With the craziness of everyday life, simplifying mealtime is a must. But with so many different cooking appliances to choose from, how do you determine which one is right for you?
We’ve broken down the most popular countertop cooking devices so you can spend less time researching—and more time indulging.
As the name implies, a slow cooker uses a lower temperature to cook foods over a long period of time. The countertop cooking appliance typically includes a metal pot that sits on top of an electrical heating unit. Preparing a meal in a slow cooker may require some prior planning, given its slow cook time, but once the ingredients are inside, you can “set it and forget it” for four to 10 hours, depending on the recipe.
The gentle heat of slow cooking not only extracts flavor, it also makes food incredibly tender. Tougher cuts of meat are especially well-suited to this type of cooking, as are stews and soups, which can be left to simmer and won’t lose the essential vitamins and minerals in vegetables that cook out through other methods.
Looking for recipe inspiration? These Slow Cooker Hawaiian Pork Chops can turn any weeknight meal into the perfect, sweet and tangy island escape.
While often used as the generic term for a slow cooker, the Crock-Pot® is a brand—and one of our most iconic kitchen appliances. Unlike other slow cookers, the Crock-Pot® uses a stoneware pot that sits inside a surrounding heating element. It also has fewer settings—low, high and, for some models, a “keep warm” function. (Most other brands include up to five settings that cycle on and off.)
Crock-Pot®s also are great for soups, stews, ribs, pork roasts and more. Consider giving your slow cooker/Crock-Pot® a spin with this Smokehouse Pulled Pork Sandwich, which requires just 10 minutes of prep!
A pressure cooker helps food cook faster by building up high steam pressure inside a sealed pot. When cooking something wet, like a stew, this process raises the boiling point of the water. When using it for things like meat, this same pressurization forces liquid into the food, helping it tenderize faster.
The pressure cooker’s efficiency makes it highly versatile. The one downside: You can’t touch or taste the food along the way, given that lifting the lid would break the pressurized seal.
A multicooker consists of an inner pot set over a heating element and most commonly functions as a pressure cooker, slow cooker and sautéing device. Some models even fry, bake and boil.
Few recipes are off-limits here. Large cuts of meat that would require a long cooking time in an oven can take just minutes in a multicooker. The appliance’s wide range of settings and features also ensures that grain dishes like risotto or steel-cut oats come out with a perfect consistency—all without stirring. How’s that for convenience?
The Instant Pot® is to a multicooker and pressure cooker what the Crock-Pot® is to a slow cooker—the brand name begs the difference, but the process remains the same.
An Instant Pot® delivers delicious home-cooked meals by raising the boiling point of water to cook food faster, but it includes a stainless steel chamber (for more even heat) and a wider range of settings. Advanced features allow home cooks to control cooking with a smartphone or customize results to personal taste.
When shopping for a new countertop cooking appliance, the most important factor to consider is your lifestyle. If you spend a lot of time planning out your meals but want a device that can do the heavy lifting for you, a slow cooker may be your best bet. If you typically make last-minute mealtime decisions, a multicooker or pressure cooker may serve you better. Any countertop appliance that can do all—or most—of the work is a huge win in our (cook)book.
Hungry for more cooking tips, tricks and delicious recipes?
Sign up for our monthly e-newsletter.