“A slow cooker is not only budget-friendly but also a time-savvy tool for your kitchen. It can work wonders to reduce overhead costs as it utilizes slow cooking against the cheaper cuts of meat. So, make it fast and cook it slow.”
Owning a slow cooker or the crock-pot could be a boon to your kitchen as it reduces many of the inconveniences of cooking. Now you don’t have to stay close to a hot stove or keep an eye on the food for long periods of time; with a slow cooker you can do less work and still cook tastier meals.
To help you figure out how to select the best cooker that meets your family’s needs, we’ve put together a guide on what you should be aware of during the buying process.
Step 1: Choosing a Slow Cooker Size & shape
Like any other cookware, the slow cooker’s size depends on the foods you cook the most and how often. For example, at 1.5-3.0 liters, the small sized cookers are intended to accomplish the small cooking tasks; at 3.0-5.0 liters, the medium models would be ideal for a family of 3-4 whereas 5.0- 6.5 liters option could be handy to cook for a large family.
Small (1-2 people): 1.5-3.0 liters
Medium (3-4 people): 3.0-5.0 liters
Large (5 or more people): 5.0-6.5 liters
The other factor that you must consider in addition to the slow cooker’s size is its shape.
- Interested in cooking soup, stews and casseroles? A Round model could suit your needs.
- Do you often cook cuts of meat? You might want to consider an Oval shaped slow cooker.
Pro tip: Since it is much easier for a liquid to take the shape of its container as an alternative to cramming a square roast into a round hole –we recommend an oval slow cooker.
Step 2: Choosing the Right Settings
Will you require a keep-warm setting, or would you go with a timer that turns the slow-cooker off if you’re not there to supervise? Slow cookers loaded with the goodness of digital controls are generally more expensive than their basic counterparts with just a couple of settings.
Many cheap slow cookers still come enriched with the generosity of keep warm setting, so you could grab a budget-friendly deal by simply choosing a basic model over the fancier ones. Some of the state-of-the-art settings are mentioned below:
- Indicator light: A great visual pointer that helps you determine if your slow cooker is working perfectly, the indicator light is an indispensable feature to look for.
- Timer: Not all the cookers are loaded with a timer, but this feature could be your savior if you would be away from the cooker for longer than the recipe’s cooking time. Once the desired cooking time is reached on the timer, the slow cooker automatically switches to the ‘keep warm’ setting.
- Auto cook: A setting which is predominantly found on the premium slow cookers, the Auto-cook option makes sure that your machine starts on high and gradually drops down to low for the remaining cooking time.
Step 3: Selecting the Additional Features
- Insert Materials: A majority of slow cookers have a removable metal or ceramic pot. Of both the varieties, the ceramic inserts continue to top the consumer ratings, based on reports of minimal scorching and uniform heat distribution.
- Ease of cleaning: Does the Slow-cooker promises the ‘Ease of cleaning’? Is the machine dishwasher safe? Does it showcase buttons and knobs, or touchpad controls (which are usually easier to clean)?
- Lids:A clear glass lid enables you to directly glance at your food, while retaining the precious heat. In fact, some premium slow cookers also feature a hinged split lid that allows you to lift one side while making sure that the other side stays shut, thereby ensuring no loss of heat.
Pro tip: Look for programmable models with locking lids, timers, and preferably a silicone gasket to avoid spills.
Step 4: Defining a Reasonable Budget
Slow cookers do not come too heavy on your pocket in comparison with the other kitchen appliances. Basic slow cooker starts from as little as $20 whereas you could end up with a programmable model at nearly $100.
Paying more will not only get you a feature-rich slow cooker but it will also enhance your overall cooking experience. These features may range from a glass-made bowl to the luxury to be used on the hob first to sear meat. Fancier models usually have more timer options, extravagant digital controls, and even an auto-stir function.
But one doesn’t necessarily require any of these decorative features to make a delicious stew.
Pro tip: Make sure that the slow cooker – no matter how many extra features it has – can cook you really good food, as there’s no point having a high-tech model if it doesn’t stick to the basics well.
Know before you go
- Will you take it on the go? If you’re a regular at game-day parties or the neighborhood potlucks, then you might want to carry your share of the meal in the slow cooker, so you could keep it warm and fresh during the event. So, look for a slow cooker with a locking lid that seals completely. Moreover, easy-to-grip handles and a retractable cord are also handy features on a portable model.
- If your lid cracks, could you replace it?Research reveals that the lids and inserts are the weakest parts of a slow cooker. So, you must check if you can purchase replacements without the need to spend on a brand new slow cooker.
- Will you be nearby to babysit your slow cooker?A slow cooker is much celebrated among the busy families because it doesn’t require to be monitored. Still you don’t want to fall afoul of food safety guidelines by letting the food rest at low temperatures for long duration of time.
According to the FDA, bacteria could pose a serious risk if the temperature falls below 140 degrees.
Pro tip: So, if you work for long hours, then we recommend you to go for a programmable model that will automatically switch your food to “warm” once done – it will not only keep your food healthy at the safe temperature but also reduce the risk of overcooking.