I’ll be honest: I don’t use a pressure cooker that often, and when I do, it’s more because it has a locking lid. It’s just not my style. But I do see a lot of advantages in one, particularly in using less propane (or other cooking fuel).
That said, I have used one on occasion for most of our cruising years, and want to include some points to consider if you want to buy one. It’s not that I think there is anything wrong with them; they just don’t fit my cooking style as much as other things, such as a Thermal Cooker (to see a thermal cooker, check out this one at Amazon).
The size pressure cooker you need is dependent on several factors: number of people on board, what you want to cook in the pressure cooker and the stowage space available. For two of us, I bought an 8-quart pressure cooker and it was just too big – the food filled it less than half full and I had no convenient place to store it and thus didn’t use it many times when it would have been helpful.
A very important safety consideration is not to buy a bigger pot than will fit in your pot restraints – you absolutely don’t want a pressure cooker flying across the boat!
I’ve seen pressure cookers ranging in size from very small (1-1/2 quarts) to large enough for home canning. Pressure cookers can be filled no more than 2/3 full – they need at least 1/3 airspace to work correctly. The most useful size for two people is probably 4 or 6 quarts (visualize a gallon — 4-quart — milk jug and think if it’d be large enough for what you’d want to cook). If you’re going to use recipes designed for a pressure cooker, most are designed for a 6-quart size. If you’re simply going to adapt your own recipes or ones designed for stovetop cooking, you can use whatever size best fits. Are you going to want to cook a whole chicken? If so, and if you have room to stow it, you’ll need a larger pressure cooker.
Pressure. The better pressure cookers use 15 pounds of pressure, meaning that foods cook at 257 degrees Fahrenheit. More importantly, unless stated otherwise, pressure cooker recipes assume 15 psi in their timing. Many cheaper pressure cookers use 12 psi and cooking times in recipes have to be increased by 20%.
Some pressure cookers have two pressure settings: one at 15 psi and another lower setting for “delicate” foods. In general, those “delicate” foods are generally better cooked traditionally, but if your goal is simply reducing cooking time for everything, they are worth looking at.
It’s helpful if the cooker has an easy-to-read pressure indicator. This lets you know that things are working correctly AND when it’s safe to open the pressure cooker. Older ones just used the “jiggling” of the pressure weight to show if there was pressure, which was hard for novices to correctly interpret.
Material. As always with things to be used in a boat galley, high-quality stainless steel is best. Many pressure cookers are stainless, but some are still aluminum. Aluminum pans can’t be used with acidic foods such as tomatoes as the acidity in the tomato will cause a reaction with the aluminum, causing the tomatoes to absorb some of the aluminum and the aluminum to pit. I’ve never seen a pressure cooker with a non-stick interior.
Safety Features. Most of the following are common sense, but they gain added importance aboard a boat.
- Don’t buy a pressure cooker that is too big for your pot restraints. A pressure cooker flying around the boat is even more dangerous than a regular pan.
- Don’t buy a pressure cooker that is too large for you to comfortably lift when fully loaded, even if the boat is rolling some.
- Make sure the cooker has two handles so you can lift it with both hands.
- The lid must lock.
Other Features. Some pressure cookers have steamer inserts, pasta baskets and trivets for cooking special items.
Best Pressure Cookers (available from Amazon.com):
- Fagor Duo Stainless Pressure Cookers, available in a variety of sizes, have heavy bottoms, with less tendency to scorch food when browning it, two pressure settings, high-quality stainless steel construction and good handles for lifting heavy pots, particularly if the boat is rolling a bit.
- Best Budget Pressure Cookers: The Presto Stainless Steel Pressure Cookers cost about 1/3 less than the Fagor Duo for the same size. The sacrifice is that the bottoms aren’t as heavy and require more attention if you’re pre-browning food so it doesn’t scorch, the handles aren’t as convenient, and there is just one pressure setting.
- Small Pressure Cookers: If you really need a small pressure cooker and don’t mind aluminum (or don’t intend to use it with acidic foods like tomatoes), the Hawkins Aluminum pressure cookers come in sizes as small as 1-1/2 quarts.
I love my Fagor Duo! Best purchase I’ve made for our galley (besides the oven conversion from CNG to propane). Brown rice now only takes 12 minutes, instead of 30+ minutes. I could not recommend it enough. Thanks for the tips!
I have a Fagor Duo and love it!! I did have another brand and it split down the sides. I am VERY glad it did it when it was not under pressure with superheated food inside. Don’t know what happened – something about where it was stored? but scarily dangerous!!
We love ours is well. Going on having it 10 years and use it all the time. We don’t always use the pressure cooker feature, but we use the pots probably every day.
Jim Almond says
Amazing. I have been looking for a small PCooker that will fit in my 8″ wide Sea Swing Kero stove with no luck. The Hawkins 1.5L is perfect. How is it that I never heard of Hawkins even after googling pressure cookers dozens of times.
Oh well, thanks for the tip!
Carolyn Shearlock says
Glad to be of help! I understand about trying to find things . . . I sometimes wonder where the hours went when I’m looking for something.
Cuisinart makes an electric pressure cooker that you can also use as a crock pot, and you don’t have to worry about how much room is on your stove. We got ours from Costco for about $60 in store, which is a lot less than the $90-$100 I see it advertised for elsewhere. This is a good option if you like the idea of a pressure cooker but are nervous about the safety issues even with the safeguards of the newer stovetop models (which are very safe, but still make many people uncomfortable.) It has low and high pressure modes, as well as a saute mode to brown food before sealing it up and cooking under pressure. It also has a simmer mode.
Carolyn Shearlock says
Before buying an electric pressure cooker, be sure you’ll have enough power for it! Few boats have sufficient solar or wind power, or want to run a generator long enough to produce the power needed. But if you’re at a dock with shore power, this could be an option.
Steve Denney says
Kuhn Rikon from Switzerland makes a nice pressure cooker.
Marie Raney says
Yes! I agree, I have both a Kuhn Rikon and a Fagor and they are both great. Price is better on the KR, Fagor is very slightly easier to use.
Sami Bolton says
We have a Fagor 8qt with the two pots, and strainer. A fantastic piece of equipment that cleans up like its new. We use both the ‘frying pan’ lower sided pan just about every day but not always as a pressure cooker. The larger
‘pot’ gets used often and again not always as a pressure cooker….. those two pieces and a small non-stick and small sauce pan are enough to have onboard for us, and we cook a LOT.
Just my opinion, go ahead and spend the money on a high quality pressure cooker. You will have it for years and years. I can not say enough good things about the Fagor brand.
m/v Deja vu
I have been doing a bit more pressure cooking at home these days to get use to it and test some recipes. I love the idea of using less fuel and spending less time cooking and heating up the galley. Mine is a 6 qt SS Revere. I’m always on the lookout for good recipes and smart ways to convert recipes.
Mid-Life Cruising! on Facebook says
Gotta get one of these soon .. thanks for the info!
LaMarr Harding says
I’ve used my Kuhn Rikon pressure cooker the most. It’s about 10 inch and the bottom is shallow like a fry pan so it does dual duty.
Rice is simple just add rice and 2 times the water, bring to pressure, sit aside until pressure drops and I have perfect rice.
Sami Bolton on Facebook says
It is not a piece of equipment you should be cheap with buying…..get the best.
I love my Kuhn Rikon PC and have cooked successfully with both on and off the boat. Very efficient for “fast food” and heavy stainless so it can be used as a dutch oven or deep frying pan and cleans up like a dream. Curious, what do you have that you are not so pleased with?
Carolyn Shearlock says
The one I got was an 8-quart one and the reason I didn’t like it was that it was just too big to fit into any convenient storage area . . . so it was a total pain to get out or put away, and it was too large for almost anything that I’d make for just two people. I used it some, but if I’d had one that was just a little smaller, it would have fit into the storage area right in the galley and I would have used it a lot more, particularly in rolly anchorages where I would have loved the locking lid.
I have a 6 Qt. Fissler Pressure Cooker. It has a blue button that raises up to the first white line for medium and the second white line for high. Very simple. It has 2 handles that don’t get hot so it is easy to lift off the stove. It is great on the boat because it isn’t too big and it cooks fast so you don’t use much propane. Some of our favorite meals are ribs, stew, and beer can chicken. Love it!
I also have a Fissler Bluepoint, stainless steel, and it is wonderful. I used to use an original Presto Aluminum Pressure cooker but the Fissler is definitely superior and so much quieter and safer in the design. It cleans up really easily as well.
Capt Rich says
I love my old 6 quart S/S Presto pressure cooker on board. Yes, it is large…but that’s what I need on occasion. Large enough to steam a whole Maine lobster, and just the right pot to steam clams or mussels…I use sea water when possible. I also use it to make faux baked potatoes by wrapping them in aluminum foil and cooking for 10 minutes. If I want steamed potatoes, I just peel and cut into small chunks and cook for 7 minutes.
It saves me time, water and stove fuel (alcohol stove) and it’s my one “go to” pot.
PS. Having said all that…this is one pot that I never use under way.
Frances Garrett says
I’m lucky……I grew up with pressure cookers……the old Mirro-Matic, with the jiggler on top and three settings (15, 10, and 5 psi). Since I grew up with my mom using them all the time…..I knew how they should sound when they are “jiggling”. I have multiple sizes at home (all inherited from my mom), and keep a 4 qt on the boat. I also use it without pressure to cook and drain pasta.
I’ve just discovered the Indian pressure cooker. These cookers “whistle,” which is a release of pressure from time to time. You use the ‘whistles’ as an indicator of cooking duration.
The way it works is that you put your food in as usual, shut the lid, and put the weight on the tube. Turn the heat all the way up. When the pot reaches pressure, -WHOOSH!- the weight slides up and ‘whistles,’ then dropping immediately back down to re-pressurize. Turn the heat down to half or so, and begin counting whistles from the next ‘whistle.’ Peas/pulses/legumes are about three whistles, tough meats more like five.
The PRESTIGE brand is a good one, and you can get these at Amazon.com. Prices are competitive/low, and they are well made and simple. Parts are via Amazon too. The PRESTIGE cookers are sized by volume, which includes under-the-lid space, so you might get one a bit larger than the comparable western style. HAWKINS is another well known brand, but I’ve only tried the PRESTIGE (I have two – a 2L and a 6L).
Scares the cats, too. It’s quite funny.
Hi all! I’m new to the idea of using a pressure cooker for everyday cooking. We bottled meats and vegetables when I was a kid, but that is the extent of my experience. My husband and I are setting off for a year of cruising in just under a year. I would love to hear a bit more about other uses for pressure cookers and how valuable off shore cruisers have found a pressure cooker to be in ther galley. I’m trying to figure out if this is a valuable space and financial investment. Thanks so much!
Hi all! I’m new to the idea of using a pressure cooker for everyday cooking. We bottled meats and vegetables when I was a kid, but that is the extent of my experience. My husband and I are setting off for a year of cruising in just under a year. I would love to hear a bit more about other uses for pressure cookers and how valuable off shore cruisers have found a pressure cooker to be in ther galley. I’m trying to figure out if this is a valuable space and financial investment. Thanks so much!!
Audrey Greenwell says
The Boat Galley says
Lupari Sue says
Great piece of kit for our boat.
I own and love a Hawkins 3 liter Classic Aluminum. Greatest downside would be the aluminum factor, as mentioned in your article, which also impacts searing of meat prior to pressure cooking. But as a veteran of pressure cooking and as someone who rarely eats meats, I have to say that the upside to the design and performance of the Hawkins far outweigh the disadvantages to me. The lid design is pure genius, and the unit fits in the small cabinet of my old boat.
Thanks for the never-ending wealth of information. Love your articles!
Bruce Stewart says
Hawkins now have a stainless steel pressure cooker, including the popular 2 and 3L models.
tOM Trottier says
1. You can cook one dish in a pressure cooker – or several at the same time! Steam at pressure cooks everything inside. Look up “heat pipes” on wikipedia.
Look for triangular pans if you can for easy placement, but you can just float round or square ones one atop the other.
My “skyline” pressure cooker, made for campers, came with 3 triangular pans with bumps for legs and a trivet you could place on top to put fish or whatever on top.
2. Since it is the steam which cooks, items not absorbing water need only a cm or so of water on the bottom. Put veggies, meat, in a bowl or pan on the water to avoid any burning.
3. If you use a stainless pan inside an aluminum pressure cooker, you can cook tomatoes, lemons, and other high-acid foods with no problems.
4. For totally fuel-less cooking, you can put heated foods in a thermos bottle – or use a BIG “thermal cooker” like https://amzn.to/2JA4vwK which you can seal up against spills. You do have to make enough to keep it hot tho.
Update: The Ikeda Thermal Cooker appears to be unavailable on Amazon. However, you can find a similar product here: https://amzn.to/2v1jhY5.
Carolyn Shearlock says
I’ve written several articles about Thermos Cooking and just posted one on the Wonderbag, another way to turn any pan into a slow cooker.
tOM Trottier says
PS, big Thermal Cookers are more commonly available in chinatown than anywhere else.
Lynn Clough says
Have you or anyone else tried the Halulite 2.7L or 5.8L pressure cookers? They seem to be very light. I saw them at the local marine supply store yesterday.
Carolyn Shearlock says
I haven’t, but every GSI product that I’ve used I’ve liked (and that’s the company that makes them). It’s a hard anodized non-reactive aluminum alloy, so should be good (I don’t like non-anodized aluminum as it can react with acidic foods, particularly tomatoes). It gets good reviews on Amazon.
The 5.7L size is the “typical” pressure cooker size and what most pressure cooker recipes are written for. The 2.7L size is less than a gallon — and you have to allow air space at the top, so there’s not much room for food.
If you decide to get it, I’d love to hear how you like it!
Tom Raynard says
I have the 2.7(or 2.8, as its sometimes called), and it’s wonderful. We use it right now at home primarily, and it’s great for two. I find it takes a little longer to get to pressure. I will get another for my Rosborough when I order that soon.
Carolyn Shearlock says
Great to hear!
Question for you: I’ve always had problems with cooking dried beans. As beans are a big part of our diet, I’ve pretty well always just bought canned. Now that we are looking at cruising soon, I’m curious……will the pressure cooker work even on those suborn dried beans? Especially when you have no idea how old they might be. Looking for some reassurance that spending money on a good pressure cooker will be worth it.
pressure cookers will do dried beans just fine. This website has lots of pressure cooking tips and some recipes you’d never thought to do in a cooker
Julie McShea says
I come to your site frequently to get advice. I wanted to get a pressure cooker so was happy to see this post. However, thanks to your great article you’ve convinced me to go with a thermal pot! It would better suit my cooking style as well. I’ll let you know how it goes.
I hope you’re still on here since I see it’s a 10 year old post.
Carolyn Shearlock says
Yep, still here! And Tami still reads and contributes her thoughts, too!
Joanne van Os says
I’ve had a Fagor stainless Steel pressure cooker (single pot) for 7 years now and it’s wonderful. Great article!
Dan Tbomas says
Now that you are on the Gemini what size coo!er fits the stove on it? I am getting one for Christmas for our Gemini and was wondering what size fits. Thinking about the 6 qt fagor duo.
Carolyn Shearlock says
Haven’t bought one yet. A friend has told me their 4-quart “fits great” but again, that’s secondhand.
I recently got a Hawkins Brand tainless steel pressure cooker in a 3-liter size because this was the only brand I could find that allowed for it to be used over cooking fires or charcoal fires. (I bought it as a gift for my niece who lives off-grid in Zambia.) We used it together on her charcoal brazier several times and I grew to appreciate the little thing. It’s one of the whistling type mentioned above.
I liked it because 1) it’s little, 2) unlike a conventional pressure cooker lid style, this lid has an o-ring ONTOP of the lid, and the lid sits inside of the pan rim, so as the pressure increases, the lid (and o-ring) are pushed more and more tightly against the pot rim making a better and better seal. 3) replacement parts are really cheap compared to the pressure cooker I use on my boat. For example, I got a replacement handle assembly, o-ring, whistle weight, pressure valve, and emergency pressure release valve all together for less than $25.
4) it worked great over a charcoal fire.
One thing to be aware of with this brand though, the whistling action lets off a burst of steam every 20-30 seconds, so I found it required slightly more water than the more traditional pressure cooker I use on the boat does.
Do you know if the Hawkins are dual pressure cookers? A small one would be almost as nice as a larger one.
Which ones have a quick release?
Patti Holma says
Hawkins stainless steel 2 sizes use both- found at great prices in an Indian market Devon st Chicago. Great performance.
Ted Arisaka says
Their elliptical lid closure is simply elegant and foolproof.
Sandy Gordon says
I use the Hawkins Futura 5 liter pressure cooker on board almost every day. I’m still not sure what the material is (“anodized”), but it is “almost non stick” and cleans up easily, and works very well (be sure to read the book that comes with it to understand how to use it). I have 2 of the same model PC on board, plus additional spare parts (none of which I’ve needed in 2.5 years). It is the one that is pictured at the top of Carolyn’s article, a very handsome design. I use the PC more often than any other pot or pan. My only issue is that it’s large and my galley sink is small (because it’s divided), so make sure whatever you get fits in your sink!
Roger Johnson says
Ive had great luck with my camp pressure cooker from GSI. Small and compact; it has done well in limited boat space.
See it on Amazon: http://amzn.to/1JXG7nB
John Liniger says
Great info as usual. I got a boatwarming gift of a Wonderbag. Any thoughts of heating up and stuffing the pressure cooker into the bag for slow cooking? Muchas Gracias!
The Boat Galley says
It’d be good as a locking lid, but don’t pressurize to use as a slow cooker. I use a thermal cooker several times a week (similar concept to a Wonderbag) and love it.
Beth Hipp Tyler says
I have my Instant Pot onboard! Yes, need to be at marina or run the genset, but couldn’t leave home without it.
Maryanne Webb says
There are LOTS of advantages to using a pressure cooker. ESPECIALLY for those longer distance cruisers when safety, fuel, and water supplies can be a big concern, and provisioning with dried beans etc makes more sense (storage, and longevity) and is less expensive and more easily found than canned.
* Security of contents – the pot has a locking lid so your hot food won’t spill even in a tumble
* Speed of cooking – things like dried beans take minutes rather than hours.. Meats too can be cooked to falling off the bone so easily!
* Uses less fuel than the equivalent dish cooked conventionally – due to the less time spent on the stove
* Uses less water than the equivalent dish cooked conventionally.
* Less steam in the cabin! With less water and the locking lid – it won’t steam the cabin up so much (in climates where I’m avoiding steam, I take the pot out to the cockpit to open up the lid and release the enclosed steam, however little, so it doesn’t find its way into the cabin)
* You can use layering techniques and cook a full meal in one pot easily.
* You can use it to ‘bake’ bread, cakes, etc (even cheesecake) so if your oven is not the best (or non-existent) you don’t have to go without these comforts.
* ‘they say’ that food retains its nutrients more in a pressure cooker – I’ve no idea if that is true or how that was tested
* Altitude concerns are not an issue for boaters, but if you were to live on top or climb a mountain – you’d still be able to have hot food with your pressure cooker!
Aboard Begonia we have a Kuhn Rikon Duromatic (with the two stumpy handles) – for easier storage (no big long handle to squeeze into the storage space)
I find that I have to move the pot around my stove (to the different size rings) as I need only the tiniest of flames (on low) to keep the pressure at 15 and my larger rings give out too much heat… So I start off on the larger ring burner to get it to pressure and move it across once I’m at pressure. Of course I could just do it all on the smaller burner, but then I’d be at the stove longer waiting for it to get up to pressure 😉
A pressure cook is an expensive pot, but for us it is worth it.
For those that cruise further from home, I’d recommend that you source the basic spares for your pot, so as to have them handy just like any other boat spare (especially the seals) – these too can be expensive, but at least you won’t find yourself carrying a heavy pot that you can’t get to pressure if you take these precautions.
Also there are logs of good web sites (and even a ‘pressure cooking on boats’ facebook group)
Two products that have real potential. Kuhn Rikon makes a combination pressure cooker / thermal cooker. This could be a really valuable device here’s a review:
Tayama makes a thermal cooker with a 12 volt heating element. You can find these on Amazon reasonably priced. That takes the thermal cooker to new heights. Add an inexpensive 12 volt digital temperature controller that will hold temps to within 1 deg, and you have something you can use for sous vide, which if you haven’t tried it is an awesome way to cook, as it avoids overcooking completely and retains moistness and flavor like no other method.
I don’t favor the full electric galley that seems to have caught the fancy of some. The big expensive battery bank, and dependence of inverters and such do not make them “reliable” imho. A few 12 volt devices however make it possible to use solar or wind when you have it, rather than storing and retrieving it. The more charge / discharge cycles, the more quickly batteries degrade.
I have a two burner alcohol stove. Other than size, are there any features in particular to look for with alcohol?
Carolyn Shearlock says
I have a whole post on alcohol stoves! Read it here.
Bruce Stewart says
Hawkins now make a stainless steel range also available in Amazon