Slow cooker or pressure cooker: which is right for you?

Both slow cookers and pressure cookers promise to save you energy and time, but which should you buy?

Slow cookers and pressure cookers – which should frankly be called “fast cookers” – have a lot in common. They’re both one-pot wonders that promise to simplify cooking and save on energy bills.

In different ways, they both save you time, too. One cooks fast, the other lets you time-shift your cooking. But which will suit you best? We take a deep dive into the slow cooker vs pressure cooker debate to help answer that question.

Each is suited to different dishes, so the answer will depend upon what meals you like to cook. That’s why we’ve asked a leading executive chef for their opinion, as well as the cooking buyer for a leading retailer that sells both.

Electric slow cooker sat on a kitchen counterCredit: Shutterstock/Kitch Bain

The answer to the slow cooker vs pressure cooker question also depends on you. Both are brilliant in different ways. Are you someone who will put ingredients in a pot in the morning, happy in the knowledge that your hot meal will be ready at teatime? Or are you more someone who throws things together in the evening and wants them to magically transform into dinner faster?

If you’re a bit of both, or you’re currently one but aspire to be the other, there is a third way. We also look at multicookers, digital do-it-alls that feature both pressure cooking and slow cooking, giving you both options while only taking up a single area of cupboard space.


What is a pressure cooker?

Under pressure

A traditional, stove-top pressure cooker sits on the hob and its lid is sealed to keep in steam. Pressure builds up once it’s hot, and at high pressure water boils at a higher temperature than the usual 100°C (212°F). Because it’s hotter, cooking times are shorter. You can cook in half the time, or less, of boiling in a saucepan. This saves you time, energy and money (on energy bills).

Stand-alone pressure cookers work in the same way, but the heat source is built into the base. You plug them into the mains instead of putting them on the hob. They are invariably multicookers that offer other ways to cook too, including slow cooking, and often have a non-stick pan for easier cleaning.

Featured product

Instant Pot 9-in-1 Duo Plus 5.7L Electric Pressure Cooker

RRP: £89

Instant Pot 9-in-1 Duo Plus 5.7L Electric Pressure Cooker

What is a slow cooker?

Take it slow and low

Slow cooking just means cooking at a lower temperature (below 100°C/212°F) for a longer period. You can slow cook in a lidded dish in an oven, just by turning the temperature down low.

Chefs also slow cook “sous vide” – food is vacuum-packed and cooked in a hot water bath at a precise temperature over a long period.

Stand-alone slow cookers have the heat source built into the base and usually have two heat settings: high and low. Slow and slower would be more accurate. They use less energy than leaving the oven on all day.

As our experts explain below, there are scientific reasons why cooking low and slow improves certain dishes. But slow cookers are also great for time-shifting – you put ingredients in the pot at breakfast time and the slow cooker cooks all day, turning them into a delicious dinner.

There are two types of slow cooker pot: heavy, traditional ceramic crocks and lightweight metal pots with a non-stick coating.

Featured product

Crockpot Lift and Serve Digital Slow Cooker

RRP: £44.99

Crockpot Lift and Serve Digital Slow Cooker

The cost

Which one is the most affordable?

Slow cookers are affordable, starting at around £30. The electricity use per mealis a few pence less than cooking in an oven.

How you use it matters too, says Kathryn Farrell, cooking buyer at Lakeland, who recommends batch-cooking in a slow cooker to save more energy and time. If that’s what you’re going to do, consider a larger-capacity model.

“Then you can quickly microwave to heat these extra portions up, which uses less energy than cooking from scratch,” she explains.

Pressure cookers cost more to purchase – although hob-top models can be bought from as little as £40. But they use less time, and so less energy, than cooking the same food in a saucepan.

Featured product

Amazon Basics Stainless Steel Pressure Cooker

RRP: £39.97

Amazon Basics Stainless Steel Pressure Cooker

When it comes to energy usage, the pressure cooker works out slightly cheaper – bear in mind this is comparing electric slow cookers to electric pressure cookers.

If you take a slow cooker like the Tower T16042BLK, which has a wattage of 210 watts, and cook a beef curry for four hours, this will cost you around 23p in electricity, based on the energy prices from October 2023.

An electric pressure cooker (as opposed to the hob ones) tend to have a higher wattage – at around 1000w – but they would cook the beef curry in just 30 minutes, meaning it would cost around 13-14p to whip up a delicious dinner. The cost of running a hob pressure cooker varies, depending on whether you have a gas or induction hob and how high you turn up your hob.

Chris Gillard, a former executive head chef at London’s St John is a big fan of pressure cookers: “Once up to pressure, which doesn’t take long, the hob has to be turned right down, otherwise excessive steam will release. This saves fuel and is great for camping, where gas is at a premium. They’re widely used all over Asia, in large part for their efficiency.”

WINNER: A draw. Both will save you money on energy bills. How much you save depends on how, and how often, you use them.

Ease of use

Which is easiest to use?

Slow cookers are easiest. “You literally put ingredients in and switch on,” says Farrell. You pick between two heat levels, depending on how long you want to cook for. Temperatures vary but, for example, our large-capacity Lakeland 6-litre model cooks at 77°C (171°F) on low and 84°C (183°F) on high, for shorter cooking times.

Featured product

Lakeland 6L Slow Cooker

RRP: £59.99

Lakeland 6L Slow Cooker

Some models have digital controls that let you delay the start or “keep warm” after cooking. And if you want to sear ingredients before cooking, consider a slow cooker with a sear function, or a model with a hob-friendly pan. Otherwise, you can sear ingredients separately first, but it doubles the washing-up burden.

Featured product

Morphy Richards Sear and Stew Slow Cooker

RRP: £43.98

 Morphy Richards Sear and Stew Slow Cooker

“Pressure cooking depends on the model and whether it’s electric or stove-top,” says Farrell. “Newer models are far less daunting, though. They’re much more intuitive and easier than older models. The idea of releasing steam is scary, but quick-release valves are used and lids are easy to lock and open. It is more complicated than slow cooking, though.”

Gillard says don’t be daunted: “Pressure cookers are super-easy to use, once you understand the basic system of bringing the pot up to pressure and using cold water to aid speedy depressurisation, which is important for accurate cooking. People are often wary of pressure cookers, but they have multiple safety features.”

WINNER: Slow cookers, though both are easy.

Keeping it clean

How easy is it to clean?

Farrell champions slow cookers as the easier option when it’s time to do the dishes: “Most of our slow cookers come with a ceramic dish that comes out, is easy to wash and also dishwasher-safe. Other slow cookers are aluminium or steel, with a non-stick coating, which clean easily in the sink.”

She finds pressure cookers more cumbersome and trickier to clean, and they don’t tend to have a non-stick coating. But it’s subjective. Chefs like Gillard prefer the durability of stainless steel, which need a scrub but there’s no coating to get damaged.

WINNER: Slow cookers.


What can you cook?

Gillard uses pressure cookers at home and at work. He says veggie dishes are fresher and tastier, as well as faster, when you use a pressure cooker. He’s also tried slow cooking veggie dishes, but the results weren’t great. Slow cooking lets you time-shift veggie dishes, but it doesn’t improve their flavour.

“I use my pressure cooker, in particular, for beans and pulses,” he says.

“Chickpeas take just 15 minutes from reaching pressure and they have an even, fluffy texture, without being overcooked. Chicken stock from the leftover carcass of a Sunday roast is perfect as the base for a stew or curry and takes about 20 minutes, which extracts all the goodness and gives a clear-tasting stock. We even use it for rice at home – brown basmati, which can be a bit stubborn, takes 20 minutes.”

Slow cooker food science

Gillard prefers slow cooking for meat. “It suits tougher cuts of meat, generally all the muscles that have worked harder – for example, ox tail or lamb shank. The connective tissues, when cooked low and slow, break down to release gelatine, giving a moist and tender result.”

Gillard swears by the results that low temperatures can bring, explaining that some chefs take this to a logical extreme by cooking meat “sous vide” at around 55°C (131°F), to slowly break down and gelatinise collagen.

Farrell’s slow cooker favourites are innovative, including hot drinks as well as one-pot dishes and batch-cooking. She recommends chilli, shredded fajita chicken and curries, as well as mulled wine and “really indulgent hot chocolate for a festive get-together”.

As mentioned earlier, she’s also a fan of using a large slow cooker for batch-cooking. “Slow cooking saves time overall. But you have to wait for your food! Planning ahead is a necessity,” she says.

WINNER: Pressure cooker if you’re veggie or vegan; slow cooker if you eat meat or want to time-shift.


How about multicookers?

Multicookers offer both slow and pressure cooking, saving space and keeping your options open. They cost more but often have extra modes, like rice-cooking or even air-frying. Are they worth it?

“It depends on the customer,” says Farrell.

“Some people find them too confusing, preferring fewer programmes and buttons. Others swear by them. Personally, I love something like the Ninja SmartLid, where you can layer meals inside. It’s incredibly versatile and, although a little bulky for some, it rolls a number of appliances into one.”

Featured product

Ninja Foodi Max SmartLid Multi-Cooker

RRP: £319.99

Ninja Foodi Max SmartLid Multi-Cooker

Models like the Sage Fast Slow Pro also do both and more. And while there are multiple buttons and options, it can make cooking easier – for example, tackling pressure cooker fears by letting you release steam at the touch of a button.

Featured product

Sage Fast Slow Pro

RRP: £198.95

Sage Fast Slow Pro


Which type of cooker is best for you?

The decision comes down to what you eat, as well as when you have time to cook. Vegetarians and vegans are better off with a pressure cooker for fast, fresh results. Veggie dishes don’t improve by being cooked low and slow, so you should only go for a slow cooker if time-shifting appeals.

Convenience is important – in the morning, you can throw your dinner ingredients into a slow cooker and press one button, then return home to a cooked meal. Or if you work from home, it will be filled with the smell of fresh cooking all day without you lifting a finger.

If you eat meat, however, consider a slow cooker for flavour as well as time-shifting. Slow, low cooking will give you tastier results. As explained by Gillard, it’s food science.

And if you want to keep your options open, consider a multicooker that does both jobs and more. They are a bit bulkier than one or other, but they use less cupboard space than two appliances and some offer lots of different cooking options.

Caramel Quin

Written by Caramel Quin


Caramel Quin is an award-winning journalist who has been writing about gadgets and consumer technology since the 1990s, for national newspapers, magazines and websites on both sides of the Atlantic. Caramel’s pet hates are jargon, pointless products, planned obsolescence and over-complicated instruction manuals. Gadgets should be easy to use, work well and enrich our lives. She wrote The Gadget Show Big Book of Cool Stuff in 2021 and has won numerous awards for communicating hi-tech subjects to normal people. She understands the acronyms and tech specs so you don’t have to.

  • twitter
  • instagram
  • linkedin