Does pressure cooker size matter? Of course!

All American Pressure Cooker and Canner

For home cooks that are just looking to make dinner, and not restaurant-quantity stock: bigger is not better. We recommend getting the smallest pressure cooker to fit your needs because a bigger the pressure cooker will take longer to reach pressure, will need more liquid to get there and it will be bulky to both clean and store.

More material. A larger pressure cooker will have more metal and that metal will take more time to heat up – time you’ll be waiting for it to reach pressure .

More liquid. As pressure cooker size increases so do the minimum liquid requirements – while a small 2qt pressure pan only needs about 1/2 cup of liquid (or less) to reach pressure a much larger 12qt pressure cooker needs two cups (or more)!  The same piece of meat that braises in the smaller pressure cooker can only be boiled in the larger one –  limiting the cooking techniques that can be achieved.

More work. On the more practical side of things, a giant pressure cooker is going to be tricky to wash and store.  Depending on your sink and water tap configuration it can be quite a challenge to wash. Instead, a 6-quart cooker with a dish-washer safe base can easily slip into the bottom rack.

Our recommendations?

      • Start with a 6 -8 quart/liter  stockpot-type pressure cooker.  Most recipes found online and cookbooks are designed for this size cooker.If your main goal is stock-making but for a family – not a restaurant – keep in mind that a typical 6 quart pressure cooker can produce 4 quarts of double-strength stock (here’s how) – diluted that’s 8 quarts of single strength stock!
      • pressure_cooker_setIf you can afford it, buy a pressure cooker set with the base in two sizes that share the same pressure cooking lid so you can choose which to use depending on the recipe and quantity of food (see serving sizes for each cooker in the chart, below).
      • Already have a pressure cooker set and are looking for more pressure cooking power?  We recommend that experienced pressure cooks who are looking to move almost all of their cooking under pressure  invest in a low and wide pressure braiser (see the description in the chart, below, to learn why).

Choose your pressure cooker carefully and match both the pressure cooker size and shape to the  kind of cooking your most likely to do in it.

The easier the pressure cooker will be to use and clean – the more likely you’ll be to use it!

 see also: Pressure Cooker Capacity FAQ

Pressure Cooker Shapes & Sizes

pressure_frypan 2-3qt –small pressure pan Good for making sauces. Because of their small size, they reach pressure faster (but also cook less food). Great for one person. This size can pressure cook one cup of dry rice (2 servings) or 6 cups of soup.
This cooker is usually is included as part of a set.
pressure braiser 3-5qt – large pressure pan or braiser Great for cooking meat because of the larger surface area in direct contact with the heat source. Great for two people. This size can pressure cook 1 1/2 cups of dry rice (3 servings) or 8 cups of soup.This is our recommended second pressure cooker (or third if you already own a set) for cooks who already own one pressure cooker and have moved most of their cooking under pressure.
pressure_stockpot 6-8qt – stockpot type cooker  Great for stews, soups, stocks, chilis, ect. If you can only afford one pressure cooker, this is the one you should start with (the other one or two can come later). Great for a family of 4-6. This size can pressure cook 3 cups of dry rice (6 servings) or 16 cups of soup.This is our recommended size and shape for beginners – this size and shape are very versatile allowing the cook to try new and advanced techniques (bain marie, triplex cooking and steaming) that take advantage of this cooker’s height.
pressure_cooker_canner 10qt or larger – Pressure Cooker/Canners Because of their size, these pressure cookers can also be used as canners, and are used by restaurants, large groups and families. According to the USDA a pressure cooker can be used as a canner if it can hold at least four quart-sized jars. We caution the home cook against this size cooker.These pots are very heavy while empty, and can be tricky to fit in the average sink for cleaning. This size can pressure cook 5 cups of dry rice (10 servings) or 25 cups of soup.