Masthead
AN APPLIANCE SMACKDOWN!

Slow Cooker vs. Pressure Cooker

In one corner, the well-loved veteran slow cooker. In the other, the newly popular but misunderstood pressure cooker. The winner? You decide.


By FAITH DURAND
photographs by YUNHEE KIM PROP STYLING BY CARLA GONZALEZ-HART food styling by JERRIE-JOY FOR PAT BATES AND ASSOCIATES

Slow or Speedy: Meet Your Appliance Match

A Pressure-Cooker Primer

Don’t be afraid of this appliance! It’s just a sealed pot that traps steam as the food cooks. The pressure (and the temperature) rise inside the pot, making food cook fast. In the old days pressure cookers got a bad rep for exploding, but today’s models are totally safe and could change the way you cook.

Here’s how it works. A pressure cooker has three phases:

PRESSURIZE
Steam builds inside as the sealed pot is heated.
COOK
The pot comes to pressure; this is when the cook time begins.
RELEASE
Pressure cookers can slowly let off their pressure after cook time is complete with a natural pressure release. Or a cook can manually release the steam pressure (whoosh!) by opening a valve or pushing a button.

Today’s models make the process easy and hands-off. Electric pressure cookers let you set the time and walk away. Stovetop pressure cookers work like electric ones do, except that the heat is applied by cooking over a stove burner, not by the machine.

Our Food Editor’s Top Pots

SAFETY PICK Fagor’s Twirlock 7-quart pressure cooker features a turn-to-lock handle and a heat indicator that alerts the user when the stovetop heat needs to be lowered. $100; macys.com

BROWNING BEAUTY All-Clad’s mixed-metal 5-quart Gourmet slow cooker is equipped with an in-unit browning setting, so cooks can truly make one-pot meals. Bonus: It will look pretty on your countertop. $270; all-clad.com

UTILITY PLAYER For those who want it all, the Instant Pot Duo60 delivers with seven functions, including pressure-cooking, slow-cooking, and browning. It can even make yogurt! $120; amazon.com


RECIPES

Make dinner on your time (for once): last-minute in the pressure cooker or all day in the slow cooker. These recipes play both sides; cook them fast or cook them slow.

Barbecued Ribs

If you want to use a storebought shortcut, look for a jarred barbecue sauce without too much sugar, such as Stubb’s Original.

Active | 15 minutes Total (pressure cooker) | 1 hour 10 minutes Total (slow cooker) | 5 hours 15 minutes (high) or 10 hours 15 minutes (low) Makes | 8 servings

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 Tbs. brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. dry mustard
  • 1 tsp. smoked paprika
  • ½ tsp. garlic salt
  • ½ tsp. black pepper
  • 2 racks (3 to 3½ lbs. each) baby back ribs, trimmed and cut into 4 pieces
  • ½ cup beef broth
  • 2 tsp. liquid smoke (optional) 2 cups Zingy Homemade Barbecue Sauce, or store-bought sauce

MAKE IT

1. In a small bowl stir together the brown sugar, kosher salt, dry mustard, smoked paprika, garlic salt, and pepper. Pat the ribs dry with paper towels and sprinkle with the spice mix.

MAKE IT FAST

2. Place a steamer insert in a 6-qt. electric or stovetop pressure cooker. Add the beef broth and the liquid smoke, if using. Place half of the barbecue sauce in a separate bowl and generously coat each section of the ribs with the remaining sauce. Place the ribs in the pressure cooker.

3. Lock the lid in place. Set electric cooker on high pressure to cook 30 minutes. For stovetop cooker, bring up to pressure over medium-high heat; reduce heat enough to maintain steady pressure. Cook 30 minutes. Remove from heat. Let the pressure release naturally. Open the lid carefully.

4. Preheat broiler. Line a baking sheet with foil. Place ribs on the baking sheet and coat with remaining barbecue sauce. Broil for 3 to 5 minutes or until sauce is heated through.

MAKE IT SLOW

2. Place the beef broth and liquid smoke, if using, in a 6-qt. slow cooker. Place half of the barbecue sauce in a separate bowl and generously coat each section of ribs with remaining sauce. Add ribs to the slow cooker.

3. Cook for 9 to 10 hours on low or 4½ to 5 hours on high or until ribs are very tender.

4. Broil ribs as instructed in Step 4 above.

NUTRITION PER SERVING 562 calories; 41g protein; 32g fat (12g sat. fat); 23g carbs; 0 fiber; 21g sugar; 2mg iron; 97mg calcium; 888mg sodium

Zingy Homemade Barbecue Sauce

Active | 5 minutes Total | 5 minutes Makes | 2 cups

For easiest mixing, warm the ketchup, molasses, and mustard in the microwave.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1¼ cups ketchup
  • ¼ cup mild-flavor molasses
  • 3 Tbs. Dijon-style mustard
  • 1 Tbs. cider vinegar
  • 1 Tbs. packed brown sugar
  • 1 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Tbs. smoked paprika

MAKE IT

  1. Whisk all ingredients together. Sauce keeps in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.

NUTRITION PER 2 TBS. 41 calories; 0 protein; 0g fat (0 sat. fat); 10g carbs; 0 fiber; 9g sugar; 0 iron; 15mg calcium; 269mg sodium

Moroccan Lamb Stew

For even more flavorful meat, brown it before cooking. If you’re using a stovetop or electric pressure cooker, you can do it right in the pot. If slow-cooking, use a skillet with olive oil.

Active | 15 minutes Total (pressure cooker) | 1 hour 5 minutes Total (slow cooker) | 3 hours 45 minutes (high) or 7 hours 15 minutes (low) Makes | 6 servings

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 lbs. lamb stew meat, cut into 1-in. chunks, trimmed of fat
  • 3 Tbs. pomegranate molasses (optional)
  • 2 Tbs. purchased Moroccan seasoning (ras el hanout), such as McCormick Gourmet Moroccan Seasoning
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. orange zest
  • 1 tsp. lemon zest
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced (1 cup)
  • 6 cloves garlic, smashed
  • ¾ cup beef broth
  • 4 cups cooked Israeli couscous Sliced almonds, toasted Fresh mint leaves (optional)

MAKE IT

1. In a large bowl combine the lamb chunks, pomegranate molasses (if using), Moroccan seasoning, salt, orange zest, and lemon zest.

MAKE IT FAST

2. Place the onion and garlic in a 6-qt. electric or stovetop pressure cooker. Pour in the beef broth. Stir in the lamb mixture. Lock the lid in place. Set electric cooker on high pressure to cook 25 minutes. For stovetop cooker, bring up to pressure over medium-high heat; reduce heat to maintain steady pressure. Cook 25 minutes. Remove from heat. Let the pressure release naturally for 15 minutes, then quick-release any remaining pressure. Open the lid carefully. Serve with couscous, almonds, and mint, if using.

MAKE IT SLOW

2. Place the onion and garlic in a slow cooker. Pour in the beef broth. Stir in the lamb mixture. Cook for 6 to 7 hours on low or 3 to 3½ hours on high or until lamb is tender. Serve with couscous, almonds, and mint, if using.

NUTRITION PER SERVING (with couscous) 393 calories; 37g protein; 10g fat (3g sat. fat); 37g carbs; 1g fiber; 1g sugar; 3mg iron; 42mg calcium; 392mg sodium

White-Bean Chili

Let everyone top their own bowl with sour cream, cilantro, smoked paprika, and/or chopped scallions.

Active | 20 minutes Total (pressure cooker) | 2 hours Total (slow cooker) | 11 hours 20 minutes (low) Makes | 8 servings

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 lb. dried navy beans (2 cups)
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 medium red sweet pepper, chopped
  • 1 4-oz. can diced mild green chiles
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 Tbs. chili powder
  • 1 Tbs. ground cumin
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 8 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 8 oz. (6 large leaves) collard greens, ribs removed and leaves chopped (3 cups)
  • 1 14.5-oz. can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • ¼ cup cornmeal
  • 2 Tbs. cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp. salt

MAKE IT FAST

  1. Combine the navy beans, onion, red pepper, green chiles, olive oil, chili powder, cumin, and garlic in a 6-qt. electric or stovetop pressure cooker. Add the vegetable broth. Lock the lid in place. Set the electric cooker on high pressure to cook 20 minutes. For the stovetop cooker, bring up to pressure over medium-high heat according to manufacturer’s directions; reduce heat to maintain steady pressure. Cook 20 minutes. Remove from heat. Let the pressure release naturally for 15 minutes, then quickly release any remaining pressure. Open the lid carefully.
  2. Stir in the collard greens, tomatoes, cornmeal, cider vinegar, and salt. Lock the lid in place. Set the electric cooker on high pressure to cook 15 minutes. For the stovetop cooker, bring up to pressure over medium-high heat; reduce heat enough to maintain steady pressure. Cook 15 minutes. Remove from heat. Let the pressure release naturally for 15 minutes, then quickly release any remaining pressure. Open the lid carefully.

MAKE IT SLOW

  1. Combine the navy beans, onion, red pepper, green chiles, olive oil, chili powder, cumin, and garlic in a 6-qt. slow cooker. Add the vegetable broth. Cover and cook on low for 9 to 10 hours or until the beans are nearly tender.
  2. Stir in the collard greens, tomatoes, cornmeal, cider vinegar, and salt. Cook 1 hour more or until the beans are tender.

NUTRITION PER SERVING 290 calories; 15g protein; 5g fat (1g sat. fat); 49g carbs; 12g fiber; 8g sugar; 5mg iron; 162mg calcium; 617mg sodium