Slow cook or boil? Find out which one is better

When I heard about the slow cooker, I thought I could live without some magic gizmo and produce the same result with ordinary pot. 

At that time, I didn’t know what the difference was between slow cooking and boiling. I learned it the hard way.  

In this article, I would like to save you some time and hardship by explaining the differences between slow cooking and boiling. 

Slow cooking is cooking food by heating it to temperatures below boiling point, also called simmering point 209 °F ( 98,3 °C). Boiling is cooking food by a heating liquid in a pot to its boiling point 212 °F ( 100 °C).  

Why would you want to slow cook? It’s more efficient than boiling, decreases the risk of burning while cooking, and retains many nutrients. Boiling is deemed a faster cooking method because you don’t need to cook food as long as possible. However, it can result in less flavor and nutrients lost during the boiling process. 

Slow cooking also usually results in moister meat because water levels are held constant for more extended periods. Detailed article about how do slow cookers work can be found here.

The most notable differences between slow cooking and boiling boil down to time spent on each method: Slow-cooking typically involves hours of low-to-moderate heat and low water levels (up to 2 hours per pound of meat). In contrast, boiling requires a short amount of time at high temperatures and high water levels (up to 20 minutes per pound) to get the same flavor. 

The result is an entirely different texture, appearance, and taste.

Pros and Cons of slow cooking

Some people are just too busy to cook. This includes, but is not limited to: moms with children, college students with a full class schedule (or work and school), or people who work during the day and like to have time off at night. Anyone can benefit from the slow cooker. 

If you are interested in more in-depth information, check my other article about PROs and CONs of slow cookers.

The main advantages of slow cooking are that it:

  • is considerate to your schedule because you can prepare the dish when you have time 
  • provides a richer flavor to the dish 
  • saves time on your day because the crockpot and other slow cooker appliances take less time to heat up than ovens or stovetops 
  • takes up less space in your kitchen as you can put everything in a pot rather than a separate pan, pot, and utensils
  • keeps all the moisture inside of the pot of a slow cooker

The main disadvantages of slow cooking are that it:

  • requires specialized home cooking tech, as it is hard to replicate the same conditions in an ordinary pot
  • is not suitable for quick recipes
  • requires more preparation than a regular cooking 
  • gives food a different texture. Some foods, specifically casseroles, tend to get a paste-like consistency 
  • because of this, not all recipes are suitable for slow cooking

Pros and Cons of boiling

Counter to the slow cooking, there are times when you want to pay close attention to your cooking. You are looking for a specific texture, consistency, taste, or result, like reducing stock to a sauce, for example.

Let’s take a closer look at the pros of boiling.  

The main advantages of boiling are that it:

  • allows you to fine-tune the end product by changing the heating temperature
  • helps to properly cook the ingredient through while keeping its consistency – cooking pasta, for example, is way less mushy than cooked in a slow cooker 
  • works best if you need to cook something fast – the pasta example
  • is excellent for reducing any liquid – with enough time invested, you can make a fantastic sauce or demi-glace out of your stock

The main disadvantages of boiling are that it:

  • you can boil too hard and overboil or overheat your food, causing it to split apart – it’s best only for cooking something fast
  • can be dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing – such as over-cooking your shrimp for shrimp scampi
  • is extremely dangerous for kids, especially if you are using a smaller pot – there is a risk of boiling water splashing out of the pot and causing burns on hands or other body parts
  • leads to the loss of nutrients and flavor from foods

How much time do you need for slow cooking?

This, of course, depends on the recipe you have chosen. But generally speaking, you can cook a meal in the slow cooker within 4 to 8 hours. The duration of this time depends on how many ingredients you put into your slow cooker at one time. 

First of all, think about how many people do you want to feed. Usually, the higher the number of servings you will need and partially the longer it takes to cook in a slow cooker. 

Next, think about how many ingredients you put into your slow cooker at once. The more components you put in one time, the longer it takes to cook in a slow cooker.

To make the cooking process faster, you might want to prepare the ingredients beforehand. This can help you cook a lot faster. Also, try to cut your ingredients into smaller pieces.

The trick for slow cooking is patience. It is a method of cooking that requires a lot of time and effort. But it has a very tender, juicy, flavorful, and moist result.

How much time do you need to boil liquid?

Depending on the pot you are using and the heating source, bringing water to a boil will take between 5-10 minutes for 4 cups (1 liter) of water. 

Any other liquid will also be heavily dependent on its thickness. The thicker the liquid, the more time it will take. 

Another vital thing about sauces and similar liquids is that they might stick to the bottom of the pot or burn. So constant steering with a spatula is required if you plan to boil anything other than water. 

What happens to nutrients with food while slow cooking it

When slow-cooking food, the nutrients can remain preserved because they are not continually subjected to high temperatures that would typically deplete them. Unlike boiling, in which the water is heated to just above 212 °F ( 100 °C) for a defined amount of time. Slow cooking involves keeping the food at a constant high temperature (also called simmering temperature – 209 °F ( 98,3 °C)) all the time.

The significant advantage of slow cooking is allowing the food to retain most of its vitamins and other nutrients. This means that foods like soups, stews, etc., can be much higher in nutrition than some chicken or fish cooked in boiling water. When the water isn’t constantly heated, the food can retain more of its vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients.

In addition, simmering at a constant temperature means that enzymes are working almost constantly in the food. This means that meats are well-cooked, vegetables can be broken down, and soups become softer and more tender because the enzymes are still working.

For example, when you boil the meat for a certain amount of time, it comes out tough because it has already been cooked. To cook it once again, you need to start from almost scratch. By contrast, it is much easier to adjust the temperature and cook the meat more in steaming or slow cooking.

The result of cooking meat slowly almost always results in a great experience that falls apart from the lightest touch. 

What happens to nutrients with food while boiling it

Boiling food can create a loss of flavor and nutrients because the boiling process causes substances from ingredients to stick to the bottom of your cooking pot or be released into the air in the form of vapor from your cooking pot.

Boiling is not a preferable cooking method when it comes to retaining the most nutrients in foods because it tends to extract water-soluble vitamins and minerals from foods. Also, nutrients can be leached out into the boiling water and lost in the process of being stored away or discarded. In addition, boiling foods can cause proteins to dissolve into a form that is difficult to digest.

Of course, this is different in the case of soups or stews. Their thick consistency and long cooking time gradually cookout vitamins and minerals into the soup broth, which then can be eaten. If you add water to your leftover soup, you get rid of all vitamins and minerals retained in the soup broth. So it is better to add more vegetables, meat, or rice (or whatever else you have) to a leftover soup than adding plain water to it.

There are also other ways to cook vegetables, such as stewing or steaming them, which may be healthier than boiling them.

Is slow cooking safe?

It’s great that you’re curious about what makes a slow cooker safe. They are not only inexpensive but also some of the safest cooking devices for making food.

There is no risk of boiling water overflow and cause a dangerous situation, unlike boiling water in the pot – as long as you always keep an eye on it. You don’t overfill it with liquid. 

Slow cookers also have this advantage in that there is no need to worry about burning or overcooking. The lack of these risks means less potential for explosions or injuries when handling the device.

The temperature in a slow cooker remains constant, which means less chance of drying out meat and vegetables. This can happen when boiled foods lose water-soluble vitamins and minerals during boiling. This also means that more nutrients are retained when compared to boiling.

I have already written a deep analysis of the safety ness of slow cookers here.

In general, you can say that they are safe

Is boiling liquid safe?

Boiling water or any other liquid, for that matter, can cause danger by boiling over and releasing the contents. This is especially dangerous if you are distracted by doing something else and you have kids around. 

Children tend to be drawn to things which they don’t know. Boiling water is a very attractive and fascinating novelty to them. So keeping them away from boiling water is a wise decision to keep them safe. 

Whenever you boil something, please make sure that the cooking pot is watched by you or another adult or at least placed far enough that it is out of the reach of anyone dear to you. This is very important to make sure the safety of your family and children are safe from resulting troubles.

A safer option is to use slow cooking. It is safe for the user and also for the children. 

So to summarize the differences between slow cooking and boiling:

1. “Slow-cooking is a safe way to do cooking.”

2. “One of the main advantages of slow-cooking is that it preserves most of the nutrients through the constant high temperature.”

3. “Another advantage about slow-cooking is that there are no risks or explosions from accidents like boiling water has.”

4. “Bottom line, slow-cooking can be a great option for your family to maximize their nutrition by retaining more nutrients in their food.”

5. “If there is no other option than boiling, please make sure that it is done as safely as possible and that you check it periodically.” 

Have I been able to answer your question? Do you have anything else to ask about? Did I forget to mention something?

Let me know in the comments below. 

Until next time, I wish you happy and overboil-free cooking. 

Vojta Vevera

Combining a love for cooking and using all kinds of technological gizmos helps Vojta to bring the experiences and excitement to all his articles. He is always doing his best to serve you with great information. Mixing over 15 years of cooking experience with his analytical mind and love for all technological things.

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