Multi-cookers are versatile appliances that can cook both short and elaborate meals. Depending on the make, you can bake, pressure cook, fry, roast, stew, sauté, steam, and even make rice or yoghurt with a multi-cooker. The four main multi-cooker types are pressure, portable, multi-use, and slow.
Whether you’re whipping up a last-minute or a fancy five-course meal for a party, a multi-cooker is your best friend.
This versatile cooking device has flown off the shelves in the last few years and ended up in many kitchens, including mine! One only has to look at the Instant Pot or Ninja Foodi to understand the reason for this popularity—both pack in the functionality of at least ten other kitchen appliances into their frames.
If you’re just now discovering these modern marvels, here’s a beginner’s guide to multi-cooker!
We have covered everything you should know before you decide which multi cooker to buy!
A Beginner’s Guide To Multi-Cookers
What Is A Multi-Cooker?
As the name suggests, a multi-cooker can perform the functions of several different cooking appliances, making it a one-appliance army in the kitchen. You’re not just cutting down on cooking time but also saving yourself tons of washing up (most multi-cookers are dishwasher safe) and countertop space.
Most multi-cookers, whatever else they may or may not be able to do, can pressure and slow cook. The slow-cooking function is perfect for those with time to cook a meal, while the pressure-cooking function is ideal for those busy, lazy days.
What Are The Functions Of A Multi-Cooker?
Based on the model you buy, your multi-cooker can:
- Slow cook
- Pressure cook
- Make yoghurt
- Cook rice
- Make pasta
Types Of Multi-Cookers
There are four main types of multi-cookers:
- Pressure Cookers: These multi-cookers feature airtight lids and cook food by building up steam and pressure inside, which are eventually released after the cooking through a regulator valve on the lid.
Usually made of ceramic or stainless steel, pressure cookers are non-combustible, often better heat conductors, and present fewer chances of burning food than other pressure-cooking systems.
- Slow Multi-Cookers: Slow multi-cookers, like slow cookers, cook food using heat and steam. Slow cookers and multi-cookers are popularly used to tenderize meat by letting it simmer in broth, water, or some liquid for a long time at a low temperature. Cooking the meat this way also lets it absorb maximum flavour.
With a multi-cooker, you can also brown and finish off the meat. Slow multi-cookers are great for whipping up soups and stews, steaming vegetables, melting chocolate, or making slow-cooked dishes like rice pudding and beef stroganoff.
Some models come with multiple pots and are ideal for cooking big batches of food, while some only feature one pot.
- Portable Multi-Cookers: These are compact, lightweight multi-cookers that can be carried around, as the name suggests. Depending on the model, these cookers can be used to boil, fry, and even be folded up or stacked to use as a container.
- Multi-Use Cookers: As the name suggests, multi-use cookers perform several functions. These cookers feature several compartments where many food items can be simultaneously cooked—you could be steaming veggies in one compartment and pressure-cooking meat in the other.
Multi-use cookers use pressurized steam to cook. Before cooking anything, you must preheat the device and bring it to the cooking temperature. This makes the process more time-consuming than other multi-cookers.
How Safe Are Multi-Cookers?
Pressure cookers gained a bad rep due to several instances of the pot bursting and severely burning people around. However, these resulted from faulty lids and locking mechanisms and were not a consequence of the pressure-cooking system itself.
To ensure your cooker is safe, buy from a trusted brand. Additionally, look for more than one locking mechanism in the lid so that if the standard lock-and-twist doesn’t work, one more strong lock keeps the lid in place.
Buying The Right Multi-Cooker
If this is your first time buying a multi-cooker, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Automatic Features: Look for automatic settings that switch the cooking temperature and settings accordingly so you don’t have to keep doing it manually. This frees you up for other tasks in the kitchen.
Some models even feature pre-programmed cooking times for different dishes, like a microwave oven. Another handy feature is a timer, so you don’t have to monitor the cooker constantly. You can also look for maximum fill lines, warming, and steaming features.
- Capacity: If you’re constantly cooking for one or two people, a multi-cooker with a capacity of 3-4.5 litres should do. Choose a model with a 5-8 litre capacity for larger numbers.
- Steam Release Valves: In pressure cookers and the pressure-cooking setting, a steam release valve is important to release the steam after cooking.
- Different Pressure Settings: This lets you adjust the cooking time according to your dish.
- Easy to Clean: Many multi-cookers are dishwasher safe. They can be easily pulled apart, cleaned, and then reassembled. This can even cut down the washing-up time for stainless steel, which generally takes more time to clean.
The Average Price Of Multi-Cookers
A multi-cooker can be anywhere from under £50 (for a Wahl James Martin multi-cooker) to around £200 for a Ninja Foodi. You should be able to find a decent model in the £80-£160 range (such as the Ninja Speedi Rapid Cooker).
Pro Tips For Multi-Cookers
- Always check the steam release valve to ensure it isn’t clogged by food residue.
- When storing your cooker, keep the lid upturned so that the gasket doesn’t get deformed.
- Soak the silicon rubber seal in a mixture of water and bicarbonate soda to eliminate food odours.
- Use a towel when releasing pressure to protect your hands.
- The higher the pressure, the faster the cooking, but don’t compromise taste for quick results. Meat, especially, tastes better when cooked for longer. Use cheap cuts that perform extremely well when subjected to long cooking periods.
- Six or eight hours in a slow cooker equals an hour in the oven.
A Beginner’s Guide To Multi Cookers: Parting Thoughts
Now that you know everything you should know about multicookers and what they can and can’t do, you can decide on buying the right model for your needs.