Guide to Buying a Slow Cooker

January 29, 2019

Guide to Buying a Slow Cooker

A slow cooker is a necessary item for any kitchen.

They are great to put your favourite dish on and let it cook slowly during the day whilst you are doing other things. Then come dinner time everything is ready and you can sit down and enjoy your favourite meal.

If walking in the kitchen and finding your home-cooked meal ready and waiting sounds likes a good idea to you, you’ll love the convenience of using a slow cooker. Place your ingredients in your crockpot, and it will do the work for you while you are away or while you sleep. You don’t need to watch it, stir it, worry about it burning, and your meal is ready when you are.


HOW DO SLOW COOKERS COOK FOOD?

A slow cooker, as the name would suggest, cooks your food slowly. This means it is ideal for putting on in the morning before you go to work, and leaving it to cook. It will then be done by the time you return home. The temperatures are low, and this means that it builds up and simmers, rather than boiling and cooking fast.

The best price slow cooker will have just three parts to it – the large bowl, where the food is, the glass lid, to hold the heat in, and the heating section, or element, which does the work. It’s really that simple. The steam which is generated during cooking helps to keep the moisture inside, which cuts down on the chances of burning (very, very unlikely), and means that if you cook meat, it will be very tender indeed.

Let’s look at what you should look for when you are buying a slow cooker or crock pot.

Features

Slow cookers can range in price from $10 to $300. While the higher priced ones have a lot of convenient features, with few exceptions, they all basically do the same thing – heat food at a low, steady heat in an environment that traps heat and moisture.

Size

Probably, the most important choice you need to make when you buy your slow cooker is what size to get. Slow cookers come in a variety of sizes, from very small 2 litres to very large 8 litres.

A  2 to 3 litres crockpot is usually sufficient for one to two people. If you are planning to feed a family of three to five, you will probably want a 4 to 6 litres model.  An 8 litre model usually works best for feeding five to seven people.

A standard litre capacity size would be around 1.5 to 3 litres for up to two people, 3 to 5 litres for a medium household of up to four people, and around 5 to 6.5 litres for a larger household of five people or more. The best small slow cooker will certainly be more than enough for a single person or a couple.\
If you want to be able to cook large pieces of meat, you will probably want to buy a crock pot that is at least 6 litres.


Some slow cookers come with three different size crocks, so you can use the exact size you need each time you cook with it.

It may be easier and more cost-effective solution is to own two crock pots – a large one for cooking beans, soups, stews, etc. and a small one for cooking hot cereal and keeping sauces and dips warm.

So you can have the right size for the right food, but can also be using two slow cookers at the same time if you need to.

Because a slow cooker works best when filled at least half full, it is important to thoroughly consider which size is best for you before purchasing.

It is nice to own a large crock pot so you can make a big pot of soup and having delicious leftovers for another day. In addition, if you would normally use a large crockpot, but occasionally need a small one, you can sometimes put an oven-safe dish in the bottom of your large crock pot to cook food in.

Most slow-cooker recipes, however, are meant for the average-sized slow cooker, which is about six litres; this is the one we recommend as the starter size.

If you like to double recipes and cook for a crowd, by all means, go even bigger! The key to size is that slow cookers need to be at least half full to get good results.

Temperature Control Features

Most crockpots come with at least two temperature settings – high and low.

You may want to consider buying one with a “keep warm” setting as well, as this can be convenient for keeping food warm after it is fully cooked.

Digital (Programmable) vs. Manual Controls

In the past, slow cookers offered only manual controls with a low or high option (and sometimes keep warm). When you turned the cooker on, it started cooking and continued cooking until you manually turned it off.

But now, slow cookers come with programmable digital controls that allow you to schedule when the slow cooker is to turn on and off and the number of hours the food is to be cooked.  

And you can even have the cooker switch to “warm” after a set amount of time.

The digital controls offer flexibility and control. The manual dial control is simple to use, less expensive and offers less opportunity for something to malfunction.

If you are using a programmable cooker and the power goes out – even for just a second – the settings will reset and the slow cooker will be off even when the power comes back on.

If you are using a cooker with manual control and the power goes out, it will come back on and continue cooking when power is restored.

If you don’t want to spend the extra money for a programmable crock pot, but like the idea of an automatic on-off function, plug your cooker into an appliance timer, and set it to go on or off when you want.


Removable Crock
Most slow cookers come with a removable crock (liner or insert) making clean-up easier.

You can also serve the food in the removable crock, so you have one less dish to wash.

Ceramic and porcelain are the popular options out there, although there are metal crocks, too.

They all do a good job of conducting heat, so it's really up to your preferences.

What's important with the crock, however, is that it's removable for easy cleaning.

Slow cookers with the crock and heating unit fused together just aren't fun or easy to clean.

The insert should have a wide rim that slopes inward slightly allowing the liquid that accumulates there (from steam) to drip back into the crock.

Some slow cookers come with an aluminum or nonstick insert, which, unlike stoneware crocks, can be used on the stove top. With these, you may want to think about the health risks of cooking in aluminum.

Stoneware is considered superior material because of its ability to keep an even and constant temperature.

Shape

Many larger size slow cookers come in round, oblong or rectangular, or oval.

Round cookers work well for just about any food except long pieces of meat.

Oval shaped slow cookers will accommodate chicken, ribs, or a roast much better than a round cooker.


Lid

Most cooker lids are glass; however, they are also available in plastic and metal.

If possible, opt for a glass lid.

Because glass is heavier than plastic it keeps more heat in, and because it’s transparent it allows you to check on the food without lifting the lid.

Much heat can be lost by lifting the lid, and required cooking time can be increased by 30 to 60 minutes.

Some lids have a gasket that helps keep in heat and seal the lid to prevent spills. However, some prefer a lid without the gasket for easier cleaning. Also, some gaskets tend to absorb odors from the food cooked in the crockpot.

Miscellaneous

Solid handles usually last longer than “loop handles”.

Most newer slow cookers cook hotter than those made over seven to ten years ago.  The low setting on some new crock pot is almost as hot as the high setting on some of the older crock pots.

What is the Difference Between a Crock-Pot and a Slow Cooker?

“Crock-Pot” was the brand name of Rival’s first slow cooker when they first came out. The name stuck so well that most people started calling any slow cooker made by any company a “crockpot”.

So although the name “Crock-Pot” is technically a brand name, the terms slow cooker and crock pot are generally used interchangeably.  They both refer to this great appliance that cooks your meal while you’re busy with other things – even sleeping!


Method of heating
Most slow cookers have a base that snugly encloses a removable insert. Sometimes the heating element is just on the bottom, or if you're lucky, the element also goes up the side of the base (which allows heat to be more evenly distributed).

Some slow cookers just have a crock that sits on top of the heating unit. Heat isn't as evenly distributed this way, and you might have to stir the food more often to prevent scorching.


THE BENEFITS OF SLOW COOKING

There has to be a major benefit when working out the best slow cooker to buy, otherwise, you wouldn’t bother! Basically, a slow cooker has several positives to it:

It helps to intensify the flavours of the dish you are creating, due to the slow nature of the cooking process


Nutrients in meat and vegetables are kept inside, and not lost


It keeps moisture inside the dish, which tenderises meat and vegetables


It is convenient, i.e. you can leave your meal cooking whilst you go to work, and it is will be ready when you return


As we mentioned, the best value slow cooker will be more basic, but basic is all you really need your appliance to be when cooking meals in this way.

 

SELECTED CROCKPOTS

Here are some selected crockpots you can buy today.

Sunbeam Electronic Slow Cooker, Stainless Steel

Sunbeam Slow Cooker

The Sunbeam model is 5.5 litres.

After cooking time has finished it will automatically switch to warm to prevent your food from being overcooked.

Easy to clean and operate.

Lid and dish are dishwasher safe.

Buy Here

 

Breville BSC560BSS Slow Cooker, Brushed Stainless Steel

Breville Slow Cooker

Cast Aluminium EasySear Pan * for stovetop searing, slow cooking and roasting in the oven


7 litre - Large Family Size


Low High and Auto Heat Settings let you decide how fast to cook your food.


Wrap Around Element for Even Heating


An automatic setting has dinner ready when you get home, and the non-stick pan makes washing even easier than cooking

Buy Here

CrockPot Sear & Slow Cookers, White

CrockPot Sear & Slow Cookers, White

Use the pot directly on all cook-top types, gas, electric and even induction, to sauté ingredients before slow cooking and seal in flavours, all in one pot.


Unique DuraCermaic coated pot means cooks food faster with higher scratch resistance and is 4X more durable than non-stick coatings.


Automatically switches into keep warm mode once the set cooking time ends to keep dinner ready until you are.

Buy Here

Russell Hobbs 4443BSS 3.5L Slow Cooker

Russell Hobbs 4443BSS 3.5L Slow Cooker

3 heat settings; High, Low & Auto


Auto function; begins at high, switching to low when the cooking temperature is reached


Cook up to 4 servings


Removable, ceramic bowl


Wrap around heating elements

Buy Here


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