Are you too overwhelmed to figure out which is better, pressure cooking or slow cooking? Pressure cooking and slow cooking offer a convenient and easy way to get dinner on the table without the hassle. If you are wondering when to use a pressure cooker vs a slow cooker, let me help you choose.
The major difference between the two types of cooking methods is one thing – time. Read on for cooking tips and hacks to using both methods.
What is pressure cooking?
Pressure cooking is the fastest way to cook, as it cooks 70% faster than regular cooking methods (in a hands off way). It heats the liquid in a recipe which builds steam and creates pressure because the steam cannot escape resulting in a higher temperature and faster cook time.
What is slow cooking?
Slow cooking uses moist, gentle heating to cook your foods over a few hours. Slow cooking takes longer (4-8 hours depending on if you choose low or high heat settings).
Why do I love pressure cooking?
It really locks in flavors due to the higher pressure cooking.
It preserves nutrients due to shorter cooking time.
You don’t have to be the best meal planner to use it (can cook from frozen or overnight).
Why do I love slow cooking?
Its great for dump and go types of meals where all ingredients are added to the pot and then you come back at the end of the day and it’s done.
It’s great to come home to dinner already done.
When should you choose slow cooking?
One of the main appeals of slow cooking is easy meal prep. Slow cooking works best if you want to come home to a hot-cooked meal that is already done. Or if you want to keep food hot for a party without burning. Or you want to free up your stove top or oven.
Slow cooking is also good for those mornings where you have a few extra minutes to put the ingredients into the pot and set it to slow cook. One thing recipes with meat often call for is to “sear” or “saute” the meat before adding to the slow cooker, to save you time and clean up, I recommend using this pot because you can sear on the stove top and then make the pot a slow cooker. It’s all-in-one.
Slow Cooking Prep Tips
Here are some quick tips to help you maximize this cooking method:
Thaw the meat ahead of time, cut your ingredients to a uniform size (ex: meat, potatoes, and carrots), and stick them in your slow cooker.
If you’re making a pot roast or a stew, place the meat at the bottom followed by the spices, vegetables, and dry ingredients.
Then, add the necessary liquid as called for in the recipe. Be careful not to overfill. Cover it.
Higher fat meats are best for slow cooking, so choose your cut of meat carefully. Often this means you can purchase a cheaper cut of meat and still serve something delicious. For example, meats like short ribs and chuck roast become tender when they’re slow cooked unlike pork tenderloin, which dries out when cooked over a long period of time. The bigger and more fat the meat has, the longer it needs to be cooked. So, if you’re cooking something like pork shoulder, cook it low and slow for about 8 hours, or until the meat starts falling apart.
Meat Hack: Give the meat a quick sear before you put it in the slow cooker. This will help the meat develop a more complex flavor and prevent the meat from adding excess grease to your finished dish. And for easy clean up, use a pot that goes from stove top to slow cooker all in one, like the Pampered Chef Rock Crok. I love it.
Seasoning Hack: Always use dried herbs, rather than fresh as a slow cooker can overcook fresh herbs and leave a burnt taste in your mouth. And put your herbs and spices on the top of the meat for the most flavor.
Liquid Hack: If your recipe calls for broth or stock, consider adding bouillon cubes or paste instead and mix it with less water than suggested.
Dairy Hack: Always add dairy ingredients at the end of the cooking time. Otherwise you will have curdling issues.
Layering Hack: As I shared, the order of layering is first meat, then herbs/spices, vegetables, then other dry ingredients and liquid. Always have your meat on the bottom as it needs the most thorough cooking.
One Final Tip: Whenever you’re slow cooking, resist the urge to remove the lid and stir the ingredients. If you remove the lid while it cooks, you’ll release lots of heat. That means you’ll have to extend your cook time to ensure everything is evenly cooked.
Don’t underestimate the power of smell – when you open the door to your house and you smell that meal cooking, it triggers positive emotions and anticipation at the end of a busy day. There are tons of recipes for breakfast staples like oatmeal and quiche that can be made in a slow cooker.
When should you choose pressure cooking?
Pressure cooking works best if you need to cook a fast meal. It also is really great for building flavor, because you can sauté or sear right in the pot before adding other ingredients. And if you need to make a variety of dishes like oatmeal, soup, pasta or even cheesecake, the pressure cooker will offer a lot of versatility.
To help you determine when pressure cooking is best, ask yourself “Which night of the week is your busiest night?” Do you have a recurring meeting or event that always happens that same night of the week? Do you have a night of the week that feels chaotic with evening responsibilities at home? Whatever night tends to feel the most time-constrained at dinner is the night to schedule your pressure cooker night.
Pressure Cooking Prep Tips
Here are some tips to maximizing this cooking method:
Add enough liquid. When you use a pressure cooker, you need to have enough liquid in the pot for it to come up to pressure and cook the food properly. The rule of liquids in pressure cooking is to always add at least 1 cup of liquid unless the recipe states otherwise. The liquid will help create enough steam to cook the meal.
Make desserts and side dishes in the pressure cooker. If you have a ceramic pot for your pressure cooker, you can make a main dish and a side dish at the same time. It’s perfect for one-pot meals. But did you also know you can make desserts in a pressure cooker? Get a springform pan to make fuss-free cheesecakes and custards that won’t crack.
Don’t open the pressure cooker while cooking. Most modern electric pressure cookers make it impossible for someone to open them while pressure is building on the inside. But, regardless, you shouldn’t attempt to open one while it’s in use. If you need to open your cooker while food is cooking, turn it off first and release the pressure before opening.
Don’t release the pressure before it’s time. Follow recipe steps when it comes to releasing the pressure. There are two options, the recipe will tell you to either manually release the steam or wait for it to naturally release. If you release the pressure too early, your food might not be completely cooked.
Don’t overfill the pressure cooker. The pressure cooker isn’t meant to be filled all the way. Don’t fill the pressure cooker with food past the max level, which is usually ⅔ full. Overfilling may clog the steam-release valve or develop too much pressure.
Recipes I love using it with are Spaghetti, Chili, Chicken Wild Rice Soup, Chicken Burrito Bowls, Macaroni & Cheese and many others. (These favorites are in my new book!)
There is a place for both pressure cooking and slow cooking in the kitchen and the major difference is the time you have. And if you are low on space, get a pressure cooker that can also be a slow cooker, like the one I have. It’s versatile and space saving.
Be sure to check out my Pressure Cooking 101 article if you are new to pressure cooking. And here’s a review of the one I own – the Pampered Chef Multi-Cooker.
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