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Pressure cooker vs crockpot (slow cooker)

If you used both, which do you prefer and why?

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  1. Pressure cooker (stovetop type only), for the following reasons: (1) Requires virtually no advance planning. (2) Provides almost instant gratification. (3) Items can be browned in the same pot they're cooked in, thus creating fond and reducing the dishwashing burden. (4) Makes great quick-steamed vegetables. (5) Modern types need minimal liquid to come up to pressure, so end product isn't soupy. (6) Dried pasta can be cooked together with sauce--no waiting for a big pot of water to boil. (7) Doubles as a regular pot. (8) Takes up no counter space. (9) If you have a gas stove, can be used during a power outage.

    I use my slow cooker to keep things warm and to make caramelized onions. If I didn't have it, I wouldn't miss it.

    Hope this helps ...

    16 Replies
    1. re: Miss Priss

      Agree with you on all points. Would you be so kind as to share your method for caramelized
      onions.

      1. re: paul balbin

        I think I heard of the caramelized onion method in a long-ago Chowhound thread, but the underlying source may have been one of Lora Brody's cookbooks. It's very simple: slice up as many sweet onions (such as Vidalias) as you can fit into your slow cooker; add a stick of butter; turn the slow cooker to the low setting; and leave it alone, covered, for at least 10 hours. Not exactly the same as onions caramelized in a pan the traditional way, but pretty good, and can be put to all kinds of uses.

        -- After writing the above, I did a quick Google search and came up with this: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

        Most of the reviewers liked the results, and but a few found them unsatisfactory.

        1. re: Miss Priss

          thank you so much. I will try this out.

          1. re: Miss Priss

            I did pretty much the above, after about 8 hours i finished them in three batches in a pan, but only took a few minutes to finish the process.

        2. re: Miss Priss

          Miss Priss, how are you cooking pasta in the sauce? I've not been able to figure out an easy and efficient way to cook pasta in my pressure cooker, but I've been trying to do it in water..

          1. re: mattwarner

            It's always a bit improvisational, but here's the basic method: Heat 1-2 tbs of olive oil in the cooker and briefly saute chopped garlic and onion and maybe a pinch of red pepper. If adding other ingredients besides pasta and sauce, add them now and saute briefly. Add a pound of short pasta, such as penne or fusilli. Pour in either a large jar of pasta sauce or a large can of pureed tomatoes (if the latter, add additional seasonings at some point). Add enough liquid (water, stock, wine) so pasta is just about covered, but not submerged. Stir. Bring the pot quickly up to high pressure. To avoid scorching, keep the heat as low as possible while maintaining pressure. Cook for about 6 minutes, then quickly release pressure. If pasta is underdone, put the lid back on the pot and let it sit for a few minutes off the heat. This is similar to the method recommended by Laura at hippressurecooking.com, except she uses low pressure. Miss Vickie's site also has some tips: http://missvickie.com/howto/pastas/pa...

            Hope this helps!

          2. re: Miss Priss

            I agree 100%. Pressure cookers and slow cookers are basically the same thing - moist, enclosed cooking - but at a different temperature. I have both but my pressure cookers (4) get used all the time while the slow cooker is relegated to a few special uses (like the Cooks Illustrated Au Gratin Potatoes; easy to transport in the slow cooker). I find that some foods can seem a bit "flat" with either method, but seasoning fixes that. I also feel that food that comes out of the slow cooker tastes like it has been boiled to death - and it was! The primary selling point of the slow cooker seems to be that you can throw in raw items and, after work, come home to a home-cooked meal. The problem is that most of us are away from home for longer than the cook time specified and by then the food is a flavorless mush. For the most part, why chance it when a pressure cooker can have beef stew on the table in 20 minutes or tuna casserole (including pasta) on the table in 4?

            I also strongly advise any newbies against electronic pressure cookers. Once the electrics go out, you're left with a worthless piece of junk. A good pressure cooker (I strongly recommend you invest in Kuhn Rikon) will last at least a lifetime.

            As a final consolation prize to slow cookers, if you prefer them do yourself a favor and go on eBay to buy one that was made in the US or Japan in the 1970s. They may not have the newest gadgetry but they'll last forever and - most importantly - they cook at a lower temperature than those currently manufactured. I suppose the cooking temperatures were raised for safety reasons but that higher temperature virtually guarantees washed out results.

            1. re: PMMitchell

              I like my electric pressure cookers because I don't have to monitor my gastop stove, and I can just walk away from it, and it automatically turns off. It also has a delay feature, so if you did want to have food ready when you came home from work, it's there too. I think there are pros and cons to both stove top and electric pressure cookers. :-)

              1. re: Tudor_rose

                I understand completely the advantage of the electric versions. It takes the guess work out of the process and it is very convenient. I bought one and loved it...but it broke after about a year, shortly after the warranty ran out :(

                Electric pressure cookers often have non-stick interiors. That's a nonstarter for me. They may be easy to clean up but, again, once that coating starts to go... I also have read on Miss Vickie's website and elsewhere that electric pressure cookers do not generate the same amount of BTUs as a stove top, and that means they take quite a bit longer to get up to pressure. Her website tested a stove top model vs. the Wolfgang Puck electric and the difference in time to achieve full pressure was 7 minutes vs. 20. If convenience is more important than speed, I suppose that may not be an issue - but then you might as well use a slow cooker! And finally, most electric pressure cookers do not actually achieve the full 15 psi of pressure on high, only 10-12 psi. That means that, again, they'll take longer to achieve a finished product because the pressurized environment only gets to 235 degrees as opposed to 250 degrees in a full 15 psi model. That's quite a difference when the whole point is to raise the boiling point of water above the at sea level temperature of 212. Although that may only translate to a matter of minutes for many things (or half an hour for something like corned beef), it also requires that one adjust recipes developed for stove top pressure cookers to the slower electric version. This is a big issue for me - when dealing with cooking something for say 6 minutes, there is not a lot of wiggle room and I don't like having to guess because that's not convenient at all.

                1. re: PMMitchell

                  I think the biggest problem with electric pressure cookers is the fact that they do not all go up to 15 PSI, and that really stinks. I can't complain about mine though, I love them (I have two of the same model). I just hate recipes that take 8 hours to cook under long slow heat to get tenderized. The pressure cooker does this in a fraction of the time.

                  1. re: Tudor_rose

                    So now that we've all agreed that we love pressure cookers (electric or not) and also slow cookers, what's your favorite recipe???

                    1. re: PMMitchell

                      This might sound ridiculous, but although I've had my pressure cooker for years and use it regularly, I can count on one hand the number of times I've repeated a recipe. It's true that many of dishes are variations on a few basic themes, but I love dreaming up and exploring new recipes enough that I don't like squandering a night on something I've made before.

                      That said, there are definitely highlights. My favorite impress-the-guests pressure cooker dish is osso bucco. I generally just riff off Lorna Sass's Cooking Under Pressure, using the PC first to brown the shanks and then to saute a cup or two of chopped onions and a few cloves-worth of minced garlic, using about 1/2 c of red wine or sherry to deglaze the pan. If I'm feeling fancy I'll saute the other vegetables (usually carrots, sliced mushrooms and celery) for a few minutes, too; otherwise I'll just put them all in with a 1/2 c of beef broth (ideally from an earlier PC preparation) the browned shanks, and whatever herbs tickle my fancy (usually basil and oregano or thyme and rosemary). Put on the lid, raise the pressure to 15 psi, and cook for 18 minutes. This dish is better than any restaurant osso bucco I've tried (and given my fondness for this dish, that's saying something).

                      I also use (dried) hominy as a basis for all manner of dishes. The stuff "flowers" beautifully in a pressure cooker after 45 minutes or so, and it's good for so, so much more than just pozole. I mix it with beans, or concoct impromptu stews (squash and chipotle peppers and tomatoes or sweet potatoes and parsnips and red peppers or any other combination of soup-friendly vegetables you might dream up), or just leave it plain as a wonderfully chewy base for all manner of sautted vegetable toppings. (Hominy is traditionally eaten with meat, but I find the dish so filling on its own that I prefer using it to round out vegetarian dishes.)

                      Another favorite is mashed or pureed beans. It sounds dull, but nearly any white bean, cooked for a little longer than usual in the PC, can be easily stirred into an amazingly rich and creamy puree, that, with a little added stock and a handful of herbs, makes a surprisingly filling and decadent-tasting dish. (It's one of those dishes that might make more sense as a side; I find it so hearty, though, that I generally just dream up a topping and serve it as a main course.)

                      And last but not least, there are regional dishes. Pressure cookers make the most amazing Russian borscht, with meltingly tender chunks of meat and still-firm beets (and carrots and celery root, which I generally substitute for potatoes). They also do wonderfully with nearly any curry you can imagine, from dahl to lamb to rajma.

                      1. re: PMMitchell

                        Oh! And one more-- hummus! I don't really think of it as a dish, but I make it at least once a week. (It's faster to make it in a PC than to go to the store and buy it, and my husband and I eat the stuff with a spoon.) Chick peas, tahini (homemade or store-bought), garlic, olive oil, lemon, and whatever spices your heart desires-- once you've had fresh hummus, the packaged kind doesn't quite satisfy.

                  2. re: Tudor_rose

                    Here's a link to an article from the LA Times (2011). It rates 5 electric PCs. Note that of the 5 rated, only 2 actually can reach 15 psi. One, the Fagor, only goes up to 9 psi! http://articles.latimes.com/2011/dec/...

                2. re: Miss Priss

                  I got sucked into buying a PC a year or two ago but have only used it a few times. It's great for things like beans or stews, but I find that most foods require my constant attention to make sure I don't overcook them. Drives me crazy. I LOVE my two old SC's! They were real life savers when I was a working single mom and I still use them after 30 years. I completely agree with PMMitchell--find an old one from a yard sale, preferably Rival. (Missing the lid? Any lid that fits will do.) It has a wrap-around heating element and a low, barely-simmering temp (on low) that yields perfect results and can be left on for 12 hours without ruining the food. No worries if you get home late. A good alternative to a SC is either in the oven at 175, or on the stove at a setting low enough to give you that barely-simmering condition that tenderizes without drying out. For excellent PC tips, two good sites are http://missvickie.com/ and http://www.hippressurecooking.com/

                3. I find that stuff cooked in a pressure cooker can taste sort of flat. The extra time in a slow cooker or Dutch oven gives flavors time to develop and come together (too much time in either and you can get glop with no flavor or texture). A plus for the slow cooker is that it is low on drama...load it up, set the temp and walk away.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: MikeB3542

                    Really? I do braise and saute some ingredients before putting them in the pressure cooker to finish off, and I think that may help. I never used a slow cooker, but what I do make in the pressure cooker tastes really flavorful.

                  2. I use both, but the PC is the pot I grab most often. I can make something with no recipe in the PC. For the slow cooker, I generally must seek out or try out a dish using a recipe. Using the PC, is more intuitive for me. I don't cook a great variety of stuff in the PC, but what I do cook, I do with confidence.

                    1. I definitely prefer a pressure cooker for all the reasons that Miss Priss mentioned. Also, I am a vegetarian and eat lots of beans so it' s an incredible time saver for me.

                      I posted this same question on my Facebook page (The Veggie Queen) and almost everyone choose the pressure cooker. Perhaps that's because I teach people how to use, and love, their pressure cookers.

                      I call the pressure cooker, the slow cooker on steroids. If you don't want food to taste great quickly, then the slow cooker might be for you.

                      Regarding the counter space, as Miss Priss says the stove top doesn't take up space but many people love their electric pressure cookers. I do not. But if you like set it and forget it cooking, then an electric pressure cooker might be good for you.

                      Thanks Miss Priss for always having great answers regarding pressure cookers. I need allies.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: The Veggie Queen

                        TVQ, you flatter me! Your website, blog, videos, and book are all wonderful resources for any PC user, whether novice or veteran. Keep on teaching, writing, and advocating!

                        1. re: The Veggie Queen

                          That would be great. I like using beans in some dishes, like falafel, but it takes too long to prepare dried beans. I will try that. Didn't think of it.

                        2. The reason I asked is because I only have a pressure cooker, but so many of my friends use slow cookers, and I couldn't figure out why. I was wondering if I was missing out on some special type of cooking method, but apparently, from most of your responses, I'm not. I just made excellent pulled pork in my pressure cooker which was very flavorable (I salt/spice cured it for two days prior to pressure cooking). I don't get the appeal with slow cookers. If someone else wants to chime in and defend slow cookers, please do so.

                          8 Replies
                          1. re: Tudor_rose

                            The appeal of a slow cooker is walking in the door after a long day (or overnight - I make congee in the slow cooker) and have dinner ready and waiting. A PC cuts down on time, but it doesn't eliminate it.

                            1. re: Savour

                              All cooking takes time. I wish for a magic wand many times.

                              1. re: sueatmo

                                That's true. The question becomes when does the time happen. If you're looking at something like a braise, you have about 3 options -- time required in the morning to prep (crockpot), time required midday to prep (stovetop or oven) and then cook, time required in the evening to prep and cook (Pressure cooker). Which method you use depends on where you have the cooking time in your schedule. (Unless you have an open schedule, then you use the method that gives the best results. Which for most things (but not all) is probably not the crockpot.

                                1. re: Savour

                                  Agree. And I had trouble with the morning prep when I worked. I got rid of my slow cooker and didn't buy another until after retirement. I wish I had it now. I also wish I had my PC. Twice in my temporary digs I had to cook beans from scratch. The flavor simply wasn't the same.

                                  1. re: Savour

                                    All true, but I will note that I often do prep for the slowcooker in the evening. Sometimes even cook overnight, put in the fridge, then reheat at night. That works very well for meat sauce, pot roast, soups, etc.

                                    1. re: tcamp

                                      I've done that, too. Made a burrito or enchilada filling in the slow cooker over night, then in the morning built a casserole, then popped it into the oven when I got home.

                                      1. re: tcamp

                                        I'm not even remotely a morning person, so in the long-ago days when I was trying to make friends with my slow cooker, I thought it would be a good idea to prep the food in the evening and either let it cook overnight, or refrigerate it overnight and let it cook the next day. But more often than not, my next thought would be, "As long as I'm prepping all this stuff, why not just pressure-cook it NOW, and get the whole thing over with?" And that was usually what I ended up doing. When it comes to food, I really don't like to wait!

                                2. re: Tudor_rose

                                  For some reason, I feel the need to defend the slow cooker. I own both - a stovetop PC and 2 slow cookers. I use them all but I find the slow cookers great for days when I need a dinner that 4 people can eat at different times. Set it up in the AM or the night before and each of us has soup, chili, whatever when we get home. Applesauce, oatmeal overnight w/o worry. Also, if I'm doing alot of cooking, a dish that cooks off on the side w/o needing the stovetop is nice.

                                  That said, I'm making artichokes in the PC tonight! It sounds like you don't need a slow cooker if you're happy with what you've got - if you change your mind, buy one at a thrift store. There are oodles of perfectly good ones sitting there for $5.