Slow Cooker. Pressure Cooker. Crock-Pot. What’s the difference, and should you own them all?
Start by asking yourself: what’s your cooking personality? Are you a plan-now-and-reap-rewards-later chef, or are you a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants-let’s-get-this-done-at-this-very-minute type of cook?
Your answer will help determine which cooking tool you’ll use most. More than likely your cooking personality will be influenced by the amount of time you have and how confident you are in your culinary skills. So while you may eventually own every type of appliance, it makes sense to start with the device you’re likely to use, and love, the most.
What Is a Slow Cooker and Why Do I Need One?
For those of us who love sticking to a plan, a slow cooker is our best friend. A slow cooker is a large electrical cooking device that cooks food very slowly.
Here are 4 reasons to own a slow cooker:
- Versatility of Recipes
I know many of you are thinking that this piece of cookware limits you to sloppy stews, but in fact there are several different foods you can cook in it. From lasagna to pudding, there’s not much the slow cooker cannot do. For inspiration I’ll generally browse pinterest or go to allrecipes.com, which is a great resource for me.
- Not Just for Meat Lovers
Are you a vegetarian, do you have one in your family, or are you a fan of Meatless Mondays? Well, meat eaters and vegetarians alike can enjoy the cost savings and convenience a slow cooker brings. There are plenty of recipes that will satisfy a vegetarian’s taste!
- Allows for Prep-and-Go Meals for a Busy Life
Like many of you, I’m a busy person but still love having “real” meals. Because I work full time, go to school after work, and try to keep an active social life, I often have very little time to come home after work and make dinner. And eating out all the time doesn’t work for my pocketbook. So what’s left? Scrounging through the cabinets for snacks? (Peanut butter, banana, and raisins for dinner anyone?) The solution is easy: I make a big batch of something Sunday night and wake up to cooked food Monday morning!
- Easy to Use for Beginner Cooks
The great thing about a slow cooker is you don’t have to be a Gordon Ramsay-level chef to make something absolutely delicious. It’s amazing, and if you’re ok with planning your meals, grocery shopping accordingly then give slow cookers a try!
Summary: Slow Cooker Advantages
- Prep-and-go meals
- Very versatile for both meat- and vegetable-based dishes
- Safe and easy!
Summary: Slow Cooker Disadvantages
- Not good for last-minute meals
- Requires more preparation and planning
- Uses More energy than pressure cooker
What Are Crock Pots?
More than likely you’ve heard the word “Crock-Pot” tossed around and you may be wondering what that is exactly. Is a Crock Pot a slow cooker? Perhaps a slang word for someone who has lost their mind? Well if you guessed slow cooker then you’re right…well partially. A Crock-Pot is actually a specific brand of a slow cooker, but has a unique feature that most other slow cookers don’t have.
While slow cookers generally heat from the bottom a Crock-Pot heats from the bottom and sides of the device. Aside from this, there is not much difference and I believe that you can choose a slow cooker based on reviews, price, or any other factors important to you.
So, let’s move onto pressure cookers, which are vastly different.
What Are Pressure Cookers and How Do They Work?
Finally, for those of you that just want to get your food fast, let me introduce you to the pressure cooker. A pressure cooker is a sealed pot that uses steam to build pressure and cook fast.
It does two amazing things. First it raises the boiling point of water in the pot, and second it raises the pressure forcing liquid into the food.
Four reasons to own a pressure cooker:
- Quick Cooking
This device is best used for foods that tend to take a lot of time to cook. Meats, roasts, stews, and beans are some of the main things that can be cooked using the pressure cooker and generally have a long cook time. Using a pressure cooker cuts the cook time by 25-50% and allows you to move onto your next task!
- Last Minute Cooking
When I was a kid, my mother swore by the pressure cooker to cook the traditional South American meals she made for us at home. She liked to choose meals based on her mood and so didn’t always plan ahead. Most of the dishes she cooked involved either lentils or beans and since she wasn’t a fan of canned foods she always bought the legumes dry. If you’re familiar with bagged beans you know that they have to soak for several hours before being cooked, which can take a lot of time. A pressure cooker, on the other hand, cooks them in no time. That was a boon when my mom was scrambling to put dinner on the table after work.
- Energy Efficient Device
Want to save money on your energy bill? Using a pressure cooker is one of the most energy-efficient ways to cook a meal, and can save you money if you opt to use it over traditional cookware. You can save an estimated 70% on energy costs which will make you and your wallet happy!
- Pressure Cooking Will Save Vitamins in Vegetables
Trying to eat more veggies? Not only will you be able to quickly cook them in your pressure cooker, but a pressure cooker preserves the good stuff inside your vegetables that make them so healthy.
A Word of Caution on Pressure Cooking Safety
The pressure cookers of today are a lot safer than older models, but it’s still important to exercise caution. I can still remember a time when my mother wasn’t paying attention and a stew exploded all over the ceiling. If you’re reading this, sorry mom! No worries, everyone was ok and we all had a laugh about it, but this is just a warning to check (and re-check) your pressure cooker to make sure it is free of cracks or other defects! With great pressure cooking power comes great cooking responsibility!
Summary: Pressure Cooker Advantages
- Quick cook times put food on the table faster
- Energy efficiency helps save even more money
- Nutrients and vitamins are preserved
Summary: Pressure Cooking Disadvantages
- Have to pay more attention to device
- Steeper learning curve
- Higher chance of scorching food
Your Verdict: So there you have it. Now you know what a Crock Pot is, and the difference between slow cookers and pressure cookers. After reading a description of these machines, you probably have a good sense of which one you’ll use the most (although we won’t stop you from owning one of each)!
Now let’s get cookin’! Looking for some new kitchen tools to tackle your next culinary feat? Check out our cookware page for all your kitchen basics!