Sous Vide vs Instant Pot: What’s the Difference?

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Sous Vide or Instant Pot?

These are two kitchen appliances that everyone is raving about. But just what are sous vide and Instant Pot? And how do they work?

In this article, I take an in-depth look at sous vide vs instant pot and do a side-by-side comparison to help you choose which is going to take your kitchen skills to the next level.

My ultimate conclusion is that the Instant Pot is a great multifaceted tool designed to speed up the process of cooking while the sous vide excels at precision low and slow cooking. Keep reading for a detailed breakdown.

sous vide next to instant pot with "vs" text inbetween

What is an Instant Pot and How Does It Work?

Instant Pot is a swiss army knife for the kitchen. It is a multifunction appliance that is part slow cooker and part pressure cooker. It is advertised as a multicooker and it is easy to see why. Among its functions are:

  • Pressure Cooker
  • Slow Cooker
  • Sauté – Searing Pan
  • Yogurt Maker
  • Sous Vide
  • Rice Cooker
  • Food Warmer
  • Pressure Canner

In looks, it is similar to traditional crock pots, but that’s where the similarity ends, as you can see from the impressive list of functions it boasts.

These are fully programmable appliances that are designed to make cooking a dinner meal convenient, some models even offer Wi-Fi for remote access.

The slow cooker feature of the appliance works just like any standard slow cooker, i.e. it cooks meals at low temperature over a long period. This method is similar to sous vide and I’ll cover sous vide below. 

The pressure cooker function is convenient for when time is short. Pressure cookers work by trapping the steam inside the pot. This pressure raises the boiling point of water to 212° F.

These higher temperatures shorten the cooking time of foods and helps to retain the flavor and nutrients, thanks to a lack of evaporation.

Instant Pot close up

Instant Pot Benefits

  • Highly Versatile Functions – As you can see from the above list, an Instant Pot can replace a multitude of kitchen appliances in one neat bundle.
  • Food Versitility – With all the different cooking functions, you can cook whole meals in an Instant Pot. 
  • Fast Cooking – Great for when time is short. A beef stew in a slow cooker can take up to 8hrs. But if time is short, pressure cooking can make the same dish in under an hour, depending on the recipe. 
  • Slow Cooking – Want to have a meal ready the moment you arrive home from work. No problem! The slow cooker function will gently cook the food to perfection, so it’s ready the moment you are.
  • Energy Saving – Highly efficient insulation paired with fast cooking times allows this to save on energy costs and use, making this an economical method of cooking.

Instant Pot Cons

  • Takes up a lot of room – Although the instant pot can replace several appliances, it does have a large footprint that can take up a good amount of countertop space.
  • Difficult to clean – It can be time-consuming to clean the Instant Pot after use.
  • Instant is a relative term – Although the cooking time in pressure cooker mode is short, it takes time for the pressure to build up and release again on either side of the cooking process. This can add 45 minutes to the cook time.
  • Buy a size up – If you think that a 6-quart size is adequate for you and your family, then remember that it can be filled to 2/3 capacity only. If you require a 6-quart capacity, buy the 8-quart model.

What is Sous Vide and How Does It Work?

Sous vide is a cooking method that is growing in popularity. Sous vide translated in French literally means “under vacuum” and this gives a big clue about how sous vide works.

In sous vide cooking, the food is sealed in a vacuum bag and cooked slowly in a temperature-controlled water bath, normally between 120° F and 160° F.

A couple appliances can cook sous vide, which include the Instant Pot and some precision ovens.

Commonly used are sous vide cookers (immersion circulators) that can be used with sous vide containers and large enough pots. Whatever type of device is used, the principle is the same. 

Sous vide works by cooking vacuum-sealed food gently over a long period of time at a precise temperature. This process seals in the flavors and allows the food to cook in its own juices.

The end product is succulent and full of flavor, sous vide as a method can be used to cook everything from pork chop to tender steaks to vegetables.

Because the food is cooked in water, your meal is always evenly cooked, without losing any flavor or nutrients through evaporation.

sous vide machine laying on counter

Benefits of Sous Vide

  • Flavor – Nothing is lost to evaporation, the food cooks in its juices and retains all the natural flavor and goodness.
  • Convenient – Planning a dinner party? Forget all that last-minute rush to get everything ready, the food is ready when you are, even if your plans are running behind the meal can stay in the sous vide for hours without overcooking.
  • Healthy – Because all the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients are retained, this is one of the healthiest ways to cook.
  • Easy and Consistent – Once you have mastered timing and temperatures, it is simple to prepare scrumptious meals time after time.
  • Batch Cooking and Meal Prep – You can cook multiple cuts of steak at one time. That’s a huge time saving when it comes to hosting many people for dinner.

Cons of Sous Vide

  • Needs Planning – This is not a method for those that tend to rush home from work and throw something in the microwave. 
  • Be Careful with Spices – A little spice goes a long way with sous vide, since the spice becomes part of the juice the meal is cooked in over a long period of time. Marinating generally can lead to firming up of the meat.
  • A Clinical Approach to Cooking – If you enjoy the sizzle and aroma of cooking, then the gentle approach to cooking that is sous vide might not be for you.

Similarities and Differences

Sous Vide and Instant Pot Similarities

The most obvious similarity is that these are both appliances that can be used to cook meals slowly. The Instant Pot can do this using two methods, as a slow cooker and to cook sous vide style.

Sous vide can be used to cook …. Well, sous vide style.

Another similarity is that both are available as countertop appliances.

Sous Vide and Instant Pot Differences

While both appliances can be used to cook sous vide style, the Instant Pot differs from a dedicated sous vide appliance by offering a host of other functions.

Whereas sous vide by design will always require time to prepare a meal, an Instant Pot can be used as a pressure cooker when time is short.

A sous vide cooker heating and circulating water in a sous vide container is more accurate with the temperature than the Instant Pot. 

Instant Pots are one appliance, while sous vide cooking needs multiple pieces of equipment: sous vide cooker, sous vide container, vacuum sealer, and/or kitchen torch

The sous vide has more capacity than an Instant Pot, but you can cook multiple items in an Instant Pot, like a whole meal. 

Final Thoughts on Sous Vide vs Instant Pot

At first glance, it seems like a no-brainer, the Instant Pot has far more features than a sous vide appliance. However, dedicated devices are normally better at the job they were designed for than the “Jack-of-all-trades” approach.

With sous vide cooking accuracy is key and a good sous vide machine will outperform multicookers when it comes to the sous vide cooking technique. Plus, capacity really isn’t a limit when cooking with a dedicated sous vide machine.

If you intend to do more than just try the sous vide method, then a dedicated appliance is definitely better. However, for those that want the benefits of a multicooker then the Instant Pot is one of those rare things, a multi-device that works well, no matter what it tries its hand at. Do keep in mind though the capacity of Instant Pot is limited.

For other comparisons of sous vide and cooking methods, look at some of the other articles on the site:


  • Rishi

    Rishi is an avid home chef and the owner-operator of Top Sous Vide. He's been cooking sous vide for over 7 years and loves experimenting with new foods. Whether it's a simple family dinner for his wife and 3 kids or an elaborate meal for a group of friends, his food is always a crowd pleaser!

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