Cook Better: What’s the Difference Between a Slow Cooker, Multi-Cooker and Pressure Cooker?

Find out which one will work best for you.

Meal cooking in slow cooker
Get the gear you need for your favorite recipes.Getty Images

The pressure cooker has been around for hundreds of years. Slow cookers have been mainstays since 1940. More recently, multi-cookers like the Instant Pot combine both cooking technologies into multifunctional appliances that can make much more than soups and stews. But which appliance is best for your needs?

Instant Pot Duo Crisp Pressure Cooker 11 in 1 with Air Fryer, 8 Qt, Cook and Crisp
This model can do more than just about any other on the market. In addition to the usual sauté, steam, slow cook, pressure cook, warm and bake, this one can also sous vides, crisp, roast, broil and dehydrate.Instant Pot

A multi-cooker is an electric pot that can steam rice, slow cook stews and soups, sauté like a frying pan and work like a pressure cooker to speed cooking time. With the right accessories, a multi-cooker can also bake cakes or air-fry potatoes and chicken. If you have a very small kitchen with no oven, or simply want to use your stove less to save energy, a multi-cooker can do just about anything your oven and stove top can—in one pot.

Instant Pot Duo Nova Pressure Cooker 7 in 1, 6 Qt, Best for Beginners
This model has a nicer, updated display compared to the first-generation originals, and can replace your steamer, rice cooker, slow cooker and even your sauté pan.Instant Pot

Slow cookers are ideal for foods like pulled meats, stews, soups, beans, meatballs and sauces. Fans of slow cookers love that you can dump all the ingredients into the pot in the morning and walk in the door after work to a hot dinner. Slow cookers cannot crisp or broil—slow-cooked foods tend to be soft in texture.

Ninja Foodi 9-in-1 Pressure, Broil, Dehydrate, Slow Cooker, Air Fryer, and More, with 8 Quart Capacity and 45 Recipe Book, and a Stainless Finish
Sized for a big family, this model does all the basics—plus crisps and broils.Ninja

Pressure cookers seal tightly, trapping steam inside. That allows any liquid to rise far above the normal boiling temperature of water, which allows you to, say, cook dried beans in half an hour—something that in a normal Dutch oven would take many hours. Some models have indicators that show you when pressure has gone down, meaning it’s safe to unlock and remove the lid.

Also Consider

Instant Pot Ultra 10-in-1 Electric Pressure Cooker, Slow Cooker, Rice Cooker, Steamer, Saute, Yogurt Maker, Cake Maker, Egg Cooker, Sterilizer, and Warmer, 8 Quart, 16 One-Touch Programs
Sixteen pre-set cooking programs, and a digital display that shows you your cooking progress.Instant Pot
Instant Pot Aura Pro 11-in-1 Multicooker Slow Cooker, 8 Qt, 11 One-Touch Programs
The appliance so many people love, in a traditional roaster shape perfect for searing, sautéing and making large family meals.Instant Pot
Yedi 9-in-1 Total Package Instant Programmable Pressure Cooker, 6 Quart, Deluxe Accessory kit, Recipes, Pressure Cook, Slow Cook, Rice Cooker, Yogurt Maker, Egg Cook, Sauté, Steamer, Copper
Medium-sized unit that comes with extras including two trivets, a pair of pot holders, a steaming basket, tempered glass lid and more.YEDI HOUSEWARE