Slow Cooker vs. Instant Pot® (+recipes)

Everything you need to know about the season’s most-loved appliances.
Published September 28, 2022

When it comes to hands-off cooking, slow cookers and Instant Pot® are true workhorses in the kitchen. If you’re considering buying one or the other, or currently own both, you may be wondering about the pros and cons of each appliance. As it turns out, slow cookers and Instant Pot® differ in several major ways but also share similarities—which means owning both might not be essential, depending on the type of food you like to cook. Not only do we cover the main strengths of the Instant Pot® and the slow cooker, we’ve also included our best recipes that can be made using these appliances.

The Instant Pot®: Pressure Cooker Function

The Instant Pot’s biggest claim to fame is its pressure cooker function, which reduces the cooking time of sauces, soups, and stews by more than half the time it would take to prepare them on a stove top. The lid of the Instant Pot® securely locks in and the appliance’s steam lock valve prevents the infamous volatility associated with traditional pressure cookers.

The pressure cooker function of an Instant Pot® can also be used to quickly prepare raw grains and legumes that would typically need long periods of time to cook. This setting is particularly handy for hardy grains such as brown rice, farro, wheat berries, and steel-cut oat and dried beans, lentils, and peas. To make the process even easier, use the Instant Pot’s “delay start” function and prep the ingredients ahead of time (note: this setting isn’t available for all models.)

Another major perk of owning an Instant Pot® is that it allows you to sear and brown meat before changing the setting to pressure or slow cook. Unlike a slow cooker, which generally requires browning be done in a skillet and then transferred back to the crock, the Instant Pot® allows for both functions using the same appliance. Short ribs, lamb, brisket, and pork take as little as 30 minutes in a pressure cooker, potentially shaving hours off the cooking time when the meat is prepared in a slow cooker or Dutch oven.

Slow Cooker: For When Low and Slow is Best

Slow cookers are fantastic tools for braising meat and poultry over long periods of time. If you don’t own a slow cooker but have an Instant Pot®, simply use the slow cook setting. Some, although not all, recipes will still call for browning the meat before leaving it to slowly braise—a step which can easily be completed using a skillet. If you’re a fan of pulled pork sandwiches or shredded chicken nachos, slow cookers will do the work for you while you sleep or while you’re at work.

If you love the idea of a hot, filling breakfast but don’t necessarily have time to prepare one first thing in the morning, slow cookers can be set the night before and left to cook while you sleep. From creamy steel-cut oats to custardy stratas and other egg dishes, the low and consistent heat of a slow cooker produces delicious results every time.

Did you know that both Instant Pots and slow cookers can be used to make homemade yogurt, jam, dips, broth, corn on the cob, dessert, rice, and warm beverages?