Mankind has certainly come a long way from relying on naked fire for cooking and other manners of food preparation. Now, you have all sorts of cooking wares and appliances tailored to make life easier, and some of the commonest among them include pressure cookers and slow cookers. Pressure cookers and slow cookers are both methods of cooking moisture-based food, but they operate in different ways and are thus best suited for specific types of food. Throw in the increased sophistication with which they come, and it can be a bit confusing figuring out whether the best option for you is a pressure cooker or a slow cooker. However, there is no need to fret, as we are here to uncover all the pros and cons of both appliances and the best brands in the market presently.
What is a Pressure Cooker?
A pressure cooker is a cooking appliance that uses steam pressure to cook food at a very fast speed. Also known as instant pots, they come with tightly-sealed lids so that during the cooking process, the steam will not be released into the atmosphere but trapped in the pot. The trapped steam builds up high pressure, which forces the liquid into the food, thus helping to cook it very quickly.
Pressure cookers were first invented in the 1600s and have undergone multiple evolutions over time. Currently, we have stove-top pressure cookers as well as electric pressure cookers. Both come with tightly-sealed lids to keep the steam in and valves for eventually releasing the pressure when it is safe to do so. Additionally, modern-day electric pressure cookers come with all sorts of settings and knobs for temperature and pressure adjustments. Some are also configured to carry out such adjustments automatically.
Dishes that are Ideal for Pressure Cookers
The beauty of pressure cookers lies in the fact that they cook food very fast, and as such, they are ideal for cooking any type of food that will usually take a very long time to boil. Pressure cookers are also ideal for any home canning enthusiast out there, making it easy for you to cook and store batches of various items. Dishes that one can ideally cook with a pressure cooker include:
- Pulses such as beans
- Tough cuts of meats
- Canned tomatoes
- Canned strawberry jam, etc.
Pros of Using Pressure Cookers
- Saves a lot of time by cooking food much faster.
- Conserves energy and thus saves money for energy bills.
- Ideal for foods that require high heat for killing microbes and toxins.
- Preserves the nutritional value of food by locking in vitamins and minerals.
- Efficient and super convenient
Cons of Using Pressure Cookers
- Pressure cookers are not ideal for browning foods meaning that one will have to pre-brown before cooking.
- Not ideal for foods that require you to periodically check and add ingredients as you cook at a go.
- Pressure cookers come with lots of instructions and knobs, making it a bit difficult to understand everything.
- Pressure cookers can be dangerous and have recorded some kitchen accidents due to the high pressure and temperature. There’s a high record of burns due to improper usage.
- They are usually more expensive than other tools that they replace, like pots.
Helpful Tips for using your Pressure Cooker
- Handle it carefully.
- Read the instruction manual and stay true to it as much as possible.
- Don’t underfill or overfill the pot but add the amount of water stipulated by the manufacturer.
- Master how to carefully release the pressure to avoid injuries.
- Learn to clean and store your pressure cookers carefully.
- Be sure to replace worn out parts
Best Pressure Cooker Brands in the Market
Instant Pot Lux 6-In-1 Programmable Pressure Cooker
- Multiple functions such as pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, sauté/browning, yogurt maker, steamer, and warmer.
- Keep-warm feature that can last for as long as 100 hours
- Variety of sauté temperatures
- No low-pressure settings
Chef iQ Smart Cooker
- Boasts of Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity.
- Cooking calculator for figuring out the best cooking times and temperature for each dish.
- Built-in scale for measuring ingredients.
- Automatic pressure release.
- Still relatively new in the market and largely untested.
What is a Slow Cooker?
While a pressure cooker relies on high pressure to cook food within a short period of time, a slow cooker is somewhat the opposite. It uses low heat to cook food, meaning that the food takes a much longer time, sometimes several hours, to get ready. Slow cookers are quite convenient for people who work regular 9-to-5 jobs. You can simply prep the dish, put it on, and leave it unattended. It will simmer for the next several hours, and by the time you are home after a tiring day at work, you have your meal ready.
Another situation where slow cookers come in handy is when you host friends and loved ones to an outdoorsy party or the like. You can use your slow cookers to keep your stews, soups, dips, and cheese sauces warm throughout the event, even as guests repeatedly return for more helpings over the course of several hours.
Foods That are Ideal for Slow Cookers
Slow cookers can be used to cook a wide range of meals, including even bread and cake recipes. Because the slow cooker keeps the moisture locked in during cooking, slow cooker bread and cakes are usually rich and chewable. Dishes that can perfectly be made using slow cookers include:
- Delicious stews
- Chicken breasts
- Bread recipes
- Cake recipes
Pros of Using Slow Cookers
- There is no risk of burning or overcooking the food.
- If you have a busy schedule, you can just put in every needed ingredient in your cooker, put it on, and go about your activities.
- Tough meat can be easily prepared, and it will come out tender with all its flavor intact.
- Slow cookers are easier to clean and maintain.
- Consumes a lower amount of energy than other kinds of cookers.
Cons of Using Slow Cookers
- Slow cookers cook food by steaming. For this reason, it is not suitable for foods that are not cooked with water or other liquids.
- Because you don’t have to be there to watch them, slow cookers can be affected by power outages.
- Not ideal for cooking tough foods such as beans, hard cuts of meat, etc.
- Consumes a lot of time before the food is done.
- Needs a lot of prior preparation of the dish, including browning and sautéing in a different pot.
- Retains liquid that can interfere with the taste of your dish.
Helpful Tips for Using Slow Cookers
- Add water minimally as slow cookers hardly let out liquids. This is to ensure that the ingredients are not overwhelmed.
- Season the meat and brown it properly, as the liquid doesn’t do any favors in that direction.
- Adhere to the producer’s instruction while using a slow cooker.
- Don’t open the lid too often.
- Make sure to set the right temperature before cooking.
Best Slow Cookers of 2022
Ninja Foodi 9-in-1 multicooker OP350UK
- Nine functions in one countertop cooker
- Accompanying recipe book
- Clear instructions
- Requires an additional slow cooker lid
- Large footprint for storage
Daewoo 3.5-litre Slow Cooker
- Two-year warranty
- Dishwasher-safe pot and lid
- Three heat settings
- Warm outer
- ‘keep warm’ setting isn’t the most powerful
So What Will It Be: Pressure Cookers or Slow Cookers?
Having taken a look at how both cookers operate, it is obvious that pressure cookers and slow cookers have their merits and demerits and are suitable for different purposes. If you are a hard-working professional who is too tired at the end of the day, then a slow cooker will be ideal for you. However, if you don’t mind tinkering about in the kitchen for a few minutes after getting back from work, then a pressure cooker is for you. Pressure cookers can be ideal for you when you want to cook foods that are very hard in nature and don’t want to waste time. However, when your proposed meal is not tough in nature, then a slow cooker is for you.
Simply put, pressure cookers are very good at some things, while slow cookers are ideal for some other things. Therefore it isn’t bad having both available in every kitchen. If you can afford it, the advice is to go for both as it will be helpful for different occasions. However, if you cannot shell out the money for both cooking wares, you can also go for combination cookers that feature both pressure cooking and slow cooking functions. Of course, there is always the possibility that this may be a bit pricey, but you can trust that the price will be lower than paying for two different cookwares at the end of the day.
Can a Pressure Cooker Replace a Slow Cooker?
Most pressure cookers now come with settings for different types of cooking, including rice cooker, yogurt maker, soup maker, sautéing, and slow cooking. Therefore, a pressure cooker can technically replace a slow cooker once you turn on the slow cooking settings. However, most chefs and other culinary experts do not really favor the usage of the slow cooking function of a pressure cooker as a slow cooker, which is for many reasons. Firstly, even while functioning as slow cookers, pressure cookers have uneven heat distribution, which negatively impacts the texture of the food (making it drier) and the flavor.
There is also the possibility that your food may end up watery, given that moisture finds it hard to evaporate from a pressure cooker. Additionally, slow cookers can keep food warm for several hours, while pressure cookers cannot achieve this feat. Therefore the advice from people in the know is that if you really want to slow cook a particular recipe, you go for an actual slow cooker. However, if you do not want to spend the extra funds and prefer to utilize the slow cooking function on your pressure cooker, you must note some helpful tips.
Firstly, make sure you choose the appropriate lid for covering the pot, as the normal pressure cooker lid will not suffice. There are several manufacturers out there who offer lids that you can use to turn your pressure cooker into a slow cooker. Another thing to do is to add another 15 minutes for every one hour that you would have normally spent cooking the meal via an actual slow cooker. For instance, if that particular recipe requires you to slow cook for one hour, then add an additional 15 minutes to that one hour if you will utilize the slow cooking setting of a pressure cooker. Next, a pressure cooker requires steam to operate and what produces steam is water. Therefore, if that particular dish you want to make requires little or zero water, know that a pressure cooker will simply not suffice.
In What Ways is a Slow Cooker Better than a Pressure Cooker?
The general consensus seems to be that when it comes right down to it, a pressure cooker is more advantageous than a slow cooker. After all, pressure cookers come with slow cooking settings, which you can fall back on if need be. However, a slow cooker has some edge over the pressure cooker in several ways, and one of them is hands-off cooking. Once you prep everything in the pot, you can leave it unattended for several hours and return to a ready-to-serve meal. This is hardly possible with a pressure cooker as you have to be on stand-by and take it down once the cooking time is over.
Slow cookers also make it possible for you to put ingredients at intervals. This is hardly possible with the pressure cooker as you cannot open the lid except when you are done cooking your meal. Additionally, slow cookers can keep food warm for several hours, while pressure cookers cannot achieve this feat. Slow cookers are great for serving various dishes at picnics and the like as there is no risk of the food going cold even several hours into the party. Finally, slow cookers are simply the best for specific dishes such as casseroles, soups, and stews. Therefore, you can bet that the slow cooker is not going away anytime soon.
Is It Better To Slow Cook or Pressure Cook Beef?
The answer to this puzzle will depend on whether the particular cut of beef to be cooked is quite tough or has a regular texture. If it is quite tough, you can eliminate multiple hours of cooking by using a pressure cooker, which will get it done in minutes. This is quite advantageous, but experts have pointed out that cooking tough beef in such a quick manner will not allow the flavor to seep into the meet and fully develop.
Therefore, in such a situation, it may be better to go through several hours of slow cooking your beef because the meat stays tender and moist at the end of the day while the flavors are fully developed. On the other hand, if the beef has a normal texture, it may actually be better to pressure cook for some minutes and bring down rather than cooking it for several hours in a slow cooker which may make it taste dried out and overcooked.