Electric or Stovetop Pressure Cooker: Which Is Right for Me?

updated May 1, 2019
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(Image credit: Faith Durand)

Ready to take the plunge and add a pressure cooker to your roster of kitchen appliances? It’s the secret to ridiculously fast and delicious meals. Dishes that usually eat up time, like braises and risotto, take hardly any time in a pressure cooker, turning once weekend-only affairs to easy weeknight dinners.

But before you start shopping, there’s one big question to ask yourself: Should I choose an electric or a stovetop pressure cooker? While both serve the same function, they definitely have their differences, and one could be a better choice for you.

Electric Pressure Cooker

An electric pressure cooker’s biggest advantage is that you don’t have to watch it as carefully as a stovetop pressure cooker — you can set it and go about your business in the kitchen since it’s not on a hot stove. Everything is automated with this type of cooker, so you simply select the pressure you need (there’s often multiple settings to choose from) and it does the work. It also has its own timer to let you know when your food is done. All of these things combine to make a cooker that’s a bit easier to use, especially if you’re a first-time pressure-cooker user.

It does, however, take more time to bring it up to and release pressure. And high pressure on an electric pressure cooker can often be a bit weaker than that on a stovetop cooker. This results in a longer cooking time. But the difference is small; for example, in this pressure-cooker kalua pig recipe, it takes 15 minutes longer to cook in an electric cooker.

Because of all the bells and whistles, electric pressure cookers are more expensive. The average electric cooker is six quarts, although smaller and larger models do exist — just keep in mind that electric cookers tend to be bulkier than stovetop cookers, making them a little more difficult to store.

(Image credit: Dana Velden)

Stovetop Pressure Cooker

While it might not be as high-tech as an electric pressure cooker, a stovetop pressure cooker is reliable and cost-efficient. This type of cooker goes right on your gas or electric range. It comes in various sizes, from as small as four quarts to as large as eight quarts.

A stovetop pressure cooker usually has at least two settings: low and high pressure. You’ll need to adjust your stove by turning it to maximum heat while the cooker reaches pressure, then lowering it while the cooker maintains that pressure. Most don’t have a built-in timer, so you just need to watch the clock yourself to know when your food is done.

This type of cooker tends to be easier to store, as it can often be stored among your other pots and pans since it’s a similar shape and size. You can also use the base of the pot, without the lid, as a regular cooking pot, giving it dual purpose. So if you have limited space, it might be a better option.