You will have heard of pressure cookers, slow cookers, and crockpots, but what's the difference?
You may even have one or all of them at your home. These cookers have been around since the 1970s, and they're all popular with busy families who love the taste of a home cooked meal but may not have the time to cook it.
We're going to break down all three of these common kitchen tools and tell you what makes them different and the ways they're the same. We'll end by telling you which option is best to have if you want to buy just one.
The crockpot was introduced to the mainstream market in the 1970s as a bean cooker. It underwent a few changes to enable it to cook other things, and a glass lid, handles, and a new shape were introduced to make it a more convenient cooking option.
The main thing that sets a crockpot apart from a slow cooker is that the heating elements in a crockpot are both in the bottom and up the sides of the unit. The interior of the crockpot features a ceramic or porcelain insert that fits into the crock, and the glass lid fits snugly to trap moisture and heat inside.
Crockpots come with two heat settings that usually range between a low setting of 200 degrees and a high of 300 degrees (approx 90-150 °C). Many models also come with a warming function, and your crockpot works by heating your food evenly and quickly.
Crockpots are excellent for cooking tougher cuts of meat over a several-hour period. They can also be used to cook soups, beans, chili, stew, porridge, and other stocks. The snug glass lid along with the even temperature works to destroy any bacteria, so your food comes out safe.
A slow cooker is also often referred to as a crockpot, and a true slow cooker also contains a glass lid, an insert, and a heating element. The difference between a slow cooker and a crockpot is that a slow cooker's insert is typically made out of metal instead of glass or ceramic.
Your slow cooker will also differ from a crockpot in the way the insert sits on the heating element. Instead of fitting snugly into a walled design as a crockpot insert does, the slow cooker's insert sits on a base that holds the heating element, and it lacks the all-around heating element you get with a crockpot.
A slow cooker usually has several different heating settings that typically range from one to five with one being for warming and five being very hot. Your food will heat more slowly in a slow cooker, and the heat is higher in the bottom of the device than on the top.
People tend to use slow cookers for things like soups and stews or recipes with smaller pieces because the device doesn't have even heating, and the bottom is prone to scorching if something sits directly on it. The heat and the moisture that gets trapped by the glass lid helps to kill bacteria and safely heat your food.
Pressure cookers are another popular cooking tool that busy families use. However, a pressure cooker varies drastically from both the slow cooker and the crockpot. A pressure cooker is used to cook foods very quickly, and it can cook a whole chicken within forty minutes.
These appliances come in both electric and stovetop models, and they're usually made of metal with a metal top that locks into place. The air-tight lid locks on, and it won't open until the contents inside cool back down as a safety precaution.
This device cooks your food using steam and liquid, and any liquid that is present when you start cooking will turn into steam at a very rapid pace and cook your food to a safe temperature. You can choose your temperature setting, and the range you'll have depends on what setup you purchase.
People who purchase pressure cookers can use it for a variety of food. You can cook vegetables, roasts, whole chickens, or a variety of soups and stews very quickly. The high heat and pressure will heat your food through, and work to kill any bacteria while it does so.
Which is Better?
Whether you end up choosing a slow cooker, pressure cooker, or a crockpot depends on how much time you have and what types of things you plan to cook in it.
A crockpot is the better choice if you're cooking things that are going to sit directly on the bottom of the unit, or if you want all-over even heating. This works best because the heating element spreads up the sides and along the bottom, and this can help you avoid scorching your food.
If you plan to watch your food a little more closely and you want more variety of heating options, a slow cooker may be the better option. The bottom of your device will always be hotter, but this can help keep soups and stews warmed through.
A pressure cooker is a good option if you want to cook your food very fast and cook it all of the way through at one time. The locking lid ensures the steam and liquid will stay inside your cooker, and it reduces the risk of burns when you use it.