Does pressure cooker size matter? Of course!

choosing a pressure cooker size

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 dishwasher safe base can easily slip into the bottom rack.

Our recommendations?
Start with a 6 -8 quart/liter standard  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!

The size and shape of standard pressure cookers are very versatile allowing the cook to try new and advanced techniques that take advantage of this cooker’s height – such as bain marie, dupleX (and triplex) cooking, and steaming.

Choose your pressure cooker’s size carefully and to match both the pressure cooker size and shape to the kind of cooking you’re most likely to do with it.

And, don’t forget, that 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

ElectricStove top 
Mini electric Pressure Cooker / Instant Potsmall stove top pressure cooker2-3qt - SMALL cooker or pressure pan or mini 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. In for stove top pressure cookers, this size cooker is usually sold as part of a set.

We don't recommend this as a "first" pressure cooker purchase because of the limited uses and the majority of the recipes currently published are for 6-8qt pressure cookers - and because of the mechanics of pressure cooking (minimum liquid requirements, maximum fill lines) it's usually not as simple as cutting a standard pressure cooker recipe in half. However, once you've got the hang of pressure cooking in our standard recommended size this size pressure cooker would be a lovely addition to the kitchen.

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.

Standard Electric Pressure Cooker / InstantPotstandard size stove top pressure cooker6-8qt - STANDARD stock pot / rice cooker style 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 - but it can also pressure cook less. This is our recommended size and shape for beginners.

In electrics, the 8qt size is slightly taller and wider - giving the cook a larger area to brown foods. However, the larger size of the inner-insert makes it bulky and difficult to fit in a standard dishwasher.

pressure canner10qt or larger - Pressure Cooker/ CANNER 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 stove top 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 for cooking.These pots are very heavy while empty, and can be tricky to fit in the average sink for cleaning. This size can pressure cook a minimum of 5 cups of dry rice (10 servings) or 25 cups of soup.

At the time of this writing, the USDA does not have tested processing times for pressure canning with ANY electric pressure cooker - despite what a manual, box or infomercial may say it is not safe to pressure can in electric pressure cookers at this time.

Choose the right size and shape pressure cooker, multi cooker and Instant Pot