Instant Pot or Crock Pot for RV Life

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The differences below are based on the Cuban Pork recipe Melissa has made in the RV using both the CrockPot and Instant Pot.
Crockpot vs Instant Pot

We had our 6 Quart Crock Pot for close to 10 years to make large pot roasts and chilis for family gatherings. Later we would use it for soups, stews, pulled pork, and other meat dishes. Then the Instant Pot came into our lives. We are testing it out in our new full-time living in a 5th wheel. In this lifestyle having one machine that does the work of multiples, is ideal for saving on weight and space. We also have a review of the Instant Pot VS a Rice Cooker.

Following are some comparisons of the Instant Pot VS Crock Pot

Weight

For those of you concerned about weight in your RV or a shelf in your house, here are the numbers:

  • Instant Pot Mini Duo, 3 quart ~ 9 lbs including the plastic cup and metal trivet that ours came with.  The larger Instant Pots are heavier but only by a few pounds.

Watts

Knowing how many watts an item is, will help you calculate the overall cost of using the appliance. It also helps in an RV to know how much electric draw you need for your batteries or generator. The Kill-o-Watt is a helpful gadget that we encourage you to use. Plug your electronic device into the unit, then plug it into the wall and it will show you how many watts the item draws. You can enter the cost per kilowatt hour from your electric company and, the kill-o-watt will calculate the cost for you.

6 Quart Crock Pot  ~ Low setting of 180 watts and a High setting of 195 watts. Typically a constant draw when the slow cooker is on. Again, this is an older crock pot, be sure to check yours with the kill-o-watt reader.

Instant Pot Mini Duo, 3-quart ~ 680 watts when the heating element is on. So in slow cooker mode and keep warm, the heating element will go on and off. But in pressure cook mode the heating element stayed on the entire time, in our experience.

Crock Pot

Before RV life we would brown the meat in a pan, deglaze and add everything to the crock pot. The crock pot cooked quickly and often in half the time the recipe stated. But, had plenty of time for the flavors to develop.

Now in the RV full time, we have to watch our water and electric usage. To not use so much water we skip the browning step and dump everything into the crock. However, one person in the household did not enjoy the taste of the dump meal as much. So we decided to give the Instant Pot a trying knowing it has a Saute Setting.

Instant Pot on slow cook

We have tested the Saute Setting many times between beef, chicken, and pork. Since it’s just the two of us, we only cook 8-ounces of meat at a time. Yet, we were unable to successfully brown half a pound of meat on saute. Now we are back to browning on the stove top as we did with the crock pot and dump it into the Instant Pot.

Six months into using the Slow Cook setting on the Instant Pot we have only found it useful to reheat items. It takes too long to cook anything since it does not get very hot. For this reason, we have started to marinate our meat, pressure cook it, then use the slow cook setting to warm the rest of the ingredients. There is nothing instant about using it this way.

Size

Here are some PICTURES to show how much taller and narrower the 3 quart Mini Duo Instant Pot is versus our 10-year-old 6 quart Crock Pot. New crockpots come in different shapes and sizes.

6-quart CrockPot (left) vs 3-quart Mini Duo Instant Pot (right)

Differences

Surprisingly there is a considerable difference between the Crock Pot and using the slow cooker Instant Pot setting. The differences we will outline below are based on the Cuban Pork recipe that Melissa has made in both the Crock Pot and Instant Pot. Don always seems to notice when it is made in the Instant Pot. Will your family member notice if you switch a recipe from the Crock Pot?

Heat – Slower Cooker

The heat on our Crock Pot was intense. Even the low setting cooked the meal as if it were set to high. I would never again make the mistake of using the high setting and going to work for 8 hours. What a burnt mess I came home to that evening!  So we learned to cook on low and reduce the cooking time. In our crock, the Cuban Pork was done within an hour.  Each crock will be different, so you will need to experiment with yours.

As for the Instant Pot Slow Cook setting, it does not produce much heat. Our Crock Pot would be bubbling in 20 minutes. We have never gotten the Instant Pot to the bubbling stage with anything! So the Cuban Pork takes a good 6 hours to cook in the Instant Pot. Melissa has feared that the slow cook setting may not get the raw meat hot enough, soon enough over the 8 – 10 hours needed.

Heat – Saute Setting

To avoid getting food poisoned the Instant Pot offers a Saute setting that Melissa tested out. The idea is to brown vegetables or meat like you would do on the stove top. This would help not only build flavor in the pot but get the meat a head start. The saute setting was a selling feature for us, so we did not have a pot on the stove to wash.

However, we have tried the Instant Pot Saute Setting several times and have only found it useful to melt butter. It too does not get hot enough to brown the meat on all sides. The other reason it lacks this ability is the 3-quart pot base is too small to brown properly. Meaning, all the liquid is at the bottom of the pot after the first browning. It would take a good 30 minutes to try to cook off the liquid to brown a half a pound of lean pork adequately. And doing so will dry out the star of your dish.

Cook Time

The Cuban Pork dish would cook in 45 minutes in the Crock Pot because of the high heat. Other model crock pots may differ. Once you start using yours for a few recipes, you will get a good feel for how it cooks.

Without using the Instant Pot Pressure Cook feature, your Cuban Pork may take 6 hours. So when we do our recipe, we do pressure cook the seasoned meat first. This speeds up the time and reduces the fear of foodborne illness. In total with the pressure cook option, the pork recipe takes about 2 hours. Plus you are switching between pressure and slow cook, so there is nothing ‘instant’ about it.

Auto Off

Some crock pots have a digital display that includes the ‘Auto Off’ feature. But most of the lower end and non-digital display units do not offer the auto off.  Our 10-year old model did not, so we used a wall timer.

All the Instant Pots I have come across will shut off on their own. Either when the pressure cook, slow cook or saute feature ends. After the cooking cycle has ended, you can opt to have the ‘keep warm’ setting come on automatically. If you choose to do so, it will keep the food warm (145*F from my understanding). In the handbook of our Mini Duo, it does not say for how long the keep warm setting is available.

Clean Up

I have never had a crock pot that was not easy to clean. The actual pot is stoneware with a thick outer glaze; this is typical of most. The base contains the heating element, and the pot lifts out. Wash the pot by hand or place in a dishwasher, and wipe down the base. With the thick glaze, food typically wipes out without any issues.

The Instant Pot on the other hand, to us, is a hassle to clean. There are so many grooves and crevices that it’s hard to get a good deep clean. It has a silicone ring on the top that has to be cleaned as well, each time.

TIP: The silicone ring absorbs odor, so we recommend having one for meat dishes, desserts, and rice/oatmeal. If not, you will end up with your oatmeal having a hint of beef stew flavoring.

Taste

The Cuban Pork recipe tastes different when cooked in the Instant Pot rather than a Crock Pot. The pork lacks the full flavor of the dish because it does not slow cook properly in the Instant Pot. Maybe, if you slow cooked it for 8 – 10 hours, but we do not have time for that. Instead, we tried adding the Cuban spices to the pork, then pressure cooking it. The idea was more flavor would develop, which it did but was very subtle.

TIP

What we have found by putting a dry rub on the meat and leaving it on for several hours or overnight helps the flavor. An overnight marinade is a great option too. The flavors have time to penetrate the meat before you use the Instant Pot. Unfortunately, not all recipes you will be able to do this with.

Overall

The Crock Pot would be our preferred choice for certain meals because the food tastes better. However, since product weight is an issue in our RV life, we will stick with the Instant Pot. And continue making what it is good at oatmeal, rice, roasts, pulled pork, chicken and beef. Then use the stove top for our: soups, stews, and chilis. Maybe later we will get a small Crock Pot to go with our Mini Duo (3qt) Instant Pot so we can be on an adventure while our chili is cooking.

Each month we post a new recipe or two, so be sure to check it out as well as our posts on everyday RV life!  We’ll see you on the next adventure.


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Melissa McElfresh

Melissa McElfresh

In 2012 I was diagnosed with Gastroparesis (stomach paralysis), which made me realize life is too short and not to take simple things for granted. As an avid indoor-girl with allergies, I did not go on hikes of any sort. But, one day my Marine husband, Don, asked if I would go on a 'nature walk' with him. It was on the paved Going To The Sun Road in Glacier National Park. I went and was hooked, eager for our next adventure! The desire to see new places, meet new people, experience new cultures, has aided me to share with you my new adventure.

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We are sharing our adventures to not only document our full-time living in a 5th wheel but to provide others with information.  Our extensive research involved searching for answers to these questions: how to begin this lifestyle, what RV is best to live in full-time and what jobs could we do to support our dream.  However, we did not find a lot of answers out there that pertained to our quest.  Quickly we realized people choose this lifestyle and their RV for many different reasons.  There is no right or wrong answer.  We are here to provide you with another perspective.

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