If you’ve recently found some extra cash between the sofa cushions, you might be wondering how best to spoil yourself with this unexpected windfall. What if I told you that you could invest it in something that will save you both time and money, make you healthier, help impress your friends, and improve your home life all at once?
Okay, the above may seem a little hyperbolic, and of course no kitchen appliance in the world will actually solve all of your problems. Every step in the right direction helps, though. Perhaps you already know how convenient one-pot dinners can be; if so, graduating to the next level is simply an obvious next step.
Both pressure cookers and crockpots have some very strong points, so why not read on to find out what benefits you can expect from each and how they stack up against each other? When it comes to pressure cookers vs slow cookers, you might well decide to look more closely at one or the other for your own kitchen.
How Pressure Cookers and Slow Cookers Work
Both types of appliance use moist heat to prepare food. The difference simply lies in the temperature at which each operates: a slow cooker maintains a steady 160°F (70°C) or so, which is just hot enough to kill germs and gently braise meat and vegetables. This means that a meal takes about eight hours to achieve perfection.
A pressure cooker, on the other hand, goes in entirely the opposite direction.
Both Help to Tenderize Tough Meat
If you’re a confirmed carnivore, you’ll be glad to learn that there really isn’t any reason to pay $5/pound or more for steak. Cheaper cuts like ribs, chuck and brisket are also delicious, and most people would actually call them superior when they are literally falling off the bone.
The traditional way of achieving this is to simmer meat for hours, but few of us have the patience for that. Fortunately, a pressure cooker can condense this timeframe by as much as 75%, meaning that you can simulate half a day of stewing in the time it takes to watch a Game of Thrones episode.
Slow cookers achieve much the same thing using a different approach. Collagen, the substance responsible for much of meat’s firmness, breaks down at between 120° and 200° Fahrenheit (50° to 90° Celsius). But it just so happens that temperatures higher than about 70°C (160°F) actually make the muscle fibers tougher in some ways.
Both Are Convenient to a Busy Lifestyle
Despite all we read and hear about healthy home cooking, the fact remains that we are not all Jamie Bloody Oliver, and preparing food after a long day is mostly not our idea of fun. Luckily, if you want to ditch those microwavable monstrosities and lose weight, be healthier, and eat tastier food, there are easier ways to get a delicious meal on the table before midnight.
With a pressure cooker, especially if you buy pre-sliced veggies, preparing dinner in half an hour or so is no trouble at all. Slow cooking wins a point here, though, since you can do all your preparation in the morning and just leave it – everything will be ready by the time you stumble in from work, and the house will smell delicious. Pressure cookers equipped with a timer can also be set to start cooking at a certain time, but you don’t really want to leave raw meat out for an entire day. Some people add it frozen in the morning, though, which seems like a somewhat decent compromise.
Both Are Good at Retaining Nutrients
Everybody knows that you’re supposed to get your vitamins but, as it turns out, there are actually a whole bunch of important plant-based nutrients that scientists haven’t gotten around to assigning letters to. Called phytochemicals, they play a role in everything from regulating insulin levels and body weight to preventing cancer, and it seems that we have to ingest them in food form, since multivitamin pills are far less effective.
Now, these essential molecules are usually easily destroyed by heat; the worst case scenario in this regard is probably the extremely high temperatures associated with deep frying. But it seems that the nutritional value of vegetables is mostly preserved either when they are cooked slowly for a long time or when they’re kept at higher than the normal boiling point of water for a relatively brief period. In other words, both slow cookers and pressure cookers allow you to get the most out of your five-a-day. As a side benefit, vegetables also taste much better when they’re not subjected to extended boiling.
Slow Cookers are More Versatile (in Some Ways)
Fast-cooking vegetables, or those you want to remain crispy, don’t do at all well in pressure cookers. Cooking spinach or sweetcorn for 30 minutes at 15 PSI will simply leave you with mush. And you can’t really open the lid halfway through the process, as de-pressurizing and re-pressurizing it takes quite a while.
With a slow cooker, on the other hand, you can taste, adjust flavors, and add more delicate ingredients at any time, and those with fine digital control will compensate for the resulting temperature drop within minutes. You could achieve something similar with a pressure cooker by using a separate saucepan, but slow cooking still gets a solid point for this element of control. On the other hand, you can sear and brown meat in a pressure cooker without having to wash an additional pan, so there’s no clear winner as far as this aspect of convenience goes.
You May End Up Never Using a Slow Cooker
Remember all those good intentions you used to have around New Year’s Day? Planning for a dinner eight hours into the future isn’t exactly advanced math, but it can still be pretty difficult at seven in the morning, when you have a thousand other things to take care of. If you’re the kind of person who only cooks when you’re actually forced to, a pressure cooker is probably more your speed.
Both Are Energy-Efficient
The most environmentally friendly way to cook food is in the microwave, but the results rarely taste good. A slow cooker does produce delicious meals and uses only about the same amount of energy as an incandescent lightbulb, while pressure cooking takes less time and stops a lot of heat from being lost through evaporation. There’s no clear winner in this department, but either can help in keeping the electricity bill low and the kitchen from becoming a sauna.
The Final Verdict: Slow Cookers Win by a Hair
In the contest of pressure cooker vs slow cooker, a strong case can be made for going with either one. Although they’re very different on the inside, they end up doing much the same thing in terms of how people actually use them. Where there are disadvantages, these are usually not deal breakers. But some people will certainly prefer one over the other, depending on lifestyles and circumstances.
The Best of Both Worlds: Get a Multifunction Appliance
While most kitchen tools on the market are designed to do only one thing, a select few products can operate as pressure cookers, slow cookers, steamers, or what-have-you depending on the selected setting. Called multicookers, these appliances tend to be on the pricey side, but they are certainly nice to have and cost less than buying separate appliances for each function (thereby saving you space as well).
Having read about all the advantages of slow cooking and pressure cooking listed above, why choose between them if you don’t have to? On our pressure cooker review page you’ll see that most pressure cookers double as slow cookers. Steaming is a common option as well, and multiple pre-set cooking programs ensure that you can cook anything from stew or poultry to chili and rice.
Variety is a spice all its own, after all, and having more options in the kitchen is sometimes all you need to become a better cook.