While some people like to get their food cooked in the shortest amount of time possible, some people like to take things slowly – the advantages of which are many. Let’s go over some pros and cons of sous vide cooking vs slow cooker methods. We’ll also get into the issue of slow cooker vs Crock Pot and what the differences are.
Some of the best features of both sous vide and slow cooker cooking include allowing the food to cook in its own juices, making it soft and tender, which is, of course, especially true for meats, such as beef (check out our sous vide ribeye steak recipe), veal, pork, and chicken; letting the food cook in the most uniform manner without any overcooked edges, which is a common feature in stove-top cooking; and most importantly, allowing you to get more of the food you cook, as the volume gets retained.
In order to achieve these desirable characteristics, either sous vide or slow cooker method of cooking is an ideal choice. Having said that, compare sous vide vs slow cooker vs Crock Pot cooking methods and we’ll see what makes them similar, as well as the features of each that set them apart from each other.
Slow Cooker vs Crock Pot: What is the Difference?
The term Crock-Pot is a brand name that has become a ubiquitous catch-all term for any type of slow cooker, although there are quite a few brands to choose from.
Basically, a CrockPot (actually called Crock-Pot) is a brand name that derives from the ceramic cooking pot that is a feature of all Crock-Pots. The word “crock” refers to a ceramic pot. So, Crock-Pot is a brand of slow cooker with a thick ceramic pot to cook in.
The ceramic pot fits into the metal body that contains the heating elements. You can remove the pot for cleaning. Other slow cooker brands usually feature metal cooking pots. Some have ceramic inserts, however, so you can still get the Crock-Pot effect with other brands such as All-Clad. Here are examples of popular slow cookers made by brands like Cuisinart, Hamilton Beach, KitchenAid, and Black + Decker.
My preference is a Crock-Pot or other brand of slow cooker that has the ceramic insert. I like the way the heat seems to spread more evenly in the ceramic cook pot and I think there is less likelihood of having your food scorch. That’s just my take on it though. Non-Crock-Pot slow cookers sometimes have the advantage of more heat settings than a regular Crock-Pot.
Sous Vide vs Slow Cooker Cooking
When it comes to the sous vide vs slow cooker methods, they share a common thread when it comes to how long the cooking process takes. The cooking time for the both is going to be a lot longer compared to other methods, such as stove top, grilling, or baking.
What takes 10 minutes to cook using any of those methods may take as long as 4 hours using slow cooker or sous vide. Neither sous vide nor slow cooker are the way to go if you want your food in less than an hour.
This is one of the key differences when it comes to comparing the slow cooker vs the sous vide. When you use a slow cooker, your food is placed inside a very thick ceramic pot that is placed above the heating element.
The temperature settings are not as accurate, however, given that most slow cookers or Crock Pots only have two to four heat settings. With sous vide cooking, you to put your food into sealed plastic bags and cook it via submerging the food in a body of hot water.
The temperature control is much more accurate with sous vide. You’ll select an exact temperature on your sous vide machine (see our sous vide machine guide for advice) and once the water reaches the desired temp, you add your pouches of food.
Bear in mind that part of the time involved in sous vide cooking is spent waiting for the water to reach the correct temperature. Plan for 30 minutes, give or take, depending on your equipment and the exact setup you’re using. Sous vide recipes give you exact temperatures and cooking times for what you’re cooking.
Between sous vide vs slow cooker, most people have some experience with a slow cooker. You’ve probably at least seen a slow cooker at grandma’s house or maybe at a potluck. For me, a Crock Pot reminds me of family gatherings and in a way I still like cooking that way because it’s kind of nostalgic. Not sure what my grandma would say about a sous vide machine!
Slow cookers are less expensive than sous vide units and they’ve been a common kitchen appliance for several decades. The sous vide method, on the other hand, is a more sophisticated way of cooking things, and is still used more often in restaurants rather than in home kitchens.
While sous vide units for home use have become more affordable in the last several years, it takes more of an investment to get into sous vide cooking. You can pick up a slow cooker for around twenty dollars or less, while most sous vide machines for home use are priced from about $60 to $150, depending on the desired features.
With sous vide, you also need bags or pouches, and a container to use for your water bath. (If you’re going with an immersion cooker. Read more on the types of sous vide machines.)
Quality and Taste
For those who have tried cooking with both the sous vide and the slow cooker methods, one of the things you’ll immediately is the difference between the end products.
The sous vide method of cooking guarantees more volume, and a much more even cooking from the outside to the inside part of the food. This is because conventional slow cookers allow the juices to evaporate due to the higher temperatures, while the sous vide prevents this from happening.
Another difference, in terms of quality, would definitely have to be the fact that the chances of your food being overcooked with a slow cooker would be higher, especially for vegetables and other quick-cooking foods.
Because of this, most meats cooked in a slow cooker, while being cooked soft, could easily fall apart and turn out a bit mushy after losing some volume. Whether that is desirable or not depends on what you’re cooking. This does not happen when you cook food using the sous vide method, as the volume is largely retained and meats will turn out perfectly tender.
Both cooking methods can give you great results. It just depends on what you’re looking for and what your budget is for equipment. Slow cookers are a great, inexpensive way to prepare meals. A case could be made that you can do more with a sous vide machine, however, since you have so much more control over precise temperatures, and you can cook items in separate pouches.
It’ll take a bit more of an investment to get started in sous vide, since you’ll also need some additional items like a container to cook in and sous vide bags to put your food into.
Here are shopping lists for getting started in sous vide vs slow cooker (Crock Pot) methods so you can compare set up costs.
Plastic bags or pouches (you can also use regular ZipLoc bags)
Container for sous vide cooking
Have fun trying out these convenient cooking methods!
- Countdown timer shows you how much cooking time remains
- Prevents overcooking by automatically switching to warm after cooking
- Cook from 30 minutes to 18 hours
- High, low & warm settings
- 8 quart capacity
- 8-quart slow cooker capable of preparing food for 10+ people
- Digital timer counts down cook time up to 20 hours
- Automatically keeps food Warm after cooking is done
- Removable, dishwasher-safe lid and stoneware pot
- Recipes included
- Duo 8 Quart, the number 1 selling multi-cooker, combines 7 kitchen appliances in 1, Pressure Cooker, Slow Cooker, Rice Cooker, Steamer, Sauté, Yogurt Marker and Warmer, prepares dishes up to 70% faster to support your busy lifestyle
- Features 14 Smart Programs - Soup, Meat/Stew, Bean/Chili, Poultry, Sauté/Simmer, Rice, Multigrain, Porridge, Steam, Slow Cook, Keep Warm, Yogurt, Manual, and Pressure Cook. Now, your favorite dishes are as easy as pressing a button
- Healthy, stainless steel (18/8) inner cooking pot made from food grade 304, no chemical coating, 3-ply bottom for even heat distribution, fully sealed environment traps the flavours, nutrients and aromas within the food
- Built with the latest 3rd generation technology, the microprocessor monitors pressure, temperature, keeps time, and adjusts heating intensity and duration to achieve your desired results every time
- UL and ULC certified with 10 safety mechanisms to provide you with added assurance, designed to eliminate many common errors