Pressure Cooker vs. Slow Cooker: What’s the Difference?

Stuck between a pressure cooker vs. slow cooker? Learn the differences to decide which one you'd like to add to your kitchen appliances.

If you enjoy convenient, hands-free cooking, consider purchasing a pressure or slow cooker. These low-maintenance kitchen appliances make cooking healthy, delicious meals at home easy. But these two different appliances often look similar on the outside and even produce meal results — think mouthwatering roasts, soups, braises, and more — they’re diverse regarding their operation. 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. As the name suggests, a pressure cooker is speedy, and a slow cooker is slow. They produce flavorful meals with minimal prep, and virtually no hands-on cooking is involved.

Let’s closely look at pressure cookers vs. slow cookers to help you decide which cooking appliance better fits your lifestyle.

An Overview of the Pressure Cooker

pressure cooker vs slow cooker

A pressure cooker is a convenient cooking appliance that can help you make various meals without planning.

While a slow cooker requires you to start your meal a few hours before eating it, a pressure cooker allows you to wing it as long as you have the necessary ingredients. With a pressure cooker vs. a slow cooker, you can make a roast at 5 pm and have it ready within an hour.

You can buy two pressure cookers: a stovetop 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 45 minutes to finish in a pressure cooker.

Pressure cookers can also be healthier than slow, 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. Higher temperatures helps your food cook faster. It also forces more liquid into the food for tender meat at less time.

The high heat from pressure cooking causes more browning on meats and caramelization on vegetables. If you like to cook, you know how vital good caramelization is for flavor.

If you think pressure cooking sounds much like steaming, you’d be right technically, but the flavor this cooking method produces is different. Because of a pressure cooker’s ability to caramelize ingredients, even when liquid is added, the taste is much fuller than anything you could get with traditional steaming methods.

Stovetop Pressure Cookers

stove top pressure cooker

A stovetop pressure cooker looks similar to a traditional stovetop pot. The difference is that this cooking pot has an attached lid that seals tightly to trap steam and a valve on the side to adjust the moisture pressure inside.

This model cooks at higher pressure than electric models. While electric pressure pots reach 9–12 psi (pounds per square inch), stove top pots get 15 psi. Therefore, stovetop models cook about 25% faster than electric ones.

Electric Pressure Cookers

electric pressure cooker

An electric pressure cooker, such as Instant Pot, looks similar to a slow cooker, but the width is much smaller. These models plug into an outlet and have touchscreen panel controls that help you set it and forget it.

While electric pressure cookers cook with high pressure, these models can also slow cook and sauté. Some high-tech electric pressure cookers even have sous vide functions and more.

Best Pressure Cooker

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 cooking because liquid doesn’t evaporate as quickly.
  • More functions: Electric pressure cookers have multiple functions. You can pressure cook, slow cook, sous vide, sauté, and more.
  • Smaller size: A pressure cooker vs. a 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 adjusting the liquid in recipes can take a while.
  • More monitoring: A pressure cooker works faster, so you can’t set it before work and come home to a cooked meal.

An Overview of the Slow Cooker

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, also known as a crock pot, might cook slower than 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 ready to serve eight hours later. Some models automatically switch to warm mode once the programmed cook time is up. Because slow cookers are so popular, you can find more cooker recipes and cookbooks.

While a pressure cooker might retain more vitamins and minerals, slow cookers can also make healthy meals. You can make indulgent recipes like pot roast and mac n cheese or more nutritious 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 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 a low temperature over a long time helps them turn out more tender. Beans, dips, and sauces are best cooked on high and usually take 4-6 hours at most to finish.

Programmable slow cookers will let you pick your cooking setting and enter the time you want to cook. Once the cooking time is done, the slow cooker will automatically switch over to warm mode for you. Other manual models require you to monitor your own cooking time. You’ll also have to switch to warm mode by turning a knob yourself.

Read Slow Cooker Reviews

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 can simultaneously make more than enough food for large families.
  • Hands-off cooking: A slow cooker lets you put ingredients into the pot in the morning and return to a finished meal hours later.
  • Programmable functions: Modern slow cookers let you set your cooking temperature and time. Once the time is up, the slow cooker will switch to warm mode for you.

Slow Cooker Cons

  • Fewer features: Electric pressure cookers come with multiple cooking functions, but most slow cookers can only sauté and slow cook.
  • 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. Specific recipes work best when you add 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

slow cookers

Ronald Sumners / Shutterstock

Both a slow cooker and a pressure cooker can make delicious recipes. A slow cooker will take 8 hours to cook this recipe. On the other hand, a pressure cooker will have it done in under an hour. Deciding which cooking appliance will work better depends on your lifestyle and schedule. A pressure cooker vs. a slow cooker is up to you and your preferences in your kitchen.

The ability to cook meals faster is helpful for anyone who hates planning meals ahead of time, but a slow cooker is more convenient if you prefer coming home to a finished dinner. If you have the storage space, owning both a slow cooker and a pressure cooker is the best option. You can cook low and slow or with impressive, high-pressure speed.

Have you decided between a pressure cooker and a slow cooker? If you’ve picked slow cookers, read our guide to the best ones by clicking next.

pressure cooker vs. slow cooker the difference