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 7-in-1 Electric Pressure Cooker, Slow Cooker, Rice Cooker, Steamer, Saute, Yogurt Maker, and Warmer, 6 Quart, 14 One-Touch Programs
A cult favorite for a reason, this unit sautés, steams, slow cooks and pressure cooks.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.

Crock-Pot 7-Quart Oval Manual Slow Cooker | Stainless Steel
Straightforward, classic design with low, high and warm settings.Crock-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.

Presto 01264 6-Quart Aluminum Pressure Cooker
Sits on a stove top, just like a stock pot or frying pan.Presto

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.