Top Tips for Slow Cooking and Pressure Cooking
Pressure cookers and slow cookers are slimming friendly kitchen essentials that make preparing midweek meals for the whole family so much more convenient.
Pressure cooking can transform ingredients into a hearty family meal in around 30 minutes (recipe dependent!), so you’ll have time to whip up something tasty even if you haven’t pre-planned.
Slow cookers work well if you know you’ve got a long day ahead. Throw your ingredients into the pot before you do the school run. It’ll bubble away for hours, and you’ll come home to the welcoming smells of a ready-to-eat stew. Easy peasy!
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Do I buy a slow cooker or a pressure cooker?
The beauty is, you don’t have to choose! There’s no need to find space for two new pieces of equipment, as nowadays there are appliances you can buy with both ‘slow cook’ and ‘pressure cook’ functions built in. Our list of the best pressure cookers to buy should inspire you if you’re not sure where to start.
Units like the Ninja Foodi 9 in 1 can either make a fast one-pot meal or cook ingredients low and slow for hours – it really depends what suits you on the day!
An Instant Pot is a little more budget friendly. It’s another slow/pressure cooker hybrid with lots of different functions in a compact, powerful unit.
Tip 1: Get the liquid levels right
Whether you’re using a pressure cooker or a slow cooker, you’ll need to add the right amount of liquid if you want to get the best cooking results.
A pressure cooker needs plenty of liquid to produce a powerful amount of steam (steam is what does all the work to cook your ingredients without letting them lose flavour!).
If you get the level right, you can create delicious recipes like our Instant Pot Beef Stew – an easy, throw-it-all-in-the pot recipe for the winter months. Full of juicy beef, stodgy potatoes, and veggies, you can enjoy this hearty midweek dinner prepped and fresh from the pressure cooker in just over an hour.
After the meat, veg and spices are browned off, 500ml of beef stock is added to the pot. This bubbles away for 35 minutes before the pressure valve is released. It’s super important to release the pressure because the liquid levels reduce as the steam escapes.
If you fancy trying how this recipe tastes after the beef chunks have been cooked low and slow for 6-7 hours, we have a Slow Cooker Beef Stew method too.
Unlike with pressure cookers, any liquid you add to a slow cooker pot has nowhere to go. Whilst it’s important to make sure you add enough water to a pressure cooker, you’ll need to be careful to not add too much to your slow cooked recipes.
When it comes to our Beef Stew, so that the finished result isn’t disappointing and watery, the amount of beef stock is reduced to 400ml in the slow cooker version of the recipe.
Tip 2: Don’t overfill the pot
You never want to overfill the pot in a pressure cooker. Trust us! The result is a hot, messy eruption of food from the pressure release valve (ouch). The golden rule with both pressure and slow cookers alike is to fill up to two thirds of the way full.
If you’re cooking a liquid-heavy recipe, it’s best to not to fill your pot beyond the halfway point. Your slow cooker may leak, and your pressure cooker won’t have enough room to produce steam – this means your ingredients won’t cook properly. No, thank you!
It’s especially tricky to judge with recipes that use expandable ingredients, like rice or pasta. It is possible, but it takes a lot of experimentation to get the levels right.
When we’re making Italian-inspired dishes like our Chicken Cacciatore in a pressure cooker or slow cooker, we prefer to prepare pasta separately on the hob.
Packed with tender chicken breast and veggies in a rich, tomatoey sauce, this comforting recipe is a simple midweek dinner you can easily batch cook.
Tip 3: Pick the right ingredients
Using a pressure cooker or slow cooker is notoriously budget friendly because both can transform cheap ingredients into a tasty, slimming friendly meal. You don’t need to opt for pricey steaks or skinless chicken breasts – remember, the tougher the cut, the better! For beef-based dishes, braising steak or stewing steak is an affordable, slow cooker friendly option.
To prepare our Creamy Chicken Curry recipe in your pressure or slow cooker, chicken thigh meat would work best because it’ll retain its taste without turning to mush. There are a lot of ingredients to this one, but the creamy, flavour-packed result is so worth it.
Letting the ingredients bubble away in a sealed pot for steps 5-7 unlocks new flavours from the spiced veggies, and they taste even better combined with the flavours from the rich, tender chicken thighs. Yum!
Tip 4: Trim the fat
Removing all the visible fat from our Slow Cooker Lamb Moussaka isn’t just about keeping things slimming friendly – it makes the recipe more slow cooker friendly too. The fat that would ordinarily drain away in a frying pan has nowhere to go in a sealed pot, so it’s best to remove it yourself to avoid producing an oily end result.
This hearty casserole is the best of both worlds: slow cooked and oven baked to perfection. The veggie-packed, spiced mince filling is slow cooked first, before it’s oven baked under a layer of aubergine, white sauce, and grated cheese for 40 minutes. Imagine the smells!
Tip 5: Brown your meat first
Meaty dishes won’t brown on their own in a slow cooker or pressure cooker, so it’s a good idea to do that step yourself prior to cooking. In fact, a lot of pressure cooker and slow cooker units now come with a built-in sauté function so you can achieve this in one pot.
The benefit of browning is that it seals moisture and flavour into your meat, so it’ll come out the other side even more delicious. If your unit doesn’t have a sauté function, you can use a shallow panto sauté instead. We’ve got more guidance on how to sauté in a pan here.
We do this early on in recipes like our Slow Cooker Balsamic Beef Stew. We brown the beef chunks in the cooking pot with onions, garlic and a light spritz of low calorie cooking spray. By allowing the beef to colour before adding the rest of the ingredients, the oniony, garlicky and meaty flavours are sealed in, to be released gradually into the dish as it cooks.
Tip 6: Chop, chop, chop ingredients
Our Ham, Leek and Potato Soup is a simple, reliable recipe for days where you fancy preparing something comforting without any faff. So that the soup is smooth, and the ingredients are cooked evenly, it’s best to make sure that your ingredients are chopped into similar sized pieces. Any larger bits will cook slower than others and potentially spoil the texture of the whole dish.
To seal a little more flavour into your soup, you could even lightly fry off the gammon chunks with leeks before cooking. Slow cook it (for 4 hours) or pressure cook it (for 30 minutes) until it’s a thick, warming soup that’s ready to be enjoyed or frozen for lunch prep. So convenient!
Whether you’re a slow cooker fiend or a pressure cooker pro, both cooking options are a super convenient, time-saving way to create flavourful family meals. Having both methods at your fingertips means you can cook ingredients to perfection with ease.
Do you prefer slow cooking or pressure cooking? Tell us over on our Facebook Group. There are almost 1 million members in the group already, waiting to share inspiration, motivation and support for your slimming journey.