My problem is rather different. We cook with bottled propane, which is fairly expensive and puts a lot of surplus heat and humidity into our house. We're in a long-term-temporary structure that's expensive to cool on hot days, which only makes cooking with gas even less efficient in the summertime.
I feel as if I could save quite a bit of energy and money (not to mention time) if I had a countertop electric pressure cooker. However the ones I've seen for sale have been expensive enough I have balked at the point of sale several times, telling myself I need to do more research.
What experiences do folks have with these? Are they reasonably fast, efficient, and easy to use? (My primary interest is cooking meals, not pressure canning, although I might use it to do a few little jars of chutney or relish or something.) Are there models to seek out or avoid? Price matters, but as people have pointed out in the other thread, design elements like metal-to-metal gasketless seals and minimal use of flimsy plastic parts are valuable features worth paying for.
It sounds like an electric pressure cooker might be just the thing you need for your situation.
Stovetop or electric, a pressure cooker may help with some of the challenges you say. They both take less cooking time than conventional cooking, thus saving fuel and heat the house less. Being sealed up, they don't make as much steam as stove top cooking.
The biggest advantage I saw about the electric ones is that many are programmable. You don't have to hover around the pot while it heats up. I'm guessing the other advantage of the electric one is that it's just heating the inside of the cooker instead of both burner and pot and surrounding air. Add that to the extra insulation the electric ones have, and I imagine the efficiency is well worth it if it matches your cooking style.
The things I didn't like about the electric come mostly from my own prejudices. I like stove top cooking. I like fussing about my cooking and having absolute control over every stage of the meal. Basically I'm one of those kitchen control freeks - I know it. A stove top cooker, especially one with fast release, gives me that control. I can cook a bit, release the pressure, add more ingredients, cook more, stop, add... it's like a real pot, only I have to wait 8 minutes between adding new ingredients instead of 2 hours.
Electric pressure cookers - or so I've read, no actual experience with this - take a lot longer to come up to pressure and longer to release the pressure, than stove top cookers. This can work to your advantage, but usually it means adapting the recipe timing to suit your cooker.
I've heard, but perhaps someone else can confirm or deny this, that electric pressure cookers cook at a lower pressure than (most) stovetops. This may lead to problems if you are using your cooker for canning too.
As for brand...? I have no idea, I discarded electric early in my pressure cooker hunt as it doesn't fit my cooking style. Can't wait to hear what others have to add on this.
If you do go for it, let us know what you choose and how it turns out.
Random thought: Any friends with an electric pressure cooker you can borrow and try out?
1 - Many models of electric pressure cooker are actually quite deficient in the max pressure they can attain compared to stovetop cookers, even when the manufacturers claim otherwise;
2 - Fragile non-stick coatings are the norm in electric pressure cookers, although exceptions do exist; and
3 - Except for a Ball model dedicated electric canner, most electric cookers (even when manufacturers claim otherwise) are wholly unsuited to true pressure canning because the temperature and pressure profiles are radically different from stovetop pressure cookers, and have not been tested by the USDA; meaning it's impossible to be predict when or whether suitable safe cooking temperatures are achieved and maintained.
None of these are necessarily deal-breakers for me but they will certainly inform my shopping!
You can buy stainless inserts on Amazon for the many of the common electric pressure cookers. Huge improvement that was worth the money IMO. Just for longevity, let alone the health benefits.
I use the electric pressure cooker a lot in the summer to avoid heating up the house. And the electric rice cooker, also with a stainless steel liner. I do better about cooking ahead in the winter and the woodstove is always on, but still use the electric pressure cooker if I need to make a meal fast or forgot to soak the beans.
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Patience is a virtue. Money being tight, along with counter space, means I never bought one of these. Until today, when a brand new Cuisinart CPC-600 turned up at a garage sale for $25. I guess I better go excavate some counter space!
Following up: I love this thing and use it every couple of days. It's like pressure-cooking in a thermos bottle -- you buy just enough electricity to get it up to pressure, it doesn't heat up the room, and it cooks things faster and better than a slow cooker, a rice cooker, or a pot on the stove.
I am so glad you found one for such a good price! I received an Instant Pot for Christmas 2014 and I love it too. It's the 7in1 version that will make yogurt though I still have not gotten around to trying that yet. It took me a while after receiving it to brave using it! Today I even modified a non-pressure cooker recipe. I particularly love the Keep Warm function allowing me to cook earlier in the day when I know I am going to be too busy to do the cooking just before dinner.
Update: I used my 6-quart CPC-600 heavily until the lining on the non-stick pot began to peel badly. I still use it for small (3 pint jars) canning projects, where that doesn't matter. Replacement stainless steel inserts are not available from Cuisinart and the only off-brand one on Amazon costs more than $40. I did find a $19.00 one from Best Buy, but it did not hold a seal, so I returned it.
Why not buy the $40 one? Well, in the intervening years, we were gifted with a cute little 3-quart Instant Pot, which I like a lot, but it's too small for most of my cooking projects. And Walmart's current online Black Friday sale has a roughly $50 8-quart Instant Pot, so that's on order now.
I was at a friend's house recently and I saw an Instant Pot. I was warned against electric pressure cookers, as perhaps their sensors would get uncalibrated, but my timing sensor is always uncalibrated, so having an electrical one with a timer is the only safe way for me. She doesn't can, but she enjoys it for quick soups and it had all sorts of cool settings. Yogurt, slow cooker, etc. I looked it up, because perhaps I will get into pressure canning this winter... here's a few answers to my first question: