Modern pressure cookers have come a long way—here's what you need to know.

Modern pressure cookers have come a long way-here's what you need to know.

If memories of your mom's pressure cooker hissing angrily away on your stove have prevented you from reacquainting yourself with this kitchen appliance, you should reconsider. Modern pressure cookers have come a long way and are a boon for the busy cook. Here are some pressure cookers we liked:

The EatingWell Test Kitchen tried out 6 different pressure cookers ranging in size from 4 to 8 quarts and in price from $35 to $250, including an electric model by Cuisinart (6 quarts; $100). Although they had slightly different features, all worked well during testing. If you're in the market for a pressure cooker, we recommend buying one with the following features:

Size: 6- to 8-quart models are best for soups, stews and batches of beans or grains that serve 4 to 8 people. If you like to cook in big batches, go for a 10-quart model.

Pressure Indicator: Cookers that have a "spring valve" pressure regulator built into the lid (like the 7-quart Kuhn Rikon model, $240) tend to be more expensive, but it's very easy to tell at a glance if the cooker is at the desired pressure. Less-expensive models (Presto, 6-quart, $45) typically have a removable, round weight that sits on top of the vent. When the cooker is at high pressure, the weight jiggles-making them a bit noisier than the spring-valve models.

PSI (pounds per square inch of pressure): Models that reach 14 to 16 psi at full pressure are faster at cooking than those with a lower psi.

Stainless Steel: Most stainless-steel pressure cookers are more expensive than their aluminum counterparts, but they brown food better, conduct heat more effectively and won't discolor acidic foods.

March/April 2010