The difference between stove top and electric pressure cookers?

Difference between Stovetop and Electric Pressure Cookers?
Cooks hip to the benefits of pressure cooking, and shopping for their first cooker, ask  “What is the difference between stove top and electric pressure cookers?”

Here’s head-to-head comparison of the differences, and similarities, between stove top and electric pressure cookers.

While electric pressure cookers require almost no monitoring to bring, maintain and release pressure, it takes them more time to get there.

Although the time to pressure for a electric pressure cooker is just a few minutes longer than stove top (14 vs. 11 minutes)1 the natural pressure release takes more than twice as long (25 vs. 10 minutes)  because the base cannot be removed from the heat source (the electric coil needs time to cool).  Additionaly the thermos-like double-walled construction of electric pressure cookers further insulates heat loss prolonging the time to open.

However, the thermos-effect improves efficiency of the electric pressure cooker keeping the heat from the coil in the cooker and not dissipating it in the kitchen – making it 60% more efficient at using electricity than a similarly PSI’d stove top pressure cooker operating on an electric cooktop2.

The most tangible difference between stove top and electric cookers is the maximum pressure that can be achieved.  While all modern stove top cookers adhere to the 13-15PSI standard, electric pressure cookers can vary greatly between manufacturers and models and are often below, or grossly below, the standard (with few exceptions).  Lower pressure means that the cooker will need more time to achieve the same results as a stove top pressure cooker.  Recommended cooking times  and pressure cooker cookbooks will need to be adjusted – though they will still be briefer than cooking without any pressure at all!

A representative of an electric pressure cooker manufacturer shared that the quantity and quality of materials needed to reinforce electric pressure cookers to safely contain higher pressures during the entire cooking cycle would raise the cost of production to the point of doubling or tripling the retail price compared to current models ($100-$150 as of the writing of this article).

Ultimately, both electric and stove top pressure cookers will save energy, vitamins and time so the decision to purchase a stove top or electric pressure cooker is up to the individual cook.

Here’s a detailed comparison listing the pro’s and con’s for each pressure cooker type…

stove top pressure cooker vs. electric pressure cooker

maximum pressure and pressure settings

Most stove top  pressure cookers have two, or more pressure settings.  “High Pressure” which is 13-15 PSI and “Low Pressure” which is 6-8 PSI.This is the “standard” pressure range and most cookbooks write their recipe timing based on this range.Pressure selection is achieved by either using dial that points to 1 (low pressure) or 2 (high pressure), or a marked bar that slowly raises from the cooker while it is reaching pressure – the first mark indicates low pressure, the second mark indicates high pressure. Electric pressure cookers have a varied maximum pressure between manufacturers and models.  Depending on the model one could reach only 6 PSI, while other models could reach 8, 9, 10, 11 or 13psi – some claim to cook 15psi though we have not found this to be true.  Some have only one pressure setting, others have two.If the electric pressure cooker does not reach the 13-15PSI standard, the cook will need to calculate additional cooking time than what is recommended in cookbooks. Depending on the model, pressure selection might be done via dedicated settings or program – “High Pressure” would be the “Meat” setting and “Low Pressure” would be the “Rice” setting.

heat regulation

The cook needs to adjust heat while the cooker is reaching pressure. First, blasting it to the maximum heat until it reaches pressure, and then to low or medium-low.When first learning to use a pressure cooker, it may take a few tries for the cook to discover the exact heat setting to keep the cooker from going into over-pressure or loosing pressure. Completely automated.  The cook need only select the desired pressure, or program, and cooking time and hit “start”.

time to pressure

About 11 minutes, depending on the heat source and fill level.1 About 14 minutes- times may vary according to the wattage of the electric heat coil and fill level.1

opening methods

Cold-water Quick Release – about 30 seconds.Normal Release – about 2 minutes.Natural Release – about 10 minutes.Additional feature-specific releases may be available on some models.NOTE: Foods that foam during cooking (legumes, grains and fruit) should not released through the main valve (Normal Release).  A stove top pressure cooker should only be opened using the Cold-water Quick or Natural  Release, for these types of food. Normal Release – about 3 minutes.Natural Release – about 25 minutes.NOTE: Foods that foam during cooking (legumes, grains and fruit) should not release through the main valve (Normal Release).  An electric pressure cooker can only be opened using the Natural  Release, for these types of food.

timer, scheduling features and cooking programs

Most stove top pressure cookers do not have an integrated timer (though a couple of German models and one U.S. model do) and require a separate timer to keep track of cooking time while the cooker is at pressure.Stove top pressure cookers have no cooking programs or scheduling features.If used in conjunction with an induction burner, the timer on the burner can semi-automate a stovetop cooker by turning off the cooker after a designated time and begin Natural Release. All modern electric pressure cookers have an integrated timer to keep track of cooking time while under pressure.  Once the cooker reaches pressure, the timer begins to count-down cooking time automatically.The most modern electric pressure cookers, feature micro-computer controlled smart cooking programs that interact with a pressure sensor and thermostat. For example a “multi-grain” program might include soaking time for the grain at no pressure to further accelarate cooking.3Most electric pressure cookers allow for scheduling and delayed start for up to 12 hours, depending on the model, for meals that do not contain meat or diary.

safety

Lid-locking system while the cooker is at pressure which prevents the cook from opening the cooker.Primary over-pressure release valve which releases excess pressure should the cook forget to reduce the heat.Secondary over-pressure release which is a back-up pressure release valve that will activate to release pressure should the primary fail.Emergency gasket pressure release, will buckle the gasket and release extra pressure through a cut-out on the lip of the lid, or down the body of the cooker, should the primary and secondary pressure releases fail.Some manufacturers may have additional safety controls. Proper lid closure detection via sensor.Lid-locking system while the cooker is at pressure which prevents the cook from opening the cooker – mechanical system that will work even if the cooker is un-plugged.Primary over-pressure release valve which releases excess pressure should something happen to the sensor to prevent it from turning down the heat.Emergency gasket pressure release, will buckle the gasket lower the inner pot to release extra pressure in the gap between the inner pot and pressure cooker body, should the primary pressure release fail.Leaky lid detection via sensor which notes how long the cooker needs to reach pressure and switches to “keep warm” mode to avoid burning the food.Extreme temperature and power protection will disconnect power to the cooker should the temperature be detected to be extremely high or the cooker is drawing too much electricity.Automated temperature control is done by the computer logic and will prevent excessive pressure from building in the cooker.

multi-uses

The base of stove top pressure cookers can be used as a normal cooking pot, without use of the pressure cooking lid. Electric pressure cookers cannot be used for regular cooking without pressure – though newer models include “saute'” function which allow browning in the cooker without the lid.Many electric pressure cookers also include slow-cooker and other multi-cooker functions (including one that makes yogurt!).

storage

The pressure cooker can be stored with regular pots and pans The pressure cooker needs counter-space and is bulky and tall – making it difficult to store in a cupboard. Also, when in use, the cooker should not be under an over-head cupboard.

heat source

Can be used on gas, electric, halogen, induction, ceramic and glass cooktops.  Can also be used on camping stove or BBQ. Integrated electric coil that is turned on and off automatically in response to an electronic thermostat.

materials and durability

Stove top pressure cookers are available in aluminum and stainless steel.The stainless steel cookers are extremely durable and very difficult to damage and often last 20 or more years.During the course of use gaskets and other silicone parts may need to be replaced. The outer casing of all electric pressure cookers is made of thermal-resistant plastic.  Some have better electronics than others.The interior liner is most often-made of aluminum with a non-stick coating.  The cook must use caution when using utensils, accessories and even “pointy” food (such as cut bones) which may scratch the interior coating. However, models  are just starting to come to the market with stainless steel (pictured) and anodized aluminum interiors.During the course of use gaskets and other silicone parts may need to be replaced.Non-stick pot inserts are easily damaged and need to be regularly replaced.Cooks have reported electronic failures within the first three years of use. Though a few well-made models have lasted longer.

 

The Pressure Cooker Trouble-shooter!We produced an inforgraphic that is useful for truble-shooting but also clearly shows the cooking process of stovetop vs. electric pressure cookers. You can see it here: The Pressure Cooker Trouble-shooter

Do you already own both?  Leave a comment to let us know what you like about each!


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Images provided by Kuhn Rikon and InstantPot and used with permission.

1Timing based on multiple instances of bringing 6Lpressure cookers up to pressure while containing 1 kilogram (for stove top) or 1 liter (for 1000W electric) of ambient temperature water.

2Wang, R. (2012, May 24). Which is Faster: Electric vs Stove-top Pressure Cooker. InstantPot. Retrieved from http://instantpot.com/which-is-faster-electric-vs-stove-top-pressure-cooker/

3How Smart Cooking Programs Work. InstantPot. Retrieved from http://instantpot.com/technology/smart-cooking-programs/

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The difference between stove top and electric pressure cookers?
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A head-to-head comparison of the differences, and similarities, between stove top and electric pressure cookers.