differences between stovetop and electric pressure cookers

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differences between stovetop and electric pressure cookers
Cooks hip to the benefits of pressure cooking, and shopping for their first cooker often ask me if there is any difference between stove top and electric pressure cookers.  Here’s a cooker-to-cooker 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 (see “the mechanics”, below, for details).  But if you can leave the house while an electric pressure cooker is running, does the extra time it takes to reach and loose pressure really matter?!?

 match the cooker to your cooking personality

Through years of use and interacting with readers of the website and in-person demonstrations, I’ve narrowed down how to match a pressure cooker type to a cook.  Which of these most closely match your cooking prowess and life style?

  • Electric pressure cookers are best for..
    •  those who are nervous about fiddling with heat settings – the electric cooker will do it automatically, just set it and forget it;
    • those who are drowning in electric appliances like slow cooker, rice cooker and yogurt maker – an electric pressure cooker will replace all of them;
    • busy parents who need to schedule dinner to be ready when they walk in the door will appreciate the cooking delay timer available in some models which starts cooking dinner before anyone is home;
    • college students or persons with limited kitchens – the electric pressure cooker is a complete cooking tool it browns/saute’s, pressure cooks and keep the food warm – some do even more;
    • seniors and/or otherwise abled persons-no need to remember if the burner is on or off, the cooker will turn itself off after cooking  and can be placed at any height for easy access;
    • expert cooks who have already moved all of their cooking to pressure and often have more than one stovetop cooker running – an electric is a great addition to the ensemble.
  • Stove top Pressure Cookers are best for..
    • those who want speed and power since they reach higher heat and pressure than electrics;
    • those who value durability over convenience – electrics can last years but stove top cookers last decades, generations;
    • cooks who want to try advanced pressure cooking techniques -many require the higher pressure and lesser evaporation of modern stove top cookers;
    • cooks who like to tinker and supervise the cooking since the pressure releases faster than electrics.

I’ve recently moved to almost exclusively using electric pressure cookers – they fit better with my lifestyle as busy mom. I have not abolished stovetops completely from my kitchen. I still pull out a stovetop pressure cooker to test cooking times, recipes and try new techniques.

More Info: The Pressure Cooker Buying Guide

stove top pressure cooker vs. electric pressure cooker

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

stovetop pressure cooker electric pressure cooker

maximum pressure and pressure settings

Most stove top  pressure cookers have two, or more pressure settings.  “High Pressure” which is typically 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. This means that the pressure cooking time will take longer in an electric vs. a stovetop pressure cooker to achieve the same results.

heat regulation

The cook needs to adjust heat while the stovetop pressure cooker is reaching pressure. 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 losing pressure.  This process can take up to 15 minutes of the cook’s attention before the pressure cooking process even begins.

More Info: How to Use a Stovetop or Electric Pressure Cooker

The heat regulation for electric pressure cookers is completely automated.  The cook need only select the desired pressure, or program, and cooking time and hit “start”.

The cook does not even need to be there while the cooker is building pressure and pressure cooking.

time to pressure

For stovetop pressure cookers: about 11 minutes, depending on the heat source, temperature of ingredients and fill level.1 For electric pressure cookers: about 14 minutes- times may vary according to the wattage of the electric heat coil, temperature of ingredients and fill level.1

cooking times

Stovetop pressure cookers are, on average, about three times faster than conventional cooking.

More Info: Stovetop and Electric Pressure Cooker Cooking Times

Electric pressure cookers are, on average, about twice as fast as conventional cooking.

opening methods

Generally, stovetop pressure cooker take a little less time to release pressure.

Normal Release – about 2 minutes.
Natural Release – about 10 minutes.
Additional feature-specific releases may be available on some models.More Info: Pressure Cooker Opening Methods

Generally, electric pressure cookers take more time to release pressure.  The natural release takes more than twice as long.

Normal Release – about 3 minutes.
Natural Release – about 25 minutes.

timer, scheduling features and cooking programs

Most stove top pressure cookers do not have an integrated timer though they are becoming more popular.  Typically, these cookers 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 (although more and more are coming out with their own apps).

If used in conjunction with an induction burner, the timer on the burner can semi-automate a stovetop cooker.

All modern electric pressure cookers have an integrated timer to keep track of cooking time while under pressure.  The most modern electric pressure cookers, feature micro-computer controlled smart cooking programs that interact with a pressure sensor and thermostat.

Most 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, diary or other ingredients that must remain refrigerated.

inside a stovetop pressure cooker

inside an electric pressure 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.

Larger models, such as the ones that are 10 L/qt, or larger, can be used for pressure canning low-acid foods (such as meat, vegetables and soups).

More Info: Pressure Canning Guide & FAQ

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!).

But, despite what some manufacturers might say, you cannot pressure can in an electric pressure cooker.

storage

A stovetop pressure cooker can be stored with regular pots and pans. An electric 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. However, it can replace several other electric appliacnes.

heat source

Stovetop pressure cookers can be used on gas, electric, halogen, induction, ceramic and glass cooktops.  Can also be used on camping stove or BBQ. Electric pressure cookers have can only run on electricity.
stovetop pressure cooker base
electric pressure cooker base

materials and durability

Stove top pressure cookers are available in aluminum and stainless steel.

Stainless steel cookers are extremely durable and very difficult to damage and often last 20 or more years.

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, today more and more models are coming out with stainless steel (pictured) and anodized aluminum and ceramic-coated interiors.

Cooks have reported electronic failures within the first three years of use.

replacement parts

During the course of use gaskets and other silicone parts may need to be replaced. They can be purchased from the manufacturer.

 

 

More Info: Pressure Cooker Booklet and Instruction Library

 

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.

Electric pressure cookers are often re-branded or imported as a one-time item so it may be difficult to track down replacement parts from non-established pressure cooker manufacturers.

the mechanics

electric pressure cookerAlthough 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).  Additionally 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 cooktop 2.

stovetop pressure cooker

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!

 

bottom line

In my case, it made sense to trade the durability and power of a stovetop pressure cooker for the convenience of an electric.  Even an automatic timer glued to the top of a stovetop pressure cooker or technological advances of newer stovetop pressure cookers introduced in 2016 – that include built-in thermometers, bluetooth communication, and apps – do not absolve the cook from the time needed to supervise the pressure cooker when it’s building pressure nor allow you to leave the house while any of this is going on.

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.

Do you already own a pressure cooker?  Leave a comment to let us know what you like about it and if you have both kinds which one youuse the most.

differences between stovetop and electric pressure cookers

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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94 Comments

  1. JustBreathe,
    I’m sorry to hear that you had a bad experience with an electric PC and couldn’t reach customer support – very frustrating, I’m sure. However I’m not sure that I’d use the term “diva”-style antics” to describe electric PCs. You apparently had a defective unit and that’s unfortunate, but it’s also true that thousands and thousands of folks have electric PCs and love them – especially those who have Instant Pots. Sometime do give electrics another try. And yes I appreciate what you’ve said about stovetop pressure cooking. Either way, pressure cooking is a great way to cook.

  2. Thank you for your encouragement, Sigrid. For me, for now, programmable PC’s are jumping the gun. Since I already have 2 stove top PC’s, that is where I plan to learn, and Laura’s website has resources to help me through that learning curve. It seems to me that if I master the stove top units, I will appreciate the “short-cuts” and multiple programs while also understanding more about the process involved. It’s great to have choices, including simple, basic ones!

  3. nice informative article. I don’t already own one, but really want to invest.I’m the type who likes to watch my food anyway, so stove top might be a good option for me, and later, if ever I decide I need to leave while cooking, I can purchase the electric one.

  4. Steve G,
    You may or may not want an electric PC, but regardless of which you choose, you still can’t “watch your food.” Once under pressure, you cannot open the lid of an electric PC or a stovetop. With a stovetop, once the unit has come to pressure, you reduce the temperature to maintain the pressure. There’s little to do after that, other than occasionally glancing over to make sure the pressure is being maintained. However, with a bit of practice, you’ll know how to adjust the temp to maintain high pressure without monitoring. Of course with electrics, the PC will automatically adjust the temperature with absolutely no monitoring.

  5. Not talking about watching in the literal sense, like removing the lid. I’m just normally in the kitchen around the foods until they are finished cooking. which makes stove top not a problem , as for some people who would rather go out shopping for whatever when cooking.

  6. I bought a Bella electric in 2016 at Christmas for$49. I liked learning how to use it and prepare meals and deserts. Fun ended when delay timer would not work. Bella refunded my money so I bought an Ellite 8 quart which is same size as Bella. Now all I have made is rice pudding, a compote, and corn on the cob. Just seems like I lost my enthusiasm for using it. My mom regularly used her stove top in the 50s and 60s. It once blew the pressure safety valve leaving green pea soup everywhere. Never will forget that. Mom also cooked cow tongue that tasted great. Nobody cares for that anymore. I told my wife to buy the toughest piece of beef she can find. If I succeed in making it tender, I will be able to use it more. Otherwise it will last a long time because I will avoid using it. Slow cooking is a lot easier and I have 5 of them.. I did successfully cook some regular pasta but gluten free pasta was mush.

  7. I love tongue! In particular, veal tongue, though beef is good as well. I like to cure it in salt for a couple of weeks before cooking it; it makes great sandwiches. I’ve never tried pressure cooking it though … I will do so the next time I make it.

  8. I have used a Fagor stainless steel stovetop pressure cooker and an electric Cook’s Essentials pressure cooker. Loved them both, however my electric one died within about 3 years. Since I gave away the Fagor, when it comes time for me to buy a new pressure cooker, it will be the Fagor stainless steel. It just seems a better fit for me.

    1. I have the fagor set and love it…it’s a workhorse!

  9. Laura,
    I have a 6 Qt 7-in-1 Instant Pot, which I’ve been using since April. Bought it to cook plant based recipes (e.g. grains & beans) more efficiently. But using it for meat based stews as well.

    I’ve been wondering if I should augment the IP with a smaller (3-4 Qt) stovetop PC for grains & smaller portioned dinners. Just my husband & I are there for dinner. We have a small galley kitchen and are starved for counter & storage space. Quite frankly the IP can be a real pain to set up. Also, I feel more comfortable cooking grains separately from other ingredients in most PC recipies. Also, I have a small travel trailer, and a stovetop pressure cooker would make more sense both sizewise, and for those times I camp without electric hookup.

    I’d appreciate your opinion if it makes sense as a quality stovetop PC costs several hundred dollars.

    P.S. Just found out the IP just introduced a mini 3 Qt. Decisions …

    1. Given that you prefer cooking grains separately from other ingredients, the new IP Mini sounds perfect for you.

  10. Oh thank you! so much. I had 2 stove top cookers in Colorado. Now retired to Florida, I ordered the electric version but haven’t unboxed it wondering if I really needed it. Of course I need it. All those times of pot watching and frustrating pressure relieving…over! Thank you.

  11. I prefer manual. I can put under sink and release pressure in about 15 seconds.

  12. I love my stovetop pressure cooker. I have a duromatic stainless steel. My sister loves her electric one. I would like an electric cooker but don’t need a second. My sister has inserts that she uses for her electric. What kinds of inserts can I use for my stovetop. Makes me nervous. Can I put a stainless steel bowl, silicone bowl, pyrex, etc? Any risks? I would like to make rice . Or two things at once like a chicken stew and rice but separate. Make sense.

    1. Welcome Mia,
      I have a Duromatic too. Three actually.
      You can use any insert your sister uses. Provided they fit of course.
      Stainless steel, Silicone and Ceramic are all fine. Glass is fine too as long as it is heat proof.

      Some of the things I have used over the years:
      Expandable steamer baskets
      Chinese steamer trays
      Bamboo steamers (they don’t last long so not recommended. But in a pinch…)
      An old ceramic pudding basin that was my grandmother’s
      Wine bottle screw tops (great for keeping eggs upright)
      Espresso glasses
      Aluminium foil – great for slowing down cooking so you can cook two things at once and have them both come out perfect
      Indian Tiffin tins

      I haven’t actually used any Silicone products but I know others who have. As long as they are heat rated, they are fine.

      In summary, as long as it fits in and is heat proof it will be fine.

      1. Thank you so much Greg!

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