There’s no shortage of cooking trends on the market, and it can be confusing knowing what’s worthwhile and what’s a gimmick. It’s made even harder with the introduction of smarthome devices in the kitchen. Some of them end up being lifesavers, while others are gimmicky and more trouble than they’re worth.
The three methods I find myself looking up recipes for the most are slow cooking, pressure cooking, and sous vide. I often find myself wondering which is the best machine to use, and since I have access to all of the devices, there’s no better way than to cook the same thing in all of them and see how it turns out.
I’m by no means as good in the kitchen as these YouTube chefs and cooks, but I know the basics of what I do and don’t like to eat.
I got a few racks of ribs from the grocery store and threw them in these devices to find out which could make the best indoor ribs. Since I can’t use a smoker or even a grill in my apartment (I’m not a fan of the public grills in the complex), it’s the only way I can enjoy this delicacy at home.
If you don’t like to cook at home, you can always try a meal delivery service.
I pulled all three devices out and loaded them with ribs. Each one could successfully hold a full rack, although they probably could have each fit another full or half rack if needed to feed a crowd.
Between the four devices, you could easily make enough ribs to keep a decent-sized party happy and fed. Now to be clear this isn’t one of those long-winded food blogs where I make you read my life story before finally giving you the recipe. This is just pork ribs, a little bit of salt, and a barbecue sauce broil finish in the oven.
Pick whatever recipe you want. I’m just describing how that process translated into each of these countertop kitchen appliances. I’m also not here to sell you any of them, although there are a few Amazon Affiliate links throughout in case you do decide to purchase something and give me a commission for the referral.
Also, each of these devices was sent to me for free by the company for purposes of reviewing and featuring on my website. If you get one for free as a gift, you’ll have different feelings than if you purchased it.
The Slow Cooker: Crock Pot Cook and Carry
Crock-Pot is the original slow cooker, and you’ll know this because it’s literally the brand’s tagline. These stoneware and glass slow cookers are so good, the term “Crock-Pot” is often used interchangeably in public with “slow cooker.” Another brand slow cooker is known as a “generic Crock-Pot.”
The Cook and Carry line features NFL team logos on a 6-quart oval pot with a lid-mounted locking system. This makes it easy to (get this) cook and carry your meal to tailgates, and more.
Crock-Pot has three heat settings, all of which are lower than the typical bake/boil/fry/grill/boil methods. Instead, it simmers around 200 degrees to get internal food temperatures above the unsafe FDA temperatures of 45-140 degrees where bacteria like E Coli thrives.
Cooking ribs in the Crock-Pot slow cooker involves seasoning them, putting them in the pot, adding water, and covering. Cook for up to 6 hours on low, then crank up to high for another 4-6 hours to melt the collagen and fat for the juiciest, most tender ribs you’ve ever tasted. You’ll know they’re done when you try to pull them out by the bone, and it slides completely out.
The Pressure Cooker: Instant Pot Ultra
Pressure cookers are a little different than crock pots. Instead of simmering in a ceramic dish, the stainless-steel cooking chamber is sealed and steam pressure is used to exponentially speed up the cooking process. On a chemical level, each bar of pressure adds approximately 15 psi, raising the boiling temperature of the water inside and allowing superheated steam that remains trapped, rapidly cooking whatever is inside.
The most popular pressure cooker of modern times is the Instant Pot, which is actually a multicooker. I used the Instant Pot Ultra (ignore the Smart pictured above – it’s just a cleaner image), which functions as a pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice maker, cake maker, yogurt maker, saute/searing, warmer, sterilizer, and whatever customized use you want with or without pressure.
Cooking ribs in the Instant Pot is significantly faster, taking only an hour and requiring less water than the Crock-Pot. However, the ribs were a bit pinker than I’m used to, though I did get some browning on the side.
Instant Post also makes a sous vide device, because it’s the one cooking trend its flagship appliances can’t handle. While I have an Instant Pot Accu Slim, there’s an all-in-one immersion cooker we had to try instead.
The Sous Vide: Mellow
Sous-vide is French for “under vacuum,” and it’s a cooking method that submerges food sealed in plastic bags in water. Immersion cooking is a slow-cook method, and this particular sous vide appliance sticks out because it’s an all-in-one. Typical immersion cookers are immersed in water tanks of your choice.
Mellow also sticks out from the other appliances for several other reasons. First, it’s the only appliance that can also cool and refrigerate food. Wired took the company to task in its product review for the unsafe temperatures it kept food at when using lukewarm water.
These issues have since been fixed by the ability to pre-cool the water overnight so it’s an easy transfer in the morning.
But Mellow is flawed in that it’s the only one of these three kitchen appliances (and the only one that I own) that can’t be used without the app. There are no physical buttons, making it a bit of a pain to operate. It’s also a plastic tank, which, while high quality, makes me less excited about it than the metal or ceramic options above.
Cooking in Mellow was similar to the Crock-Pot, taking the same amount of time. I could control and track the temperature much better though, and all the flavors and juices stayed within the bag.
Editor’s note: I got super high and forgot to take the pic of the Crock-Pot ribs before putting sauce on them. I rubbed most of it off, but it still somewhat tainted the picture.
The pic above is what we got for the results, and there were a few variations that kept it from being a super scientific study. First, one of the Mellow bags wasn’t fully sealed (my fault), so water leaked in and tainted that sample. Also I added barbecue sauce to the Crock-Pot because I was high and forgot what I was doing.
With that said, the Crock-Pot ribs came out the most cooked with dry, almost burnt bones. Both the Instant Pot and Mellow ribs had wet bones that seemed fresh. Less of the fat melted, and they melted in your mouth a little less (although still acceptable levels).
All three of the rib samples needed to be glazed with barbecue sauce and put in the broiler after cooking to truly finish them, and all three were edible. Between them, I personally preferred the Crock-Pot, as I was unimpressed with the remaining fat content left in the other two.
They’re pretty comparable. I couldn’t tell a distinct flavor difference between the stoneware, metal, and plastic. It’s just a matter of whether you’re willing to leave an appliance plugged in all day and wait for a slow cook or you just want to get things done fast.
The Mellow had the easiest cleanup, however, as everything was sealed within the bag, which was then thrown out, while I had to hand wash both the crock pot and Instant Pot, as the dishwasher isn’t the best place for either.