Here’s How to Decide Whether to Buy a Rice Cooker, Slow Cooker, or Instant Pot, According to People Who Love Theirs

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If I could own one of every single appliance, I would do it. As a kid, I imagined adulthood would hold little trinkets that do exactly one thing, like donut makers and slushie machines. My craving to own all of those hasn’t changed since I was a kid, but given that I live in a fairly small apartment with two roommates who also cook, there’s not actually space for every single tool I want to have.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and I’ve done virtually all of my cooking at home, I decided I would get one appliance to help me out. I narrowed it down to three options: a rice cooker, an instant pot, or a slow cooker. I landed on a rice cooker, which has revolutionized mealtime for me. I eat rice probably five times a week, and being able to set it in the morning and wait for a cute little song to tell me it’s ready has genuinely improved my life. And it got me thinking: Is this how everyone feels about their appliance? Are there other folks who would actually prefer something different? And what about those tools that have a massive overlap in what they do, like rice cookers, instant pots, and slow cookers? When the Venn diagram is practically a circle, how do you choose?

I found a few people who are simply obsessed with their appliances, and got the answers. 

If you are a habit eater, try a rice cooker.

I make white or brown rice in my Zojirushi rice cooker about three times a week to use as the base for the meals I make, from curry to Buddha bowls. Isabelle Wang, a 26-year-old in Brooklyn, New York, has the same rice cooker I do, and says she uses it “at least twice a week.”

“Since I’m just cooking for myself I can make two to three cups of rice at a time and it lasts me for a few days,” she told Apartment Therapy. She mostly cooks medium-grain white rice, but says she has tried “a bunch of different grains, including brown rice and quinoa.”

Like me, Isabelle loves that the rice “comes out perfectly every time,” which saves her the time it would take to make a batch on the stove and allows her to not have to worry about maintaining a pot.

“The rice at the bottom of the pot doesn’t burn, dry out, or get crunchy, and the texture of the rice is never too dry or mushy,” she says. “The pot is nonstick and super easy to clean. It also plays a cute little song when you start the cooker and when your rice is done!”

“I really can’t think of a single thing I don’t love! Some people might prefer a device with more features and can cook a bigger variety of things, but I eat rice so often that it really does everything I need.”

Credit: Marie-Lyne Quirion

If you’re busy and want to set up your meal and then forget it, try a slow cooker.

When I was trying to decide which appliance to buy, I thought of slow cookers first. I decided against it because I’m in my home all day every day, so leaving it and forgetting it is less of a priority for my cooking at the moment, but when I was growing up, we had a crockpot sitting to the right of the stove, typically bubbling with lentils or beans, or maybe simmering a pot full of chili. 

My mom, who is an excellent cook and made me and my brothers and dad dinner most nights, loved using the slow cooker when the family had a lot going on. In the mornings on our busiest days, she’d make a serving of rice in the rice cooker and pop other ingredients into the slow cooker so that when we returned home from band rehearsals and baseball practice, we could serve ourselves something warm. She liked that she could leave it and forget it for the whole day.

That’s how Susan Walls-Bortman, a 66-year-old in Hereford, Arizona, uses her brand-name Crock-Pot.

“The thing I love about it is that I can put ingredients in the morning and not have to think about it again until dinner time,” she told Apartment Therapy, adding that about two to four times a month, she makes a big bowl of beans, or other various dinners.

“What I didn’t like about my old one was that it was one unit and it was hard to clean but my new one comes apart from the base making it much easier to clean,” she said.

If you’re short on time, try an Instant Pot.

Taylor Bracher, a 33-year-old in Cantwell, Alaska, owns a Crock-Pot brand slow cooker that she got as a birthday present in college and an Instant Pot brand instant pot she got on sale at Fred Meyer, but has recently favored one over the other.

“I used to use my Crock-Pot a lot more, but now that I have an instant pot, the slow cooker is mostly gathering dust and I’m considering giving it away,” she told Apartment Therapy. 

She uses the instant pot, on the other hand, about once a week, mostly to cook mashed potatoes, soups, and meat — specifically moose and caribou.

“I love the instant pot because the meat comes out so much more tender and juicy than with the Crock-Pot,” she said. “Plus, I don’t have to think so far in advance with the instant pot. With the Crock-Pot, I need to remember to get the meal cooking earlier in the day, but with the instant pot I can cook a whole moose roast in just over an hour.”

But one big downfall of any of the options is their size.

“The thing I don’t love about both of them is that they are big appliances that require counter space or storage space,” Bracher said. “And they’re harder to clean well as compared to regular pots and pans.”

Shivum Bharill, a 25-year-old in Brooklyn, New York, uses a duo mini instant pot about two to three times a week, but the appliance hasn’t changed the way he cooks that much.

“I usually just use the pressure cook feature,” he told Apartment Therapy, admitting that he does “want to explore the other settings and I want to try using racks to cook multiple things at once — like daal and rice!”

He doesn’t think it’s “life-changing,” but likes that you can set it and come back later and that the cleaning up process is simple.

“Sometimes it takes a while to heat up, and the timer countdown only starts after that so I get antsy,” he said of the only downfall of the appliance. “And sometimes I just miss my regular old pressure cooker!”