If you’re a fan of convenient, hands-free cooking, you’re probably considering purchasing a pressure cooker or a slow cooker. These low maintenance kitchen appliances make it easy to cook healthy, delicious meals at home. But while these two different appliances often look similar on the outside, and even produce meals results — think mouthwatering roasts, soups, braises and more — they’re different when it comes to how they operate. Which is better in the pressure cooker vs. slow cooker debate?
These two home appliances can cause a lot of confusion for people. Each one has pros and cons. A pressure cooker is speedy and a slow cooker, as the name suggests, is slow. They both produce flavorful meals with minimal prep and virtually no hands-on cooking is involved.
To help you decide which cooking appliance better fits your lifestyle, let’s take a close look at pressure cookers vs. slow cookers.
An Overview of the Pressure Cooker
A pressure cooker is a convenient cooking appliance that can help you make a variety of meals without planning ahead.
While a slow cooker requires you to start your meal a few hours before you plan on eating it, a pressure cooker allows you to wing it as long as you have the ingredients you need on hand. With a pressure cooker vs. slow cooker, you can decide to make a roast at 5 pm and have it ready within an hour.
Note that there are two different kinds of pressure cookers you can buy: a stove top pressure cooker or an electric pressure cooker. Both types are often smaller than slow cookers and cook a lot faster. The same recipe that would take 6 to 8 hours in a slow cooker takes just 45 minutes to finish in a pressure cooker.
Pressure cookers can also be healthier to use than both slow cookers and conventional stovetop cooking methods. Why? Pressure cooked food doesn’t lose as many heat sensitive vitamins or minerals. A lot of liquid dissolves during high-temperature cooking and when foods are boiled down. The minerals and vitamins also dissolve with the liquid.
How a Pressure Cooker Works
A pressure cooker is a pot with a tight locking lid and a valve that controls the steam pressure inside. As the pot heats up, the sealed lid traps steam inside, which raises the boiling point from 212 F to 250 F. This higher temperature helps your food cook faster. It also forces more liquid into the food, which is why meats can get tender even with shorter cook times.
The high heat from pressure cooking causes more browning on meats and caramelization on vegetables. If you like to cook, you know how important good caramelization is for flavor.
If you think pressure cooking sounds a lot like steaming, you’d be right technically, but the flavor this cooking method produces isn’t the same. Because of a pressure cooker’s ability to caramelize ingredients, even when liquid is added, the flavor is much fuller than anything you could get with traditional steaming methods.
Stovetop Pressure Cookers
A stovetop pressure cooker looks similar to a traditional stove top pot. The difference is that this cooking pot comes with an attached lid that seals tightly to trap steam and a valve on the side to adjust the pressure of the steam inside.
This model cooks at a higher pressure than electric models. While electric pressure pots reach 9-12 psi (pounds per square inch), stove top pots reach 15 psi. Therefore, stovetop models cook about 25% faster than electric ones.
Electric Pressure Cookers
An electric pressure cooker looks similar to a slow cooker, but the width is much smaller. These models plug into an outlet and have touch screen panel controls that help you to set it and forget it.
While electric pressure cookers do cook with high pressure, these models are also capable of slow cooking and sautéing. Some high tech electric pressure cookers even have sous vide functions and more.
Pressure Cooker Pros
- Faster cooking: Recipes that take 6-8 hours in a slow cooker only take 45 minutes to finish in a pressure cooker.
- Healthier option: Fewer vitamins and minerals are lost during the cooking process because liquid doesn’t evaporate as easily.
- More functions: Electric pressure cookers have multiple functions. You can pressure cook, slow cook, sous vide, saute and more.
- Smaller size: A pressure cooker vs. slow cooker takes up less space on your countertops and in storage.
Pressure Cooker Cons
- Easy to overcook: You can’t leave finished foods in the pot past the cooking time like you can with a slow cooker. It only takes a few minutes for foods to overcook.
- Learning curve: Less water evaporates in a pressure cooker, so it can take a while to learn how to adjust the liquid in recipes accordingly.
- More monitoring: Because a pressure cooker works faster, you can’t set it before work and come home to a cooked meal.
An Overview of the Slow Cooker
Slow cookers have been around for a long time. They’re one of the most popular kitchen appliances in the United States for a good reason. A slow cooker might not cook as fast as a pressure cooker, but it can be more convenient if you work long hours.
With this helpful appliance, you can add your ingredients in the morning and come home to a delicious meal that’s ready to serve eight hours later. Some models will even automatically switch to warm mode once the programmed cook time is up. Because slow cookers are so popular, you can also find more slow cooker recipes and cookbooks.
While a pressure cooker might retain more vitamin and minerals, slow cookers are also capable of making healthy meals. You can make indulgent recipes like pot roasts and mac n cheese or healthier recipes like soups and baked beans. Slow cookers can be incredibly versatile.
How a Slow Cooker Works
Slow cookers work similarly to Dutch ovens, but they eliminate the risk of starting a fire while slow cooking on the stove for hours. A dutch oven is heated on the stovetop from the bottom up. A slow cooker is plugged in and spreads heat evenly over the entire base of the inner ceramic pot.
A slow cooker has three main settings: high, low, and warm. Roasts and other large pieces of meat are best cooked on low for about eight hours. Cooking tougher meats at low temperatures, over a long time helps them turn out more tender. Beans, dips, and sauces are best cooked on high and usually take no more than 4-6 hours to finish.
Programmable slow cookers will let you pick your cook setting and enter the amount of time you want to cook for. Once the cook time is done, the slow cooker will automatically switch over to warm mode for you. Other manual models require you to monitor your own cook time. You’ll also have to switch to warm mode by turning a knob yourself.
Slow Cooker Pros
- Affordable cost: While high-quality slow cookers can be expensive, you can find some for as cheap as $10.
- Enough for large families: Although slow cookers take up more space, they’re able to make more than enough food for large families at one time.
- Hands-off cooking: A slow cooker allows you to put ingredients into the pot in the morning and come back hours later to a finished meal.
- Programmable functions: Modern slow cookers let you set your cook temperature and time. Once the time is up, the slow cooker will switch over to warm mode for you.
Slow Cooker Cons
- Fewer features: While electric pressure cookers come with multiple cooking functions, most slow cookers are only capable of sautéing and slow cooking.
- Difficult cook times: Some ingredients take longer to cook than others. When everything is thrown in one pot at the same time, you’ll end up with some produce that’s overcooked. Certain recipes work best when you add in ingredients at different stages of cooking.
- Planning required: Because a slow cooker takes 6-8 hours to finish a recipe, you’ll need to plan your meal ahead of time.
Pressure Cooker vs. Slow Cooker: Final Thoughts
Both a slow cooker and a pressure cooker are capable of making delicious recipes. A slow cooker will take 8 hours to cook this recipe. A pressure cooker, on the other hand, will have it done in under an hour. Deciding which cooking appliance will work better for you depends on your lifestyle and schedule. A pressure cooker vs. slow cooker is up to you and your preferences in your kitchen.
The ability to cook meals faster is helpful for anyone who hates having to plan meals ahead of time, but a slow cooker is more convenient if you prefer coming home to a finished meal. If you have the storage space, owning both a slow cooker and a pressure cooker is the best option. You’ll be able to cook low and slow, or with impressive, high-pressure speed.
Have you decided between a pressure cooker vs. slow cooker? If you’ve picked slow cookers, read our guide to the best slow cookers by clicking next.