How to Buy the Right Slow Cooker or Crock-Pot
A slow cooker or Crock-Pot has become essential for today’s busy cooks. You can save on food with a slow cooker because you can use cheaper cuts of meat and have them come out tender and flavorful every time.
What Is a Slow Cooker or Crock-Pot?
There is no difference indicated between the terms “slow cooker” and “Crock-Pot.” Note that a Crock-Pot is a registered brand of the slow cooker.
A slower cooker or Crock-Pot is a small electrical cooking appliance with a stoneware insert that cooks food at a low temperature for a long period of time. It’s the perfect vessel for making one-pot meals, stews, soups, and more.
Getting the right slow cooker or Crock-Pot that will work best for you and your family can be a challenge due to the many choices available. Consider how you will use it, what size you need, and the features you might want in one. Our comprehensive guide below will help show you the way as you go shopping for one of these small appliances.
Before Buying a Slow Cooker or Crock-Pot
A slow cooker or Crock-Pot is a cooking appliance that is found in most households. In fact, according to Consumer Reports, about 83 percent of households in America have a slow cooker. This cooking vessel is highly useful for people with busy lives, as the food is ready whenever you want to eat it and can be left unattended while you go to work or take your children to sports or other activities. That being said, as you go searching for a slow cooker, take the time to ensure you are getting what will fit your needs best, including the shape, size, functions, design, and construction.
Buying Considerations for a Slow Cooker or Crock-Pot
Style and Design
There are two common types of slow cookers—those that are traditional in look and those that are portable or “travel-friendly” with locking lids to minimize spills. If you plan on taking your slow cooker to potluck dinners or socials, you may want to opt for a portable type rather than a standard model.
You’ll find different styles, sizes, and finishes of slow cookers. If you find you need a variety of sizes, a unit with differently sized ceramic cooking bowls in one heater unit, such as the Hamilton Beach Three-in-One, may be the answer.
Choosing an appropriate slow cooker size is essential if you want this counter appliance to be practical and meet your needs. There’s a good range of sizes (capacities) available in various brands, from a quart up to 6 or 7 quarts.
You can expect to need 1 quart per pound of meat being cooked in a slow cooker. A 5-quart cooker would be able to handle a 5-pound chicken.
|Average Slow Cooker Sizes|
|1 to 3 Quarts||The smallest slow cookers are ideal for singles or couples who want to cook enough for one meal, to use in a recreational vehicle, or for keeping gravy or dip warm.|
|4 to 5 Quarts||A young family of four would find the 4- to 5-quart size handy.|
|6 to 7 Quarts||Most crockpot recipes are designed for a 6-quart slow cooker. This size can feed a large family a single meal or give you lots of leftovers.|
Slow cooker size is also an important consideration if you entertain a lot, like to make meals ahead, prepare large batches of pasta sauce, and so on. Many homes have more than one size. However, storage may be a problem for some, and the most versatile size, if you can only have one, is a 5-quart.
Most slow cookers are round, but there are many oval models available. The oval shape is quite popular and more versatile for a variety of foods such as a whole chicken or ribs.
From slow cooker and crock-pot beginners to experts alike, today’s appliances offer a number of features that make the cooking experience a breeze.
- Programmable Settings: Offered in most slow cooker models, programmable digital controls allow you to set the cooker to start at a certain time. This feature is great for those who must leave it unattended (such as during the workday) and return later to a meal that’s ready to serve.
- Different Temperatures: Most manual (non-programmable) slow cookers have Warm, Low, and High temperature settings, but it’s always good to confirm before buying. The “Keep Warm” setting, which often accompanies the aforementioned programmable feature, can be very handy when the meal is delayed. Programmable models usually have a Low and High setting and can also be used as a manual set slow cooker.
- Automatic Warming Function: This safety feature that operates when your countdown is done also saves you from spoiling your meal.
- Removable Ceramic Inserts: Standard with every unit, ceramic inserts are easy to clean. While off-white inserts were standard years ago, many current slow cookers have black inserts. Exterior finishes range from various colorful patterns to modern stainless steel.
- Temperature Probes: Some slow cooker models have temperature probes that help you to monitor the temperature if the meat is cooked. This is a handy feature that ensures you don’t overcook or undercook meat.
While you don’t need much else when using a slow cooker, it’s a good idea to have some plastic serving utensils such as a large spoon, slotted spoon, and soup spoon on hand to prevent scratching your ceramic insert. Since some models can become quite hot on the bottom while on High for long periods, keep a wooden cutting board underneath a slow cooker to protect your countertop.
To make clean-up quicker, consider using a slow cooker liner such as Reynolds Slow Cooker Bags. They fit circular or oval cookers from 3- to 6-quart size.
Types of Slow Cookers
Manual slow cookers offer a few settings that you can use by turning the knob or button on the front. These settings are Off, Low and High. Some manual slow cookers have an additional setting of “warm” that you can switch over to after the meal is done cooking. With this type of slow cooker, the cook will have to note the time they put the ingredients in and when the food will be done.
A programmable slow cooker offers a bit more flexibility and control of the cooking. This type of Crock-Pot has a digital control panel that allows the cook to set cooking times and heat levels. The “time” to cook can be programmed from 30 minutes up to 24 hours and will automatically turn itself to the warm setting after that time is up.
Specialty Slow Cookers and Crock-Pots
While most slow cookers are stand-alone single appliances, you can find some very interesting and functional slow cooker units such as duo and trio units to cook and keep different dishes at their temperatures. Connectable entertainment units allow you to line up as many single and duo pots as desired. These buffet servers can be used for entertaining as well as family meals. Each slow cooker has individual controls.
One thing to note is that not all specialty appliances have cooking functions; some are mainly servers with warm settings, so confirm this before buying.
Slow Cook Function in a Multi-Appliance
If you need to cut down on appliances due to limited counter space or storage room, consider a multifunction appliance with a slow cooker setting. Some newer models of rice cookers have a slow cook function, as do some pressure cookers.
There’s a lot of value in a slow cooker. They tend to be reasonably priced, and you will use the appliance for many years. Because of the various features and sizes of slow cookers, prices vary considerably from $10 to $100 or more for high-end models.
Most often, when a slow cooker breaks down after the warranty period, it’s simpler to replace the appliance rather than paying for a replacement part or shipping for repairs.
This is one appliance you’ll want to use often, so choose carefully when it comes to size and features. There are many very good brands including Crock-Pot, Hamilton Beach, Cuisinart, Rival, and KitchenAid.
Maintaining Your Slow Cooker
The upkeep and cleaning of your slow cooker will ensure the best results for future meals. Follow these simple tips to maintain your appliance:
- Always begin by turning off the appliance, unplug it from the outlet, and allow to cool.
- Glass lids and removable stoneware can be cleaned with soap and warm water or in the dishwasher.
- When hand cleaning, do not use abrasive pads or cleaners but gentle cleaning products or vinegar to remove stains. Avoid washing the stoneware with cold water when it is hot.
- Removable stoneware can be washed in the dishwasher.
- Deep clean by filling your slow cooker with water to the leftover food line. Add 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar for a 3-quart slow cooker or 1 cup for a 6-quart slow cooker. Slowly pour in 1/2 cup of baking soda for a 3-quart slow cooker or 1 cup for a 6-quart slow cooker. Wait for bubbles to simmer then slowly add a little bit more. Cover and set to “low” for 1 hour. Remove lid, allow to cool, wipe down, and give a final hand wash with soap and warm water.
How to Clean 7 Small Kitchen Appliances
How to Choose a Slow Cooker or Crock-Pot
There are so many choices of slow-cooker or Crock-Pot appliances on the market that it can seem overwhelming when you start looking for one. Getting your thoughts in order on what you really need, will fit in your cupboard or on the counter, falls within your budget, and serves its purpose is the best step you can take before taking the plunge of finding the right slow-cooker for you and your family. As you prepare, ask yourself a few questions.
How Will You Use Your Slow Cooker?
Determining how much use your slow cooker will get, what you will cook in it, and for how many people, can help you start the selection process. As you look, think about any special functions you want, or if you would prefer one you can program, and how much your wallet can afford. Will you use the slow cooker on a weekly basis? Or more often? What amount and type of food will you cook in it? Will you use it year-round or only during the fall and winter months?
Where Will Your Slow Cooker Be Stored When Not in Use?
Figuring out just where you will be able to store this appliance when you’re not using it can be a factor. Small kitchens mean small storage space. A slow cooker is something you most likely will want to be put away in a cupboard or pantry when you’re not cooking something in it.
Where to Buy a Slow Cooker or Crock-Pot
The slow-cooker is such a popular small household appliance it can be found in multiple places, including supercenters, home stores, appliance stores, grocery stores, home improvement stores, online retailers, and more. Where you buy a slow cooker or Crock-Pot, whether in person or online, is totally up to you. Some people prefer to view it in person so they can actually see the size, features, and functionality. While others prefer the time online shopping saves and the fact the appliance is delivered right to the door.
Either way, ensure you know the return policy in case there’s an issue and it needs to be returned.
A Picture-Filled Guide to Packing Small Appliances Step by Step
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Crock Pot slow cookers are a must for fast-paced lives. Consumer Reports.
Best Slow Cooker Buying Guide
Home-cooked meals are often the first casualty of a hectic schedule. But if you’re not willing to sacrifice everyday gourmet, a slow cooker can take the frenzy out of preparing dinner. Perfect for soups, stews, and tough cuts of meat, slow cookers are designed to simmer food at a low temperature for an extended period of time.
CR bought and tested over a dozen slow cookers from All-Clad, Black+Decker, Calphalon, Crock-Pot, Crux, Cuisinart, Elite, Hamilton Beach, KitchenAid, and Pioneer Woman.
Prices for the programmable slow cookers range from $50 to $170, but the cost of the cooker didn’t predict performance. The manual slow cookers we tested sell for $30 to $40.
Past tests found that any slow cooker we tested could turn out tender, delicious garlic honey chicken. The real challenge? Beef stew with potatoes and carrots, which is why in our latest tests we cooked pots and pots of beef stew with on high heat for 5 hours, and then cooked this same dish on low heat for 8 hours. Staffers sampled the results, weighing in with their opinions on taste and tenderness.
We also evaluated convenience, such as the clarity of the controls, and how easy it is to program the slow cooker. We noted whether models have a lid that locks, a feature that prevents food from spilling when you want to transport it to potlucks and parties.
Basic manual slow cookers have an on/off button and not much more. If you spend more, you can get a programmable slow cooker that lets you choose the cooking time, and more.
Programmable Slow Cooker
Electronic controls and a digital timer let you choose cooking time. Some let you program the slow cooker for up to 24 hours in 30-minute increments and the digital display shows remaining cooking time. All of the tested models automatically switch to a keep-warm setting when set time is up, and can keep food warm for hours. Some also have manual mode.
Slow Cookers Ratings
Manual Slow Cooker
All you have to do is just turn the control to the desired setting—low, medium, or high. Manual models do not have a timer so you’ll have to monitor the cooking, especially for smaller quantities of more delicate foods, and you’ll have to turn off the slow cooker. Some have a keep-warm setting, but you’ll have to switch to this mode.
Slow Cookers Ratings
Sturdy handles are a must, but slow cookers also offer features you might find useful, like roasting racks to let you roast meat and poultry or steam vegetables, wrap-around cord storage, and insulated carrying bags.
Most slow cookers we’ve tested have a ceramic pot that’s oval, a shape that accommodates roasts or other large cuts of meat better than a round slow cooker can.
A glass or clear plastic lid lets you watch your progress without removing the lid and releasing heat. Some slow cookers have a hinged lid—handy when serving up food—though none in our current ratings do. A lid that locks helps keep food from spilling while in transport to potlucks and parties, and some cookers have a handle on the lid that makes the slow cooker easier to carry.
Capacities can range from 1.5 to 8.5 quarts. But some owner’s manuals say to fill the pot 1/2 to 3/4 full to avoid under- and over-cooking and to prevent spillovers. Most of the slow cookers in our ratings are 6-to-7 quart models, a popular size. Even slow cookers with similar capacities can vary in size. The bulky ones are more difficult to store and transport, and of course they eat up more counter space. Note that the tested models weigh between 7 and 17 pounds.
Slow cookers aren’t loaded with new features, but temperature probes pop up on some. Insert the probe into a large cut of meat, choose the temperature you want the meat to reach, and when it does, the slow cooker will switch to the keep-warm setting. The owner’s manual for the Hamilton Beach Temp Tracker we tested includes tips on using the temperature probe and hold-temp mode to cook using the sous vide method.
Ease of Cleaning
An easy-to-clean pot and lid that can go into the dishwasher is handy. And keep in mind that touchpad controls are easier to clean than knobs and buttons.
Set It and Forget It
Slow cookers can deliver melt-in-your mouth meats, and stunning soups and stews with minimal kitchen prep. Watch our video below for more.
As easy as they are to use, slow cookers can pose a health risk if the food is not cooked properly. The USDA recommends the following.
• Keep perishable foods refrigerated until prep time. If you cut meat and vegetables in advance, store them separately in the refrigerator.
• Always thaw meat or poultry before putting it into a slow cooker.
• Check the owner’s manual for suggested amounts. Make sure you add the right amount of liquid.
• If the power goes out during the cooking process and you are not at home, discard the food even if it looks done. If you are at home, finish cooking it by some other means such as on a gas grill or at a neighbor’s.
•Transfer leftovers into a shallow container and store in the refrigerator.
• Don’t reheat leftovers in a slow cooker. Instead, use a stove or microwave and heat to an internal temperature of 165° F. After that, you can return the food to the preheated slow cooker for transport or serving.
is it worth buying, what are the disadvantages, is it convenient to use, reviews
cooks in a slow cooker
which they pinned big hope.
One of the characters wrote that the worst thing he bought was a slow cooker. Many like-minded people gathered in the comments, who told why they hate multicookers. We collected arguments against in a new selection.
These are the stories of readers from the S-Z Community. Collected into one material, carefully edited and formatted according to editorial standards.
Cooks at a snail’s pace
I bought a slow cooker after acute pancreatitis, because cereals on water and very simple soups are exactly what I had to sit on for six months.
They say it’s convenient to cook porridge: throw it in the evening and it’s ready in the morning. But any cereal will swell in eight hours in a liquid – water, milk or whey. The porridge does not turn out like that, rather, it looks like a heated swollen mass. I had to throw it in the morning and wait until it was ready. In a saucepan, cook many times faster.
Second failure – soups. It seems to be thrown and forgotten, but the order of adding the ingredients to the soup affects the taste, since they are cooked at different times. The result, like with porridge, is just slurry. Cooking on the stove is slower, but more canonical.
I sold the multicooker at Avito with pleasure and I don’t regret at all that this unique household item, which takes up a lot of space and cooks at the speed of a snail, is no longer in my house.
Cooks not food, but compound feed
There was a slow cooker for a while. I constantly tried to understand what it was for. I cook porridge myself, normal pilaf is obtained only in a cauldron. She doesn’t interfere herself, she doesn’t cut, she doesn’t do anything. And if you wash it badly or forget about it altogether, mold will form under the seal. In the end, he threw it away.
There are people who say that it is enough to put meat, three kinds of cereals and vegetables in it, and it will boil food for a week. Well, maybe. Only this is not food, some kind of feed is obtained. Not for me such a topic.
Unreliable multicookers quickly fail
I don’t know how cool multicookers are with a price above eight thousand. While I made such notes for myself.
Pain No. 1: the condensate collection container is very small when the multicooker lid is opened. The volume is enough for one opening, then run to drain if you don’t want to wash the case.
Pain #2: Most multicookers do not have a removable “plate” with seals that is attached under the lid, so it is difficult to clean the seal. Wiping without detergent will not be enough, since the fat changes the color and smell of the seal after six months.
Pain No. 3: The coating of the bowls is not always of high quality, it is quickly damaged and the food burns. Even if you use silicone and wooden spatulas.
Pain No. 4: electronic brains of multicookers. Twice pain. After six months of use, I saw with my own eyes that three out of ten refused to work.
The multicooker loses to the stove and oven in terms of convenience
cooks every day
We have such a machine, my husband cooks in it about a couple of times a month. And I cook every day – on a gas stove in good old pots and pans.
I don’t like complex kitchen appliances at all: learning to cook in them, keeping them safe, and some are also problematic to clean. At the multicooker, it is necessary to periodically disassemble and clean the steam exhaust system. No, it’s not mine. This is for those who have cooking as a hobby, not a daily duty.
Multicooker fries and bakes badly
Normal soup is cooked only on the stove, with the ingredients being added in sequence. In the collection of recipes, the phrase “first fry the onions and carrots, then add water and cook further” puzzled me, because onions and carrots are put into the soup at the very end of cooking.
I decided to bake fish, but it turned out not baked like in the oven, but stewed. Frying is also inconvenient, because it is difficult to turn the products over. Normally, only cereals are obtained at a delayed start, when I go for a walk and upon my return I want to immediately eat hot. The rest is useless.
How to cook rice porridge with milk or water
January 8, 2020
On the stove, in the slow cooker, microwave and oven, the dish will come out tender and tasty.
How much liquid to take for rice porridge
Rice porridge is prepared with milk, water or a mixture of both (any proportions are allowed). A dish on the water is well suited for a side dish. Porridge with milk or a mixture will be more tender and fragrant.
Usually 3-4 cups of liquid is used for 1 cup of rice. Unlike ordinary boiled rice, porridge is viscous. If you want a runny consistency – this is often done with milk – take 5-6 glasses of liquid.
How to prepare rice
Round white rice is best for porridge. Clean it up if necessary. Then rinse the cereal thoroughly under running water or several times in a bowl.
What to add to rice porridge with milk or water
If you are preparing a salty dish, add about ½ teaspoon of salt to 1 cup of rice. For sweet porridge, in addition to salt, you will need 1-2 tablespoons of sugar. Although it is better to rely on your taste by tasting milk, water or ready-made porridge.
Salt and sugar are usually put together with cereals. Honey can be added as a sweetener to ready-made porridge.
Put a piece of butter in a ready-made sweet or savory dish – it will be more fragrant and tender in taste.
How to cook rice porridge on the stove
Boil milk, water or a mixture of both in a saucepan. Pour in the rice. Reduce fire to medium. The liquid should boil slightly.
@Cook with passion! / YouTube
Cook, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes until thickened.
@Easy Recipes / YouTube
Remove from heat and leave the porridge covered for at least 10 minutes. You can wrap something warm. The longer the porridge is infused, the thicker it will turn out.
@Marilesya Quick and Delicious / YouTube
How to cook rice porridge with milk or water in a slow cooker
Place the rice in the multicooker bowl. Pour in cold milk or/and water. If using butter, you can add it directly to the slow cooker.
Select the “Milk porridge” mode. With this option, the multicooker, as a rule, determines the readiness of the dish itself. On average, the process takes about 40 minutes. If you do not have such a mode, press “Extinguishing” and cook for 25-30 minutes.
@Multicooker Recipes in Marina Petrushenko’s Multicooker / YouTube
If the finished rice porridge seems watery, leave it in the “Heating” mode for another 15 minutes.
How to cook rice porridge in the microwave
Pour the cereal into a deep microwave-safe dish. Pour in the liquid and place in the microwave oven.
Boil 20-25 minutes at 700 watts. During this time, stir the porridge several times. Close the lid about halfway through the process.
Leave the finished dish in the closed microwave oven for 5-10 minutes.
How to cook rice porridge with milk or water in the oven
In the oven, porridge is usually made with milk or a mixture of milk and water. Then it turns out especially tasty and fragrant.
Fill an ovenproof dish about ¹⁄₃ full of rice with rice. Perfect for clay pots. Pour in the liquid. It should not reach the sides by about 1 centimeter or a little more. Oil can be applied immediately.
Place in the oven. If cooking in pots, put in a cold oven, set the temperature to 120 ° C and cook for 15 minutes. Then raise the temperature to 180°C and cook for another 1 hour or a little longer. If the dishes are not earthenware, you can immediately put them in an oven preheated to 180 ° C.
Ready porridge will be covered with an appetizing ruddy crust.