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Multi-Cooker Buying Guide

All-in-One Cooker, One-Pot Cooker - The Best Multi-Cooker by Any Other Name Will Smell As Sweet

Getting Started

While you could find a one-pot cooker for slowly simmering a stew, a second for quickly pressure cooking beans, an air fryer for a healthy alternative to deep-frying… a multi-cooker combines all of these functions and more into a single space-saving design. An all-in-one cooker, or multi-cooker, can serve the function of a slow cooker, pressure cooker, air fryer, rice cooker, sous vide cooker, vegetable steamer, food dehydrator, and even a yogurt maker. If you're interested in even two of these useful appliances, you might be served best with a multi-cooker instead.

Cooking Modes

The term "multi-cooker" doesn't have a strict definition. Consequently, any one-pot cooker with more than a single function can be marketed as a multi-cooker. And while you might have no need for some of the cooking modes offered by a specific device, it's helpful to consider your options.

Air Fry

Air frying has become an increasingly popular alternative to the fattening world of deep-frying, and some of the best multi-cookers have started including it as a function. An air fryer is essentially a small convection oven, using fans to circulate heat all around your food to provide especially even results. Keeping this in mind, it's easy to see why most multi-cookers that have air frying capabilities can also bake, broil, and roast. Air frying offers crispy delicious results reminiscent of your favorite deep-fried treats without the oil-infused guilt.

Pressure Cook

A good way to dramatically reduce cooking times is to turn up the pressure. The boiling temperature of water is directly related to pressure, which is why water boils at lower temperatures at high altitudes. An airtight lid with a secure lock lets some multi-cookers increase the pressure inside their pot, allowing water to reach a higher temperature before boiling. This super-heated water inside the all-in-one cooker prepares food up to 30% faster than other methods, making pressure cooking an excellent way to get dinner on the table in a hurry.

Sear

Often used as a complement to pressure cooking, searing uses high heat to quickly brown dishes, providing them with a delcious crust. For a long time, searing was thought to "seal in moisture," however, this myth has been debunked. The primary benefit to searing comes from the Maillard reaction, a chemical reaction between sugars and amino acids that produces delicious results.

Dehydrate

Removing the moisture from food is a great way to turn fruits, vegetables, and even meats into healthy snacks while impressively extending their shelf life. Blowing low heat over your food for an extended period of time saps out the moisture, leaving you with a crunchy treat you can enjoy immediately or save for years if stored properly. Typically, if an all-in-one cooker can dehydrate, it can also air fry and vice versa.

Sautee

Sauteeing uses a small amount of fat, high heat, and constant movement to evenly cook your dish while providing it with a nice browned exterior. Because you need to keep the food moving, sauteeing in an all-in-one cooker is not as automatic as many of the other functions, requiring you to leave the lid off to stir. Although the steep, high walls of many multi-cookers limit the surface area with which to sautee, they also act effectively as splash guards, keeping fats from splattering around your kitchen.

Steam

Fairly straight forward, the steaming function of a one-pot cooker heats a small amount of liquid to cook your food with the steam created by boiling the water. You can achieve similar results more quickly by using the pressure cooking function.

Rice

Much like the steam function, the rice option heats water to cook the grains. Also like the steam function, pressure cooking accelerates the process.

Yogurt Making

Yogurt is a form of milk that's been fermented by live bacteria. The milk must be held at a steady, relatively low temperature for several hours while the bacteria incubates. While manually maintaining the required temperature between 100 °F and 115 °F can be difficult, a one-pot cooker with yogurt making capabilities can greatly simplify the process.

Sous Vide

Literally meaning "under vacuum" in French, sous vide cooking involves vacuum-sealing your food and cooking it for an extended period of time within a precisely heated water bath. While the difficulty of maintaining a specific temperature for prolonged times kept sous vide dishes quarantined within high end restaurants, the function has started appearing on various all-in-one cookers. The impressive temperature control of these cookers make it simple to get the tender, juicy results of sous vide, without the stress.

Features

With so many variations different multi-cookers to choose from, it's important to narrow down the field by pondering what features matter most to you.

Size

Most multi-cookers advertise cooking capacities ranging between 4 and 8 quarts. However, the actual cooking area is often a bit less than advertised. It's also important to understand that you can't fill the pot of an all-in-one cooker to the brim. The cooker's manual will offer specifics for individual models. Generally speaking, you should only fill ⅔ of the pot at most; expanding foods like rice and beans should only take up fill half of the pot before cooking; and frothy foods like lentils should occupy even less space. When deciding what size would work best for your multicooker, you can think of each quart as roughly one serving.

Materials

The pot or bowl of a one-pot cooker is typically coated with a nonstick material, like Teflon or ceramic, although some cookers use stainless steel pots. Teflon like materials are easy to clean and usually less expensive. However, these materials are also more vulnerable to damage, often from the scratch of metal utensils. If, or more accurately, when a Teflon coated dish begins to flake, it could be more prone to outputting toxic compounds when used at high temperatures. Because of this, it's a good idea to replace the pot if you notice the nonstick material wearing away.

Ceramic coated pots offer many of the same benefits and drawbacks found in Teflon coated ones. Both are easy to clean and relatively inexpensive, although ceramic is often slightly pricier than Teflon. However, pots with ceramic coating can safely handle much higher temperatures, boasting heat resistance in excess of 800 °F compared to 500 °F for Teflon. While the longevity of ceramic and Teflon coated pots are generally seen as about equal, offering 1 - 5 years on average, some report that ceramic pans degrade more rapidly.

While the nonstick properties of ceramic and Teflon make clean up a breeze, stainless steel pots easily outlast either of them. Part of this longevity can be attributed to the ability to use metal utensils without fear of damaging the pot. Stainless steel pots also typically make the all-in-one cooker more expensive. If you can manage the cost and the clean up, stainless steel is the way to go.

Ease of Cleaning

One of the biggest benefits of a multi-cooker is its simplicity. Load in your ingredients, set the cooking program, and let the cooker handle the rest. However, if cleaning the device requires the patience and persistence of a saint, that all but cancels out the advantage of the painless cooking process. As discussed above, the material that the one-pot cooker is made of can make a big difference. Nonstick materials simplify cleanup, sacrificing durability. Stainless steel offers the opposite benefits. However, many of the best multi-cooker recipes use generous amounts of liquid or fat, preventing your food from sticking to even stainless steel.

Removable parts, especially the lid, help make cleanup significantly easier. Some all-in-one cookers even feature dishwasher safe components, making cleanup as easy as removing the dirtied pieces, giving them a quick rinse, then loading them up with the rest of your dishes from dinner.

In Summary

Deciding which one-pot cooker is the best multi-cooker for you requires some careful consideration. First, determine which cooking modes you expect to use. Is pressure cooking, sous vide, or air frying a priority? Once you've settled on the cooking modes you'll be using, the next step is picking a size. Think of each quart as a serving for one person. Then, choose between the inexpensive, easy to clean nonstick options and the durable, albeit more expensive stainless steel. With your choices sufficiently narrowed, of the remaining options, go with the all-in-one cooker that's easiest to clean.

If you still have questions about finding the best multi-cooker, or anything else, please reach out to us via chat, over the phone, or in person at our retail location just north of Chicago. We’re always more than happy to help any way we can.

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