Two appliances that often cause confusion with people are the slow cooker and the pressure cooker. Since most houses and apartments don’t come with these two helpful kitchen aides, it can be confusing to know the differences between them. Let’s take a look at these two helpful kitchen appliances to see which one would fit your needs the most.
At a Glance
- Cooks food slowly
- Useful for cooking meals such as pot roast and stews
- Uses water for the cooking process
Slow cookers, often known as “crock-pots”, have been a staple of many homes for decades. First introduced in the 1950s, they quickly became popular due to their convenience and ease of use, and are now an important kitchen appliance for most people who do any serious cooking at home.
The term “Crock-Pot”, even though it is a registered trademark of Sunbeam Products, is nowadays often synonymous with slow cooker, and many people may better know them by this name. For those who may find this confusing, anything that is labeled as a “slow cooker” is virtually the same thing as a “Crock-Pot”.
Slow cookers are used for cooking food in a slow manner by letting them simmer for hours in a lower heat than most other methods of cooking. Since this method of cooking can usually take hours, they are often used for cooking food overnight or during the work day, with the food often being ready by the time you wake up or return home from work.
Most slow cookers look similar to each other, often with a glass lid and a ceramic or porcelain body. The top edge of the slow cooker usually contains a small groove underneath the lid, which allows water vapor to provide a natural seal during the course of cooking.
To cook food in a slow cooker, food is placed within the pot along with the requisite amount of water. How much water is used depends on how much and what kind of food is being cooked. With some dishes, another kind of liquid (such as broth or seasoning mixes) can be used in the place of water. Some kind of liquid is necessary, though, as the slow cooker relies on the steam to help cook the contents, as the steam is what helps transfer the heat into the food. After cooking is completed, food that is left inside the slow cooker tends to stay warm for a long time, so reheating is often not necessary.
Cooking times for most dishes made in a slow cooker will vary, but as is implied by the name, almost all dishes will be cooked slowly, requiring a great amount of time. Typically, most foods are left in a slow cooker for between 6 to 8 hours, with some requiring more of less time.
Slow cookers provide several significant advantages over other traditional cooking methods:
- Due to how a slower cooker works, leaving food for cook longer than necessary runs less of a risk of overcooking or burning.
- Tougher and cheaper cuts of meat can be easily prepared in a slow cooker, and will usually come out very tender, as well as retaining its flavor.
- Food can be cooked overnight or while at work, which can be very convenient for those with busy schedules, and often requiring less work than other cooking methods.
- Slow cookers tend to use a low amount of electricity, much less so than many other kitchen appliances.
- Most slow cookers after very easy to clean and maintain.
Despite the convenience of slow cookers, there are a few disadvantages that must be considered:
- Slow cookers are not suitable for all kinds of food, especially those that are typically not cooked with water or other liquids.
- Slow cookers are susceptible to power outages, especially since they are often used unattended.
- Foods that require boiling for proper preparation may need to be boiled first before being cooked in a slow cooker. This is particularly true for many kinds of beans that contain toxins that are only destroyed at boiling temperatures.
- Due to the design of most slow cookers, water can often escape when the inside moisture has not formed a proper seal with the lid.
At a Glance
- Cooks food quickly at a high temperature
- Food is cooked by steam building high pressures
- Convenient for cooking meals quickly
Pressure cookers are special cooking appliances used for cooking many kinds of food. With the concept of pressure cooking having been used for several hundred years, the Industrial Revolution brought along a large amount of products that were the predecessors of modern pressure cookers, gradually becoming more advanced. Today, pressure cookers are found in many homes and have become popular due to the convenience of cooking food quickly.
How They Work
Although at first glance pressure cookers may seem similar to some other kitchen appliances used for cooking, they are fundamentally different than most other items used in the kitchen. Pressure cookers are enclosed cases usually made out of metal that contain an attached lid. Although the basic practice of pressure cooking is the same with most pressure cookers, there are actually many different kinds available, including stove top and electric self-operated models.
Most pressure cookers found in the home are generally stove top models, although in recent years the standalone electric models have become much more common. Both types work in the same basic way, by using steam that builds inside of the case to increase the pressure inside of the case, which raises the internal temperature and results in food cooking faster than most other methods.
There are many different parts that go to almost all pressure cookers, including the metal casing, an attached lid with a sealed gasket, release valves for air and steam, and some kind of indicator which indicates the amount of pressure that has built up inside of the case. Modern pressure cookers will also include temperature and pressure gauges as well as various settings which allow for the adjustment of the internal temperature and pressure. Electrical pressure cookers usually have pre-defined settings that allow of easy adjustments.
Whether a stove top or electrical model, pressure cookers cook food by raising the internal temperature past the boiling point, which allows the liquid inside to turn into steam. During this process, air is allowed to escape from the inside while it is replaced by steam, which in turn increases the pressure. The heated steam is then absorbed into the food, which is what makes food cook much more quickly than through most other cooking methods. Once the food has been cooked for the desired amount of time, the steam is then released from the inside at a measred rate.
There is no shortage of advantages to using a pressure cooker in the kitchen:
- Food is cooked much more quickly and thoroughly than with most other cooking methods.
- Pressure cookers are usually pretty easy to clean and often contribute to needing to do less cleaning after cooking.Much less water is required for cooking foods than with boiling.
- Several different kinds of foods can usually be cooked together in one pressure cooker, rather than needing to cook different parts of a meal separately.
- Many pressure cookers are portable, which allows you to cook almost anywhere, even while camping. High altitudes even reduce the necessary cooking time for most foods.
- Food is always cooked at a higher temperature than boiling, which means that foods that require high heat for killing microbes or toxins can be safely cooked.
- Electrical pressure cookers use much less electricity than microwaves or most other electric cooking appliances.
Pressure cooker pros and cons always go together like with anything else, so it is good to be aware of the cons:
- Pressure cookers often contain a lot of separate parts, which means they are built in a more complicated manner than most other kitchen appliances. This makes them a bit more difficult to properly maintain than many other kitchen tools.
- Due to the high pressure that builds inside of a pressure cooker, they can be dangerous if not used correctly.
- They can be much more expensive than many of the kitchen tools that they replace, such as pots and saucepans.
- Most pressure cookers do not have any ways of visibly viewing the contents during the cooking process, which means that they may need to be opened and closed several times in order to inspect the contents. This can result in a longer cooking time.
Slow Cooker vs Pressure Cooker: Which One Should I Buy?
After weighing the pros and cons of a slow cooker vs pressure cooker, whichever one you should choose will come down to your needs in a cooker. If you find it easier to start preparing your dinner in the morning or your breakfast overnight, then obviously the slow cooker will be your choice. For those who need something a little more portable that is able to cook your food quickly, then the pressure cooker would be the better fit. Take a look at the difference between a pressure cooker and slow cooker, see which one is right for you, and make your choice based on your own needs. Regardless of your decision, though, buying either one of these useful and convenient kitchen appliances will help make your meals worth remembering.