I’ve had endless experience using both a pressure cooker and a slow cooker and I’m often asked which one I favour, which one I’d take to a desert island – if there was power obviously. I did my research, I drew up the pros and cons of each and I came to this conclusion.
A pressure cooker is better than a slow cooker because it’s more versatile. In fact, pressure cookers such as the Instant Pot are so versatile that they even include a slow cooker setting so you have the best of both cooking methods in one.
In this post, I’ll be breaking down both appliances to help you figure out which one is right for the needs of your family.
What Is A Pressure Cooker?
The pressure cooker was invented in the 1600s in France and converts a small amount of liquid into steam pressure inside a sealed container which allows your food to cook faster.
Despite being invented in the 1600s, the pressure cooker didn’t gain popularity until the 1940s due to safety issues.
There are two types of pressure cookers; electrical and stovetop. Depending on the type, manufacturer and size they cost between $30 and $300.
Benefits Of A Pressure Cooker
There are a number of benefits of a pressure cooker;
Cooking Food Quicker – Meals in a pressure cooker take on average 70% less time when compared to an oven or a stove. I know personally, this was one of the main benefits we found when looking at purchasing a pressure cooker and to date, it’s the one we value the most.
Using Less Energy – As food cooks quicker in an environment often significantly smaller than a cooker and with little to no ventilation a pressure cooker requires less energy. This is not just great for your electric and gas bill but also for the environment.
Less To Clean – As the content’s of the pressure cooker is contained inside a sealed pot there’s only the pot to clean – and even this can go inside the dishwasher for the most part.
This makes for a significant difference when compared to the likes of a stovetop, oven and oven trays which all see a large amount of food and grease.
Versatile – The majority of pressure cookers are incredibly versatile and allow for other cooking, baking and cleaning techniques such as; sterilizing, canning, boiling, braising and poaching.
Maintains Foods Nutrients – A 2007 study published in the Journal of Food Science reported that pressure cooking broccoli preserved 90% of its vitamin C. Significantly more than the 78% preservation of steaming and the 66% preservation from boiling.
Maintains Flavour – Much like the nutrients of the ingredients, cooking inside a sealed environment like a pressure cooker helps to maintain taste and flavours which are often lost when cooking in an oven or on a stove.
However, a drawback (more drawbacks below) is that you’re unable to add any extra flavours and seasonings during the cooking process.
Disadvantages Of A Pressure Cooker
The disadvantages of a pressure cooker include;
Unable To Monitor The Cooking Process – I was incredibly nervous when I bought my first pressure cooker that I hadn’t ‘done it right’.
Unfortunately, due to the structure and the way in which a pressure cooker works you’re unable to see if it’s actually working or whether your food is ready during the cooking process.
Spoiler alert: I had cooked my first meal in my pressure cooker correctly 🙂
Multiple Ingredients May Have To Be Cooked Separately – As you can’t open the pressure cooker during the cooking process to add ingredients you may have to cook ingredients separately if they require different cooking times.
For example, a jacket potato and beans couldn’t be cooked together as the beans only need one minute in the pressure cooker, meanwhile, a potato is likely to need closer to ten.
It Takes Some Getting Used To – It’s safe to say that if there’s anything you might have learnt simply from this advantages and disadvantages section it’s that a pressure cooker is a kitchen appliance that takes some getting used to.
What Is A Slow Cooker?
A slow cooker, also known as a crock-pot is a kitchen appliance which became popular in the 1970s. These are electrical pots which simmer food at a low heat over an extended period of time.
Slow cookers are made up of three components; the mechanical base, a ceramic pot and a lid. As they are a relatively basic kitchen appliance compared to many they often retail for between $25 and $100.
Benefits Of A Slow Cooker
The benefits of a slow cooker include;
Tenderize Low-Quality Cuts Of Meat – As slow cookers cook for long periods of time at a lower temperature they are able to tenderize low-quality cuts of meat such as beef briskets and lamb shoulders.
Low Electricity Consumption – Despite requiring electricity for a long period of time, slow cookers often consume less electricity than a fan oven.
Great For First Time Cooks – Unlike a pressure cooker, a slow cooker is a relatively easy appliance to cook with which makes it popular for first-time cooks and students who are moving out to live on their own for the first time.
Less Cleaning – Much like a pressure cooker, the design of a slow cooker means that only two things need cleaning once you’ve finished cooking; the ceramic pot and the slow cooker lid.
Low Maintenance – Many people opt to purchase a slow cooker due to the appliances low maintenance requirements. In many cases, you can pop your ingredients into the ceramic pot and leave it cooking all day so you have a lovely home-cooked meal after work.
Unlikely To Burn Food – Unlike a pressure cooker in which foods can burn easily, it’s incredibly hard to burn food in a slow cooker.
In fact, if you forget about your food for an extended period of time in the slow cooker the only thing you may notice is that it’s really soggy and has lost all flavour and texture.
Although the majority of modern slow cookers now has a setting which allows them to switch onto a ‘keep warm’ mode if it feels that the food is being overcooked.
Disadvantages Of A Slow Cooker
The disadvantages of a slow cooker include;
Limited Uses – While there are hundreds of slow cooker recipe books and thousands of slow cooker recipes, that’s exactly all you can do with a slow cooker, cook slowly.
Plan In Advance – As a slow cooker works over a period of several hours you’ll need to be heavily prepared in advance as to what you’re going to make and ensure that you have all the ingredients to add to the pot at the same time (often in the morning for a dinner in the evening).
Lost Nutrients and Toxins – As a slow cooker works over a period of time at low heat it allows for high nutritional foods such as vegetables to lose nutritional value and fails to reach a high enough heat to remove dangerous toxins such as phytohaemagglutinin which is found in beans.
What’s The Difference Between A Pressure Cooker & A Slow Cooker?
Ultimately, a pressure cooker uses the pressure created by steam to cook foods quickly. Meanwhile, a slow cooker uses a low heat over an extended period of time to cook foods slowly.
Both cook similar meals, and both are small appliances using a sealed lid to minimise the loss of flavours during the cooking process.
A slow cooker is often cheaper than the majority of electric slow cookers as it’s only designed with one cooking method in mind, to cook food slowly.
Meanwhile, electric pressure cookers are often a combination of multiple different cooking techniques and therefore require more technology to allow them to work effectively.
Can A Pressure Cooker Slow Cook?
While a stovetop pressure cooker doesn’t include a slow cooking feature, some electronic pressure cookers do. Most notably the Instant Pot.
These electric pressure cookers often have buttons on the front which once pressed trigger different cooking techniques (in a combination of duration and heat). One of these buttons is a slow cooking feature (often simply labelled slow cook).
You may find this alongside some other cooking styles such as saute, boil, bake, can or sterilize.
As someone who has bought far too many kitchen appliances in recent years, I’m always looking for a versatile appliance that’s able to adapt and help me cook ingredients using different techniques.
An in most cases an electric pressure cooker does this, which is exactly why I’ve favoured it over purchasing a secondary independent slow cooker.