Welcome to our new food series called Eat It Up, where we share the kitchen gadgets and foods that we can’t cook without.
Lately it seems like everyone is cooking with an Instant Pot (we guiltily own two models), so it was only a matter of time before slow-cooker giant Crock-Pot released its version of a multicooker, the Multi-Use Express Crock ($69). But does their version live up to the classic? We spent a few weeks playing with several of the settings on the Express Crock to compare it to the OG Instant Pot. Beyond its attractive price point (the Express is $10 cheaper than the basic Instant Pot model), here’s what we discovered about the Express Crock.
The Design and accessories
The Express Crock comes with the cooker, a metal trivet, a rice spatula, cookbook, and instruction booklet — everything to equip even the most beginner multicooker user. This matches Instant Pot, with the exception of the trivet, which is sold separately as an accessory. Design-wise, the Crock looks strikingly similar to the IP. The round aluminum cooker contains a nonstick bowl; a heavy, lockable lid; and a digital time display with a variety of setting buttons on the side of the cooker.
The big difference is the Crock-Pot does not have as many audible cues (Instant Pot has various sounds to to let you know when the lid is locked in place, the pot is up to pressure, and the cook time is over), but the Express Crock, like the Instant Pot, does provide a beep when the cook time is over. While we miss all the sing-songy bits of the Instant Pot (which sounds a bit like a Tamagotchi), we love that the nonstick bowl in the Crock-Pot is easier to clean and that the CP includes a metal trivet (an essential, often-needed item when pressure cooking).
The cooking experience
With the Express Crock, you can slow cook, pressure cook, sauté, and steam just like you can with the Instant Pot. The preset buttons of the Express Crock are also comparable to the Instant Pot, with options like meat/stew, beans/chili, rice/risotto, yogurt, poultry, dessert, soup, and multigrain.
We made delicious tender chicken and runny-yolked eggs on the trivet using the poultry and steam settings. Our pressure-cooked chili thickened to perfection (unlike our experience with Instant Pot, which always ends up with watery chili). The brown/sauté function will caramelize mushrooms and meat in record time without sticking to the bottom. Yay for not accidentally burning crud to the bottom of pans! The pressure cooker lid locks in more moisture during the slow-cooking method, so it’s not quite the same as a standard Crock-Pot slow cooker (the lid releases moisture as it bubbles away).
Our only misstep occurred with brown rice. The rice setting did not work, and our other experimental efforts yielded undercooked (i.e., crunchy) and overcooked (i.e., soggy) results. Yogurt is another setting best left to the Instant Pot as it wasn’t as rich and thick using Crock-Pot’s preset.
We love, and I mean, LOVE our Instant Pot, but the Express Crock has its pluses. It’s a slightly cheaper option and delivers quality pressure-cooked foods most of the time. As with any new appliance, there is a learning curve, and the preset buttons can’t always be trusted. If you do end up investing in the Express Crock, remember to err on the side of caution when you are first starting out. You can always cook something longer — but once it’s overcooked, it can’t quite be fixed.
Find more pressure-cooker recipes by following Brit + Co on Pinterest.
(Photos via Brittany Griffin / Brit + Co)