Buying a Pressure Cooker as a Gift

fagor-splendid-10-quart-pressure-cookerHow many people do you have to buy gifts for Christmas 2012? Have you made your shopping list yet? If you are planning on buying gifts for those foodies or kitchen gadgeteers, maybe you should add a pressure cooker onto your list.

Buying a Pressure Cooker as a Christmas Gift

The general perception is that pressure cooking is so a thing of the past and old-fashioned. Little has been known that pressure cooking is in all time high resurgence now with energy cost on the rise and grocery budget pinched.

While pressure cooking may take a little bit practice, the benefits are many such as saving of cooking time as much as 70%, reduction of energy cost of the same proportion. You’d eat healthier meals because nutrients, minerals and vitamins are preserved more and better in pressuring cooking as opposed to conventional cooking.

It’s never easy to shop for a gadget such as a pressure cooker as there are more than abundant brands and models on the market, especially when someone might have to live with it for the rest of his or her life.

I’ve come up with a set of questions for you to think through before buying a pressure cooker.

What’s the Primary Use?

Is the person you are thinking about into canning or just cooking in general? Not all pressure cookers are made for canning and pressure cooking at the same time. The significant difference is in the size. For canning, you’d want to choose one with at least 15 quarts in liquid capacity in order to make it worthwhile for canning. Of course, the larger size is also suitable for canning as well as cooking, but no the other way around.

For just pressure cooking, the size ranges from 2 to 12 quarts with an average being 6-8 quarts. The bigger the family, the bigger the size. Then again, a lot of people use a pressure cooker to cook a large batch of food to be stored in the freezer. It’s like the TV dinner you’d buy from a grocery store, but a healthier and fresher version of that.

Another thing to remember is that you may never use the full capacity of a pressure cooker as you need to have enough “head space” in the cooker for the pressure to build up. So the 6-quart sized pressure cooker is only 4 quarts or 3 when cooking expandable foods such as beans and rice.

Stove-Top or Electric

There are both electric and stove-top pressure cookers out there. Most professional chefs or pressure cooking veterans advise against buying an electric pressure cooker because of the unreliable pressure level and the shorter warranty period. I would agree with them.

Overall Dimensions and Materials

The dimensions become an important factor when you consider the overall size and weight without or with food. How tall is the person you are buying this for? Can she or he carry a large pot or be able to reach to the inside of the pot when cooking? Also how much clearance between the stove and the range hood in the person’s kitchen?

Stainless steel and aluminum are used in most pressure cookers. It’s cheaper to buy one made of aluminum than of stainless steel. A lot of pressure canners are made of aluminum due to the sheer size of the pot and the cost-prohibitive nature. More and more brands use stainless steel due to the advantages it offers such as non-rust, non-corrosive, non-warping and the durability. Better yet, some have a disk of aluminum sandwiched between two years of stainless steel on the bottom of the pot to leverage the best of both worlds as aluminum conducts and transfer heat better than stainless steel.

Safety Features

The pressure cookers are divided into two types. One has the jiggle type of pressure regulator on the top of the lid and the other is the modern design type where the pressure is regulated through integrated multiple mechanisms. The former is like the one our grandmas have or had. It’s noisy and not as safe. The modern design incorporates multiple levels of safety buffers to prevent accidents from happening. The multi-level system may include a primary pressure release valve, a secondary valve, an overpressure plug and an emergency outlet such as the cutouts in the rim of the lid. The modern design is safer, quieter and evaporates less steam. Check out one of the world-class pressure release systems here.

Brand Reputation and Warranty

Given a pressure cooker may last for a lifetime or two, the brand reputation is crucial. You should check into how long this manufacturer has been making pressure cookers and the quality of their products by reading customer reviews.

Along the same line is the warranty period. The median warranty is 10 years worldwide. The longer, the better. There is one exception to the rule that I know of, that is the All American pressure cookers and canners. They only offer one-year warranty to their pressure cookers due to the exclusive design of the metal-to-metal seal. Click here to learn more about their unique design.

Budget

Price of pressure cookers range from $30 to $300. The cheaper models are generally made of aluminum with the old-fashioned pressure release mechanism and the more expensive ones are of stainless steel equipped with the multi-leveled safety features. This is one gadget you should avoid cutting corners as it will last for many years. Plus safety is one of the main concerns.

I’ve done some homework on your behalf and narrowed it down to a few hottest pressure cooker, canner and pressure cooker set for 2012. Hope this will save you some time in your busy holiday season and help you make an informed buying decision.

 

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