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Joule vs. Instant Pot: Where should you start experimenting in the kitchen?

Instant Pot Duo Evo Plus Lifestyleii
Instant Pot Duo Evo Plus Lifestyleii (Image credit: Instant Pot)

The Joule vs. Instant Pot battle is classic at this point since both are leaders in the hottest new trends in cooking: sous vide and electric pressure cooking. The sous vide is vacuum-sealed and cooked slowly, while pressure cooking it uses high pressure to cook food quickly.

Both options can help you achieve impressive results with complicated dishes, and both will require a brief learning curve to master timing and technique. I've used both for weeknight meals, holiday feasts, and trying something special, and I'll explain the differences to help you reach the next step in your cooking evolution.

If you fancy yourself a budding gourmet chef, stick with the Chefsteps Joule wand for results you never thought you could achieve. For the ultimate home cook, the Instant Pot will put amazing food on the table in a fraction of the time you're currently spending at the stove.

Joule vs. Instant Pot: What kind of cook do you want to be ...

Breville Joule Sous Vide Lifestyle

Breville Joule Sous Vide Lifestyle (Image credit: Breville)

The most significant factors comparing the specs of these two vastly different devices will be their size and their control options. The Joule is smaller — much smaller. It also controls more like a smartphone accessory, so you'll need to pair it with another device and use an app, while the Instant Pot functions like a simple kitchen appliance.

ChefSteps JouleInstant Pot Duo Plus 60
Size11" x 1.85"15.5" x 14.4" x 14.1"
Space (Volume)~32 cubic inches~2772 cubic inches
Weight1.28 lbs19.56 lbs
Performance1100 watts1200 watts
Bluetooth/Wi-FiYes/YesNo/No
App controlYesNo
Manual controlNoYes
Hands-free (voice) controlYes (with Alexa)No

Are you trying to impress your friends, and maybe yourself, by cooking food as perfectly as the best restaurants? Then check out the ChefSteps Joule and the world of sous vide cooking. With some basic food prep and a couple of finishing moves, you'll have meat perfectly cooked from the middle to edge, vegetables that are firm and flavorful, and eggs that are miraculous in their custard consistency. Best of all, you'll achieve those results every time without worrying about overcooking.

On the other hand, if you're looking to make rich, flavorful, family-style meals in portions that can satisfy your crew, the Instant Pot will be a life-saver. You can cook a pot of beans in 30 minutes instead of four hours or braise short ribs after work instead of all day on a Saturday. Pretty much anything you'd cook in a Crock Pot will taste better in an Instant Pot and finish in a fraction of the time.

What's the difference between Joule vs. Instant Pot?

Both devices have a time window, a specific range of prep time, and cooking time. The Joule requires minimal prep. Usually, you'll pluck some herbs, whip up a marinade, and send your entrée on its cruise to doneness. Then, you'll wait a very long time. A chicken breast takes about 1.5-4 hours, and it MUST be kept in the bath within that window. Too little time, and it's raw; too much and it will start to break down to mush. That window means you can't have dinner ready after work in less than an hour. It also means you can't simply set chicken to cook in the morning when you leave and come home to a perfect meal 9 hours later.

Many dishes, like thicker or tougher cuts of meat, have a much longer and wider window, so you can cook a pork roast for 3-7 hours or more before you run into problems. Still, if your tight schedule dictates your cooking routine, the Instant Pot will be a better fit.

The Instant Pot, on the other hand, will often require more prep. You'll chop vegetables for a base, brown your meat first, and generally work the sauté function heavily before you lock the pressure lid. There are tons of free recipes for the Instant Pot online and off, so prep aside, your options for meals are endless.

On the other hand, chicken breasts then cook in only a few minutes under pressure. But why stop at smaller cuts? You can put a whole chicken into an Instant Pot and have a big meal on the table in about an hour or so. All of that prep makes more of a mess as well, so the Instant Pot will require more cleanup.

Joule vs. Instant Pot: Do you want a portable unit or a kitchen fixture?

Breville Lifestyle

Breville Lifestyle (Image credit: Breville)

With you're thinking about the Joule vs. Instant Pot battle, it all boils down to size and time. The Joule is compact and lightweight. You can take it home for the holidays to make amazing side dishes since it's portable and convenient. It doesn't take up much kitchen space because you can use it in your own pots or most watertight containers. The Instant Pot is massive, bigger than a stand mixer. It will become the biggest thing on your counter, and you'll need to store it somewhere.

When the Instant Pot is done, it's time to eat. It's great for one-pot meals and cooking meat and vegetables all together. When the Joule is done, there is usually more work to do. If you're cooking meat, you'll want to give it a quick (2-minute) sear in a hot pan or with a blowtorch to give it some color and crust. Vegetables cook sous vide at a higher temperature than meat, so your side dishes won't be ready when your chicken is done, or you'll need to cook in another vessel.

Joule vs. Instant Pot: Picking Sides

Instant Pot Due Evo Plus Lifestyle

Instant Pot Due Evo Plus Lifestyle (Image credit: Instant Pot)

The deciding factor in the Joule vs. Instant Pot battle will be how much time you usually have to cook. If this tool will become a regular part of your kitchen, it needs to fit your schedule. If you need to whip something up in a hurry, the Instant Pot is a must-have for any size group. These are the features that made me buy an Instant Pot. The Joule requires more stringent timing, and it offers more flexibility as to when it will deliver that perfectly-cooked meal to your plate.

The Joule certainly has the cool factor. Pressure cookers are great in the way that knitting is great. They're comforting and artisanal but take some effort to achieve "cool" status. Sous vide feels like the future. Similarly, our smartphones made us all professional photographers, sous vide can make you a professional chef. At least, it will get you close enough to fake it for your friends.

Unless you spring for the highest-end Instant Pot, the Joule will be a more expensive purchase. Amazon frequently offers deals on both products, but a small-but-competent Instant Pot can cost less than half the price of the Joule. Plus, you'll want to buy a proper vacuum sealer if you're going to sous vide often, an added expense.