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Family friendly, any way you define it, it’s the appliance/equipment any busy household wants in their kitchen. Not the latest, greatest gadget that ends up in the gadget drawer (you know you have one!) and not the shiniest new appliance that takes up 50% of the counter space and get used 5% of the time. With these ideas in mind, we’re presenting our best overall choices for electric pressure cookers.
Pressure cookers today are incredibly safe and very easy to use, and they address some essential aspects of daily family life we all struggle with; providing healthy, budget-friendly meals for our family, and finding the time to do so. They can take inexpensive cuts of meat and render them tender and delicious in under an hour. They can reduce the cooking time of any meat or vegetable while sealing in nutrients. And multipurpose models can do even more.
So with family in mind, we have scoured the internet for the best possible family size pressure cookers. These appliances share the features most commonly requested by family cooks; size (6Qt), type (electric) and material (stainless steel). They have some of the highest ratings, the most positive reviews, and the most requested options.
In this article, you’ll learn how pressure cookers work. We’ve also included our choices for a smaller capacity unit (4Qt), ideal for cooking for one or two people, and our favorite family sized stovetop model and the perfect model for canning. You’ll also find helpful tips for using your cooker, safety information, FAQ’s, and links to great recipes so you’ll be ready to start cooking right out of the box.
How Did We Choose?
How did we narrow down the options? By reading the reviews from numerous experts and owners from all over the internet, and they told us the primary criteria for a “Family Friendly” pressure cooker is:
- A 6qt capacity pressure cooker is the ideal size for a family of 4 to 5 people.
- An Electric model a stovetop models because of the ability to “set it and forget it,” i.e., their programmability, they are also user-friendly to the new pressure cooker owner.
- Stainless steel is the preferred material for longevity and durability. Aluminum can interact with some acidic foods, become warped, stained and difficult to clean after time. To be fair, aluminum pressure cookers are typically less expensive, but for this article, we believe the upfront investment in stainless steel will pay for itself over time.
Any of the four models reviewed below will provide you and your family with endless, time-saving options when planning and preparing healthy, budget-friendly meals. Our choices for the top four family-friendly pressure cookers are: drumroll, please…
1. Instant Pot IP-DUO60 7-in-1(6Qt)
The Instant Pot IP-DUO60 7-in-1 (Amazon price $132.45) is the best selling and best-reviewed pressure cooker on the market. If we had to recommend just one model, this would be it. It has the features of seven different appliances all in a handy 6-quart 1000-watt machine.
Reviews are practically unanimous for this versatile and top-performing pressure cooker. It cooks meat and vegetables perfectly along with many other foods. According to reviews, you can start dinner when you arrive home from work, and the family will be sitting down to enjoy it 40 minutes later! This appliance replaces others in your kitchen because it performs as a rice cooker and slow cooker as well. In addition, it also steams, sautés, browns and warms. The yogurt making feature is what separates it from its little sister the Instant Pot IP-LUX60 6-in-1 (see it here) which sell for $11.58.
The instruction book that comes with the Instant Pot IP-DUO60 isn’t very useful, say reviewers, and it’ll take some practice to learn how to use this appliance. The Instant Pot is reported as easy to clean, and the stainless steel cooking pot is dishwasher safe. The lid rest on the pot got many favorable mentions. Electric models are safe compared to the cookers of years ago, and the Instant Pot is among the most reliable. The 7-in-1 Multi-Functional has the following abilities; Pressure Cooker, Slow Cooker, Rice Cooker, Sauté/Browning, Yogurt Maker, Steamer and Warmer. It has a large, easy to use control panel with 14 built-in Smart Programs, Dual pressure, Automatic keep-warm and 3 temperatures. It’s UL and ULC certified with 10 proven safety mechanisms, energy efficient and kitchen friendly. The box includes 3-ply bottom stainless steel cooking pot, stainless steel steam rack with handle, the manual and recipes.
13″ x 12.6″ x 12.2″
4.7 out of 5 stars
2. Fagor 670040230 3-in-1 (6Qt)
The Fagor 3-in-1 Electric Multi Cooker (Amazon price $89.99) is a highly convenient and dedicated kitchen multitasker. Termed as a 3-in-1 multi cooker because it provides precise settings for slow cooking, pressure cooking, and rice cooking. It also has browning and warming features. With the smallest dimensions, it’s ideal for kitchens with limited storage space.
This unit is delightfully flexible and operational in all settings. Its simplicity gives it an aura of trustworthiness. Made from polished stainless steel, the Fagor electric multi-cooker features a detachable cooking pot, making it safe for the dishwasher. Its non-stick insert makes the cleaning process very easy because the insert has a non-stick coat making removal of leftover foods and juices super simple. The control panel can easily be dabbed clean with a wet cloth. The external stainless-steel surface can also be cleaned by with the use of a damp cloth and mild detergent, as well.
Choose between high (9 psi) and low (5 psi) pressure to prepare a great variety of healthy meals in minutes. Use the slow cooker setting to make slow cooker classics such as pot roasts, soups, and stews. Programmable delay-timer for up to 8 hours. Multi-cooker will go automatically to keep warm function after any cooking program. Self-locking lid and automatic pressure release setting for your convenience. The lid will not open while there’s pressure inside the cooker for safety. Two independent pressure control valves and anti-overheating protection for added security. LED screen with soft-touch control buttons. Brushed stainless steel exterior.
11.5″ x 13.5″ x 13.5″
4.2 out of 5 stars
3. Cuisinart CPC-600 (6Qt)
The Cuisinart CPC-600 (Amazon price $89.99) is one of the best choices when it comes to an electric pressure cooker. It’s a hassle-free appliance with pre-programmed settings either a newbie or aficionado will love. Efficiency and effectiveness are attributes of this device.
This electric pressure cooker is ideal to use for a novice and even a professional cook. The Cuisinart, with its brushed stainless steel and matte black finish, provides a convenient and fast way to make delicious and nutritious dishes. This is one of the best choices when it comes to a pressure cooker. The Cuisinart CPC-600 6-Quart is a high-quality model that performs efficiently and effectively. It automatically builds up the pressure adjusts the temperature to maintain the preset pressure and when the food has cooked up to the number of minutes that you specified the unit automatically switches to keep warm for a period of up to 12 hours. It’s simple to utilize, very secure and cooks up to 70% faster than ordinary techniques.
The unit automatically locks the lid shut when pressure is high so even if your appliance gets knocked over by accident, the lid won’t budge. The pressure control device measures and automatically adjusts both temperature and pressure. The pressure limit valve works by releasing air if the internal pressure starts to go above the pre-programmed setting. This Cuisinart comes with a 3-year restricted warranty, three times the duration of the other three pressure cookers included in this article.
12.2″ x 12.2″ x 13.2″
4.4 out of 5 stars
4. Secura 1810 6-in-1 (6Qt)
The Secura 1810, 6-in-1 (Amazon price $104.99) is one of the most popular pressure cookers with many features and benefits for all customers. This model has many options which will make it very useful in the kitchen.
Rounding out our selection for the family is the Secura 6-in-1 Electric Pressure Cooker (Amazon price $124.99) It is without any doubt that this Secura 6-in-1 electric 6Qt, 18/10 stainless steel appliance is a great kitchen tool not only for pressure cooking but also other cooking methods. There are some optional accessories that you will find to be useful in your kitchen including a non-stick cooking pot, it will withstand the pressure cooking environment without any problems and if maintained properly will last a lifetime. It has five additional settings that allow you to cook all kinds of foods. It will not only help you to save time and money. This cooker is that cleaning it is very easy. Its parts are dishwasher safe.
The Secura 6-in-1 has a built-in quick pressure release method on top of the lid. You can quickly release the pressure by turning the dial to “release” instead of waiting for it to cool off. You will find this method to be beneficial when you are dealing with medium textured foods, for instance, beef or lamb. If you want the cooker to cool off naturally, you can use the “natural release” method. This may take anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes. It is recommended to use this process for foods that cannot be overcooked, for example, rice and beans.
12″ x 13.5″ x 13″
4.5 out of 5 stars
How do Pressure Cookers Work?
A pressure cooker works on a simple principle: Steam pressure. A sealed pot, with a lot of steam inside, builds up high pressure, which helps food cook faster.
It is a sealed pot with a valve that controls the steam pressure inside. As the unit heats up, the liquid inside forms steam, which raises the pressure in the pot. This high-pressure steam has two significant effects:
- It increases the boiling point of the water in the pot. With convention methods of cooking, a stew or steamed vegetables, for example, the cooking heat is limited to the boiling point of water (212°F). But with the steam’s pressure now the boiling point can get as high as 250°F, allowing the food to cook faster.
- Raising the pressure forces liquid and moisture into the food. Cooking it faster and tenderizing some foods. The high pressure also helps force liquid and moisture into the food quickly, which helps it cook faster and also helps certain foods, like tough meat, get very tender very quickly.
The extra-high heat of the pressure cooker also promotes caramelization and browning, creating deep and complex flavors.
Important Safety Tips
Even with these programmable electric pressure cookers keep in mind that you’re cooking with scalding steam, so there are some necessary safety rules to follow:
- Always read the manual thoroughly, even if you’re an experienced cook, different models have different parts and therefore, different instructions.
- Always buy a new and from a reliable source.
- Never leave it unattended.
- Make sure the gasket is clean and intact, and the pot doesn’t have any cracks, dents or other damage.
- Never, never force the lid open when pressure is still inside. The new generation models included in this article have a locking system that prevents you from opening it when it’s still under pressure.
- Open the lid away from your face to prevent accidents. Even after the pressure has have been released, there’s always a chance enough steam to burn you will be present inside.
- Replace the gasket at least once a year to ensure the lid will fully seal-in all the steam and pressure.
Tips and Tricks for Getting the Most from Your New Pressure Cooker
- Cook with liquid: Always use at least one cup of cooking liquid, but the liquid should never fill the cooker more than halfway. This method requires less liquid because there is less evaporation than with conventional methods. If there is too much liquid left when cooking is complete, simply bring it to a boil with the lid off to reduce it to the desired consistency.
- Storage: Always wash and completely dry your appliance by hand with warm, soapy water. Make sure the safety valves are clean, the rubber gasket is flexible, and place the lid upside down on the pot.
- Don’t overfill: Steam may not weigh anything but it still needs room to build up, so never fill your cooker more than 2/3 full with food.
- Size matters: Food should be cut uniformly for even cooking, the smaller the size, the quicker it will cook. You may want to consider adding vegetables to meat after the meat has cook approximately 2/3 their recommended time.
- Browning equals flavor: Brown meat and vegetables as you would with conventional cooking and don’t forget to deglaze the pot with a liquid (water, stock or wine for instance) for even more flavor and to decrease the risk of scorching.
- Cooking Above sea level: If you live and cook higher than 2000 feet above sea level the rule of thumb is to increase the cooking time by 5% for every 1000 feet higher than 2000.
- Adapting favorite recipes: Although pressure cooking is typically intended for dishes that require a longer cooking time you can adjust almost any recipe to this style of cooking if you have the patience to experiment! Make sure you use enough liquid to provide enough steam and reduce the cooking time somewhere between 25% and 50% (this is where the experimentation part comes in). Check the “doneness” frequently, overcooked food cannot be saved!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What can you cook in the pressure cooker?
Almost anything! It cooks rice in just a few minutes, and it cooks tougher things, like beans, in less than an hour. It is perfect for foods that need to be tenderized, like roasts.
What’s tricky about cooking in a pressure cooker?
It’s a whole new way of cooking, with its own language and processes. You will usually have to wait for it to heat up, then add the food and the lid, and let it cook for a certain amount of time, at a certain pressure level. Then you release the pressure.
What’s the difference between a pressure cooker and a pressure canner?
Canners tend to be bigger than cookers. Some canners are made from less-expensive, uncoated aluminum. Aluminum is not suitable for raw or unpackaged foods and may react with acidic foods. When canning, always be aware of the pressure inside the device. Many models have calibrated weights that rattle when the canner is maintaining the correct pressure. Cookers tend to have springs that open or close valves to keep the right pressure.
What shouldn’t I cook in my pressure cooker?
Generally speaking, the pressure cooker will always be a moist, humid environment, unsuitable for foods you want to come out dry and crispy. And there are much better ways to cook lean fish and fresh vegetables whose vibrancy you’re looking to preserve. As a rule, robust foods that tend to take a long time to prepare, fare well in a pressure cooker, delicate items do not.