Pressure Cooker vs. Steamer – What’s the Difference? | Pressure Cooker Pros

Pressure Cooker vs. Steamer – What’s the Difference?

Pressure cookers and steamers offer efficient and quick tools for cooking healthy and flavorful meals. They can be used to cook a wide variety of different foods. While the two terms are often used interchangeably, each item is different and serves its own unique purpose in the kitchen. If you are trying to decide which one is the better option for cooking the meal of your choice, be sure that you understand the basic differences between the two.

The Function

As the name indicates, a steamer utilizes steam from boiling water to cook vegetables. Although a pressure cooker operates similarly to a steamer, its design features a locking mechanism that traps the steam inside of the cooker to create much higher internal pressure levels. The higher pressure levels mean that the internal temperature of a pressure cooker is much higher than that of a standard steamer. Not only can a pressure cooker be used to cook vegetables, but it can also be used to cook meat, beans, rice, and some types of soup.


There are many different types of steamers to choose from. They range from simple basket inserts, which are used to cook vegetables, to electric steamers, which can be used to cook grains and small legumes. Steamer basket inserts are valued for their simplicity and effectiveness, while electric steamers enable you to simply set the timer and walk away.

Pressure cookers primarily come in one of two different models: electric countertop versions and non-electric stovetop models. Pressure cookers are available in a wide variety of different sizes, ranging from four quarts up to ten quarts, but larger models are available as well.


Each option offers an effective method of cooking meals. Steamers are inexpensive and simple to learn how to use, but pressure cookers allow a cook to exercise greater control over the food they are cooking because exact settings can be programmed into the cooker. Pressure cookers can also be used to cook a wider variety of food stuffs that steamers cannot – like meats.

Electric pressure cookers also require a greater amount of electricity than a non-electric steamer does. Pressure cookers generally cook food more slowly than a steamer does, which must be taken into consideration when planning a meal.


Both pressure cookers and steamers use steam to cook food, which offers a number of health benefits including:

  • Retaining the structure of the food that is being prepared. Unlike other methods of food prep, the food will not lose its shape. Vegetables will not turn into a mash or puree.
  • Retaining minerals and vitamins. Steam cooking is the only cooking method available that does not disturb the molecular structure of food, which is crucial to retaining its healthiest elements.
  • Retaining the color and taste of the food. Steam cooking retains the original color, taste, and freshness of the food that is being prepared. Spices can also be added to the water during the steaming process to give the food a special taste.

Which Option Should I Choose?

Pressure cookers and steamers each offer their own set of benefits. Ultimately, the decision regarding which option you should choose will come down to personal preference. For example, how much time are you willing to invest in cooking your food? There is no right or wrong answer!


My recommended pressure cooker for beginners (and most users) is the Instant Pot IP-DUO60.​  I personally do not own a steamer, but I did a little research on amazon and these appear to be the best selling models:

  1. Hamilton Beach Digital Steamer
  2. Oster 5712 Electronic 2-Tier 6.1-Quart Food Steamer
  3. BELLA 13872 Food Steamer

I look forward to reading your comments!

Leave a Comment:

Sherman Brown says March 29, 2016

Why don’t PC manufacturers publish the actual Psi for their respective cookers? Read somewhere that a PC must reach 15-lbs. pressure (minimum) in order to cook/can properly . Thanks.

Susan says March 11, 2017

I like the explanation of the differences between the two types of cooking.

Anthony says March 12, 2017

I bought the IP-LUX60 V3 P.C. a week ago replacing my stove top Fagor P.C where I had an accident by forgetting it on my stove, until it was burnt bad. Mea Culpa! Aside from that, I really liked the Fagor P.C. where I made Risotto at times and of course certain vegetables. The one advantage I have found was that the IP shuts off or warms down so one cannot have an accident like mine. Aside from that, I am disappointed with the setting up of the IP. By the time I cooked the same Pork Tenderloin that I took just about 7 minutes totally in the Fagor, it took me almost 15 minutes to accomplish the same recipe. I blame it mostly on the Programming setup, plus the fact that I am intimidated using correctly. I am still confused with it. Example for the Pork Tend. I used oil to set it up with Saute. I had to wait till “Hot” appeared a few minutes, and then I tried to go straight to Manual and adjust the timer to 7 minutes, but pressing the Manual, and then the Adjust had no effect, but strangely enough a couple of minutes later, there appeared the number 10. I tried to lessen it to 7 and still no effect, but somehow the program a few minutes later, i noticed that the minutes were descending. Once it ran off the numbers, I unplugged it, cause it seems that is the only way to STOP this unit, unfortunately no on/of switch. The P. T. came out as good as my stove top unit, but a real hassle it seems to just get a 7 minute P.T done…BTW, i also threw in with the P T, carrots and mushrooms. Another weird thing I noticed …the small 1 cup to fill with liquid, that came with this unit. I couldn’t believe that it had the capacity for a cup of liquid, so i tested it by filling it up to the very top, cause the last numbers they show on it, was 3/4, and then poured that into my American made liquid cup and it was OFF almost a 1/4. I guess Asian measurement are different than ours…perhaps? So that is my experience so far with the IPOT

Richard Wainwright says April 23, 2017

Elizebeth , thanks for your many E Mails ,yes I use a stove top steamer for my veg and also a stove top pressure cooker mainly for meat at the moment I cannot configure how to cook meat and veg together unless you part cook the meat and depressurize??at the moment I am looking forward to the Instant pot IP- DUO60 arriving! PS, in the considerations paragraph quote pressure cooker cook more slowly than steamers ???????????. Richard x

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