Slow cooker, multi-cooker, pressure cooker, Dutch oven in kitchen

Slow Cooker vs Pressure Cooker vs Dutch Oven: What Should You Buy?

Slow cooker vs pressure cooker: Which should you buy? Here’s how to decide on whether a slow cooker, pressure cooker (multi-cooker) or Dutch oven is right for you.

Slow cooker, multi-cooker, pressure cooker, Dutch oven in kitchen
Slow Cooker vs Pressure Cooker vs Dutch Oven: What Should You Buy?

Slow cooker vs pressure cooker: Which should you buy? Here’s how to decide on whether a slow cooker, pressure cooker (multi-cooker) or Dutch oven is right for you.

Slow cooker, multicooker, pressure cooker, Dutch oven in kitchen

I received a question from a wonderful reader. He asked:

“Will you write a blog post on how to choose how to choose between Instant Pot, slow cooker and pressure cooker? My pressure cooker is out, and I’m asking myself if I should by an instant pot instead. I wonder if it’s not the same to slowly cook in my Staub as in cooking in an instant pot? [sic] Thanks a lot for your help or any advice.”

I would be more than happy to tackle this question! I actually get this question a lot, so consider this a primer to help guide you if you are considering a slow cooker, multi cooker or Dutch oven purchase!

Let’s get started.

SLOW COOKER

All Clad Slow cooker in kitchen

Slow cookers have been around for years, and I think we should start our guide with this nifty appliance. I will never forget the first time I got my slow cooker (I have this one) – it was like the gift of time had been presented to me on a plate. A slow cooker allows you to cook at low heat over a long period of time, which means you can make something overnight as you sleep, or prep a meal in the morning before work, let the slow cooker work its magic during the day and come home to a fully cooked meal.

Slow Cooker Benefits

  • saves time by cooking low and slow, unattended
  • low-temperature cooking tenderizes meat
  • can cook a variety of dishes, including soups, stews, casseroles
  • great for feeding a crowd and it’s travel friendly!
  • can work as a dish warmer when entertaining
  • uses less energy than an oven

When purchasing a slow cooker, I highly recommend buying one that allows you to cook with the insert on a stove as well. This allows you to brown meat for braising, if you wish, before the slow cooking process. I also recommend buying a slow cooker with a large capacity, so that you can fit whole chickens, and feed a crowd.

Slow Cooker Recipes

ELECTRIC PRESSURE COOKER/MULTI-COOKER (such as Instant Pot)

Fagor multi cooker and Instant Pot

Ah, the current “it” gadget — so much so that the term “Instant Pot” has been used as an umbrella term for all pressure cooker recipes. But did you know that there are other pressure cookers/multi-cookers out there? For example, I personally own the Fagor Lux Multicooker and absolutely love it. But I have had the chance to borrow my friend’s Instant Pot to compare.

So, what is it? An electric pressure cooker or multi-cooker uses high-pressure cooking (you may remember your mom’s stovetop pressure cooker) to reduce cooking time. Under pressure, inexpensive cuts of meat transform into tender morsels in a fraction of the time you either slow cook or braise in the oven. With many different functions, you can sauté onions before pressure cooking, steam, or even make things like yogurt!

A multi cooker is a versatile tool in the kitchen. This guide helps you decide what to buy.

I often get asked, can a pressure cooker such as the Instant Pot replace the slow cooker? Well, my answer would be no. I understand that there is a “Slow Cook” button on the multicookers like the Instant Pot, but when you consider the cover of a multi-cooker, the gasket that seals the lid for pressurizing isn’t ideal for slow cooking. Since the liquid isn’t permitted to escape, you are left with a very soupy result, instead of a nice thick sauce on braised recipes. Also, the cooking temperatures often do not match that of a typical slow cooker.

That said, there are workarounds, and you can still use a multi-cooker for slow cooking. For example, if you want after slow cooking, I will allow the multi-cooker to simmer with the lid off to allow liquid to evaporate and let a sauce thicken.

Pressure Cooker Benefits

  • saves time by cooking fast and at high-pressure, tenderizing meat and extracting flavor in a fraction of time
  • you can sauté and brown foods before pressure cooking for one-pot cooking
  • can cook a variety of dishes, including soups, stews, even yogurt!
  • great for feeding a crowd and it’s travel-friendly!
  • can work as a dish warmer when entertaining
  • uses less energy than an oven

Something to consider is that it takes time for a pressure cooker to come to pressure — one reason I love my pressure cooker by Fagor is that it comes to pressure faster than the Instant Pot. Regardless, the time you are saving must allow for this pressurization — so is it worth it for things like taco filling? I honestly don’t think so. I can get this done in twenty minutes on the stove.

Pressure Cooker Recipes

DUTCH OVEN

Red Dutch oven in kitchen.

If you’re wondering why I’m including a Dutch Oven, well, this is the analog version of slow cooking, and if I’m going to be honest, if time is on my side, it is still my preferred method of cooking. Why? For one, nothing can compare to the heat I can obtain for the perfect sear that is critical with my braising recipes. Between you and me, I will use my Dutch oven to sear meat before putting it in my electric pressure cooker/multicooker, because the “Brown” function is weak in comparison to the real deal. Also, it isn’t prone to breaking and can be used for all kinds of cooking…it will also be an heirloom one day.

Dutch Oven Benefits

  • the ceramic contruction and heavy weight conducts heat well
  • useful for all kinds of cooking, from frying to braising to soups to baking bread. I even use it as a pizza stone!
  • no electric parts to break
  • when cared for, it will last a lifetime, even generations
  • portable

Dutch Oven Recipes

Which One Should I Buy? A Slow Cooker, Multi-Cooker (Pressure Cooker) or Dutch Oven?

Well, in a perfect world, and money no object, I would say, you would buy one of each. They serve very different purposes, in my mind. Here’s how I use them.

Let’s say the kids have rehearsals and practices and I will be basically playing mommy taxi driver all afternoon. In this case, I will reach for my slow cooker. I can start the dish in the morning, or before the afternoon activities begin, it works its magic while we hustle from activity to activity, and we come home to a meal ready to eat.

The other scenario is this — I am home in the afternoon or early evening and available to cook. But I realize that I should have started cooking earlier in the day and only have about 30-40 minutes to get dinner on the table – and ideally, the dish I am preparing should have at least a few hours of slow cooking or a lengthy simmer (like braised short ribs, homemade soup stock, or pork ribs). In this case, I would reach for my multi-cooker/pressure cooker (Instant Pot perhaps, in your case).

Lastly, I have the indulgence of time on my side and I am entertaining. In this case, I would reach for my Dutch oven. There are certain things that just don’t compare when it comes to achieving the perfect sear, the reduction of liquid to achieve the right sauce, the fond to flavor the sauce — when I want it done right, I would go old school.

Which one do you choose?

Disclosure: There are affiliate links in the post, see my Disclosure page for more details.

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