3 Times a Pressure Cooker Is Better than a Slow Cooker (and 3 Times It’s Not)

(Image credit: Christine Han)

Over the past several years the electric pressure cooker has seen a huge resurgence in popularity. Some cooks have even jumped at the chance to let it replace the slow cooker, but not me. Both of these appliances have made life in the kitchen easier and more convenient, but for different reasons. Make sure both of these tools are helping you in the kitchen by taking advantage of what they do best.

(Image credit: Kelli Foster)

The Pressure Cooker Is Best for Quick Cooking

This is the appliance to lean on when time is not on your side. Foods that normally take a while to cook on the stove, in the oven, or in a slow cooker take a fraction of the time when the pressure cooker is involved. It relies on high-pressure steam heat to cook foods quickly.

Think of the pressure cooking as the appliance that offers a helping hand to speed up the cooking process when you need to get dinner on the table quickly. It comes to the rescue when you didn’t get around to planning dinner (think: a pack of chicken thighs still sitting in the freezer). There are also some foods that are better cooked in the pressure cooker than the slow cooker.

3 Foods to Cook More Quickly in the Pressure Cooker

1. Beans: While there are several methods for cooking dried beans, the pressure cooker delivers the fastest results. In an hour (sometimes less!) you will be face to face with a pot of tender and creamy beans. Pre-soaking will speed up cooking slightly, although it’s not necessary with this cooking method.

2. Rice and grains: When you need rice or grains in a rush, the pressure cooker delivers. It cooks rice and hearty grains, like steel-cut oats, in less than half the time it would normally take on the stovetop or with a rice cooker. That’s pretty huge when you think about the lengthy cook time for brown and wild rice.

3. Eggs: Not only does the pressure cooker have the power to deliver a big batch of soft- or hard-boiled eggs cooked just the way you like them, but in less than 10 minutes they’re also extra easy to peel and super creamy.

(Image credit: Christine Han)

The Slow Cooker Is Best for Low-and-Slow Cooking

Just like its name implies, the slow cooker excels at low, slow cooking. It uses moist heat to cook food (and drinks!) over an extended period — anywhere from a few hours, up to 10 hours — to essentially braise food. While it also offers a mostly hands-off approach to cooking, it’s the appliance to lean on when you have the luxury of time, but want to keep your cooking mostly hands-off.

While the slow cooker wins big points for its ability cook during the night or through the day to deliver dinner when you get home, there are certain foods it’s better-suited to cooking.

3 Foods to Cook More Slowly in the Slow Cooker

1. Inexpensive tough cuts of meat: The slow cooker’s low-and-slow approach transforms otherwise tough cuts of meat, like pork shoulder, big roasts, and brisket, into meat so tender it falls apart with the touch of a fork. When time is on your side, this is the way to cook meats like pulled pork, carnitas, and pot roast.

2. Whole chicken: The slow cooker is the (not-so-secret) secret to cooking the most tender and juicy whole chicken ever. The super-simple, hands-off cooking and low, slow cook time delivers a bird with meat that practically falls off the bone. Perfect for when you want a whole mess of shredded chicken for taco night!

3. Tender vegetables: While the pressure cooker can tackle hearty veggies, like cabbage, more tender vegetables don’t fare quite as well in the volatile cooking environment. Soft tomatoes, eggplant, delicate leafy greens, corn, and even fruit like fresh berries benefit wonderfully from the gentle heat of the slow cooker, turning them into lush, concentrated versions of themselves that are ideal for sauces, soups, and purées.

Get inspired: Slow-Cooker Ratatouille