In recent years the Instant Pot has really made a name for itself. Lots of people swear by it, and so much so that they have shelved their Crock Pot for good. If you never gave yourself over to the Instant Pot, you might still be wondering what all the hype is about. Or maybe you tried it and either didn’t love it or didn’t see the appeal. Comparing the Instant Pot vs Crock Pot, there are differences, similarities, and some things you should know before committing to one over the other.
Instant Pot vs Crock Pot: How They Work
Everyone grew up with a Crock Pot in the kitchen. Most people’s moms probably made thousands of dinners in the Crock Pot over the course of your childhood. Typically, they were meals where everything (usually meat, vegetables, and a liquid that was probably a can of soup) could be thrown in there in the morning and then put on the table in the evening. They were (and still are) super convenient, especially for families where both parents worked. Nothing is better than coming home from a long day and being able to get dinner on the table with little to no work.
A Crock Pot is a slow cooker. Heat comes from the base and works its way up the sides. The inner vessel of the Crock Pot is slowly heated all over. The heat then starts working its way into the food inside, cooking it slowly. The lid traps moisture released from whatever food is inside during the cooking process, creating condensation inside the Crock Pot. The low, consistent temperature helps retain that moisture during cooking, making it great for tough pieces of meat.
Typically, Crock Pots have a warm, low, and high setting. Using the low setting means you can put everything in there in the morning and let it cook all day. The high setting means it will cook a little faster, usually around four hours. The high setting works great if you want to throw everything in there at lunchtime and have it ready by dinner.
In the Instant Pot vs Crock Pot debate, one of the major differences is that while the Crock Pot is a slow cooker, the Instant Pot is a multi-function pressure cooker. You can use the slow cooker function on the Instant Pot and essentially use it just like the Crock Pot, but it can take slightly longer for things to slow cook in the Instant Pot because it takes time for the inner vessel of the Instant Pot to heat up. The real magic of the Instant Pot though is the other settings.
The pressure cook setting is how Instant Pot made a name for itself. The difference between a slow cooker and a pressure cooker is that a pressure cooker works by cooking food in a pressurized environment. The inner pot will heat up and build up pressure inside the pot. Then, it will stay at that heat and pressure setting for a set amount of time – either that you set or based on whichever program setting you select. Once the timer is done, the heat turns off. The pot will cool down and the pressure will start to release naturally or you can release it manually. Once the pressure is released, it’s ready and you can open the lid.
The important thing to know about the Instant Pot is that you have to be very careful about the pressure. It has to be released all the way before you can open it. The good thing is that there are lots of safety measures and indicators to alert you when it is safe. You can manually release the pressure or let it release on its own (which takes longer) and there is an indicator to show you when the pressure has been fully released.
Another cool thing about the Instant Pot and part of the appeal for some people in this Instant Pot vs Crock Pot question is that there are lots of presets and some cool settings on the Instant Pot. It has a number of programmed setting options that take the guesswork out of how much time you should pressure cook something.
There are programmed options for soup, poultry, rice, beans, and more. Each button is set to a default time. For instance, the beans setting defaults to high pressure for 30 minutes. However, you can adjust that time or even the pressure setting if, for instance, you want your beans to be firmer or if the type of bean you are cooking needs more or less time. The rice setting on the Instant Pot lets you use it essentially as a rice cooker. There is even a programmed yogurt setting if you are adventurous and want to try your hand at making your own yogurt.
The Benefits of Instant Pot vs Crock Pot
As you are thinking about whether you want an Instant Pot vs Crock Pot, here are a few things to consider. Rather than just a slow cooker like the Crock Pot, an Instant Pot is a true multi-cooker. It pressure cooks and slow cooks, makes yogurt, functions as a rice cooker, sautés, and can steam things like fish or vegetables. There are also recipes out there for making bread in an Instant Pot!
Another benefit to an Instant Pot vs Crock Pot is that it can cook a seriously elaborate meal in no time. Something that would usually take all day to cook – like pork ribs or a brisket for instance – can be done in not much more than an hour in an Instant Pot. You can also cook a delicious stew, beans, or pretty much any type of grain three times faster than it takes to make with another cooking method. The instant pot vs crock pot cook time is practically incomparable. A Crock Pot can cook all of these things too, but it will still take four to eight hours (or more) to do it.
The Instant Pot also has a bunch of safety measures and sensors in place to cook your food safely, whether you are home or not. Old school, manual pressure cookers can be a little scary to use if you do not know what you are doing. What if the pressure builds up too much? What if the pressure has not released all the way? How do I know that I cooked the food inside long enough? The Instant Pot takes away all those scary questions.
Built-in sensors detect if the lid is locked or not. If the lid isn’t properly locked, the Instant Pot will not start to build pressure. Then, once it does start to pressurize, the lid automatically locks into place and will not open until the pressure is released. Sensors also help the Instant Pot regulate the pressure inside so it will never build up too much pressure and explode or anything crazy like that.
There are other safety measures in place too. For instance, if the inner pot of the Instant Pot gets too hot, the display panel will display a “burn” message and the Instant Pot will automatically stop the cooking process to keep your food from burning. This message usually means there is burned food stuck to the bottom of that inner pot. It does not mean your food is ruined, it just means that you need to fix the problem before you continue cooking.
This can happen if you used the sauté setting to brown your meat before adding in the other ingredients and didn’t add enough liquid after you switched from sauté to the next cooking method (like slow or pressure cook). It can also happen if you are trying to pressure cook and did not add enough liquid or if you did not close the steam valve and all the liquid escaped.
All these safeties make some people prefer the Instant Pot vs Crock Pot. You do not have to worry about whether or not it will overheat or burn everything to a crisp.
An Important Note about the Instant Pot
It is important to note that while the Instant Pot can cook a package of chicken thighs along with some potatoes and carrots in a matter of 15 minutes on the pressure cook setting, it needs time for the pressure to build. It can take anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes for the pressure to build inside the Instant Pot, depending on what is inside. This is in addition to the cooking time. The more liquid there is in the Instant Pot or the colder the ingredients are (say, you put an entire frozen chicken in there), the longer it takes to come up to pressure.
Some recipes are good about outlining the actual time you need for the recipe with both an estimated time it will take the Instant Pot to come to pressure and the cook time, but others are not and will only tell you the amount to set the cook time. You may find a 15 minute chicken recipe, but know that 15 minutes is the cook time and there will be additional time needed for the pressure to build.
Frequently Asked Questions about the Instant Pot vs Crock Pot
Is Instant Pot or Crock Pot better?
One is not necessarily better than the other. A crock pot does its job perfectly. It is made to cook things slowly over time. The Instant Pot can cook things more quickly using the pressure cook function. It is important to remember that the Instant Pot will need time for the pressure to build. Even with that time added, an Instant Pot can still cook something quicker than a Crock Pot.
How is an Instant Pot different from a Crock Pot?
While a Crock Pot is a slow cooker, an Instant Pot is a pressure cooker as well as a slow cooker.
Will an Instant Pot replace a Crock Pot?
The short answer is yes. You can use an Instant Pot like you do a Crock Pot. The benefit to an Instant Pot is that it also has a lot of other functions as well.
The Crock Pot is great. It has been around forever and there are so many new and updated models that they are getting smarter and more programmable. The Instant Pot, however, gives you some added functionality. It takes a little time to get used to because it is not the same as using a Crock Pot. So do not rush to throw out your Crock Pot (unless you want to). Chances are when you look at the Instant Pot vs Crock Pot, you will at least find that it is worth having one of both tucked away in your cabinet.
WANT TO READ MORE?
Check out 10 Instant Pot Recipes for Vegans for more Instant Pot advice, tips, and tricks.
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