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Multi-cookers are round- or oval-shaped countertop kitchen appliances that have an electric heating element. They can cook many foods without an additional heat source.
These appliances are commonly used to cook roasts, soups, stews, dips, desserts, and more.
Two of the most popular multi-cooker brands are Crock-Pot and Instant Pot. You’ve probably heard about one or both of these brands, but you may still wonder how they differ and which is better overall.
This article reviews the pros and cons of Instant Pot and Crock-Pot products to help you decide which is best.
You may hear “crock pot” and “instant pot” used interchangeably. Though these terms have become generic names for many types of multi-cookers, they are specific brand names.
The two brands are similar but have notable differences.
Crock-Pot was introduced in the 1970s as one of the first slow cookers for home use.
Although the brand now includes multiple types of cookers, the original design was for slow cooking. A slow cooker like the original Crock-Pot is used to simmer meals at a set temperature for an extended period of time.
Today, Crock-Pot continues to sell slow cookers but has also introduced pressure cooker and multi-cooker product lines.
Here’s how the types of cookers differ:
- Slow cookers. Food remains at normal pressure levels while being cooked at a steady temperature over an extended period.
- Pressure cookers. A higher-than-normal pressure allows food to heat and cook more rapidly as long as the lid isn’t removed during the process.
- Multi-cookers. Food may be cooked using a variety of techniques, such as sautéing, steaming, roasting, and baking, as well as slow, pressure, and sous vide cooking.
While Crock-Pot doesn’t carry standalone air fryers or rice cookers, its slow cookers can be used to cook rice. The company also sells a crisping lid for its multi-cookers that works as an air fryer.
Instant Pot basics
The Instant Pot brand debuted in 2010. Like Crock-Pot, it sells multiple types of cookers, including multi-cookers, pressure cookers, rice cookers, and air fryers.
Instant Pot offers a few more types of cookers than Crock-Pot does. Its unique products are:
- Rice cookers. This appliance is specifically designed to perfectly boil or steam rice and other grains like quinoa, barley, and oatmeal.
- Air fryers. This appliance uses convection to circulate hot air quickly and continually, resulting in a crisp outer layer on the food.
Unlike Crock-Pot, Instant Pot doesn’t currently sell a standalone slow cooker — though their multi-cookers do have slow cooker features.
Crock-Pot and Instant Pot are two brands that manufacture various countertop cooking devices, such as slow cookers, pressure cookers, multi-cookers, and air fryers.
Although the Crock-Pot and Instant Pot brands have many similarities, one brand might be a better choice for you depending on what foods you want to cook — and how.
Here are some of the most popular cookers sorted by brand.
1. Best slow cooker: Cook & Carry Slow Cooker (6 quarts)
If you’re looking for a slow cooker that you can easily pack up and take on the go, the Cook & Carry slow cooker is designed specifically for travel.
This 6-quart (5.7-liter) cooker serves up to 7 people and can be purchased with a digital programmable timer. The cooker has 3 handles and a locking lid with an airtight seal to ensure your meal won’t splash out or spill during your travels (1).
Still, the appliance must be plugged into an electrical outlet to continue warming. The insulated, sealed crock will keep food warm for some time while unplugged, but without an electrical outlet, you won’t be able to reheat your meal once arriving at your destination.
A slow cooker like the Cook & Carry also limits the types of meals you can prepare. Since liquid or water is necessary to create heat and steam in a slow cooker, you’ll need to choose a recipe that includes liquid.
Be aware that it takes an average of 4–8 hours to prepare a meal in a slow cooker.
2. Best pressure cooker: Express Crock Easy Release (10 quarts)
This pressure cooker boasts all of the perks of a slow cooker and more.
In addition to prepping slow cooker recipes that need liquid, you can use the sautéing and searing functions to make dishes that don’t need any liquid.
The Express Easy Release has more than 14 programmable, built-in settings that allow a variety of cooking techniques, including slow cooking and pressure cooking. You can even sterilize utensils and baby bottles in this cooker (2).
The lid is equipped with a steam-release dial so that you can easily and safely release steam from the cooker before opening the lid.
Although this cooker could be packed up for travel, it’s not specifically designed to carry pre-prepped meals.
3. Best multi-cooker: Express Crock with Crisping Lid (8 quarts)
This cooker is very similar to the Express Crock Easy Release, offering many of the same programmable settings, shapes, and sizes.
What sets this cooker apart as the best multi-cooker is its accompanying crisping lid. You can use this lid as an air fryer to add a crisp texture to meats, vegetables, and many other dishes (3).
Like numerous other Crock-Pot cookers, the interior cooking pot is non-stick and dishwasher-safe.
Instant Pot cookers
1. Best multi-cooker for beginners: Duo Nova (6 quarts)
The Instant Pot Duo Nova is arguably one of the most popular Instant Pot products. This cooker not only contains an automatically sealing pressure valve but also a convenient steam-release button.
It’s advertised as being seven appliances in one (4):
- food warmer
- slow cooker
- pressure cooker
- rice cooker
- sauté pan
- yogurt maker
2. Best overall multi-cooker: Duo Evo Plus (8 quarts)
Like the Duo Nova, the Duo Evo Plus includes multiple cooking functions.
In addition to the Duo Nova’s seven settings, the Duo Evo Plus can be used as a stockpot and cake maker, as well as for sous vide cooking (5).
Sous vide is a French cooking technique in which food is placed into a plastic bag or glass container, then cooked in a low temperature water bath for 1–8 hours.
The Duo Evo Plus features a large LCD display that tracks the cooking time, plus temperature and pressure within the cooker.
3. Most versatile multi-cooker: Duo Crisp + Air Fryer (8 quarts)
If you’re looking for a cooker that can replace as many kitchen appliances as possible, the Duo Crisp + Air Fryer may be the perfect choice.
The main wet cooking lid that comes with the cooker is great for slow cooking, pressure cooking, steaming, boiling, and sous vide cooking. A second dry cooking lid transforms the unit into an air fryer. This lid can also be used to bake, broil, roast, and dehydrate (6).
Crock-Pot and Instant Pot offer cookers with various functions, though they’re best known for slow cooking and pressure cooking. Based on your needs, you may prefer one brand over another.
Because there are so many different options, the best multi-cooker for you is the one that suits your personal needs and preferences. In general, Crock-Pot and Instant Pot are highly rated competitors that both make top quality cookers.
Crock-Pot may be best if you’re looking for a cooker that’s:
- easily transportable
Instant Pot might suit you better if you’re looking for a cooker that’s:
- easy to use
The best countertop kitchen cooker is the one that meets your personal needs. Thus, there are a few important factors to consider before purchasing a cooker.
A sample Crock-Pot recipe
Crock-Pot slow cookers are great for preparing tender, juicy meat dishes.
Here’s a slow cooker recipe for beef brisket (9):
- Place 1.5 cups (183 grams) of sliced onions, 5 peeled garlic cloves, and 3 bay leaves in the bottom of your slow cooker.
- Lightly season both sides of a 5-pound (2.2-kg) beef brisket with salt and pepper, then place it in the slow cooker atop the onions and garlic.
- In a small bowl, mix 1/2 cup (120 mL) of water, 1.5 teaspoons of salt, 1 teaspoon of black pepper, 1 teaspoon of paprika, 3/4 teaspoon of turmeric, and 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper (optional). Pour the mixture over the brisket.
- Top the brisket with another 1.5 cups (183 grams) of sliced onions and 5 more peeled garlic cloves.
- Cover and cook on low heat for 8–10 hours or until tender. Make sure that the center of the roast reaches a temperature of 145°F (63°C) or higher.
A sample Instant Pot recipe
Instant Pots can also be used to make tender, flavorful recipes — often in much less time.
Here’s a pressure cooker recipe for butter chicken (10):
- Set a 6-quart (5.7-liter) Instant Pot to its high sauté setting. Add 1/4 cup (57 grams) of unsalted butter, 1/2 cup (26 grams) of diced sweet onions, and 1 small diced red bell pepper. Cook until tender (about 3–5 minutes), stirring frequently.
- Stir in 4 cloves of minced garlic, 1 tablespoon (6 grams) of freshly grated ginger, 1.5 teaspoons of garam masala, 1 teaspoon of turmeric, 1 teaspoon of smoked paprika, 1 teaspoon of cumin, 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper (optional), and salt and pepper to taste.
- Stir in one 14.5-ounce (411-gram) can of diced tomatoes, one 8-ounce (227-gram) can of tomato sauce, and 1/2 cup (120 mL) of chicken stock.
- Cut 2 pounds (1 kg) of boneless, skinless chicken breasts into 1-inch (2.5-cm) pieces and add to your Instant Pot.
- On your Instant Pot, select “manual setting” and adjust the pressure to high. Set the timer for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, follow the cooker’s instructions to release the pressure using the quick release function.
- In a small bowl, whisk 1/2 cup (120 mL) of heavy cream and 2 tablespoons (7.5 grams) of all-purpose flour. Set aside.
- On your Instant Pot, select the high sauté setting, stir in the cream mixture, and cook while stirring frequently for about 3 minutes, or until thickened.
- Garnish with cilantro and serve over rice.
Recipes designed specifically for slow cookers, pressure cookers, and multi-cookers are abundant. You can find many in cookbooks or online.
Both Crock-Pot and Instant Pot offer an incredibly versatile set of countertop kitchen appliances.
Crock-Pot has simple and affordable options that are great for travel and extended use, whereas Instant Pot offers multi-cookers that can utilize many different cooking techniques all within the same pot.
When choosing the multi-cooker that’s best for you, it’s important to consider a few key factors, such as price, versatility, and how and where you plan to use your cooker.