Here are some important things to look for. You’ll find more details in the introductions to my four pressure cooker cookbooks.
Opt for an 18/10 stainless steel cooker that has a 3-ply bottom with an aluminum or copper sandwich. A well constructed heavy bottom distributes heat evenly and prevents sticking and scorching during the time when the cooker is set over high heat to bring it up to pressure.
LID AND TYPE OF PRESSURE REGULATOR
Contrary to what they say about books, you should judge a pressure cooker in large part by its cover. The lid reveals how the cooker functions and what safety features are built into the design.
**First make sure that it’s simple to lock the lid into place and remove it after cooking.
**Then determine what kind of pressure regulator the cooker employs and how easy it is to determine when high pressure is reached.
There are three types of pressure regulators (so named because they regulate the amount of pressure in the cooker):
1) the spring-valve
2) the removable jiggle-top
3) the developed weight regulator (a jiggle-top in disguise).
All are safe to use, but with the spring-valve it’s easiest to know for sure when high pressure is reached.
Make sure the cooker has at least 3 different safety back-up mechanisms for releasing excess pressure. These will be described in the Owner’s Manual or you can check with the company’s customer care department.
This refers to the pounds of pressure Per Square Inch. Look for a cooker that operates at 13 to 16 pounds of pressure per square inch at high pressure. This will get the job done faster than cookers that operate at 9 pounds PSI.
Get at least a 6-quart since you can only fill a cooker 2/3-full. (You need to allow a few inches on top for the steam pressure to gather.) Get an 8-quart if you’re cooking in large quantity or if storage isn’t an issue; an 8-quart will allow you to do triplex cooking, such as making layers of potatoes, meatloaf, and carrots and cooking them at the same time.