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The Debate: Slow Cookers vs. Multicookers

Exploring the buzz around multifunction countertop cookers
By
  • Lena Katz

November 21, 2018

Category
Story

To say there’s been recent buzz around multicookers is putting it mildly. The concept of instant meals in one pot surely is popular, and there are many brands on the market that offer this right now.

There’s a frenzy around multicookers of all kinds, which has overtaken Facebook, inspired countless cookbooks, and more or less left the stalwart slow cooker by the wayside. This craze might have already overtaken your Facebook feed. It might have promised you a one-pot solution to weight loss and fitness goals. It might be sitting on your counter, intimidating you with its shiny surface and dozen buttons. After much research and a casual poll of 300,000 (seriously, 300,000) members of a community group called Instant Pot Recipes Only, we’ve decided three things. One, the multifunction countertop cookers have not rendered the slow cooker obsolete. Two, it probably isn’t a magical weight loss tool. And three, it can indeed produce some excellent meals. It has a bit more versatility than the slow cooker, but also requires a bit more effort to master.

With help from this zealous Facebook community of home cooks and expertise from the Studio H kitchen at Hormel Foods, we have come up with the key differentiating factors of slow cookers versus multicookers, what each is best for and cautionary tips to keep you safe while cooking with steam.

How Do Countertop Cookers Work?

  • Slow cookers

    Slow, even heating traps the moisture of the food product, so usually there’s no need to add water. The appliance is temperature controlled, and you’re not supposed to take the lid off during cooking, so little supervision is required. It is typical that meals in a slow cooker take approximately four hours on high heat or six to eight hours at a lower temperature.

Slow Cooker Pros

  • Preferred for “low and slow” recipes like beans and gravies where longer simmering or stewing adds flavor. (Beans don’t even necessarily need to be soaked first like they would if you’re using a multicooker.)
  • Deemed the ultimate “set it and forget it” cooking appliance.
  • Preferred for making party food because it can be kept warm for a long period of time.

Slow Cooker Cons

  • There are fewer functions (though certain late models have a sear function).
  • Though they don’t need to be tended to, it might not be the best idea to leave them on all day when no one is home.
  • Meal prep still requires planning. For instance, if you forget to put the ingredients in the pot before you leave the house or before you go to sleep, there’s no fast fix to the meal.

Best in the Slow Cooker

  • Foods in which flavor will be improved by ingredients stewing together, like gravy and chili
  • Party food like meatballs, artichoke dip and nacho cheese
  • Mulled wine and toddies
  • Less expensive roasts and other cuts of meat
  • Multicooker

    This is the next evolution of the pressure cooker, and it does many things, including slow cooking, pressure cooking and rice cooking. The pressure function works with steam heat (achieved by heating water to 30 degrees over the boiling point) and yes, pressure — measured in pounds per square inch (PSI). These cookers also perform other functions like searing, sautéing, making cakes

Multicooker Pros

  • Extremely versatile, performing all the cooking steps that used to require a stovetop and oven.
  • It can accomplish formerly hands on tasks, like sautéing, with the push of a button.
  • Can make multiple dishes at the same time with “pot-in-pot cooking.”
  • The pressure setting cooks food much faster than any conventional cooking method.

Multicooker Cons

  • There is a learning curve to mastering the multifunction cooker; many believe they need a science lesson before they can cook with it.
  • It has a heating element only at the bottom instead of around the perimeter like slow cookers do.
  • You can’t see or taste the food during the cooking process.
  • While it can sear, sauté and steam, it cannot replace the flavor gained from a grill.

Best in the Multicooker

  • Cooking meats from frozen
  • Moist breakfast breads
  • Rice
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Root vegetables
  • Making yogurt

The Debate

We Asked Real-Life Users

“We still use both. My husband has really embraced the multicooker. I haven’t taken the time to learn to use it, simply because he’s cooking dinner now. Win!”
Kieran from Virginia

“I found the multicooker intimidating. It sat in a box for months. Now I use it a few times a week. Once I remember to account for the warm-up and venting time, I can throw these dinners together very quickly with minimal preplanning.”
Andrea from Wisconsin

“I’ve mostly only cooked chili in the slow cooker and still do. We like the flavor and texture better than in the pressure cooker.”
Dana from Maine

“I use my slow cooker far more than my multicooker. I love them both though. I think they’re just different, and it depends on the recipe. With liners, the cleanup is better in the slow cooker.”
Karen from Illinois

“I was a long-time slow-cooker user. I loved it for simplicity. I got a multifunction cooker (not name brand) a couple of months ago, and I haven’t gone back. The speed and the fact I don’t have to thaw is awesome — I can pull dinner together in 30 minutes or less from frozen.”
Dominique

A Word of Warning

While devotees extoll the simplicity of countertop cookers, these appliances aren’t accident-proof. They all heat their contents beyond the boiling point, and whether it’s the heated surface of a slow cooker or the burst of steam from a multicooker, you should always be extremely careful when checking up on your finished meal. Also, research manufacturer recalls and user reviews before buying any countertop cooker.

Techie Tip

If you’re not intimidated by the latest appliances and features, you might be excited to know that some of the newer models of countertop cookers come with Bluetooth and/or Wi-Fi connectivity, and can be remotely controlled using apps.

Try Them With These Recipes

Spicy Pork Stew

  • Hands-On Time

    15 minutes
  • Total Time

    45 minutes
  • Serves

    10
  • 2 1/2 pounds HORMEL® ALWAYS TENDER® pork butt roast, cubed after excess fat removed
  • 1 large onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 2 celery sticks, coarsely chopped
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, sliced, if desired
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 cup LA VICTORIA® salsa ranchera
  • 1 packet HERB-OX® granulated chicken bouillon
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cups coarsely crushed CHI-CHI’S® tortilla chips
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • to garnish fresh lime wedges
  • to garnish shredded cheddar cheese

Instructions

Place pork and next six ingredients in multicooker.

Dissolve granulated chicken bouillon in water. Add water mixture to cooker. Close and lock lid. Select the meat/stew setting. Cook until warm setting appears. Let stand 10 additional minutes. Release steam according to cooker directions. Remove lid and stir in tortilla chips and cilantro. Squeeze fresh lime juice over and top with cheese, if desired.

Nutrition Info

Calories: 306
Protein: 19g
Carbohydrates: 9g
Fat: 22g
Cholesterol: 0mg
Sodium: 828mg

Thai Peanut Turkey

  • Hands-On Time

    15 minutes
  • Total Time

    more than 1 hour
  • Serves

    6
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
  • 1/4 cup SKIPPY® peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup HOUSE OF TSANG® ginger-flavored soy sauce
  • 1 (24-ounce) package JENNIE-O® all natural* turkey breast tenderloin, cut into pieces
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1 tablespoon grated lime rind
  • 6 cups zucchini noodles, cooked
  • to garnish chopped, roasted peanuts
  • to garnish green onion

Instructions

In slow cooker, whisk together garlic, ginger, peanut butter and soy sauce. Add turkey breast tenderloin pieces. Cover and cook on HIGH 1:45 hours or LOW 2:25 hours. Always cook turkey to well-done, 165°F as measured by a meat thermometer. Stir in cilantro and lime rind. Serve over zucchini noodles. Garnish with peanuts and green onion, if desired.

*minimally processed, no artificial ingredients

Nutrition Info

Calories: 200
Protein: 26g
Carbohydrates: 9g
Fat: 7g
Cholesterol: 50mg
Sodium: 800mg

This article was featured in Issue VI of Inside Hormel Foods magazine. Click here to explore these unique collections of thought-provoking and heartwarming stories, recipes and features on our employees and the different areas of our company, all packaged up in a beautifully designed digital viewer for you.