Pressure cookers and slow cookers both offer cooks a convenient way to get a meal on the table without a lot of fuss. The big difference between the two is a simple one. Pressure cookers cook food quickly while slow cookers cook food – wait for it – slowly.
Pressure cookers are built like ordinary pots and pans except their lids are fashioned to clamp tightly in place, creating a seal that traps steam inside the pot. Unable to escape, the steam builds up pressure, raising the temperature inside, which causes food to cook about 70% faster than on your stovetop. The steam also helps keep food moist. Most pressure cookers are built to be used on your stovetop, but newer electric models can simply be placed on a countertop and plugged in for power.
Slow cookers cook food gently for anywhere from 4 to 10 hours. They are never used on the stovetop and once you load your ingredients and plug them in, you can safely leave them unattended so your food can cook overnight while you sleep or while you’re out of the house during the day. Long, slow cooking yields tender, falling off the bone meats and poultry, making slow cookers a perfect cooking method for inexpensive cuts of meat which are usually tough. Another slow cooker convenience is the ability to safely and easily transport food.
Meats are best seared for better flavor and color before being cooked in either a pressure cooker or crock pot. Both slow cookers and pressure cookers don’t allow liquids to evaporate, so don’t add more liquids than necessary. Cut food into pieces that are close in size so they’ll cook at the same speed. Never fill either more than two-thirds full. Read your slow cooker or pressure cooker’s instruction manual for info and tips specifically for your brand and model, but here are a few general tips for using both.
Pressure Cooker Tips:
Watch out for steam. Escaping steam means your pressure’s too high. Lower the heat until it dissipates.
Don’t try to remove your pressure cooker’s lid too quickly. If you’re in a hurry, run the lid under cold water, being careful not to let water into the valves.
If you’re cooking on an electric burner, let your burners do double duty. Set one at high and a second at low. Start cooking on the high burner then switch to the lower temperature once you’ve reached pressure. This will help prevent burning.
Using a pressure cooker at high altitude? You may need to extend your cooking times slightly.
Pay attention to time! Because pressure cookers work so quickly, it’s important to start timing your food as soon as you reach full pressure.
Slow Cooker Tips:
Don’t peek! Removing the lid even for an instant can add 20 minutes to your cooking time.
Add dairy products, like milk, cream or sour cream, in the last few minutes of cooking. They’ll curdle if added too soon.
Add ground herbs in the last 30-45 minutes of cooking to prevent them from becoming bitter.
Never place your slow cooker’s ceramic insert immediately into cold water after cooking. The drastic temperature change may cause it to crack.
This recipe for Thai Chicken Wings is a wonderful example of how simple slow cooker recipes can be. The wings make a tasty finger food (Super Bowl party, anyone?) or a simple dinner served over fried rice.Don’t store food in your slow cooker’s ceramic insert in the fridge. The insert’s built to hold and conduct heat and it can take up to 24 hours for it to cool to a safe temperature.
- 4-lbs chicken drummettes or party wings, thawed
- 1 cup Thai sweet chili sauce
- ½ cup hoisin sauce
- ¼ cup plum preserves
- 2 teaspoons rice vinegar
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon honey
- Garnish: sesame seeds and sliced green onions
- Place chicken in crock pot.
- Whisk remaining ingredients together in a medium bowl and pour over chicken.
- Cook 4 hours on high. (A longer cooking time may cause chicken to fall off the bone when serving.)
- Garnish wings with sliced green onions and sesame seeds.