James StanburySee other accessory reviews written by James Stanbury
The pressure cooker is back in fashion and can be great for tasty, convenient food on your caravan holidays – we've tested eight to see which is the best
Back in the late 1970s/early 1980s, The Buggles made a mint telling us that video would kill the radio star.
But, catchy as the song may have been, the message it delivered proved way off the mark – radio is as popular now as it ever has been.
Around the same sort of time, many culinary experts were spouting a similarly misguided prediction from their kitchens. Microwave ovens, we were told, will be the future.
Of course, the notion that these wonder boxes would replace traditional ovens and hobs proved completely unfounded. But the new technology did put a huge dent in the pressure-cooker market.
After all, here were two technologies for warming food quickly. One was old-fashioned, hissy, and took some learning to use properly. The other was new, simpler, and much more convenient. So why, all these years later, have pressure cookers come back into vogue?
Good taste on tour
The short answer is taste and quality. Microwave-cooked foods often suffer in terms of texture and taste, but we accept it because of speed and convenience. The opposite is true of pressure cookers.
Just as the pressure process in an espresso machine extracts every desirable flavour out of coffee, the same is true with food in a pressure cooker. Better still, the process is nutritionally sound, too.
While boiling veg can lead to 60% of the nutrients going down the plughole with the waste water, pressure cooking normally means that 95% of the good stuff remains in the food.
Suitable for your caravan holidays?
But, good as this form of cooking is, is it really suited to life on tour?
We definitely think so. Bear in mind that meals can be cooked in between a third and a half of the time an oven, or boiling pan, would take.
So after a long day out exploring, it’s conceivable to throw together a tasty and nutritious treat, from scratch and with fresh ingredients, in less than half an hour.
Because many pressure-cooker recipes use them as a ‘one-pot’ solution, you won’t be jostling for space on the hob, either.
And once you’ve devoured your efforts, it’s great to know that instead of a pile of pans to scrub clean, there will probably be just one. Convinced yet?
It’s time to test
We started our tests by factoring-in each product’s capacity (couples obviously need a smaller unit than a family) against the cooker’s footprint – after all, many caravan hobs are somewhat compact.
To ensure that the widest range of recipes can be followed, it’s always best to opt for a unit with two pressure settings, and to improve your chances of cooking the entire meal in the one pot, we preferred models that come with steaming trays for vegetables. Although these are, of course, available separately, for a fairly reasonable outlay.
Next we scrutinised the lids. We made sure it was easy to see when each unit had reached working pressure, meaning the heat can be turned down. Then we checked how easily the lids could be removed.
On older models this can be quite tricky because of a stiff bayonet-type action. Not ideal with a large pan of scalding-hot food!
Talking of heat, we made sure that models could be used on all types of stovetops, including halogen and induction, just in case you use the pressure cooker at home as well.
We also checked how evenly around the cooker the heat spread, which is essential when preparing full meals inside. Especially if limited space on the hob means that you can’t position the cooker centrally over the heat source – a common problem.
Additional points were awarded for genuinely useful extra features, and we recognised the unparalleled versatility of stove-top models. Some electric versions are excellent, but they are obviously completely unusable off-grid.
Kuhn Rikon Duromatic Comfort with side grips – four stars
- Price: £213.95
- Web: www.kuhnrikon.com
This is the perfect pressure cooker for beginners, especially those who love their gadgets. That’s because Kuhn Rikon has grafted a tiny bit of electro-wizardry into the lid, which means the cooker can communicate with your mobile – iOS and Android – through Bluetooth.
Simply download the app, tell your phone what you want to cook, and it’ll tell you how much water to use, when to raise and lower the heat, and even when the cooking’s finished.
This, of course, bumps up the price considerably but, clever stuff aside, this is a premium piece of kit anyway.
Capacity is 4.0 litres (larger sizes are available), it’s made from top-quality 18/10 stainless steel, and it comes backed by a 10-year guarantee.
Kuhn Rikon Duromatic Supreme – three stars
- Price: £129.95
- Web: www.kuhnrikon.com
With few pressure cookers dropping below three litres, we imagined this 2.5-litre version would be bang on for compact caravan hobs and kitchens.
But Kuhn Rikon has favoured squat styling, which means that it is only a couple of centimetres smaller in diameter than the much higher-capacity Comfort model we’ve just looked at.
Having said that, the multi-layer base spreads heat super-evenly, so it doesn’t matter too much if the cooker isn’t dead central over the hob.
Also, as with the Comfort, the Swiss brand’s quality really speaks for itself – there’s that 10-year guarantee, and the unit is made from quality stainless steel.
Pressure King Pro 3.0-Litre – four stars
- Price: £49.99
- Web: www.highstreettv.com
Another good – and somewhat cheaper – choice for pressure-cooker novices, thanks to this unit’s preset programs for fish, meat, pasta and countless other foods.
Better still, clever electronics allow this to be more than just a pressure cooker. It can be used as a steamer, a slow cooker, a food warmer, and even for sautéing and browning.
A 24-hour timer also allows it to get your dinner ready for when you get back in from a long day out.
Because the Pressure King is mains-powered, hook-up is obviously essential, although its 700-watt demand is well within what even a 4A connection can supply.
Prestige High Dome 4L Pressure Cooker – four stars
- Price: £40
- Web: www.prestige.co.uk
Prestige has been in the pressure-cooker market since the beginning, and its experience shows here.
This unit’s high-dome lid, for instance, is so shaped to avoid culinary obstructions. And the natty divided steaming basket is perfect for cooking several different types of vegetable at the same time as the meat or fish below.
The only disadvantage is that the unit is ultra-traditional, with quite an old-fashioned valve and lid-locking set-up. But the cooker comes into its own for caravan usage.
Being made from aluminium, it’s lightweight, although unsuitable for induction hobs.
And despite its 4.0-litre capacity, its lofty shape means that its footprint is still only 20cm in diameter.
Raymond Blanc Stainless Steel Pressure Cooker – four stars
- Price: £100
- Web: www.raymondblanc.com/shop
With a capacity of 5.5 litres, this unit is ideal for small families.
As with the Prestige model, the pan’s tall, upright silhouette means that the large capacity doesn’t translate into a large, hob-hogging footprint.
In many ways, this unit is a thorough reinvention of the pressure cooker, but not in a too-clever-by-half electronic way.
For instance, the lid can be positioned anywhere: it’s opened or sealed by simply pressing a button, which makes one-handed removal/refitting possible.
There are two pressure modes, too, so delicate ingredients can be cooked successfully.
Lakeland 3.0-litre Pressure Cooker – five stars
Practical Caravan Editor's Choice
- Price: £79.99
- Web: www.lakeland.co.uk
A great all-rounder from Lakeland that is essentially a traditional compact pressure cooker brought bang up to date.
As well as the choice of two pressure levels, opening the lid is a single-handed affair because, as with the Tefal and Raymond Blanc models, you simply press a button to seal or open it.
In fact, Lakeland provides a second glass lid, too, allowing the unit to be used as a standard large pan.
Better still, the glass lid and base are oven-safe – up to 180 ̊C – so it’s also a great stockpot substitute.
Our only niggle is that the unit’s squat styling makes the 21.5cm diameter somewhat portly for the 3.0-litre capacity.
Lakeland CookQuick Pot – two stars
- Price: £79.99
- Web: www.lakeland.co.uk
When is a pressure cooker not a pressure cooker?
Well, when it’s this: Lakeland’s CookQuick Pot. In our tests we found that, although quicker than a normal pan and lid, the unit trails conventional pressure cookers quite significantly in the speed stakes.
The advantage is that the lower pressure makes the pot rather more user-friendly.
The clever lid-top release valve is a doddle to use and it’s certainly less of a hassle to frequently remove said lid – to either sample the food or add other ingredients – than with a conventional pressure cooker.
Its capacity is 4.0 litres and the unit can also be used for steaming.
Tefal Clipso Plus Pressure Cooker – three stars
- Price: £139.99
- Web: www.tefal.co.uk
Another premium-quality entry, boasting a family-size 6.0-litre capacity and the sort of modern design touches that set the Lakeland and Raymond Blanc models apart from the rest.
Again, the unit can work at two pressure levels, and the lid takes the simple button-operation idea one step further.
Tefal’s take is to replace the two buttons with a single central fold-down handle. The extra leverage this gives certainly makes the process smoother and easier.
While a steamer basket is supplied, and the triple-layer base spreads heat super-evenly, we’re not sure that the Tefal offers enough over the Raymond Blanc model to justify its higher price.