Despite the recent popularity of electric pressure cookers, pressure cooking is a method that’s been used for centuries. The best stovetop pressure cookers help you achieve the flavor and texture of slow-cooked or braised foods in a fraction of the time, and take up roughly the same amount of space as a large saucepan. But when shopping for a stovetop pressure cooker for, consider the design first and foremost, as well as the capacity.
Since stovetop pressure cookers are heated from below rather than an internal heating element, look for one with a heavy bottom that distributes heat evenly. This will let you brown or sauté items prior to pressure cooking, and can help prevent scorching.
Pressure cooking occurs when hot moisture is used to cook food in a sealed environment. A lid prevents steam from escaping, thus increasing the pressure inside of the pot, so food cooks faster, develops flavor, and becomes more tender. For this reason, it’s important to look for a model with a strong and intuitive system for sealing the lid, with either an audible or mechanical indicator so you know it’s in place.
Most stovetop pressure cookers have one or two pressure settings, so they’re simple and straightforward to use. If you want to get delicious food on the table faster, the best pressure cookers are indispensable tools.
1. The Overall Best Stovetop Pressure Cooker
This 6.3-quart pressure cooker from T-fal can prepare foods up to 70% faster than standard cooking methods, according to the manufacturer, and has a simple and straightforward design. The heavy stainless steel pot is compatible on all cooktop surfaces, even induction stovetops, and is dishwasher safe. The locking mechanism of the T-fal’s lid is integrated into the handle, so it is easy to align for a tight fit, before securely sealing the pot using a sliding button. You can easily adjust between two pressure levels, 10 PSI and 15 PSI (pounds per square inch), simply by turning a control valve, and a red indicator pops up to let you know when pressure has been reached. After cooking, you can manually release the T-fal’s pressure by turning the control valve or allow it to depressurize naturally.
According to one reviewer: "I absolutely love this pot! To be able to use it on the stovetop gives me a lot of freedom and versatility. I made stuffed peppers and they were done within just 10 minutes of cooking [...] I couldn’t believe how easy this pot has made my life."
2. The Best Budget Pick
For a slightly lower price, this stovetop pressure cooker lacks the two pressure levels that the T-fal pressure cooker above has. Rather than two pressure settings, the Presto is fitted with an all-purpose 15 PSI regulator, which is equivalent to the high-pressure settings on automated pressure cookers, and good for tenderizing and fast cooking. The lid of Presto’s stovetop pressure cooker locks in a similar twist-and-click fashion as the pick above, and a small pin pops up when the lid is correctly sealed and pressure has been achieved. This makes it easy to use, even for beginners. The stainless steel pot has a "tri-clad" base with an inner layer of aluminum to heat evenly and consistently, and it will function on all cooktops including induction. The Presto pot is dishwasher safe, as is the lid as long as the pressure valve and rubber gasket have been removed. It comes with a cooking rack for layering ingredients, as well as a recipe and instruction guide for pressure-cooking success.
According to one reviewer: "I also have an electric pressure cooker (the one that shall not be named), and while it can be convenient, I find myself going for the stovetop cooker more often. This comes to pressure more quickly, cooks faster as it's more powerful (15 psi vs. 9-11 psi for electrics), and is easier to release pressure in the sink versus steam spewing steam everywhere. I can soft boil a couple of eggs and be done before the electric one even comes up to pressure."
3. The Splurge: An 8-Quart Pressure Cooker With An Easy-Lock Lid
If you want to prepare larger roasts or bigger batches of your favorite recipes, this 8-quart stovetop pressure cooker has plenty of capacity. Despite the cooker’s bigger volume, its dual-handled design makes it relatively slim and easy to store. The pot’s heavy, stainless steel base is encapsulated to heat and maintain an even temperature on all cooktop surfaces. The lid can be fit in any orientation, and seals easily by turning the knob on the top, locking it securely in place while pressure is building and cooking is underway. The same button unlocks the lid after pressure has been released using the control valve, which can be set to cook under 10 or 15 PSI of pressure. It even comes with a recipe book so you can get started immediately.
According to one reviewer: "Couldn’t be happier! It comes with its own recipes but all my old pressure cooker recipes that I’ve made so far come out just as good on this one. The coolest part is the locking system that just clamps to the pot rather than having to struggle to close the thing."