It’s been a generation since pressure cookers were the sputtering, spewing monsters of the kitchen. Today’s models are nearly foolproof, quiet, and easier than ever to use. These clever pots trap steam, which in turn builds pressure, creating higher cooking temperatures and reducing cooking times by up to 70 percent. You can use them for almost any recipe that’s based on moist heat, like a braise or a soup. A pot roast is ready in 35 minutes; dried beans in 20 minutes or less.
The pressure cooker is certainly making a comeback, and this time, we hope it’s here to stay. Here are our four favorites.
Cuisinart Electric CPC-600, 6 quarts
$100 at cuisinart.com
Unlike most pressure cookers, this is a plug-in countertop appliance, not a stovetop pot. It maintains pre-set pressure levels on its own and switches to warm when done cooking, making it a breeze to use and a great option for cooks who don’t want to monitor a stovetop alternative.
It resembles a slow-cooker in design, with a touch-pad display (it has six settings—two for pressure cooking and the rest for nonpressurized cooking, like sautéing and simmering) and a heavy domed lid that latches securely into place and locks once pressure is reached.
This cooker comes to pressure more slowly than stovetop models, but its high pressure setting is great at tenderizing beans and tough meats: Beans cook in 20 minutes; chunks of beef chuck in 35. A trivet is included, and the cooker comes with a three-year warranty.
Fagor Futuro, 6 quarts
$140 at williams-sonoma.com
The pressure settings on the Futuro can be pre-set (as on the Cuisinart model at left), making it a good pick for those who want a cooker that can maintain a certain pressure level by itself.
Its lid has a big, easy-to-read dial with settings for low and high pressure, steam release, and regular cooking (without pressure, the cooker performs like a normal pot). After latching the lid into place, use the dial to select a pressure level, and place the cooker over heat. As pressure builds, the cooker self-locks and maintains the selected pressure setting.
Chunks of beef chuck cook in 15 minutes; wheatberries are tender in 22. The stainless-steel, pot-belly-shaped Futuro comes with a steamer basket and trivet, and with short, rounded handles, it’s a cinch to store. Fagor offers a 10-year warranty.