Sous Vide vs Slow Cookers (Crock Pots) – What’s Better?

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There are two popular cooking appliances on the market: slow cookers and sous vide machines.

The question is which one should you buy?

If you’re looking for a way to simplify your life, then I would recommend getting a sous vide cooker.

Sous vide cookers are easy to use and take up less space in the kitchen. You can sous vide meats and vegetables at precise temperatures and cooking times to ensure that your food is not undercooked nor overcooked.

Slow cookers usually cook at low, medium, or high temperature settings. While the food still may taste cooked and juicy, it tends to be overcooked which can change its flavor. In contrast, sous vide will always cook your food to the desired temperature without diluting its flavor.

In this article, I’ll go through the benefits and disadvantages of sous vide vs slow cookers and crock pots. This post will help you decide which of these cooking appliances and methods is better for you and your taste buds.

What is a Slow Cooker and How Does It Work?

The slow cooker was created in the 1930s as a means of preparing dishes for Sabbath dinners under kosher law. They became popular during the 1970s, obtaining their name – Crock-Pot.

Slow cookers and Crock-Pots are one most popular home cooking tools nowadays. They come in a variety of styles and the functions are even integrated in the Instant Pot, a multi-function pressure cooker that can also slow cook.

A slow cooker works by having a heating element at the base of the machine that plugs into the power outlet. The food is placed in a cooking pot/vessel that is made of porcelain or ceramic. The food in the cooking vessel is cooked as the slow cooker warms up from the bottom. The vessel can be removed on newer models to make it easier to clean up.

A slow cooker is very similar to a stovetop pot. The base heats and cooks the food from below while the heat radiates outwards on all sides, cooking food placed inside it.

The advantage with a slow cooker is a more hands-off approach to cooking that functions the same as a pot on the stovetop. There are three temperature settings: low, medium, and high.

The heat on the bottom of the unit rises, and cooks food in it while the slow cooker keeps it at an even temperature. The temperature of stovetop pots are hard to control evenly.

Low temperatures are ideal for foods that require longer cooking times such as meat. This searing temperature will ensure the meat is cooked through properly and is sufficient to eliminate the need for other methods of cooking like boiling or ovens which can result in a less desirable taste.

On the other hand, sauces or dips that have high heat requirements will typically cook in a much shorter period of time.

Modern slow cookers offer convenience in a number of ways. They come with programmable settings so you can set the temperature and amount of time without fuss. When the cooking cycle is done, it automatically switches to “off” mode to save energy.

Despite similar goals, slow cookers are not always able to produce the same excellent results as sous vide units. This is mostly because Hamilton Beach claims it’s impossible to give precise temperatures for each heat level you use with a slow cooker.

Slow Cooker Benefits:

  • Easy to Use: Slow cookers are really simple cooking appliances. Any home chef can use it. Add your ingredients, turn it on, and leave it to finish cooking. No need to continuously monitor it. 
  • Healthy and Nutritious: The food in a slow cooker is cooked at a low temperature, so many of the food’s essential nutrients and vitamins are retained as a result. It’s not necessary to have fat for cooking in a slow cooker, since the food’s natural juices are sufficient.
  • Food Safety: Even at a slow cooker’s low heat of 170 degrees, it’s above the 140 degrees needed to kill bacteria and pathogens.
  • Easy Cleanup: With a slow cooker, you only have the one non-stick, inner pot to clean. No more cleaning multiple pots and pans.
  • Energy Efficient: Slow cookers on average use a fraction of the electricity used by an oven.

Slow Cooker Cons

  • There’s no one-size fits all option. You’ll need to buy different sizes of slow cookers if you want to cook more or less food depending on how many people you’re cooking for.
  • Slow cookers can be vulnerable to overcooking and yielding foods that are mushy or waterlogged.
  • Meal planning in advance is necessary. There are no recipes that can be prepared quickly in a slow cooker.

What is Sous Vide and How Does It Work?

Sous vide is a French term that literally means “under vacuum,” which is where the food is sealed in a plastic bag with all the air removed.

Then the bag is put into a water bath with the bag fully submerged under the water level. 

The pot of water is heated by a sous vide immersion circulator. 

This method of cooking has now become widespread among professional chefs and home cooks alike for its ability to produce consistent, moist meat without overcooking.

Sous Vide Benefits

  • Precise Temperature Control: No more overcooking or undercooking your food, especially when it comes to your steaks, chicken, and other meats. You set your desired temperature and the sous vide machines does the rest, cooking your food at precise temperatures for your set amount of time. 
  • Consistent Results: Your food is cooked the same every time, because the temperature and timing are precisely controlled throughout the cooking process. 
  • Easy to Use: Set it and forget it. No need to monitor the sous vide container or pot. Set your temperature and time, and it’ll cook until it’s done.
  • Flavorful Food: All the flavors are sealed in the sous vide bags, so you don’t need to worry about losing any of the food’s flavors while cooking. All the vitamins and nutrients are kept inside as well. And with the vacuum sealed bags, the food is able to be kept up to 5 times longer.
  • Waste Reduction: Steaks and other foods can lose up to 40% of its volume with traditional cooking methods, due to the food drying out. Sous vide won’t lead to volume being lost.
  • Quantity Flexibility: Sous vide cookers give you the ability to cook more or less food easily with different sized sous vide containers. If you have guests coming over, you don’t need to purchase another sous vide cooker, just find a larger container. Read more about what size sous vide containers are ideal for number of people eating
  • Easy Cleanup: Food juices are kept in the vacuum sealed bags, so it’s easy to clean. The containers are just water, so they can be easily dumped.

There are many great sous vide recipes on the website to get you sous vide cooking quickly.

Read more about cleaning sous vide cookers.

Sous Vide Cons

  • Some meats can take many hours to cook if you want the “meat falling off the bone” tenderness. 
  • Need to be careful of floating bags leading to uncooked parts of the food. 

Similarities and Differences

Sous Vide and Slow Cooker Similarities

Both Sous Vide and Slow Cooking are slow cooking techniques that lead to tender and tastier food. 

The time-saving benefits that come from the slow cooker and the sous vide cooking appliance are sensory. 

When it comes to the slow cooker and the sous vide, both have the benefit of preserving the nutrients and vitamins from the food. This leads to healthier food. 

Usability, safety, and simplicity are some of the big benefits with both of these cooking techniques.

Sous Vide and Slow Cooker Differences

One main difference between the two slow cooking techniques is vacuum sealing with sous vide. Vacuum packing is a huge advantage of sous vide because a slow cooker does not allow this convenience and the benefits.

The juices and nutrients are kept in the vacuum sealed bag, while also extending the life of the food sealed in the bag. This is super useful when meal planning and preparing multiple meals in advance. You can freeze the food you’re not planning to eat immediately and  sous vide from frozen easily when you want to eat.

Sous vide cookers are more flexible with food quantities too, because you can use them on different sized containers and pots for different amounts of food. 

Sous vide is more accurate in cooking than a slow-cooker. It always cooks to the precise temperature you set and never overcooks food. 

Slow cookers have the disadvantage that they can sometimes not cook all the way through, because it is impossible to set a specific temperature (on most models).

Final Thoughts on Sous Vide vs Slow Cooker

Sous vide and slow cookers have their pros and cons. I prefer sous vide because I know it will cook to the perfect core temperature and never overcook.

I also enjoy that it is easy to use and that I can leave the food in there for hours without worrying about overcooking. It also frees up my oven, which is great when we have company or are hosting a family event. Slow cookers are good for people who don’t want to spend too much time cooking but still want some of the flavor from slow cooked foods like pulled pork.

Whether you’re looking at sous vide vs crock pot slow cooker recipes, these two kitchen appliances will make your life easier!

The best thing? They both offer something different so it’s all about what works best for you and your lifestyle!

Here are some other comparisons of sous vide to other cooking methods and appliances: