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Pressure cookers: quick, easy, energy efficient  Smart Choices Archive

Pressure cookers: quick, easy, energy efficient

Pressure cookers can save energy by cooking food faster

Energy Efficiency

What’s old is new again. You may remember the hissing and rocking of a pressure cooker or canner in your grandmother’s kitchen when growing up. You may also remember the danger of pressure build up or a steam release or the time it took for all the pressure to release naturally after the cooking time was completed (meaning that you didn’t save much time in the process).

Well, pressure cookers are back and better than ever. They include new safety features that avoid any danger of explosion; better, safer, and faster pressure-release valves; and greater accuracy in determining cooking times than older models.

Other features of new-age pressure cookers

  • Faster cooking time. Boiling point is 212 degrees F, right? Well, not if you heat up a pressure cooker. Boiling is at 250 degrees F in a pressure cooker at 15 pounds pressure (psi), because of the added pressure. That means foods cook faster, much faster; depending on the food, it may cook in about 1/3 of the time used on a regular stovetop or oven. When substituting a pressure cooker for a slow cooker (crock pot), a food that cooks for 8–10 hours in a slow cooker will require about an hour in a pressure cooker. See a timing chart for foods commonly cooked in a pressure cooker.
  • Use less energy than other cooking methods. Sources vary, but estimate that pressure-cooking may be up to 70% more energy efficient than other cooking methods because of the faster cooking time. In comparing cooking on an electric stove top and the number of watt hours to bring 1.5 liters of water to a boil, using a warped pan takes 290, a flat-bottom pan takes 190, an insulated pan takes 80, while a pressure cooker takes only 60. 
  • Result: Tasty foods. Some cooks say that nearly any food that can be cooked in a slow cooker (crock pot) can be cooked successfully in a pressure cooker, with similar taste results: fork-tender meats and well-simmered stews.

Tips for cooking with a pressure cooker
First and foremost, follow the instructions that come with your model. In general:

  • Take precautions with any “foaming” foods, such as legumes, oatmeal, pasta, and apples. Use less (only fill the pot 1/3 to 1 /2 full, according to your cooker directions) and possibly add a bit of oil to keep the foam to a minimum.
  • Watch your times carefully. Foods cook extremely fast, so veggies might be way overdone in an extra minute or two.
  • If you plan to cook foods together that require different cooking times, such as a roast and veggies, you will probably have to release the pressure and open the lid to add the faster-cooking veggies after starting the roast.
  • A certain amount of liquid is needed to build up the steam that cooks the food rapidly. Follow your pressure-cooker recipe carefully.
  • If you adapt a “regular” recipe, cut the time in about 1/3, and you may need to add a little extra liquid. 

More information

Canning with pressure cookers
Important note: Pressure cookers and canners are not the same. Canners are larger; cookers are not typically suited for canning because of their smaller size. Find out more about canning with pressure canners.



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