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While slow cookers and pressure cookers can often be used to cook the same sorts of foods—like tough meats—the way they go about that cooking is completely different. Slow cookers are designed to cook food gently and for a long time. Pressure cookers are designed to cook food at a temperature that’s higher than the normal boiling point (because of the pressure), and they cook much faster.
Slow cookers tend to be less expensive since they don’t need a lot of technology for their most basic tasks. The slow cooker is ideal when you want to cook your food unattended, or even when you’re not at home. Electric pressure cookers tend to be more expensive than slow cookers, since there’s a bit more technology and engineering involved. For safety, the lid locks on during pressure cooking and it won’t unlock until pressure has been released. Because of that, it’s best to cook recipes that don’t require tasting during the process and that don’t need ingredients to be added at different times. Once you’ve decided which appliance is right for you, here are the best options on the market.
Best Overall Slow Cooker:: Hamilton Beach Programmable Set & Forget 6 Quart Slow Cooker
Not only does this slow cooker have the basic functions, but it also has a few special features that you won’t find in other slow cookers, like the temperature probe than can be used to check the temperature of a roast while it cooks. This is a programmable slow cooker with a keep-warm setting, but you can also opt to ignore the programming and use it manually.
The oval shape of this 6-quart cooker means there’s plenty of room for a roast or large chicken. It’s designed for travel, with clips that hold the lid on and a gasket for a tight seal. Sturdy handles make it easy to carry. It also includes a spoon that clips to the cooker, so it’s handy for serving.
There are three settings: program (which allows you to set a cooking time), probe (which uses the temperature probe to determine doneness), and manual (which lets you set high, low, or warm temperatures without setting a cooking time).
Best High-End Slow Cooker: All-Clad Programmable Oval-Shaped Slow Cooker
This cooker has a polished stainless steel exterior that looks pretty enough to sit on a buffet table to serve warm foods. It holds 6½ quarts, which is plenty for large roasts and whole chickens, and it has a timer that will run for up to 26 hours.
It has a black ceramic insert that can be removed for serving or cleaning, and a glass lid so you can see what’s cooking. The digital display is easy to read, and it has sturdy stainless steel handles for carrying the cooker.
Best Pressure Cooker: Instant Pot Lux 6-In-1 Programmable Pressure Cooker
Instant Pot is one of the most popular electric pressure cooker brands on the market, and this 6-quart model is one of its best sellers. It has buttons for multiple functions: pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, sauté/browning, yogurt maker, steamer, and warmer. It can cook at high or low pressure and has three sauté temperatures for versatility.
The cooking insert is stainless steel, so it’s dishwasher safe, but not nonstick. The included rack can be used for steaming or for easy removal of larger foods from the cooking insert.
The automatic keep-warm feature can hold cooked food at a safe temperature for up to 10 hours, and the manual keep-warm feature can hold food for almost 100 hours. If you want to start the cooking at a later time, you can set a delayed start for up to 24 hours.
This model is also available in 5- and 8-quart models.
Best Multi Slow Cooker: Instant Pot Aura Pro 11-in-1 Multicooker Slow Cooker
Instant Pot gained its popularity with its electric pressure cookers, but since then, the company has branched out, producing many popular products like this innovative slow cooker and multicooker. It has an 8-quart capacity, so there’s plenty of room for soups, stews, and roasts, and the 11 smart programs make it simple to choose sear/sauté, bake, slow cook, steam, stew, sous vide, roast, yogurt, rice, multigrain, or keep warm.
It’s also possible to set a custom cooking time and temperature, so it can handle any recipe, while the time-delay start means dinner can be done at the chosen time. And if people are running late, the keep-warm function holds the food at serving temperature when cooking is done. For simple cleaning, the cooking pot, lid, and roasting rack are all dishwasher safe.
Best Smart Pressure Cooker: CHEF iQ Smart Cooker
Fans of smart cooking appliances will love this pressure cooker with its Bluetooth and WiFi connectivity, along with 100+ guided recipes and how-to videos. Meanwhile, new cooks, and those unfamiliar with pressure cooking will love all of the help it offers. A cooking calculator helps the cook figure out the time and temperature for perfect results every time, while a built-in scale means ingredients can be measured by weight. Integrated sensors even instruct how much liquid is needed.
When cooking is done, the cooker automatically releases pressure, so there’s no need to handle the steam release valve. Besides the guided recipes, this has 300+ presets in the cooker and 1000+ presets in the cooking calculator on the app. When updates are available, this cooker will handle updating itself, so it will always have the newest information.
"The app offers remote control of most of the cooker’s options and includes even more smartness than what’s available on the front panel." — Donna Currie, Product Tester
Best with Air Frying: Ninja Foodi 8-Quart 9-in-1 Deluxe XL Pressure Cooker & Air Fryer
Air fryer or pressure cooker—which one deserves space in the kitchen? With the Ninja Foodi 9-in-1, there’s no need to make that decision. The attached lid has a heater and fan for air frying, while the removable lid is used for pressure cooking. It has all of the features you’d expect in a traditional electric pressure cooker including searing, baking, steaming, and making yogurt, but it can also air fry, broil, bake/roast, and dehydrate.
Not only does this have two different functions, but both of those functions can be used for the same recipe. For example, it’s possible to pressure cook a whole chicken, then air fry it to brown and crisp the skin, or reverse the functions and air fry to brown some stew meat before pressure cooking it to tenderness. The included rack is reversible to bring food closer to the fan or keep it further away, and it can be used to cook food in two layers for more space.
Best Large Pressure Cooker: Crock-Pot 10-Qt. Express Easy Release 2097588
Sometimes you just need more space. This 10-quart pressure cooker, made by the folks at Crock-Pot who pioneered slow cooking, is great for large families, for people who entertain a lot, and for people who like to cook ahead and freeze meals to serve later. This cooker has presets for brown/sear, sauté, slow cook, simmer, boil, yogurt, keep warm, meat/poultry, beans/chili, soup/broth, rice/grains, dessert, steam, and sterilize. It also has manual control of temperature and pressure, along with a delay timer.
A steam release dial on top of the cooker allows safe and easy release of steam, keeping hands away from the steam valve. A progress bar on the front display makes it simple to check the pressurization cycle, so there’s no need to guess whether it’s achieved pressure. This model is available in two different finishes and is also available in smaller sizes for folks who don’t need the extra cooking space.