Sous vide wand

ChefSteps Joule

Electric pressure cooker

Instant Pot Duo Plus

The Joule is a powerful little wand; it clips to your container and has a metal foot to stick to the bottom of your pot. Sous vide cooking looks like a science experiment, and diners may scoff at 'undercooked' meat, but it's actually easy and mostly fool-proof.

$179 at Amazon

Pros

  • Consistent results, nearly perfect cook
  • Refined and simple flavors
  • Compact design
  • Smartphone app

Cons

  • Tricky to learn vacuum sealing and longer cook times
  • More work to be done after cooking
  • Cook one or two components of a meal
  • Food could be undercooked, promoting harmful bacteria, but probably not

The Instant Pot delivers amazing flavor in the shortest time, with easy timers and food-specific programs. The most expensive models offer more options, but every Instant Pot is a formidable and fool-proof pressure cooker.

$120 at Amazon

Pros

  • Taste of slow cooking in a fraction of the time
  • Rich and developed flavors
  • Handles large dishes quickly
  • Great for one-pot meals

Cons

  • Results are more rustic
  • More prep to be done before cooking
  • The biggest thing on your countertop
  • Harder to clean than sous vide
  • Escaping steam and pressure could scald or explode, but probably not

The Joule and the Instant Pot are leaders in the hottest new trends in cooking, sous vide and electric pressure cooking, even though they're polar opposites. The sous vide is vacuum-sealed and cooked slowly, while pressure cooking is high-pressure cooked quickly.

Both options can help you achieve impressive results with complicated dishes, and both will require a brief learning curve to master tricky 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.

What cook do you want to be ...

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 Joule Instant Pot Duo Plus 60
Size 11" x 1.85" 13.39" x 12.21" x 12.48"
Space (Volume) ~32 cubic inches ~2040 cubic inches
Weight 1.28 lbs 11.84 lbs
Performance 1100 watts 1000 watts
Bluetooth/Wi-Fi Yes/Yes No/No
App control Yes No
Manual control No Yes
Hands-free (voice) control Yes (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 finishing moves, you'll have meat that is perfectly cooked from 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 4 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 cook in a fraction of the time.

What's the difference?

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.

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.

A portable unit or a kitchen fixture

The Joule is compact and lightweight. You can take it home for the holidays to make amazing side dishes; it's very 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.

Picking Sides

The deciding factor in whether to buy a Joule or an Instant Pot will be how much time you usually have to cook. If this tool is going to become a regular part of your kitchen, it needs to fit your schedule. If you need to whip something up in a hurry, for any size group, the Instant Pot is a must-have. 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. In the same way, 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 is going to be a more expensive purchase by quite a bit. 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.

Magic wand

ChefSteps Joule

Scientific precision for restaurant quality

A powerfully refined sous vide wand that will consistently wow your eating audience. You'll achieve impressive results on day one, and some experimentation will make you the envy of the dinner party circuit.

Ubiquitous pressure

Instant Pot Duo Plus

The home cook's not-so-secret weapon

Proven pressure-cooking techniques with a fool-proof design and helpful presets. If it fits your kitchen space, the Instant Pot can be a versatile and regular part of your household's mealtime.

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