Forget the horror stories you heard about your grandmother’s pressure cooker. For saving time, flavor and nutrition, no cooking method beats today’s safe and reliable pressure cookers. You can get home by 7:00 and have a complete, fresh, home-cooked meal on the table by 7:30 or even earlier. Leave those soggy, mushy microwave meals behind, and prepare to accept the adulation of your adoring family.

This is how a pressure cooker works its magic. The cover or lid locks into place creating a closed system at a standard pressure of 15 pounds. At this pressure, water boils at 257 degrees F instead of the usual 212 degrees F. The higher temperature cooks food faster. Approximately three times faster than regular stovetop cooking methods. Small to medium size potatoes cook in five minutes, and an entire “rotisserie” chicken dinner cooks in just twenty minutes. All foods, particularly vegetables, retain their color and flavor. Nutrients are trapped in the pot instead of dissipating in a cloud of steam.

For family use, the Kuhn Rikon 7-Liter Stainless Steel Pressure Cooker is the gold standard. An aluminum disc in the base, sandwiched with stainless steel, cooks evenly on gas, electric, ceramic and induction cooktops. That old dancing pressure valve that used to scare your grandmother has been replaced with modern safety features that quietly regulate pressure and keep the lid securely closed while the contents are pressurized.

Presto Pressure Cookers have been around for a long time, offering a variety of different-sized stainless steel and aluminum pots. Professional chefs prefer a stainless steel pressure cooker because it’s non-reactive and can be safely cleaned in a dishwasher, but aluminum is also a good choice when you consider the weight. You want double heat-resistant handles, one on each side of the pot, in all cases. A 6-quart pressure cooker is the minimum size for a family. Go larger if you will be using it as a canner.

You’re better off sticking with a name-brand manufacturer, even when price is your primary consideration. Quality control is probably better, but more importantly you want to be able to get replacement parts when you need them five to ten years from now. The valves are missing. Gaskets wear out or get damaged. A loose lid will not affect the stockpot, but it will put the pressure cooker out of service.

Many models come with useful accessories such as grids, trivets or steamers that prevent food from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Most chefs brown meats before putting the lid on so they stick together. However, you may want to avoid nonstick interiors. The occasional inconvenience of a little extra cleaning far outweighs the risk of a chipped or peeling interior lining. Nonstick interiors are less of a potential problem with electric pressure cookers.

Cuisinart makes a programmable electric pressure cooker worth considering. Priced between the Presto pressure cooker and the Kuhn Rikon, its push button controls and digital display make for an attractive package. The Cuisnart can be programmed to cook on high or low pressure, brown, simmer, sauté, or warm. And you have to admit, an electronic thermostat is more foolproof than setting your stove control to a precise position. However, you do give up some flexibility because you can’t open the lid until the cooker tells you that you can. With stovetop models, you can instantly lower the pressure and open the lid by running the unit under cold water.

There are dozens of specialized pressure cooker cookbooks available.