Under Pressure

Low and slow vs a pressure cooker – which will win a taste test? which will use fewer electrons in the effort to turn pork ribs into tasty noms?

The Amazonian Christmas elves added a pressure cooker to the primary testing facility’s collection of tools – which of course warranted some testing. With a meat-sale at our local grocery store, what better way to do this than with 10lbs of ribs?

Supplies:

  • 1 pressure cooker: Instant Pot IP-DUO60
  • 1 slow cooker: Hamilton Beach 6-Quart Slow Cooker
  • 2 Kill A Watts: one for each device – we had 1 Kill A Watt and 1 Kill A Watt EZ (the non-EZ is our favorite as you can see the instantaneous wattage being used)
  • recipe of choice + required bits: in this case, “Barbecued Babyback Ribs” from Pressure Cooker Perfection
    • a very similar recipe was in our go-to slow cooker book (Slow Cooker Revolution), which we used for the slow cooker technique
  • friends willing to eat ribs (for science!) – we managed to wrangle up 4 extra people who were willing to take a rib or two for the team.
Selected recipe and the handy stand protecting the pages from spice rubbed fingers.

Selected recipe and the handy stand protecting the pages from spice rubbed fingers.

Results: (there had better be some ribs by the time we are done here…)

Ribs, primed for pressure cooking.

Ribs, primed for pressure cooking; aka proto-noms

 

Rank

Product

Tasting Notes

Cooking Notes

kWh

1 Pressure Cooker Fall off the bone tender, flavors were thoroughly integrated. Better mouth-feel, but while bones were chewy, the marrow seemed overdone. 30 min, high pressure,
15 minute natural pressure release
0.41
2 Slow Cooker Chewier, but not in a bad way – still comes off the bone fairly easily. Better meat texture and the bone chewer of the group liked the marrow better. 6 hours, low 1.01

We apologize for the lack of photos of the tasty end results; our 6 taste testers were too hungry and busy chewing ribs to operate a digital device.

Comments:

The rib-rub and sauce recipes were made as large batches even though ribs were started at very different times. The sauces were then re-combined after cooking the two batches to ensure the basting sauces were identical.

The general consensus was that “if there had a be a winner”, it would be the pressure cooked ribs. They had a melt in the mouth quality that further combined with a significantly shorter cook time and less than half the electrical usage to make for an overall win.

Although really, as one of our guest taste testers commented, “the true winners are all of us”.

Kill A Watts with final kWh measurements for the slower cooker (left) and pressure cooker (right).

Kill A Watts with final kWh measurements for the slower cooker (left) and pressure cooker (right). Images have been rotated to aide in reading the displays.

Point of interest: the primary testing facility is located in a region with rather high electrical rates; while the average residential rate in the US is $0.125/kWh (EIA),  it is $0.21/kWh in our area… Based on our local rates, it cost 21.2 cents to run the slow cooker, but just 8.6 cents to run the pressure cooker (that’s a savings of 12.6 cents!).

One consideration is that the slow cooker could accommodate 6 lbs of ribs, but the pressure cooker only held 4 lbs (with strict instructions to not double the recipe!). However, even if we normalize to kWh per pound of ribs the pressure cooker was still more efficient as we are looking at 0.17 kWh/lb (slow cooker) versus 0.10 kWh/lb (pressure cooker).

Future Questions:

Is 6 hours in the slow cooker the optimal time for ribs? How do pressure cooker and sous vide compare in terms of final product, time, and energy used? Do you really need to reduce the sauce before caramelizing under the broiler? How does energy use of the oven broiler compare to a heat gun or torch?

I dunno… it sounds like we might need more ribs.

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