Both Instant Pots and slow-cookers have seen their moment in the spotlight, and now that the dust has settled, you’ve finally decided to see what all the fuss is about. The only problem? You can’t decide between the two, and considering the investment of counterspace alone, you want to make the right choice. So in the battle of Instant Pot vs. Crock-Pot, which one wins? What’s the difference and which one is right for you? Here’s our advice.
But first, what is an Instant Pot?
Instant Pot is actually the brand name for an electric multicooker, but it’s most well-known for being an electric pressure cooker. It produces steam, which is trapped inside the pot to build pressure and cook your food extremely quickly. While manual pressure cookers are old hat, the Instant Pot has only been around since 2010. The most basic model has six functions: pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, sauté pan, steamer and food warmer (but some fancier models have up to ten functions, including yogurt maker, cake maker, egg cooker and sterilizer). Instant Pots are good for saving time on foods that would otherwise take ages to cook, like grains or tough cuts of meat.
What’s a Crock-Pot?
On the other hand, Crock-Pot is a brand name for a slow cooker, which maintains a constant low temperature to simmer your food slowly over a long period of time (for example, you can start cooking a meal in the morning and have it ready at dinnertime). Slow cookers have been around since the early 1950s, but the name Crock-Pot was introduced to the market in 1971, around the same time that slow cookers became popular. Crock-Pots are ideal for recipes that call for a long, moist cooking method, like braises, soups and stews.
What’s the difference between an Instant Pot and a Crock-Pot?
The biggest difference between an Instant Pot and a Crock-Pot is the speed at which the two appliances cook food. An Instant-Pot can cook food much faster than a Crock-Pot and even quicker than conventional cooking methods too—according to the Instant Pot manufacturers, it can cook a meal up to six times faster than a regular, stove-top cooking time.
Other than that, both appliances have inner pots that are removable and washable; both come in six-quart, eight-quart and ten-quart sizes; and both are capable of cooking one-pot meals that would feed a crowd (or make a lot of leftovers).
Can an Instant Pot be used as a Crock-Pot, or vice versa? Do you need both?
Here’s the thing: An Instant Pot can be used as a slow cooker (that’s one of its many functions), but a traditional two-setting Crock-Pot can’t be used as a pressure cooker. It can cook things slowly on a low temperature, or on a high temperature.
That’s not true for all Crock-Pot models, though. While a plain old slow cooker will never be able to pressure cook, Crock-Pot has recently released its own line of multi-cookers, which have pressure cooker settings, plus as many other cooking features as an Instant Pot.
We don’t think you need to rush out and buy both appliances—who even has the counterspace for that? But when comparing the standard Instant Pot vs. Crock-Pot, the Instant Pot is more versatile, since it can slow cook too.
You should buy an Instant Pot if…
You like to go fast. (We kid, kind of.) Instant Pots are user friendly, convenient and can cut cooking time in half for many time-consuming recipes. If you enjoy cooking large, tough cuts of meat into melt-in-your-mouth bliss (like pork shoulder or short ribs), the Instant Pot does a superb job with very little effort. It’s also a game-changer for homemade stock, which normally requires hours of tending on the stove, and impeccably cooked rice.
You should buy a Crock-Pot if…
You want to be able to toss everything into a pot in the morning, press a button and have a cozy dinner waiting for you at the end of the day…or you make a lot of chili. Crock-Pots are also good for cooking large cuts of meat, but they take as much time as an oven, if not more. Crock-Pots do tend to be less expensive—you can buy a small manual one for $35—and it’s slightly less complicated to use, since there are only two settings.
Our Instant Pot Pick: Instant Pot 10-in-1 Duo Evo Plus 6-Quart Programmable Electric Pressure Cooker
The bestselling Instant Pot model is our favorite, because it has plenty of bells and whistles without being too complicated for beginners to use. It comes with all the usual Instant Pot features (pressure cook, slow cook, rice, sauté/sear, steam and warm) plus new settings like sterilize (which is handy for canning and even baby bottles) and sous vide, to indulge your inner chef. The six-quart size is large but not so big it will hog your counter, the inner pot is dishwasher safe and while it’s more expensive than other models, it also comes with enough features to make the price worth it.
Our Crock-Pot Pick: Crock-Pot 8-Quart Programmable Slow Cooker
This is the classic automated slow cooker, with two cooking settings and a keep warm function that kicks automatically in when the food is done. We like the eight-quart capacity because it makes ten-plus servings (leftover soup city) and the digital timer makes it easy to see how much time is left. The inside pot and glass lid are both dishwasher safe and the timer goes up to 20 hours, if you’re really in no hurry.
Ready to cook? Here are 8 Instant Pot and Crock-Pot recipes to try:
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