American manufacturer Sunbeam has been making appliances since 1910. Surveyed customers have chosen the company as the best brand for pressure cookers with the highest overall score and high ratings for value for money and ease of use. 95% of surveyed users recommend Sunbeam pressure cookers.
A pressure cooker is a kitchen appliance designed to cook food quickly. It features a sealed pot with a lockable lid, and a valve that controls the pressure inside that pot.
When the pot is heated, the liquid inside boils and produces steam, which in turn causes the level of pressure inside the pot to rise. This raises the temperature inside the pot, resulting in drastically reduced cooking times and moist, tender food.
You can use a pressure cooker to make just about anything from roasts to cheesecake.
What are my main options?
You have two options to choose from when buying a pressure cooker:
Stovetop pressure cookers. Traditional pressure cookers are designed to be heated up on the stovetop just like a regular saucepan. Their main advantages are that they make it easy to achieve the optimum heat for your meal (handy if you need to brown meat before pressure cooking it) and that they reach your desired pressure quickly. They can also achieve higher heat and pressure levels than electric models. However, they're nowhere near as easy or convenient to use as electric pressure cookers.
Electric pressure cookers. Electric pressure cookers come with their own heating mechanism built in and regulate the heat and pressure inside the pot. They offer a range of cooking modes, such as browning, sauteing and simmering, and feature timers so you can follow recipes precisely. While they don't offer the same hands-on control as stovetop cookers, they're simple to use and very convenient.
How to compare pressure cookers
Make sure you consider the following factors when you compare pressure cookers:
Pressure cookers range in size from 2 to around 22 litres but the most common size is 6-8 litres. Considering how much space the cooker will take up in your kitchen cupboards or on the benchtop and check the specifications sheet for its dimensions.
Most electric pressure cookers are priced in the $80-$300 range, while stovetop cookers can cost anywhere from $50 up to more than $600. Some multi-cookers that feature pressure cooking functions exceed this price range.
Ease of use
Check if the pressure cooker will be practical to use. Are the controls clearly labelled and easy to operate? Will the handles stay cool to the touch? If it's an electric pressure cooker, does it have a wide range of cooking settings that will suit your needs?
Other features and accessories
Depending on your cooking needs, you may also want to consider the accessories that may come with a pressure cooker. These can include a steaming rack or basket, a serving spoon, a cookbook and perhaps even preprogrammed recipes.
Preset cooking functions
If you're buying an electric pressure cooker, check what preset cooking functions are available. Many models can sear, saute, steam, simmer and boil, with settings for specific ingredients. Some models also feature a keep-warm function to ensure that your meal stays at a ready-to-eat temperature once you've finished cooking.
Most of us have heard scary stories about exploding pressure cookers, so make sure the locking mechanism is secure. Electric pressure cookers release pressure themselves and feature a countdown timer so you know how long you have to wait until all pressure has been released and some models also have an auto shut off feature.
Check how easy the cooker will be to keep clean. Are there any crevices where food spills and other muck might accumulate? Is the pot dishwasher-safe?
Electric pressure cookers feature a timer to help you set cooking times and work out how long until your meal is ready. Many models also offer a delayed start feature so you can program the cooker to prepare your meal at a certain time.
Read the fine print closely to find out how long the manufacturer's warranty lasts and exactly what it covers.
Pressure cookers vs slow cookers, multi-cookers and all-in-one kitchen appliances
Before you buy a pressure cooker, consider whether one of the following appliances might be a better fit for your cooking needs:
Slow cookers. Slow cookers use low temperatures to cook stews, soups, casseroles, roasts and more. You can switch a slow cooker on in the morning and then set and forget while it cooks your dinner throughout the day. Learn more in our slow cooker buying guide.
Multi-cookers. As the name suggests, multi-cookers are designed to perform the jobs of several other kitchen appliances. They can be used for pressure and slow cooking, cooking rice, steaming, frying, baking and more. Check out our multi-cooker buying guide for more information.
All-in-one kitchen appliances. Also known as cook processors, these appliances also perform a wide range of kitchen tasks such as weighing ingredients, chopping, mixing, steaming, sauteing, blending and more. Take a look at our all-in-one kitchen appliance buying guide for more information.
Three things to watch out for
Don't forget to read the instructions. Each pressure cooker has its own procedures for safe use, so read the instructions carefully before you start cooking.
There's a learning curve. Understanding how to properly use a pressure cooker and produce the best results can take a little while. Remember, you can't dip a spoon in to sample your dish while it's cooking, so you might need to experiment with a few recipes until you get the hang of pressure cooking.
Older models don't have as many safety features. Modern pressure cookers have come a long way since the days of your grandma's rickety old stovetop model, and they include a number of safety measures to prevent explosions and other accidents. So, if you've inherited an old second-hand pressure cooker, investing in a new model instead is a much safer option.
Best rated pressure cooker brand award breakdown
Data: Finder Retail Brand Survey, 2019, Roy Morgan. Metric out of 5 stars unless otherwise indicated.
Value for Money
Ease of use
Cleaning & maintenance
*Brand did not meet the sample threshold to qualify for the award
Tim Falk is a writer for Finder, writing across a diverse range of topics. Over the course of his 15-year writing career, Tim has reported on everything from travel and personal finance to pets and TV soap operas. When he’s not staring at his computer, you can usually find him exploring the great outdoors.
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