When you start to look into the benefits of using an Instant Pot or pressure cooker, you may notice that there’s quite a bit of overlap with the benefits of using a slow cooker. So what are the reasons to use a pressure cooker vs a slow cooker?
While they both offer convenience and the ability to cook food without needing to watch it closely, there are some big differences between these two appliances that we’ll go over in this post. We’ll also explain what the main benefits and uses are for each.
>> You might be interested in 6 Must-Know Instant Pot Tips for Beginners.
What is a Pressure Cooker?
The pressure cooker of the past was a sturdy steel pot with a locking lid and a pressure mechanism that was heated on the stovetop. The pot would hiss and blow steam both as it was heating up and cooling down, which was a bit of a safety hazard and put a lot of new cooks off from using it. Then came along the Instant Pot, which made pressure cooking way more convenient and safe.
An electric pressure cooker, like the Instant Pot, still uses pressure to quickly cook food, but now it’s contained within a countertop unit that locks safely and doesn’t use the stove top at all. Because of this, it’s a very convenient way to cook things that would take a long time to cook otherwise, like braised meats and beans. They cook in a faction of the time in the Instant Pot, thanks to the incredible pressure and steam that builds up within the appliance.
What is a Slow Cooker?
A slow cooker is an appliance that’s been around for a long time, like the Crock Pot. It’s main purpose is to cook food low and slow over a longer period of time, which allows the food to develop a deeper flavor and softer texture.
Some of the things we cook in a slow cooker are tough meats that need a long time to break down, soups, stews, and things we want to keep warm like dips.
Why Use a Pressure Cooker or Slow Cooker?
While the purpose for both of these devices is different, the biggest reason to use them is convenience. It’s a very “set-it-and-forget-it” method of cooking that doesn’t require you to stand there and monitor it at all times, so you don’t burn the house down. The slow cooker can be loaded up with food before you leave for work and it’ll be ready when you come home. The pressure cooker can cook those same foods quickly without the lengthy cooking time.
Here are some of the main pros for using a pressure cooker or slow cooker:
- Both appliances are good at cooking large, inexpensive cuts of meat like pork and beef roasts for example.
- Both are great at cooking beans, soups, stews, chilies and the likes.
- Both are also great for busy home cooks, since they allow you put everything in, turn it on, and let the food cook itself. No stirring pots and watching the stove required.
- In addition, both are electric appliances that sit on your counter top and plug into an available outlet. You can move them around as needed, they use up approximately the same amount of space, and you can take them with you to family get-togethers, vacations etc.
- They even both excel at keeping food piping hot until you’re ready to eat.
It’s difficult to choose between the different appliances on the market, as there are dozens of different pressure cookers and slow cookers. Below are our recommended brands and models.
Differences Between a Pressure Cooker & Slow Cooker
The biggest difference between the Instant Pot and the Slow Cooker is cooking time. The slow cooker is designed to cook your meal low and slow. The average slow cooker dish takes six to ten hours to cook. The instant pot on the other hand will cook most meals in under an hour from start to finish.
Another big difference is that while a slow cooker is just that, a device that cooks a one-pot meal meals, the Instant Pot can also cook that one-pot meal, so it can be used as a replacement for the slow cooker. It can also function as a rice cooker, sous vide machine, yogurt maker, canner, steamer and air fryer, depending on what model you buy.
The pressure cooker has a fully sealed lid, while the slow cooker has a glass lid that sets on top of the ceramic bowl. I mention this because this difference does come into play in some instances, like when you need to see the food inside, or if you’re making something in the slow cooker mode on the Instant Pot. For this, you can purchase a glass lid for the Instant Pot.
Which One to Use?
If you want more versatility in one appliance and the ability to cook a wholesome home cooked meal in a very short time, the Instant Pot is the way to go. I encourage you to give it a try and see if it becomes one of the most used kitchen appliances in your house, like it has in mine. I’ve actually gotten rid of my regular slow cooker because the Instant Pot can also act as a slow cooker.
If you’re comfortable with your slow cooker and good about planning ahead to start your dinner cooking in it, you may find that you have no need for an Instant Pot. However, with the safety features built in and the easy to use digital display, using an Instant Pot is just as simple and easy as your favorite slow cooker.
The best time to use a slow cooker is when you’re not in a hurry and you want to develop flavor, while still being able to taste and add additional ingredients along the cooking process.
The best time to use a pressure cooker is when you’re in a hurry and need to cook something quickly. It can cook a pot roast in 45 minutes or steam artichokes in 10. It’s also great for cooking two things at once with the pot-in-pot method, so you can cook your meat and veg at the same time. And for when you want to make things like yogurt, or do some canning, or make a large pot of rice.
Trying to decide whether to get a pressure cooker vs a slow cooker can be a big decision, particularly when you’re not used to cooking in either appliance. With so many benefits, either will do wonders for you in the kitchen, but if I had to choose one over the other, I’d definitely go for an Instant Pot, as it’s the appliance that can do it all.
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Laura is a passionate home cook and the owner of A Pressure Cooker Kitchen. She is dedicated to helping people create delicious Instant Pot meals with ease. Laura is an expert at developing recipes that can be prepared quickly and easily using a pressure cooker.