wait until the cooker is done and the pressure is released before opening the lid.

But there’s a lot more to go into about whether Pressure Cookers Explode (click to read on my site), including what might actually cause that to happen, so check out my detailed article to learn more about pressure cooker safety.

Does pressure cooking kill botulism?

Botulism is a bacterial infection. While somewhat rare, in some cases it can be fatal.

Initial symptoms include weakness, blurred vision, feeling tired, and trouble speaking followed by possible vomiting and diarrhea. The bacteria grow in both soil and water. Improper food cooking and handling are where most cases of botulism occur.

Luckily, the botulism toxin is destroyed by cooking food at 185° for 5 or more minutes.

Thus, while you should always wash your hands, kitchen area & equipment, as well as your food, pressure cooking would kill botulism as long as your cook time is greater than 5 minutes.

Can you leave a pressure cooker unattended?

Unlike a Crock-Pot, most manufacturers of pressure cookers recommend not leaving your house while the pressure cooker is on.

That being said, you don’t need to be in the kitchen with it the entire time. Just monitor it a few times and ensure no steam is leaking anywhere out the sides.

If you do absolutely have to leave the house leaving the pressure cooker unattended, make sure it has reached its full pressure and again, ensure that absolutely no steam is being released anywhere.

But there’s a lot more to know about pressure cookers and safety than just don’t leave the house for too long.

So take a moment and check out a recent article I wrote which details all the top safety concerns people have. Then I also break down all the safety features modern day pressure cookers have.

What really surprised me was how damaging oil can be in a pressure cooker! Just click the link to read it on my site.

Can I use a pressure cooker in high altitude cities?

The short answer is yes, but as crazy as it might sound, water boils at different temperatures depending on the elevation.

In terms of elevation, there’s a big difference between Denver and somewhere on the coast of Texas. 212° is considered boiling temperature at sea level. By the time you get to 2000 feet above sea level, boiling temp drops to 208°. With every 500-foot increase in elevation, the boiling point of water gets lowered by about 1°.

Above 2,500 feet, the atmosphere gets a lot drier. The air is less oxygenated and the pressure in the atmosphere gets reduced. Thus, cooking takes longer.

In terms of pressure, at sea level, air pressure is at 14.7 pounds of pressure per square inch. At 5,000 feet above sea level, however, that drops to  12.3 pounds of pressure per square inch. Then by the time you get to 10,000 feet above sea level, you only get about 10 pounds of pressure per square inch.

Since pressure cookers work off of both boiling water and pressure, cooking times can vary considerably based on the altitude of your city. Many cookbooks won’t account for this, so you’ll be doing a lot of adjusting and trial and error if you live in high elevations.

So what are the . . . 

9 Key Advantages and Disadvantages of Pressure Cooking?

ADVANTAGES OF PRESSURE COOKING

1. Food cooks in about 1/3 the time it would normally take

Often you can save about two-thirds of the normal cooking time by using a pressure cooker.

Pressure cookers usually cook at 242°, which generates a lot of heat. Because the pressure cooker is airtight, all that steam has nowhere to go but into the food. Because the pressure cooking adds moisture to whatever you are cooking, things like roasts, which would typically be pretty tough if cooked for a short time, become juicy and tender in a much shorter time.

2. You retain more nutrients than by boiling, microwaving, frying, sautéing, or roasting

A recent study compared different cooking methods and how they affected nutrient loss.

The found, overwhelming, that steaming, which is how the pressure cooker works, was by far the best method in terms of retaining the highest amount of nutrients in the cooked food.

3. You’ll save energy

By only using 1 pot instead of multiple burners or your oven or microwave, you’ll be saving energy. Also, the significantly reduced cooking time saves energy too.

4. Less mess!

By using 1 pot instead of multiple pots, clean up is a breeze with a pressure cooker. Plus most brands of pressure cookers allow most of the parts to simply be put in the dishwasher.

5. Your kitchen stays cooler

With one pot locking in the heat and steam, your kitchen will stay totally cool while dinner is cooking. This a big plus in southern states where temperatures can soar during the summer months.

DISADVANTAGES OF PRESSURE COOKING

1. You can’t throw different food items into a pressure cooker and expect them to cook for the same amount of time

A potato cooks a lot faster than a whole chicken. Carrots cook the same as ground beef. Thus, one of the big disadvantages of a pressure cooker is that you have to really think about what you are preparing and make changes to recipes to allow for the cook time.

Or you have to resort to using more than one cooking device which removes some of the advantages of pressure cooking.

2. You can’t monitor for doneness during the cooking process

As I cook a meal, I often will check to see how well the cooking is going and checking for doneness. That way I’m not overcooking something into mush, but I’m also not getting my family ready to eat only to realize the meat needs another 30 minutes.

Good recipes can help, of course, but not being able to check on the progress during the cooking is definitely a big disadvantage of pressure cooking.

3. You can’t add or adjust seasoning of the food throughout the cooking process

As I check on the progress of meals I’m preparing, I will often taste the food and adjust salt, pepper, herbs, and spices to ensure the finished product is going to be perfect.

One big downside of pressure cooking is not being able to adjust midway, so when it’s done, it’s done.

As any good chef knows, adding salt or other seasonings after the cooking never really works well since you ideally want the seasoning to cook into the food and not just sit on top of it. That’s especially true of dried spices.

4. If you live in a higher altitude (ie: Denver), you will have to use longer cooking times

Above 2,500 feet, the atmosphere gets a lot drier and the temperature at which water boils gets lower. The air is less oxygenated and the pressure in the atmosphere gets reduced. Thus, cooking takes longer.

Since pressure cookers work off of both boiling water and pressure, cooking times can vary considerably based on the altitude of your city. Many cookbooks won’t account for this, so you’ll be doing a lot of adjusting and trial and error if you live in high elevations.

Did I cover everything you wanted to know about the advantages and disadvantages of pressure cooking?

In this post, I wanted to explore the world of pressure cooking, something I’ve dabbled with but wasn’t an expert at.

I took a look at all the common questions that get asked as well as some of the myths out there about pressure cookers that simply aren’t true. Specifically, we walked through all the top advantages and disadvantages of pressuring cooking so you can decide if getting one for your house makes sense.

If you’re looking to buy any small kitchen appliance, don’t forget to check out my Recommended Products Page (click to see my page) which breaks down all my best picks by category.

I always hand select items that I either own, have used, or have researched well to ensure they are great items. I also give not only top of the line as well as inexpensive alternatives so my choices work for any budget.


Photo credits:

self cooked by marco monetti is licensed by CC2.0 (text overlay added by me)

Cuisinart pressure cooker release valve (hero image) by Your Best Digs is licensed by CC2.0


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Jeff Campbell

Jeff was a leader for Whole Foods Market for over 2 decades and is now a recovering foodie. When he's not spending time in the kitchen, he can usually be found with his wife & 3 daughters, he can usually be found practicing martial arts, making music, or blogging on his other sites. Click to learn more about me

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