ICYMI, the Instant Pot is basically everywhere these days. But…rewind for a sec: How is an Instant Pot different from the Crock-Pot that’s been in your mom’s kitchen since, like, forever? Is one truly superior, or are the one-pot counterparts totally interchangeable? Help!
A little background: Slow cookers have been around since the 1950s, but the iconic Crock-Pot didn’t hit the market until the 1970s when it became a huge hit, according to Business Insider.
Instant Pot, on the other hand, debuted on the kitchen scene in 2010. According to Forbes, the appliance has been dubbed the “souped-up Crock-Pot for a new generation,” and it makes sense: Both are countertop multi-cookers with the ability to cook everything from stews to stuffed peppers. The best part? You get to walk away while they’re working their magic.
But the two appliances have some key differences.
- They cook food differently.
- The Instant Pot is more versatile—for now.
- Instant Pot Competitors
- The CrockPot is way cheaper.
- How do the reviews stack up?
- Which is best for you?
- Instant Pot vs Crock-Pot: Which kitchen appliance is best for easy weeknight dinners
- The Cookful
- Instant Pot vs. Crock Pot: What’s the Difference?
- Lots of people have jumped on the Instant Pot bandwagon and you know I’m one of them. The pressure cooking function is what I use in most of my recipes, but today I want to show you How To Slow Cook in Your Instant Pot.
- Do I Need a Special Lid to Slow Cook in My Instant Pot?
- What Kind of Slow Cooker Recipes Work Best on the Slow Cooker Setting on Your Instant Pot?
- What Kind of Recipes Should You Not Cook on the Slow Cooker Setting?
- What’s the difference between a crockpot and an instant pot?
- How Do I Slow Cook in My Instant Pot?
- What Venting Setting Should I Use to Slow Cook in My Instant Pot?
- Will I Need to Adjust Traditional Slow Coker Recipes to Cook in an Electric Pressure Cooker?
- Recipes You Can Cook on the Slow Cooker Setting
- What to know about Instant Pots
- What to know about Crock-Pots
- So which is better: Instant Pot or Crock-Pot?
- The differences between a Crock Pot and an Instant Pot
- In simple terms, the Instant Pot is a multi-functional pressure cooker and the classic Crock-Pot is a slow cooker
- Instant Pots cook things rather quickly using pressure and steam
- Crock-Pots cook things slowly using a consistent temperature
- Instant Pots have multiple programmable buttons and a manual Crock-Pot has a simple dial
- Although it serves fewer functions, the manual Crock-Pot slow cooker is more affordable than the Instant Pot pressure cooker
- What exactly is an Instant Pot used for?
- Meet the Machine
- What is the best Instant Pot to buy?
- What to make with your Instant Pot:
- Why are nutritionists big fans of the Instant Pot?
- Super Freak The majority of Instant Pot reviews are positive, but are there any cons?
- Is the Instant Pot safe?
- Is there anything you should NOT cook in an Instant Pot?
- Slow cookers vs. multicookers (a.k.a. Instant Pots): Which is right for you?
They cook food differently.
Crock-Pots work by slowly heating your food at a constant temperature—so you can prep a meal in the morning and it’ll be all cooked by the time you get home. The slow cooking process makes it perfect for dishes like roasts and soups. With a Crock-Pot, you can program it to cook from 30 minutes up to 20 hours, depending on the recipe, according to their website.
DUO60 6 Qt 7-in-1 Multi-Use Instant Pot amazon.com $99.95 $79.00 (21% off)
The Instant Pot, on the other hand, is an electric pressure cooker, which means it cooks foods faster by controlling the pressure within the pot. In fact, according to their website, it can speed up cooking by two to six times, while using 70 percent less energy.
If you’re cooking a meat or soup recipe in the Crock-Pot and it calls for an 8-hour cook time on low, then the same recipe will only cook for 25 to 30 minutes in the Instant Pot, according to The Spruce Eats.
The Instant Pot is more versatile—for now.
The Crock-Pot, on average, comes with two settings: cook things slowly on low, or cook things slowly on high.
6-Quart Programmable Slow Cooker Crock-Pot amazon.com $59.99 $35.47 (41% off)
The Instant Pot, however, has settings for a wide range of specific cooking tasks, including making soup, cooking meat, sautéing, rice cooking, steaming, and making yogurt. (That’s why it’s touted as a 7-in-1 device. Some have as many as 10 cook settings.)
That said, Crock-Pot has created the Crock-Pot Express Crock Multi-Cooker, which boasts some Instant Pot-like features, including buttons for yogurt, beans/chili, soup, rice/risotto and poultry. Several other brands are also riding the Instant Pot craze, and have created appliances with similar functions.
Instant Pot Competitors
Instant Pot DUO Plus Instant Pot amazon.com $64.99 Express Crock Multi-Cooker Crock-Pot amazon.com $49.99 Electric Pressure Cooker Cuisinart amazon.com $98.00 Electric Multicooker Chefman amazon.com $74.99
The CrockPot is way cheaper.
As for pricing, the Instant Pot comes in three different sizes: 3-quart ($79.95), 6-quart ($99.95), and 8-quart ($139.95).
On the other hand, the Crock-Pot has been around long enough that it comes in a wide variety of colors and sizes, plus a lower price point. An 8-quart manual version goes for $31.49, while the Crock-Pot Express Crock Multi-Cooker is $85.05. If you want to add a bit of flair to your countertop, then you might also love the 2.5 quart purple polka dot Crock-Pot for $14.99 (it’s adorbs).
If you compare the Instant Pot to the Crock-Pot, you’ll notice:
- Both have a stainless steel exterior (Instant Pot also has a stainless steel inner pot)
- Both have a one-year warranty
- Each offers a 6-quart container
- They’re similar sizes
- The inner pot is removable and dishwasher-safe
- They’re both capable of large, one-pot meals
- Instant Pot has a wider range of cook settings
- Crock-Pot has a lower price point
- Instant Pot is an electric pressure cooker, while Crock-Pot is a slow cooker
- Instant Pot cooks meals much faster
- Crock-Pot is easier to use
How do the reviews stack up?
Some people adore the Instant Pot because it cooks fast, others—like yours truly—kind of like the fact that the Crock-Pot takes its sweet ol’ time, and can be left to simmer all day.
Amazon reviewers noted that there were a few perks to the Instant Pot that they simply couldn’t pass up, like its multi-functions.
“I have replaced my rice cooker and egg cooker, and put my large Crock-Pot into storage,” one reviewer wrote. “This thing does all those things, and more.”
While another reviewer said the quality of the food in the Instant Pot was better: “Seriously, I can’t believe the flavor of the food. “
They added: “The chicken was tender, the carrots were not mushy, and the flavor was incredible. When I used a Crock-Pot, everything I made was mushy and tasted the same.”
As for ease of use, the classic Crock-Pot is pretty self explanatory, but the Instant Pot requires some quality time with the manual. Women’s Health writer Karen Shimizu replaced all of her cookware with an Instant Pot and noted:
“The hardest part about getting started with the Instant Pot was, well, getting started with it. The thing has a control panel with 20 different labels, and the product manual felt as technical as the one for my station wagon. I finally put it away and instead referred to the introductory chapters of my two cookbooks, which helpfully zeroed in on the buttons I would use most.”
Which is best for you?
It’s kind of impossible to go wrong with a one-pot meal of any type. After all, it has simplicity worked into it’s name—you just toss a bunch of ingredients into a singular vessel and call it a day.
But if you’re wondering which appliance best suits your kitchen style, it really comes down to function and how much time you have on your hands.
Bottom line: Both the Crock-Pot and Instant Pot are great to have when you want to knock out a healthy recipe but don’t have all day to spend in the kitchen. Either way, they’ll make your at-home cooking a whole heck of a lot easier!
Caroline Shannon-Karasik Caroline Shannon-Karasik is a writer and mental health advocate based in Pittsburgh, PA.
Instant Pot vs Crock-Pot: Which kitchen appliance is best for easy weeknight dinners
The Insider Picks team writes about stuff we think you’ll like. Business Insider has affiliate partnerships, so we get a share of the revenue from your purchase.
- For decades the Crock-Pot has been the go-to set-it-and-forget-it countertop cooking appliance. However, in the last decade, the Instant Pot has slowly picked up a strong following.
- We tested both of these appliances to determine which one deserves a spot on your kitchen counter.
- The Instant Pot wins with its seven uses, including slow cooking, and long list of other features, such as a delayed start.
Though slow cookers have been around since at least the early 1950s, the Crock-Pot first came onto the scene in 1971. Back then, women were beginning to work outside of the home. Yet, they were still expected to have dinner on the table in the evening. The Crock-Pot allowed them to start dinner before work so it would be ready when they got home.
The Crock-Pot works by slowly heating your food at a constant temperature well below boiling. Slow cooking is ideal for roasts, ribs, chili, soups, and other meals that require a low simmer.
When it came to having one-pot meals ready within minutes of arriving home from work, the Crock-Pot seemed to have cornered the market, but then the Instant Pot came onto the scene in 2010. An electric pressure cooker, the Instant Pot is celebrated for being a seven-in-one kitchen appliance. It’s most popular use is pressure cooking, although it can also be used as a slow cooker.
Both the brand names Crock-Pot and Instant Pot have become synonymous with slow cookers and electric pressure cookers, respectively.
However, there are several other brands that make both of these types of appliances. In fact, Crock-Pot has entered the electric pressure cooker arena, and Instant Pot has given the slow cooker market a shot (with disastrous results.)
For the purposes of this comparison, we are going to compare the best-selling slow cooker on the market right now, the Crock-Pot 6-Quart Programmable Cook & Carry Slow Cooker, to the best-selling electric pressure cooker of all time, the Instant Pot DUO60 6 Qt 7-in-1 Multi-Use Programmable Pressure Cooker.
Each appliance has its weaknesses and its advantages. We compare the Crock-Pot and Instant Pot head to head in a few key categories: price, ease of use, cleanup, variety of uses, as well as the availability of recipes.
Keep scrolling to see which kitchen appliance wins each category and to read our final verdict on which one you should buy.
by Kevin Kessler 1 comment ”
Instant Pot vs. Crock Pot: What’s the Difference?
Instant Pots. Slow Cookers. Are they really that different? And do I need both? We’ve got the answers for you to make that decision easier.
Everyone everywhere is talking about the Instant Pot. It’s very much the modern fad in cooking. And frankly, there’s a lot to love about it. But in my research, I’ve found a lot of questions raised over the similarities and differences between the Instant Pot (like this one) and the internet’s former darling piece of cookware, the Crock Pot (or any slow cooker, really).
It seems as though a lot of people are under the impression that an Instant Pot is just a slow cooker under a different name. That’s far from the truth. Instant Pots and slow cookers are wildly different from one another – as much so as a microwave and an oven.
But what are the major differences? And which one should you buy, given your cooking preferences? Those are questions that I’m going to answer throughout this article, giving you an in-depth look at the function and features of both products. Compare and contrast them for yourselves and decide which of these very different appliances will work better in your home.
While Instant Pots and Crock Pots look similar, they are incredibly different, and that difference begins with cooking times.
A Crock Pot is a slow cooker. That’s more descriptive than anything else so from here on out we’re going to reference slow cookers in general. A slow cooker cooks food slowly at a low temperature over a period of 4, 8 or even 12 hours on average. They’re designed to operate on their own, with no stove or oven needed.
A slow cooker will trap heat. By simmering ingredients in their own juices, a slow cooker can produce a deeper and richer flavor than conventional cooking methods. The longer you cook, the more savory and tender your meal becomes.
Instant Pots get their name from their extremely short cooking time. A typical Instant Pot meal is ready in less than an hour. Instant Pots do have a slow cooker feature and can cook slowly over low temerpatures, but the Instant Pot is most often used as an electric pressure cooker. That’s its main cool trick. It heats liquid under pressure, which cooks food faster. Much faster. Because the lid is airtight, the interior of the pot heats up quickly. Hot air expands and the liquid within the pot turns into steam.
It stands to reason that, since Instant Pots cook faster than slow cookers, they must have a greater internal temperature. And this is one of those times when reasonable thought wins the day.
The temperature within an Instant Pot is much, much higher than that of a slow cooker. Your typical slow cooker will reach internal temperatures between 175 and 200 degrees Fahrenheit.
An Instant Pot’s highest temperature can reach between 239 and 244 degrees Fahrenheit. The boiling temperature for water is 212 degrees Fahrenheit, so you’re not going to get any kind of boil from a slow cooker. However, boiling ingredients at 244 degrees moves the cooking process along, accounting for Instant Pot’s lightning fast cooking times.
Although Instant Pots and slow cookers might look similar on the outside, they vary a lot once opened up. The interior hardware of an Instant Pot is far more complicated than its distant ancestor the slow cooker.
For starters, an Instant Pot has an insulated housing, which is not found in a slow cooker. The insulated housing makes the Instant Pot far more energy efficient.
The fact that an Instant Pot’s lid seals into an airtight chamber is another huge hardware difference. A slow cooker allows a very small amount of heat to filter out through the lid, but the bulk of the heat remains trapped inside. That’s why it’s never a great idea to open the lid of your slow cooker while it’s working. Once that lid comes off, you’re undoing some of its good work. Instant Pots, however, keep every last bit of air and heat trapped inside. That helps boost its internal temperature and contributes to an Instant Pot’s lightning fast cooking speed.
Choose Your Side
Now that you know the key differences between them, are you a fan of the Instant Pot, or do you prefer the slower more methodical approach of the slow cooker? What are your favorite recipes for each? Comment and let us know!
last updated on October 1, 2019
Kevin J. Kessler is an experienced professional writer and published author living in Orlando, Florida. With a lifelong passion for food, this sandwich loving Italian boy enjoys exploring unanswered questions about the foods we all know and love so well. Kevin’s foodie lifestyle was born through his love of Walt Disney World and the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival. A lover of stories, he enjoys trying new dishes from all over the world and learning everything there is to know about where food comes from, how its prepared, and what variations on it exist.
Lots of people have jumped on the Instant Pot bandwagon and you know I’m one of them. The pressure cooking function is what I use in most of my recipes, but today I want to show you How To Slow Cook in Your Instant Pot.
Many people have differing opinions on this, but I say if that’s the only slow cooking option you have then use it.
It does have limitations though. It has weird timings for dried beans on the slow cooker setting, but the pressure cooker option is amazing so you’re better off using that anyhow.
While you can bake things in your Instant Pot, using the pressure cooker setting is better for that as well.
Do I Need a Special Lid to Slow Cook in My Instant Pot?
I do use a slow cooker pot lid made for electric pressure cookers instead of the top that came with it. Before you buy one online, try some of your existing pot lids to see if it will be a good fit. You can use the original lid but make sure it’s turned to vented.
What Kind of Slow Cooker Recipes Work Best on the Slow Cooker Setting on Your Instant Pot?
Start with soups and stews. That’s my advice when using a regular slow cooker too. It gives you some wiggle room while you’re learning a new appliance.
photo by Kate Lewis
What Kind of Recipes Should You Not Cook on the Slow Cooker Setting?
DO NOT use slow cooker baking recipes when you Slow Cook in Your Instant Pot. They will fail.
A 6-quart slow cooker that I recommend has a large bottom baking area that none of the Instant Pots have. At this writing IP does have a Ninja slow cooker competitor and it is a slow cooker first and can be baked in, but it does not have a pressure cooker setting.
DO NOT use dried beans when you Slow Cook in Your Instant Pot. The timings are too off.
The other issue I’ve run across is the timing of cooking dried beans. On normal, it can even take unsoaked black-eyed peas over 8 hours to cook. But on high you can cook unsoaked pinto beans in the 4 hours you’d expect.
Of course, beans are a variable in themselves since many beans will be a little old when you buy them in the store. The older the beans the longer it needs to cook.
To avoid this timing issue I recommend that you don’t cook the recipes that use dried beans or substitute cooked beans and reduce the water amount in those recipes.
What’s the difference between a crockpot and an instant pot?
A crockpot or slow cooker, always cooks on low heat for longer period of times. There are some advanced models that let you saute or bake.
An electric pressure cooker or Instant Pot has more settings and some cook fast under a high pressure and it also has a lower slow cooker setting that cooks things slow.
The way the heating elements are installed in the Instant Pot is a bit different from a crockpot.
How Do I Slow Cook in My Instant Pot?
First you select the slow cooker function button then adjust the cook time in minutes with the + and – buttons.
You can adjust the temperature with the adjust button (less/normal/more).
What Venting Setting Should I Use to Slow Cook in My Instant Pot?
If you use the normal lid, make sure the value is set to venting because we are not trying to build up pressure to use this setting.
You could also use the the Instant Pot glass lid accessory.
photo by Kate Lewis
Will I Need to Adjust Traditional Slow Coker Recipes to Cook in an Electric Pressure Cooker?
You may need to adjust your favorite recipes when you start cooking them in your Instant Pot. The electric pressure cooker slow cooker function tends to cook a little hotter, and you will get less evaporation when you use the pressure cooking lid, even with the valve open.
You may want to use a little less liquid in soups and stews once you get used to making a few recipes. However, I’d start with the same amounts. Before serving switch to the saute setting and cook off any extra liquid that might remain.
Recipes You Can Cook on the Slow Cooker Setting
- Slow Cooker Jackfruit Tom Kha Gai Recipe
- Mushroom Congee Recipe
If you’ve ever wondered what the difference is between an Instant Pot and Crock-Pot, then you’re not alone. They’re both crazy popular kitchen appliances that help make cooking more hands-off. Even though they technically have a lot in common, there are a few key differences that make them unique. Since no one wants to waste their valuable counter space, the Good Housekeeping Institute’s Kitchen Appliances and Technology Lab is here to answer your questions and help you decide which cooker on the market is right for you.
What to know about Instant Pots
Instant Pot is a popular multi-cooker brand known for its time- and space-saving appliances. In 2010, the brand launched its very first product in order to help people with busy lives get food on the table, fast. This made pressure cooking more accessible to the average person.
Now, the Instant Pot has a cult following of people who swear it changed their lives — and there are almost 30,000 5-star Amazon reviews to prove it. They’re fast, efficient, and multi-functional, and have performed well in all of our lab tests (the Duo is our top pick for pressure cookers). Not only do our Kitchen Appliance experts love Instant Pots, but so does our audience: they’re often one of the most popular products that Good Housekeeping readers buy each month. Here’s why:
Instant Pots are multi-functional. While many people simply think of IPs as electric pressure cookers, but they can also slow cook, steam, warm, sauté, and work as a rice cooker in addition to pressure cooking. The main function, pressure cooking, cooks food by raising the boiling point of water and trapping steam in order to reduce cook time. Plus, they come with a stainless steel inner pot, which is a material designed to heat up quickly.
DUO60 6 Qt 7-in-1 Multi-Cooker Instant Pot amazon.com
Is an Instant Pot good for slow cooking? Yes — technically an Instant Pot can replace a Crock-Pot. Just keep in mind that the results will be a bit different.”Using the slow cooker function on an Instant Pot cooked food in the same amount of time as a Crock-Pot — but the results were a little drier,” says Nicole Papantoniou, senior testing editor and producer in our Kitchen Appliances and Technology Lab.
What can you make in an Instant Pot? our experts recommend using it for things like soups, rice, steel-cut oats, and soaking dried beans (all of which make the appliance great for meal prep!). And that’s just the beginning — our Test Kitchen made recipes specifically for the Instant Pot, and GH even has an Instant Pot cookbook available on Amazon! Tons of food bloggers have also taken advantage of the rise in popularity by dedicating their time to creating Instant Pot recipes and videos. You’ll never be short on meal ideas!
What to know about Crock-Pots
Crock-Pot, on the other hand, is a much older brand (it’s been around since the 1970s!) that’s best known for its slow cookers. As such, the brand has a very loyal following. They’re often made with heat-insulating stoneware, which helps maintain a consistent temperature so you can cook your food low and slow — a.k.a. by using lower heat over a longer period of time.
Here’s where it gets kind of tricky: In recent years, Crock-Pot started making multi-cookers that can pressure cook, just like Instant Pots. So when you compare a Crock-Pot multi-cooker (like the Express Crock multi-cooker) to an Instant Pot, they’re essentially the same thing and have the same functions. But traditional Crock-Pots are slow cookers, while all Instant Pots are multi-cookers.
Crock-Pot 6-Quart Slow Cooker Crock-Pot amazon.com
Crock-Pots are great for entertaining since they have travel-friendly latches and handles, meaning you don’t have to worry about food sloshing inside and potentially spilling. Since you can even get casserole-shaped Crock-Pots (which have wide surface areas and shallow edges), things like chilis, fondues, and hot sangrias are much easier to scoop out at parties.
What can you make in a Crock-Pot? Crock-Pots great for getting a good sear. If you expect to be cooking large chunks of meat, then a Crock-Pot might be your best bet. Papantoniou says a Crock-Pot is great for pulled pork, brisket, short ribs, and pot roasts, all of which come out great in a slow cooker. GH’s Test Kitchen also has plenty of slow cooker recipes, but you can check our slow cooker cookbook for even more inspiration.
So which is better: Instant Pot or Crock-Pot?
In order to decide which appliance is best for you, think about what you want to make and how you want to make it. Certain features of an Instant Pot might meet your needs better than a Crock-Pot, and vice versa. Here are a few aspects to consider:
Time: While both appliances save time, they do so in two completely opposite ways. Crock-Pots are great for busy people, early birds, and those who like to plan ahead. Just throw ingredients together in the morning and come home to a finished meal that slow cooked all day. (That’s why they’re called “set it and forget it” appliances.) Instant Pots are great for last-minute people and night owls who can use the pressure cook function after work to get a hot meal on the table in a matter of minutes.
Size: Not everyone has the space for large countertop appliances. Instant Pots typically come in three sizes: 3-quart, 6-quart, and 8-quart. Our pros say 6-quart is best for most people, but 3-quart is a good option if you live alone, and 8-quart is perfect for larger families. Crock-Pots come in way more sizes, with options as small as 1.5-quart (!) and as large as 8-quart.
Ease of use: Instant Pots have more functions, which might seem confusing to someone with no multi-cooker experience. It takes a bit of getting used to, but there are plenty of online recipes and tutorials that help make the learning adjustment easier. Traditional Crock-Pots only have a high-medium-low dial, which is much more straightforward, but is also quite limiting.
Price: Without a doubt, traditional Crock-Pots are much more affordable (some are as low as $15) since they can only slow cook. Instant Pots start at around $60 for the most basic multi-cooker option, but they’re often discounted on Amazon for as high as 50% off.
Safety: If you remember the tragic This Is Us episode, then you might be worried about potential dangers of these kitchen appliances. Just know that both Instant Pots and Crock-Pots are safe to be left alone when used as directed. People are sometimes scared of releasing the steam from an Instant Pot, but you shouldn’t be! Just make sure to use tongs (not your bare hands) to move the nozzle. For both Instant Pots and Crock-Pots, Papantoniou recommends following these safety precautions:
- Always leave enough clearance from the wall
- Keep them away from water sources (like the sink)
- Place them on a heat-proof surface (avoid wood and cutting boards)
There’s still some overlap when comparing an Instant Pot vs a Crock-Pot, depending on which model you’re talking about. Just remember that all Instant Pots are multi-cookers, which mean they slow cook and pressure cook, and Crock-Pots are usually only slow cookers.
The bottom line: If you only care about slow cooking, then go for a Crock-Pot. Want to choose between slow cooking and pressure cooking in one appliance? Then you’re better off with an Instant Pot.
Amina Lake Abdelrahman, Good Housekeeping Institute Editorial Assistant Amina is an editorial assistant at the Good Housekeeping Institute, where she works with lab experts (who test all the latest products) and writes original content based on their recommendations.
The differences between a Crock Pot and an Instant Pot
- Instant Pots and Crock-Pot slow cookers are both popular kitchen appliances.
- You can use an Instant Pot for slow cooking but you can’t use a Crock-Pot slow cooker for pressure cooking.
- The two kitchen devices typically use different cooking techniques.
- Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more.
When it comes to cooking, a lot of people value simplicity and ease. So it’s no surprise that home cooks are using multi-cookers and slow cookers to whip up delicious meals without dirtying multiple pots and pans. With so many appliances to choose from, the Crock-Pot slow cooker and Instant Pot are among some of the most popular choices.
The Crock-Pot brand has been around since the 1940s, according to The Washington Post, but the Instant Pot first went on sale in 2010, according to CNBC. Despite their different release dates, both appliances have a loyal following and each serves special purposes that can satisfy different cooking needs.
Here are some of the biggest differences between manual Crock-Pot slow cookers and Instant Pots.
In simple terms, the Instant Pot is a multi-functional pressure cooker and the classic Crock-Pot is a slow cooker
The manual Crock-Pot features a simple dial on the front. Wikimedia Commons/Janine from Mililani, Hawaii, United States
Although the Instant Pot has many functions and features, its primary function is as a pressure cooker. The multi-functional appliance is also capable of “braising, pressure cooking, stewing, steaming, simmering, slow cooking, sauté/browning, and keeping warm,” according to the Instant Pot user manual.
On the other hand, the manual Crock-Pot slow cooker does not function as a pressure cooker and it serves fewer functions than the Instant Pot. The classic, manual version of this kitchen device is used to cook food slowly and consistently using a few different heat settings. It can also be used to keep food warm for multiple hours.
Instant Pots cook things rather quickly using pressure and steam
In simple terms, this appliance works by using steam to create pressure. To use an Instant Pot, you place food in the appliance’s stainless steel cooking pot and add at least one cup of liquid to it. The appliance then heats the liquid until it boils and becomes steam. When the steam is unable to be released from the pot, that steam generates pressure, which helps to cook the food inside of the pot.
The time it takes for a dish to cook in an Instant Pot depends on the recipe, the method you’re using to cook, and how much food you’re making. But since the Instant Pot is a pressure cooker, foods typically cook at a much faster rate than they might in a slow cooker, so you might want to keep a closer eye on your food.
Overall, the Instant Pot boasts that it cooks food in about 70% less time than if you were to use conventional cooking methods. According to the Instant Pot website, the appliance can cook a lot of foods in less than 30 minutes. For example, as per the site, you can cook fresh asparagus in one to two minutes or wild rice in 20 to 25 minutes, although the serving sizes of these dishes are not specified.
This appliance can also be used to cook dishes for a longer period of time — the Instant Pot has a slow-cook setting that allows you to set your cooking time for up to 20 hours. But, as a note, many websites like Pressure Cook Recipes and Taste of Home, advise that you do not leave your Instant Pot unattended while it is in use. That being said, Instant Pot’s user manual only advises that you don’t leave the appliance unattended during its preheat cycle. The brand has also noted that the appliance has multiple safety features in place, including a lid that will not open while the Instant Pot is pressurized and a small vent that allows some of the steam to be released as food cooks.
Crock-Pots cook things slowly using a consistent temperature
When it comes to using this cooker, you can set the device to whichever temperature setting is required for your recipe and let it cook low and slow for a long period of time. The appliance can cook food at a consistently low or high temperature and keep food warm for multiple hours. As a bonus, the slow, simmering method of cooking used by the Crock-Pot slow cooker is known to help dishes become extra flavorful.
Some models of the manual Crock-Pot slow cooker are outfitted with a locking lid, but it shouldn’t be locked during the cooking process — the locks are actually meant to be used when you transport dishes so that nothing spills out of the pot.
Unlike the Instant Pot, this electric slow cooker doesn’t necessarily need water or steam to cook food — but to cook food properly, the manual encourages the user to put enough ingredients in the Crock-Pot in order to fill it at least half-way, although this depends on the recipe you’re following.
Read More: 15 things you didn’t know you could make in a Crock-Pot
And, according to Crock-Pot, this slow cooker can be left unattended for extended periods of time when it is on a countertop. But, according to Kitchn, you’ll want to follow a few safety precautions when leaving your Crock-Pot slow cooker unattended, like leaving the appliance on a heatproof surface or keeping the heat setting on low.
The Instant Pot has a lot of pre-programmed options whereas the manual Crock-Pot slow cooker has less than five. Megan Willett/INSIDER
Since the Instant Pot comes with all sorts of features and functions, it can present a bit of a learning curve at first. But it also means the Instant Pot takes some of the guesswork out of cooking certain meals and foods if what you’re planning to make already has a pre-existing setting on the appliance. Some of the many settings on the front of this appliance include cake, rice, steam, slow cook, and meat/stew.
With fewer options and buttons than the Instant Pot, the manual Crock-Pot slow cooker may be a bit easier to learn how to use. Although Crock-Pot also offers digitally programmable versions of their original slow-cooker design, the classic, manual Crock-Pot slow cooker features a simple dial. It can be set to three different heat settings: warm, low, and hot.
Overall, when it comes to any appliance, it’s usually a wise idea to read the instructional manual before using it for the first time.
Although it serves fewer functions, the manual Crock-Pot slow cooker is more affordable than the Instant Pot pressure cooker
Both the Crock-Pot and Instant Pot brands offer a range of multi-cookers and other products, but the classic, manual Crock-Pot slow cooker currently costs less than all of the versions of Instant Pot pressure cooker.
For example, a manual Crock-Pot 7-quart slow cooker in stainless steel retails for around $39.99, which is almost half of the cost of one of the more affordable Instant Pot models currently listed on Amazon. Many of the Instant Pot models cost upwards of $79. Notably, the Instant Pot offers more cooking functions than the manual Crock-Pot slow cooker, which may explain its slightly higher price.
Unless you’ve been living on a deserted (kitchen) island, you know about the Instant Pot—the all-in-one appliance that can do everything from hard-boil eggs to sauté veggies to cook fall-off-the-bone ribs in under an hour.
The Instant Pot is so ubiquitous these days—on social media, wedding registries, and in the kitchens of busy, health-minded cooks everywhere—that it’s hard to believe the machine has only been around since 2010. But there are still plenty of people who aren’t totally sure what exactly the Instant Pot does, or how it works (hello, countless giftees).
If you’re thinking about adding an Instant Pot to your own kitchen—here’s everything you should know before you buy.
What exactly is an Instant Pot used for?
Instant Pot is actually a brand name (think: Kleenex)—and the company specializes in multi-cookers. They make a number of different types of multi-cookers, but each Instant Pot functions as a slow cooker, skillet, rice cooker, pressure cooker, and more. It’s the pressure cooker function that most people are referring to when they talk about an Instant Pot and its ability to cook food in half the time.
But before you toss your other gadgets, get familiar with the functions and buttons found on one of the most popular model: the Instant Pot Ultra 6-quart.
Meet the Machine
1 Pressure-Cook (Manual)
Here’s the secret to our friend’s claim to fame: Similar to an old-school stovetop pressure cooker, this setting raises the temp of whatever liquid is in the pot to above boiling and traps the steam inside (since the lid is locked), cooking the food fast.
2 Slow-Cook 3 Sauté
Fact: Most food tastes better if it’s seared first, which typically means you have to dirty both a skillet and a slow cooker. Good news: Now you can do it all in one (instant) pot.
Think of this as a tamer version of the pressure-cook function. And with the Ultra, you can control the level of steam, meaning you can say goodbye to overcooked mushy veggies once and for all.
5 Rice or Multigrain
The Instant Pot can be clutch for meal-prepping big batches of white, brown, or wild rice for the week in way less time than it would take on your stovetop.
6 Soup and Broth
Master the art of the simmer (read: staying just below the boiling point) to make killer stocks and soups without having to babysit a pot on the stove all day.
What’s the deal with quick release vs. natural release?
Almost every Instant Pot recipe ends with one of two options: natural release or quick release (or a combo).
For natural release, the machine slowly releases the pressure, taking anywhere from five to 40-plus minutes based on how much food is inside, making it ideal for ribs or other big cuts of meat.
For quick release, you press a button or valve (use tongs, because hot steam will come out!) to speed up the process, which is better for finicky foods you don’t want to overcook, like chicken breasts.
Note: Whatever you do, resist the urge to quick-release when you’re making sweet potatoes or white potatoes, since it’ll cause your spuds to burst—nay, explode.
What is the best Instant Pot to buy?
Super Freak While there are a number of different Instant Pot models to choose from, many are pretty similar. Each one includes a stainless steel inner pot and steam rack, heat-resistant silicone sealing ring, safety mechanisms, delay start time option, a number of smart built-in programs, and functions that replace a pressure cooker, slow cooker, and rice cooker, in addition to steam, sauté, and warmer modes.
The differences mainly come down to size, the number of settings (think: some have a “yogurt” button), and the display appearance.
For a full breakdown on Women’s Health tested and approved faves, check out our list of the best Instant Pots:
Best For Beginners Instant Pot Lux V3 Instant Pot amazon.com $79.00
With fewer bells and whistles (read: fewer buttons to figure out), this basic version still sautés, steams, and quickly cooks up broths, rice, meats, and stews. Take note: It does not have a “low” pressure setting, meaning you’re a bit limited on experimenting with cooking eggs, cake, pasta, and seafood.
(P.S. Walmart is selling a pretty, floral version from The Pioneer Woman, in case you can’t even imagine a stainless steel appliance on your counter.)
For the Meal-Prepping MVPs Instant Pot Duo 60 Instant Pot amazon.com
If you want to DIY homemade yogurt with the press of a button, this top-selling option is a no-brainer. Essentially just one-step up from the Lux, this model offers two pressure cooking settings (low and high), plus programs to cook up a big batch of beans, broths, rice, porridge, meats, and poultry.
For the New Moms Instant Pot DUO Plus Instant Pot amazon.com $64.99
This upgraded version of the Duo also has a designated program to sterilize baby bottles and kids’ toys. You can also now “bake” a cake with the press of a button, if that’s really something you’re into. Take note: The Sterilize program is *not* recommended for canning or preserving (so don’t risk it!).
For the Enthusiasts Instant Pot Ultra Instant Pot amazon.com $150.56
With 16 smart built-in programs, plus an upgraded interface that has an easy-to-navigate spin dial, this pricier model does it all. As with the Duo, you can switch up the pressure between high and low, and cook up batches of beans, rice, broths, porridge, and meats—but now you can customize the temperature and pressure settings to really control how your food turns out. P.S. The steam program also now has the option to steam without pressure, which means you can say goodbye to mushy veggies once and for all.
For the Tech-Savvy Instant Pot Smart WiFi Instant Pot amazon.com $149.99
If clicking a button on your Instant Pot isn’t quite high-tech enough for you, consider the Wi-Fi enabled version. This appliance pairs with your iPhone or Android device, and connects you to over 1,000 pre-programmed Instant Pot recipes. Plus you can check on the status of your food through the app.
If you’re going to invest in an Instant Pot, it’s worth spending just a little bit extra for the 6-Quart Instant Pot Ultra, which has all the original Instant Pot features, plus a sterilizer (to really get your kitchen tools clean!). If you’re pressed for space, both the Instant Pot Ultra and the Instant Pot Duo come in a smaller 3-quart version; if you’re always feeding a large crowd, both also come in a larger 8-quart version.
What to make with your Instant Pot:
Not sure where to begin? There are a number of Instant Pot recipes to make meal prep or just daily cooking tasks a whole lot easier. Give these four a try:
Super-Fast Sweet Potatoes
Healthier Homemade Yogurt
Quick Chicken Pho
Easy-To-Peel Hard-Boiled Eggs
Why are nutritionists big fans of the Instant Pot?
Super Freak In addition to all the flashy features, when it comes to getting healthy meals on the table, nutritionists are all for the convenient appliance. “An Instant Pot is easy to use, and cuts cooking time down by so much that it lowers the barrier to cooking a healthy (and tasty) dinner,” says Laura Ligos, RDN.
“The reason I use my Instant Pot so much is that it’s versatile and decreases the number of dishes I do,” says Kelli Shallal, RD. “For instance, I can batch cook brown rice using the rice cooker setting, and then turn around and pressure cook a batch of chicken for the week or sauté up some ground meat on the sauté setting.” As for meal prep, the steamer is a great tool for cooking big batches of vegetables.
Super Freak The majority of Instant Pot reviews are positive, but are there any cons?
Some food writers and other food experts are a bit skeptical of the Instant Pot.
In a review for Digital Trends, writer Jenny McGrath notes that the Instant Pot isn’t a great idea for someone who has a zillion appliances already—but if you’re in the market for a rice cooker, slow cooker, and so on, it’s a great investment.
Amazon customer Jean Turicik warns that the high-end Instant Pot Ultra is a little bit harder to figure out. “I love my Ultra IP but the company did not do a good job of explaining the differences in the buttons—I had to search by googling and reading lots of blogs.” (But hey, that’s what this Women’s Health Instant Pot guide is for!)
Is the Instant Pot safe?
Believe it or not, the first pressure cooker was actually invented by physicist Denis Papin in 1679 (!), but the appliance wasn’t really popular until World War II. These early pressure cookers used heat from the stovetop, and although they had a steam regulator, a safety valve, and an airtight seal to prevent them from overheating and exploding, they still carried a little bit of risk.
The electric pressure cooker (aka the technology used in an Instant Pot) was invented in 1991 by Chinese scientist Yong-Guang Wang, and is considered a much safer alternative to the original stovetop version. Since the current Instant Pot uses this updated this technology, you can rest assured it’s a very safe appliance.
Is there anything you should NOT cook in an Instant Pot?
It’s easy to assume this magical appliance can do it all. But, please, give your kitchen pal the night off if you want to make:
- Fried Chicken: Getting food to come out crispy is not the IP’s forte.
- Seafood: Fillets bake faster than it takes the IP to come up to pressure.
- Cake: You invested in those cake and cupcake pans for a reason.
- Pasta: There’s no guarantee you’ll wind up with al dente noodles.
TL;DR: It can take a while to figure out how to use the machine, and while it’s great at cooking some things, it’s not perfect for every kind of food. But, overall, it’s fair to say that an Instant Pot can make everyday cooking both faster and easier.
Christine Byrne Christine is a food writer and recipe developer in Durham, North Carolina. Trish Clasen Editorial Project Manager Trish Clasen is the editorial project manager for the Hearst Food Group, where she covers all things food for Good Housekeeping, Women’s Health, Woman’s Day, and Prevention.
The Instant Pot’s ascendance has been so sudden, so swift, so far-reaching, and so utterly dominating that it’s hard to think of another kitchen product in recent history that has so thoroughly cornered the market.
Before the Instant Pot, when I tried to convince people that a pressure cooker was worth buying, their eyes would glaze over. Now that the Instant Pot has taken off so explosively, it seems nearly everyone owns a pressure cooker, even if half of them don’t seem to realize it.
And that, really, speaks to the power of the Instant Pot. People own them, people love them, and people often have no idea what they even are. So let’s set this straight: “Instant Pot” is a brand name for a multi-cooker, and a multi-cooker is basically an electric pressure cooker with a few bells and whistles thrown in for good measure.
What Is a Multi-Cooker?
If you own an Instant Pot, what you really own is a multi-cooker. If you don’t own an Instant Pot, but have been debating whether or not to pick one up, you should know that there are many other multi-cooker brands on the market, some of which are worth considering (see below for our top picks).
A multi-cooker usually includes a base unit, where the control panel and heating element live; an insert, which holds the food itself and can be removed for easy cleaning; a lid with a gasket and valve, for pressure-cooking; and various accessories, like measuring cups and a steaming basket, depending on the model.
As the name implies, what’s most appealing about a multi-cooker is the range of cooking options it offers. It steams! It sears! It simmers! It cooks beans! It cooks rice! It cooks stews! It cooks chili! It makes yogurt! It’s a pressure cooker! It’s a slow cooker! It can make my bed and clean my toilet and rub my feet and sanitize my dentures! All! In! One!
Do you know how we know it can do all those things? Because it has buttons on the front that tell us so!*
* Okay, I lied; it won’t sanitize your dentures. But man, does a multi-cooker make a mean bed.
Let’s cut through this noise. A multi-cooker is really just a couple of things, plus a whole lot of preset modes. It is, in the simplest sense, an electric pot; its lid has a gasket that can seal the pot shut to trap steam and build pressure, and the cooker has sensors in it to automatically control heat and pressure as needed.
Given this, a multi-cooker is really just:
- A pressure cooker. This is its primary function; not only is there usually a manual pressure-cooking option (all of our recommended cookers offer one), but most of the specialized modes on a multi-cooker (rice, beans, stews, chili, et cetera) are also just pressure-cooking modes with preset times and pressure levels.
- An electric pot. When the lid isn’t sealed, the multi-cooker can work like any pot, whether you use it to steam foods or to sear them before stewing or braising.
- A slow cooker. The multi-cooker can hold its contents at a low enough temperature that it also doubles as a slow cooker. There is rarely a reason to use this function, as I’ll explain below.
- A yogurt maker. The multi-cooker’s ability to hold very low temperatures means that, along with acting as a slow cooker, it can also be used to incubate yogurt.
Which Is the Best Multi-Cooker?
We’ve reviewed pressure cookers before—both stovetop models that are strictly pressure cookers, and multi-cookers, which are primarily pressure cookers that can also perform some other tasks. You can read our full review of pressure cookers and multi-cookers to learn more, but the quick answer is that our top pick is the Breville Fast Slow Pro, while our favorite budget pick is the Instant Pot DUO.
What Are Multi-Cookers Really Good For?
Multi-cookers like the Instant Pot are great at making chicken stock, just as all pressure cookers are.
So, now that we’ve roughly defined what an Instant Pot and other multi-cookers really are, and which are our favorites, let’s briefly go over what they’re truly good for, and which features you should just forget about.
Pressure-Cooking and Preset Pressure-Cooking Programs (for Rice, Stew, Stock, Soup, Et Cetera)
By far the most important feature of a multi-cooker is its ability to function as a pressure cooker. Frankly, if everyone would stop calling these things “Instant Pots” and start calling them “electric pressure cookers,” there’d be a whole lot less confusion over what this device is really all about.
A pressure cooker is able to drastically reduce the cooking times of many long-cooking foods by raising the internal pressure of the chamber; as the pressure rises, so does the boiling point of the water inside. At sea level, water boils at 212°F (100°C), and it will not exceed that temperature until there’s little to no available water left. When you raise the pressure, the water temperature can go higher, to around 250°F (120°C); at elevated temperatures, tough meats tenderize, and beans cook through in a fraction of the time.
Braises, like Kenji’s pork chile verde, that would traditionally take two, three, or four hours are done in 30 minutes to an hour. Beans, which can take anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours on the stovetop, can be done in 10 to 20 minutes in a pressure cooker. It’s an incredibly powerful tool, with jaw-dropping results. You can literally get home from work and have a stew on the dinner table in an hour from start to finish, something that is impossible with more conventional cooking methods.
Most of the settings on a multi-cooker are really just pressure-cooker presets: bean mode, rice mode, chili mode, stew mode, soup mode, poultry mode, meat mode, risotto mode, stock mode, and multigrain mode, for example. They can be helpful, but they can also be maddening.
Control panel of the Breville Fast Slow Pro.
If you’re totally new to pressure-cooking and are not following a trusted recipe, the presets are useful in that they can give you some shot at getting results that are good, or at least put you in the ballpark. But those settings are just as often confounding, because there are enough variables to render them useless.
Just look at Instant Pot’s web page on cooking rice using the rice mode. The promise sounds great: Use this device for perfect rice every time. Rice mode can supposedly detect moisture levels and then make real-time adjustments to the heat and pressure levels accordingly.
But the reality is a little different. Read the article, and it becomes clear that the preset is designed to work only with basic white rice; several other types of rice require a manual setting. And that doesn’t include factoring in your elevation if you live well above sea level, the type of water you use, personal preferences for doneness, and more. Unless you eat only one type of rice and just happen to like it exactly as the Instant Pot preset produces it, you’ll soon be overriding the preset and using a manual setting instead.
This is true of all the other preset pressure-cooking modes as well. Variations in recipes, in ingredients, in local conditions, and in your desired results will all play into the time, pressure, and temperature levels you choose; often the recipe itself will be the best guide for what settings to choose. Plus, if you set those parameters manually, you’ll have a better understanding of what works and what doesn’t, which is far better than not understanding why a preset mode didn’t produce the results you wanted.
Beyond variations in specific recipes, multi-cookers themselves also vary from one to the next. There’s no overarching standard that ensures that “high pressure” mode on one cooker is the same as “high pressure” mode on another (although those should be close—somewhere in the 12- to 15-psi range). There’s also no standard that ensures one machine’s meat mode is the same as another’s. Ditto all the other preset modes.
Cooking dried beans using the pressure-cooking mode of a multi-cooker produces excellent results in a fraction of the time.
What this means is that if you live and die by the presets, you really only know how to cook with the specific model of multi-cooker you’ve grown familiar with. Buy a new multi-cooker one day, and you’ll have to relearn its preset quirks all over again. Using the manual mode means you’re more clued in to what pressures and times the cooker is actually using, parameters that are more consistent across models and brands. That makes you a more informed cook, and a more informed cook will have a better track record of success.
But this doesn’t mean that the special pressure-cooking modes do nothing. According to Instant Pot, for example, the cooker uses sensors to manage heat, pressure, and temperature.
Steaming mode, for instance, lets the heating element rip full blast, since there’s no risk of scorching the water on the bottom of the pot. (Foods being steamed should be held aloft in a steamer basket.) For modes that cook thicker dishes, like chili and porridge, the cooker reduces the intensity of the heating element to reduce the risk of foods burning on the bottom.
It’s a nice feature if near-total hands-off cooking is very important to you. But you can also avoid burning your food just as easily by bringing the contents of the cooker to a boil with the lid off, stirring frequently to keep the food from sticking to the bottom. Once the contents have reached a boil, put the lid on and allow the cooker to finish coming up to pressure. Once it’s at pressure, it doesn’t take a lot of additional heat to keep it there. This is how you prevent scorching in a stovetop pressure cooker, and it works fine.
This is one of those modes that work well, but aren’t all that useful unless you’re short on pots and stovetop space. In steaming mode, you simply add some water to the multi-cooker insert; add a steaming rack of some sort (included or not, depending on the multi-cooker model); and then turn the machine on. Set to steaming mode, it will crank the heating element to full blast, working to get the water boiling as quickly and relentlessly as possible, in order to produce enough steam to cook whatever it is you’re cooking. The lid can go on to contain the steam, but it won’t lock—locking would fully trap the steam, leading to pressure-cooking.
There’s no reason not to use this setting, except that you can just as easily steam foods in a pot or wok set over a stovetop burner. Unlike the pressure-cooking mode, which offers dramatic performance differences compared with traditional stovetop methods, the steaming mode on a multi-cooker is just like any other steaming setup.
Searing meat in a multi-cooker works, but not as well as in a traditional stovetop pressure cooker.
Many braise and stew recipes call for browning meats and aromatics before adding the liquid, since browning develops a layer of flavor that can transform whatever you’re cooking from good to great. This makes the searing mode in a multi-cooker very important, but it has its limitations.
In my experience, a multi-cooker doesn’t sear nearly as well as a Dutch oven or stainless steel pot set over a stovetop burner. Multi-cooker inserts tend to be tall and narrow, with a small footprint for the bottom of the pot, and the heating element gets only so hot. This can be a problematic combination, making the multi-cooker prone to overcrowding and thus steaming your food when you want to be searing and browning it.
You can make it work by searing ingredients in very small batches, and by waiting longer for trapped moisture to cook off and true searing to begin, but it’s certainly not the strong point of any multi-cooker I’ve ever used. It’s fine for making a stew or braise from start to finish all in the same multi-cooker pot, but I’d never use a multi-cooker to sear foods that don’t otherwise require being in the multi-cooker.
Slow-Cooking (With Major Reservations)
A: stock cooked in a spring-valve stovetop pressure cooker; B: stock cooked in a multi-cooker, like the Instant Pot; C: stock cooked in an older stovetop pressure cooker with a jiggler; D: stock cooked on the stovetop in a Dutch oven; E: stock cooked in a slow cooker. As you can see, the slow cooker yielded the worst results, with the least flavor and gelatin extracted from the chicken and vegetables.
This is one of the other top selling points of the multi-cooker: It’s a slow cooker, too! But, as any cook worth their salt knows, a slow cooker isn’t really worth its salt.
Yes, they can be left unattended for hours, and even days, with relatively little risk. But with their low cooking temperatures, the food they make is never as good as dishes produced by more traditional stewing and braising methods. Nor are a slow cooker’s results as good as those achieved in a pressure cooker, which can make a better version of the same dish in a tiny fraction of the time. You can learn more in our comparison of slow cookers and pressure cookers.
There’s really no contest. In almost all instances, you should be using the pressure-cooker mode, not the slow-cooker mode.
Similar to the way a multi-cooker uses low heat for the slow-cooker mode, it can use even lower heat to incubate yogurt. Many models will scald the milk first (a common first step in yogurt-making), then switch over to incubation mode.
Does it work?
Yes, indeed it does, though it’s not as hands-off as multi-cooker manufacturers make it seem. You still need to monitor the temperature of the milk using a separate instant-read thermometer, especially when the milk is cooling, since you can kill your starter and ruin your batch if you add it to milk that’s too hot. This is, once again, one of those situations in which the multi-cooker works, but it doesn’t save you much effort compared with scalding the milk on the stovetop.
As for incubating the yogurt, which requires holding the temperature somewhere around 110 to 115°F (43 to 46°C), the Instant Pot I tested recently seemed to do a serviceable job, in that the yogurt successfully set (a sign that the milk never overheated during the incubation phase). I wasn’t able to monitor the temperature of the milk the entire time, so I’m not quite sure just how much it may have fluctuated, but it clearly didn’t fluctuate too much given the results.
What I do know from my initial yogurt testing is that the Instant Pot I tried produced my least favorite yogurt of the bunch—the yogurt ended up set, but it seemed fragile, and it separated into curds and whey easily. It also had a strange metallic flavor, which I haven’t yet been able to explain.
It’s possible that, with more testing and tweaking, I can find my way to better yogurt results using the Instant Pot or another multi-cooker. But I also know from my testing that there are other methods that work very well, including using an immersion circulator, or just going the old-fashioned route of leaving the yogurt in an oven overnight, with the oven light turned on. (After this article was published, I wrote a guide to making yogurt that goes into more detail on my favorite methods.)
So, do you need an Instant Pot or other multi-cooker? If you don’t own a pressure cooker already, then yes, there’s a strong argument to be made for it, because I think all cooks will find a pressure cooker to be a very useful addition to their lives. And if you’re often short on stovetop space, having a stand-alone unit can be incredibly useful.
If you have no interest in pressure-cooking, though? Skip it, because that’s all a multi-cooker really is.
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Slow cookers vs. multicookers (a.k.a. Instant Pots): Which is right for you?
There seems to be little that Americans can agree on these days when it comes to current events, but politics is far from the only arena where we’re divided. Even in the food world, tribalism rears its head. I prefer to focus on what unites rather than divides us. Still, when it comes to must-have cooking appliances, you likely fall into one of two camps: slow cooker or pressure cooker.
“I personally think most people should choose one,” says cookbook author Bruce Weinstein, who with his husband, Mark Scarbrough, has written tomes on slow cookers as well as the still-hot-right-now multicookers, which are most often used as pressure cookers. The fact is, not many people have room for two, and their tastes and lifestyles are probably already pushing them toward one over the other.
How should you choose which is right for you and your food? Here are some things to consider.
Speed. Are you someone who plans ahead and wants your food to cook over a long period, or are you a procrastinator who tends to throw together dinner right before you want to eat it? This, at its core, is the most important factor to consider when choosing between the two types of appliances.
Don’t be fooled into thinking you can have the best of both worlds by choosing a multicooker, like the popular Instant Pot. Most multicookers have one heating element at the bottom of the base, while some slow cookers also include a band that goes around the sides. That, and the fact that multicookers are taller with less surface area than a typical slow cooker, can lead to unevenly cooked food when using the slow-cook function in a multicooker. The Instant Pot, in particular, has a reputation for running hot on the slow-cook setting, Weinstein says.
In an excerpt from her book “Adventures in Slow Cooking” posted on Cooking Light, Sarah DiGregorio notes that the Instant Pot’s locking lid “doesn’t allow for as much moisture loss as a slow-cooker lid. In some circumstances, that means a dish ends up swimming in liquid when you translate a traditional slow-cooker recipe to slow cooking in the Instant Pot.” (You can, however, buy vented glass lids for the Instant Pot that will allow more liquid to evaporate.)
If you are firmly in the slow-cooking camp, keep in mind that modern slow cookers tend to run hotter than vintage models (such as you see above). That’s because of concerns about food safety, Weinstein says. If you throw your meat into a slow cooker in the morning and then let it hang out on warm for a few hours after the cooking process is finished, you may be disappointed, as smaller or leaner cuts of meat can overcook even at the holding temperature.
Space. If you’ve come to the realization that you have room for only one of these large appliances, consider this: Slow cookers tend to have a larger footprint, with their elongated oval shape. Multicookers skew tall and narrow. Evaluate your cabinets and counter space, and decide where the slow cooker or multicooker might fit best.
The Instant Pot is a popular multicooker. (Tom McCorkle for The Washington Post; food styling by Lisa Cherkasky for The Washington Post)
Options. How many functions are you likely to use? That’s also at the crux of this decision.
Slow cookers first and foremost cook food slowly. Programmable models let you choose the level of heat and time, but that’s about it. Browning meat has long been an obstacle when it comes to slow cookers. Some models have inserts that can be used on the stove top, and others offer built-in saute functions. Otherwise, you may need to use a separate pot or pan first for any cooktop work. You may find a few models with settings for steaming and making yogurt, but slow cookers are largely single-use appliances.
Multicookers offer an array of possibilities. Beyond pressure cooking and slow cooking, you may get functions for yogurt, rice, steaming, sauteing and sous vide.
The food. Slow cookers excel at “long-braised stuff,” Weinstein says, such as brisket, oxtail and chuck roast, with time and low heat helping transform meat from tough to tender. Their shape means they can handle larger cuts that might otherwise have to be broken down into small pieces. Weinstein also is a fan of slow cookers for overnight foods, such as steel-cut oats. With a slow cooker, you won’t overcook them.
Like the slow cooker, a pressure cooker can help you tackle large cuts of meat, albeit with a completely different strategy. Rather than a slow braise, the multicooker works by creating a sealed environment. Once it “comes up to pressure,” air and steam can’t escape. When that happens, the boiling point rises from 212 to 250 degrees. That, in turn, makes the food cook faster. The smaller size of the appliance, however, may require breaking down those larger cuts. Dried beans cook in well under an hour. Grain dishes (risotto, oats) end up perfectly chewy and creamy, no stirring required. Even the firmest vegetables can be steamed in a matter of minutes.
Before you buy either appliance, it is important to take think about your priorities and favorite recipes, so you can select the gadget that fits your life- and cooking style.
Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that it takes more energy to boil liquid at high pressure. This version has been updated.
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When you compare multi-cookers Instant Pot IP-DUO60, Fagor 670040230, and Cuisinart MSC-600, all three appear to be excellent products as can be seen from the comparison table above. But they are different in many ways, and you will need to make a choice based on your priorities. Here are a few points that may help you in deciding which of these three cookers suits best your cooking needs: