Should I get a slow cooker, pressure cooker or multi cooker?
As the weather becomes colder, a lot of us look forward to hearty home-cooked meals to warm us up. Luckily, the days of slaving away over a stovetop with an unfashionably sweating brow are over. A pressure cooker, multi cooker or slow cooker can prepare healthy meals daily. This buying guide will help you decide which kitchen appliance is right for you, and the factors to consider before buying one.
A Quick Comparison
|Best for||Slow cooker||Pressure cooker||Multi cooker|
|Minimum cooking experience required|
|Ability to set and forget|
|Ease of cleaning|
Consider buying a slow cooker if you:
- Are part of a busy household and don’t have time to cook in the evenings, but can spare time to prep ingredients in the morning
- Don’t mind waiting 8 hours for meals to cook (you can turn it on before going to work and arrive to a tasty home- cooked meal)
- Have plenty of freezer space, as slow cookers work best cooking large volumes.
Consider buying a pressure cooker if you:
- Don't enjoy planning meals in advance, and eat a lot of last minute meals
- Dislike waiting around for your food to cook (pressure cookers can effectively stave off a ‘hangry’ mood)
- Don’t mind staying in the kitchen to monitor steam pressure.
Consider buying a multicooker if you:
- Have a large family or household with different favourite foods and taste preferences
- Will regularly use the bulk of features offered, as some models can be expensive
- Don’t mind the potentially tedious task of cleaning the various detachable parts of your multi cooker after using it.
What does a slow cooker do?
Slow cookers use a consistently low level of heat, which usually rises up from their base (some models have a wraparound heating element that heats up the sides at power-on, too). This heat spreads upwards and around the cooker, surrounding the food inside, which cooks slowly and evenly.
These cooking appliances are best suited to making dishes that would traditionally take a long time to simmer on a stove, or to bake in an oven. You can make slow cooker pumpkin soup, pulled pork, beef stew or lentil dal soup, along with slow cooker curry and pot roasts. You can even make slow cooker puddings for dessert.
Is it worth getting a slow cooker?
Weigh up the following factors to help you decide.
- Slow cookers are convenient. You can prepare and place your ingredients inside your slow cooker before you leave for work in the morning, then come home to a delicious, melt-in-your-mouth meal.
- It’s safe to leave your slow cooker on all day unsupervised, as it’s designed for this purpose. Even on the highest setting, there is little chance of burning food, as heat is distributed slowly and evenly.
- Food doesn’t need supervision. You don’t have to stir or monitor the food inside, making it a wonderfully worry-free ‘set and forget’ kitchen appliance.
- Food tastes amazing. Slow cooking gives foods a depth of flavour unique to this method of cooking. Cooking at such a low temperature for an extended period allows flavours to become rich and complex.
- Saves you money - as a slow cooker works well for tenderising cheap cuts of meat and batch cooking affordable legumes. It also uses less energy than a stovetop or oven with the same operating times.
- Season-friendly - as while foods commonly cooked in slow cookers are usually ‘winter warmers,’ a slow cooker used in summer won’t overheat your kitchen like an oven might do.
- Requires organisation and patience as you need to plan your meals in advance, and it eliminates the option of coming home to cook a quick meal on the fly.
- Lack of versatility as many good slow cookers perform the one function exclusively. You also can’t use one to fry, brown or sear foods (although some models do have a sear function). For example, if you’re frying onions, garlic or spices, you’ll still need a stovetop.
- Bulky designs mean slow cookers can be harder to store in your kitchen cupboards when not in use.
- Uncomfortably hot to touch during cooking for some models, so remember to keep children or pets at a safe distance.
Which is the best slow cooker to buy?
These are the top rated slow cookers, based on cooking performance, food texture and taste, ease of use and ease of cleaning.
How does a pressure cooker work?
A pressure cooker is a cooking pot that uses highly pressurised steam to cook foods in a short time that can’t be achieved by other cooking methods.
This steam is created when you put a liquid such as water or broth inside the pressure cooker, along with food. The liquid boils, reaching hot temperatures of up to 120 degrees, which creates steam that reaches pressure to cook food fast.
The pressure cooker must remain airtight throughout the cooking process, often using a locking lid that creates a seal. After food is cooked, pressure then needs to be released.
Is it worth getting a pressure cooker?
Weigh up the following factors to help you decide.
- Saves cooking time - thanks to a super speedy method of cooking, a pressure cooker can produce a one-pot meal in a sliver of the time it would take to make on the stove. For example, you can make risotto in an easy twenty minutes.
- Food made in a pressure cooker is healthy - as cooking with steam lets food retain heat-sensitive nutrients that would otherwise be dissolved in water. Cooking foods for longer also diminishes nutrients, which is avoided by a pressure cooker’s quick turnaround.
- Better than an oven – in the sense that cooking times are much shorter, and that a pressure cooker will keep the kitchen cool, even in summer. While pressure cookers release hot steam, it’s not enough to overheat even a small kitchen.
- Requires supervision – this is more the case for stove-top pressure cookers than their digital counterparts. However, supervision is required while the device builds up optimum pressure before cooking (10-15 minutes) and to release the pressure valve afterwards (which takes around 20 minutes).
- Caution is needed as the contents of a pressure cooker reach high temperatures and can be dangerous. Be careful when removing the lid, as the hot steam can burn.
- Can be fiddly and require more advanced knowledge of cooking, to monitor cooking times, temperatures, and adjust the steam release valve if steam is escaping.
- Less depth of flavour is achieved in a pressure cooker compared to a dish cooked in a slow cooker.
- More expensive to purchase than slow cookers.
What pressure cooker is best?
Note: Models ranked 2-5 do double duty as multi cookers.
For home dining on a shoestring, Kmart doesn't disappoint with its two models:
What does a multi cooker do?
Multi cookers are wonderfully convenient all-in-one kitchen appliances that combine the functions of several kitchen appliances in one device.
Depending on the model, multi cookers can pressure cook, slow cook, cook rice, steam, air fry, braise, and pan fry – including brown, saute, simmer.
Condensed into a convenient benchtop size, it’s not hard to see why multi cookers suited to a wide range of cooking preferences and budgets have flourished in popularity in recent years.
When Thermomix first burst onto the multi cooker scene in Australia in 2001, these brand-exclusive, all-in-one kitchen appliances were expensive (and still are - the latest TM6 model comes with a price tag of $2, 269). Thankfully now you don't have to pay an arm and a leg to enjoy the versatility of a multi function cooker.
Are multi cookers worth it?
Weigh up the following factors to help you decide.
- Frees up space in your kitchen, as even if you’re buying a multi cooker to replace a pressure cooker and slow cooker, you’re reducing the clutter that comes from storing multiple appliances.
- Saves money - as rather than purchasing multiple appliances, you can invest in one device that performs cooking functions you’ll regularly use.
- Versatile functionality means you can have the best of both worlds – such as pressure cooking a quick dinner for two on a weeknight, or slow-cooking a feast for guests on weekends.
- Pre-set programmes let you to make specific foods at the simple touch of a button. Programs available include soup, curry, bread and yoghurt.
- Healthier food preparation is within sight, thanks to catered cooking methods that reduce the amount of oil and fat that would be needed on a stove top.
- Batch cooking allows you to cook large volumes of food in one preparation, especially if your multi cooker features a higher capacity.
- Less precision in cooking can be encountered, especially when compared to an appliance that’s custom built to perform a single function, for example bread making.
- More expensive than a standalone slow cooker, pressure cooker or air fryer.
What is the best multi cooker?
- Kogan 14-in-1 Multifunction Pressure Cooker: Retailing at $90, this is very cheap for a multi cooker (but it doesn’t slow cook).
- Big W Contempo 5-in-1 Pressure Cooker 5 Litre: Selling for $79, Big W's model features five functions including pressure and slow cook.
- Usually sold as a Special Buy with limited availability. The $299 model can blend, chop and crush ice, steam, stew, mix, knead and fry.
Other factors to consider
This includes the size and weight of your new cooking appliance. A larger size equates to a larger batch size, which you can freeze to re-heat later in the week. However it will take up more room under your kitchen bench, which is not as optimal in small kitchens.
You can use this rough guide below to determine the litre capacity you'll need. Keep in mind that a pressure cooker will need a larger capacity than what’s required for a slow or multi cooker, to allow space for liquids and steam.
- 3-4L: A suitably sized mini cooker for one to two people using a or .
- 4.5-6L: For and , this is a good, standard size for 3-5 people, a 4-person household, or two people who regularly have dinner guests. For , around 5L is a suitable size for 3 people.
- 6-8L: Suitable for a household of 5-6 people or a smaller number, but who frequently entertain. For for 4-person household or around 3-5 people.
- 8L or larger: Add on one litre for each additional person.
Mainly concerns over safety can occur with pressure cookers, which contain boiling liquid and highly pressurised steam that can burn skin. Check that a model is equipped with the right safety features, such as multiple locking mechanisms in addition to a locking lid and steam release valve.
As the lid can be extremely hot after your food has finished cooking in a pressure cooker, wait a few minutes before handling it – ideally with a towel to avoid contact, or after running it under cold water.
Cleaning your kitchen appliance regularly is important, as food residue left behind can interfere with its smooth running and cause problems.
Places where it’s really easy for bits of food to become stuck include: the pressure valve and silicone rubber seal on a pressure cooker.
Before purchasing, check in-person or read reviews to make sure an appliance has minimal food traps, particularly the exterior of the device.
Thanks for reading, we hope that this guide helps you choose the best slow cooker, pressure cooker or multi cooker for you, so you can indulge in hearty meals and decadent desserts all year round.