Review of Cuisinart CPC-600 Electric Pressure Cooker
Before I begin my review, I wanted to mention and respond to America’s Test Kitchen review of this electric pressure cooker that was published in Pressure Cooker Perfection. I was very pleased to see that this model was one of only two electric pressure cookers that were recommended (along with the Emeril by T-Fal Electric Pressure Cooker). I was also very pleased to see that ATK’s testing showed this machine reached 241° Fahrenheit — just a bit below the 250° F (15 PSI) that conventional stovetop pressure cookers are supposed to reach. (Please note, of the eight stovetop pressure cookers ATK tested, only ONE reached 250 degrees, so the actual temperature difference may be even less). But there were several observations made in the section on electric pressure cookers in general or regarding this model specifically that I feel deserve further comment.
America’s Test Kitchen on Electric Pressure Cookers. America’s Test Kitchen (ATK) first observed that the “food cooks in a liner pot with a nonstick coating, which is far less durable than stainless steel stovetop pots.” The same can be said for non-stick pots and pans, but because of their advantages, many people prefer to use them. I’ve had my pressure cooker inserts for several years now, and used them far more heavily than the average person ever will, and I can actually document the extent of wear that several years’ hard use will have on the pressure cooker pot (the following is the liner that’s in the worst condition). The bottom of the pressure cooker pot has the most wear and tear: the nonstick coating has worn off where it comes in contact with the heating element (most likely through contact friction), but this is on the outside of the pot, and doesn’t come into contact with the food. There were a couple of tiny scratches on the lip of the pressure cooker pot, probably from locking and unlocking the lid hundreds of times, but the food isn’t really in contact with this portion of the pot and the scratching is extremely minor. But if you’re concerned about it, there’s at least one Electric Pressure Cooker with a Stainless Steel Cooking Pot. ATK also said that the nonstick cooking inserts were light, slippery and unanchored, so they tended to spin around when they stirred food, and that because they have no handles, its “awkward” when pouring off hot liquids. I’ve never had the pot spin when stirring. Not once. The pot is light, but that’s a benefit when you have to remove a heavy pot full of stock or soup from the machine to the sink. And even without handles, I’ve never had a problem removing the inner pot from the machine (even with potholders or while wearing thick oven mitts).
They also observed that the heating units in the electrical models are weaker than those on the stove. There are only a few instances when this power difference would matter: when the machine is heating up to pressure (it might take slightly longer to do so), or when operating the electric pressure cooker with the lid off, e.g., when browning meat or reducing a sauce. Like conventional pressure cookers, once an electric pressure cooker reaches the desired pressure, the heat is reduced substantially in order to maintain that pressure, and all that extra power isn’t needed. ATK also noted their preference for “low, wide cookers” (because it is easier to brown meat) whereas electric pressure cookers have narrower bottoms and taller sides. It’s a little more awkward than using a skillet, but a good pair of long tongs will resolve most of that awkwardness. Most pressure cookers are designed this way for the same reason a paiolo is: the smaller the surface area in contact with the heat source, the smaller area where food could scorch or stick. When under pressure, the food in the cooker is not undergoing a vigorous boil, constantly being churned around the pot, but instead remains remarkably still as the pressure presses down on the cooking liquid, increasing surface tension, and holding the food in place. So its actually beneficial to have a tall, thin shape with as little of the food in direct contact with the heat source as possible.
America’s Test Kitchen on the Cuisinart CPC-600 Electric Pressure Cooker. This machine was only one of two electric pressure cookers recommended by America’s Test Kitchen. According to their measurements, it had the thickest bottom (which not only helps prevent scorching but would help retain heat), it achieved the second highest temperature (241° F), had the second best evaporation rate (the more water and volatiles kept in the pot, the better the flavor), and got top marks for “cooking”. They also observed that “[sometimes] when we started with less than 2 cups of liquid, the pot switched to “keep warm” mode. I’m unsure whether this was a complaint or an observation, but this is deliberate, this is a safety feature, not a flaw. All pressure cookers rely on heated water to create and maintain pressure inside the pot: if there is insufficient water from the start, or if cooking foods like rice and beans (as ATK did in some of their tests) which absorb a lot of water, and inadequate liquid is left to create steam, the pressure cooker cannot maintain pressure, and won’t operate properly. You should never operate a pressure cooker with too little water — you can actually damage the cooker. So it’s a good thing that this unit switches to “keep warm” if it can’t maintain pressure. If the machine does this, all you have to do is release the pressure, add more water, lock the lid, and you should be able to bring the unit back up to pressure fairly quickly.
Floating (Non-Venting) Pressure Valve. The Cuisinart pressure cooker has a floating pressure valve (also known as a spring valve), rather than a weighted valve (often called a jiggle top valve). Many people are afraid of pressure cookers because they hiss and spit. As far as hissing and spitting (and noise in general) go, the worst offenders are pressure cookers with jiggle top valves, which deliberately do that to let the user know when they have reached or exceeded pressure. That’s not necessary with electric pressure cookers, which monitor and adjust temperature/pressure automatically. The spring valve releases much less steam, and far more gently, than jiggle top models. As a result, this pressure cooker is also a lot quieter than many stovetop models. (The closest you get to hissing and spitting is when you use “quick release”, which is actually quite tame. If you’d like to see and hear actual examples of what this is like, see the Cuisinart CPC-600 Review and Demonstration Video (both natural pressure release and then quick pressure release at the 07:20 mark) and the Cuisinart Pressure Cooker Demonstration Video (quick release at the 3:51 mark).)
Additionally, because the machine isn’t releasing large amounts of steam, it isn’t adding lots of heat to your kitchen the way an oven or a stovetop pot would. I have vivid childhood memories of how miserably hot and steamy my poor mother’s kitchen was every summer when she boiled hot dogs or had a big pot of boiling water to make fresh corn on the cob. With my Pressure Cooker Corn on the Cob Recipe, you only use a cup of water, and most of the hot steam is used to cook the corn, not heat up your kitchen. Equally importantly, for many applications, including making homemade stock (as discussed in Cooking Issues’ Stock Making Trials), non-venting pressure cookers like this one produce chicken stock with superior aroma and taste. America’s Test Kitchen also alluded to this when they noted that “[pressure] cookers with lower evaporation rates rated higher”. The more of the contents that are kept in the pot during the pressure cooking process, the better the end result will be.
Three Year Limited Warranty. One of the biggest clues to the potential longevity of a product is how long a warranty the manufacturer offers. The Cuisinart CPC-600 comes with a three year limited warranty. I’m still in the process of checking warranties on other electric pressure cookers, but so far, I haven’t seen another electric pressure cooker offer a 3 year warranty (the longest I’ve seen so far is one year). If you’d like to read the details of the warranty, the CPC-600 manual is available online: Cuisinart Electric Pressure Cooker Instruction Manual (see pages 8 – 9).
Cuisinart Pressure Cooker Demonstration Video
Performance. I owned this pressure cooker for over a year, making dozens of recipes designed for conventional (15 PSI) pressure cookers, before I realized it wasn’t a 15 PSI pressure cooker. All of the recipes came out just fine, perfectly cooked, and if America’s Test Kitchen’s temperature measurements are correct — that this pressure cooker reached 241° F whereas the majority of stovetop pressure cookers they tested didn’t actually reach 250° F — then the temperature difference is minimal, and the effect on cooking time should also be negligible. That’s certainly been my experience, although it may be more pronounced at high altitude (I’m at around 1,000 feet above sea level). I called Cuisinart and asked them for the specifics on the various settings: “high pressure” corresponds to approximately 10 pounds per square inch (PSI) (although the 241° ATK measured suggests it goes higher than that) and the “low pressure” setting corresponds to 6 PSI. The “warm” setting corresponds to 143 – 176° F, “simmer” to 176 – 230° F, “sauté” to 257 – 311° F and “browning” to 394 – 428° F.
Durability. Electric pressure cookers in general get a bad rap for a supposed lack of durability compared to conventional, stovetop models. Even if that is true, the convenience and freedom to program an electric pressure cooker and leave the room to do other things while your meal cooks itself more than outweighs it. Both my Cuisinart pressure cookers are several years old, they’ve made hundreds of dishes each (I sometimes use them multiple times per day, sometimes multiple times per meal), and they’re still going strong. In that same amount of time, I’ve had to replace my nonstick skillets at least once, if not twice. And parts can wear out or break on stovetop pressure cookers, too. If you check out the video I’ve embedded below, the gentleman who is doing the demonstration mentions that his Cuisinart CPC-600, which has also been used hundreds of times, is four years old, its been banged around, its been dented, its even been dropped, and its still working.
Cuisinart CPC-600 Review and Demonstration
Ease of Cleaning. An otherwise excellent kitchen appliance won’t get used if it’s a nuisance to clean. Fortunately, the Cuisinart CPC-600 is actually quite easy to clean (and you don’t have to just take my word for it, it was chosen the winner in Good Housekeeping’s Pressure Cooker Reviews in the “Easy to Clean” category). The cooking pot insert is nonstick and is dishwasher safe. The outside of the machine and the lid are stainless steel and plastic and easily clean up with a damp sponge and a little dishwashing liquid. There is a “channel” around the lip of the pressure cooker for any excess moisture to be drained into a condensation collector which can be cleaned using your finger and a paper towel or a clean toothbrush. As noted above, there is an anti-block cover in the top of the lid which helps protect the pressure valve from being clogged with food, and which can be easily removed, disassembled, washed, and replaced back in the lid. I really can’t think of any way they could make this machine easier to clean and maintain.
What’s the Difference Between the Cuisinart CPC-600 and the EPC-1200? I was curious, so I called the manufacturer and asked. Essentially, nothing. There may be some minor cosmetic differences, but apparently the Cuisinart model number EPC-1200 is used to designate pressure cookers that are sold through Costco.
So Is There Anything You Don’t Like About The Cuisinart Pressure Cooker? Sure. There’s always room for improvement. I wish this pressure cooker could pressure fry, as in Kentucky Fried Chicken, but it can’t. But then, neither can any other home pressure cooker, so I can’t fault them for that. (There are discussion boards where posters will tell you that you can pressure fry using a particular brand or model of pressure cooker, but every time I see such a claim, I check the owner’s manual, and it says not to use the cooker for pressure frying. That means the manufacturers have determined there is a risk if you do so (injury or property damage could result) so they specifically instruct you not to do this. To pressure fry, you’d need a Pressure Fryer). I also wish the digital timer mechanism worked when the machine wasn’t under pressure, as in, if you wanted to reduce a sauce for 20 minutes and then have the machine turn itself off automatically, you could program it to do that. Unfortunately, the timer mechanism only works under pressure, so if you want to do that, you have to set your own kitchen timer and turn it off manually. I also wish you could program the pressure cooker to either switch to “keep warm” or to turn off completely. And the user’s manual could use a little proofreading, because there’s an inconsistency in the instructions regarding cooking beans: the instruction portion of the booklet says not to fill the pressure cooker more than half (1/2) full when cooking legumes, beans and grains; the recipe portion of the booklet says one third (1/3) full. (You can easily cook a pound of beans – 2 cups – at a time, I’d say the one half instructions are correct, and the latter is an error.) But these are all very minor complaints.
Summary. I love the Cuisinart CPC-600 electric pressure cooker. I bought mine because my sister liked hers so much, and was always talking about it. I loved mine so much, and raved about it so much, my father bought one, too (and I bought a second one for myself). I’ve had them both several years, and I love them even more now than I did at the beginning, and that’s saying a lot. It could hardly be easier to operate, it eliminates most of the potential for human error, and I don’t see how it could be easier to clean. It doesn’t hiss and sputter or vent lots of steam like jiggle top pressure cookers, its really very quiet, and it generates a lot less heat and smell in the kitchen than conventional cooking methods (a real benefit during hot summers when you have to cook). You can get great food, with less work on your part, for less money, in far less time than it would otherwise take. I’m constantly coming up with new ways to use it. And best of all, unlike stovetop pressure cookers, you can program the machine, and you won’t have to remain in the kitchen and continuously monitor it. The Cuisinart pressure cooker automatically comes up to pressure, adjusts the temperature to maintain that pressure, and then changes to the “keep warm” setting once it has pressure cooked for the number of minutes you programmed.
If you have any questions, please feel free to ask them in the comments below. I love to help people, so I’d be more than happy to answer any questions you have. If you’d like to purchase one of these electric pressure cookers as a Christmas gift, recommend you buy early: I made the mistake of waiting too long the year I bought my first machine, and Amazon and some of my other preferred vendors had sold out, and I ended up having to wait until the New Year to get one. If you’d like to do some comparison shopping, see if you can get free shipping, or find an online retailer who has them in stock, I’ve included links to this model on Amazon (hover over the “shop now” button to see the price on Amazon) and a number of other online vendors below: