Best slow cooker reviews paint the picture of an appliance that transforms the kitchen to ensure you get fresh, authentic and hot meals even if you don’t have time to cook. Browse through any appliances website, and there they are: A variety of slow cookers from basic to tricked out, as if every modern kitchen requires to have one - the same way we need coffee makers and microwaves. Recommended for stews, tough cut meat and soups, slow cookers are optimized to simmer food at medium-to-low temperature for a long period of time. Not all slow cookers work in the same manner, though. An ideal slow cooker is one that offers features you might find useful e.g. to steam vegetables and poultry.
Over the past one decade, as the technology of slow cookers has gotten better, this cooking appliance has become an essential member of the kitchen. And while slow cooking is a relatively simple process, not all appliances are created equally. The kind of food you cook, how you package it inside the cooker, and the number of hours you leave it to simmer are just a number of crucial points to consider when selecting a slow cooker.
Some leading brands come with inserts – mostly ceramic or metallic pots. These inserts are for use in the stovetop, microwave or the oven. You will also come across (or maybe you have seen them already) nonstick coatings that make cleaning your cooker a tad easier. Another awesome feature to look out of in top slow cookers is the lid. Some of the latest options come with a clear plastic or glass lid, which lets you monitor the progress of your food without having to lift the lid, which would also release heat. Besides the lid, best slow cooker reviews often highlight additional features such as the presence of a split, hinged, lid as a welcome addition. Split lid allows you to check your food by lifting a small portion of your cooker. This handy feature makes it easier to serve food too, as you only need to lift one side while the other remains shut retaining the heat.
An important factor that highlights the power of a slow cooker is capacity. Typically, this figure ranges from 1.5 to 8.5 quarts. What you should know however is that you can only fill the pot up to a maximum of 3/4 capacity to prevent spillovers. If you have a family of four, then a 6-quart slow cooker would be a welcome addition. While pondering upon the question of size it is also important to be aware of the aspect of shape. You can find different slow cooker shapes ranging from oblong, oval to round. Usually, oval-shaped slow cookers are recommended for their ability to deal with large cuts of meat and ability to cook roasts. It is also important to note that the shape of your cooker can affect other factors such as storage and transport options. If you are short of space or you travel frequently in your RV then you might want to invest in a regular-shaped slow cooker to prevent potential mishaps.
At this point, you probably don’t know much about what to expect in slow cooking. As with any other new thing, we recommend you go slow in your selection process. Avoid investing in a high-end or luxury-grade cooker as a newbie, until you see that you have what it takes to make the most out of it. The first step: Always settle for a low-end cooker if you consider yourself inexperienced in matters of slow cooking. An ideal low-end cooker is one that offers you three main options namely high, low and warm. Once you settle for a choice that mimics your needs, you can always consider upgrading to a more complicated unit – a programmable one. A programmable slow cooker allows you to cycle through various temperature levels, and can shut down once your food reaches a certain internal temp.
Size is yet another important factor to consider when shopping for a good slow cooker. According to a number of best slow cooker reviews. If you’re in campus and just want to use a slow cooker for a small meal then 1 quart or 2 quart unit would be enough. The kind of meals you prepare also matter. For instance, if you have a habit of preparing a 4-pound cut of pork or a whole chicken, you need to invest in a large-sized unit in order to accommodate that meal. So, think of it this way – do you want to adjust your recipe e.g. by chopping up your chicken into smaller pieces? Let your individual options and preferences guide you.
In order to cook some nice food, you definitely need temperature – and therefore temperature issues are worth taking into consideration when shopping for a slow cooker. A number of the best slow cooker reviews recommend keeping food between 180 degrees Fahrenheit and 210 degrees Fahrenheit. This temperature range is ideal for cooking dried beans and tenderizing meat. Basically, a good slow cooker is one capable of keeping temperature above 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Top-notch slow cookers come with a special pre-programmed feature that automatically shuts down the machine and holds your food in the ideal temperature range – thus keeping it warm and preventing bacteria multiplication. Besides taking all those factors to account, you want to find a slow cooking unit that is easy to operate and operates efficiently. It’s recommended to go for top, recognized brands which is why you should read through various reviews of slow cookers in order to make an informed choice.
This is perhaps the most important consideration in investing in a slow cooker. The body is made up of two key aspects, that is body size and body shape. As you know, the size you settle for should be enough for your family needs. For instance, you want to go for a 4L model if you are single or a couple. On the other hand you want to go for 6L model to meet the needs of an average family of 3 persons. When it comes to matters of shape, it is important to always keep in mind that oval shape tends to “eat up” more space than round shape. So if space is an issue, then you may want to go for a regular rounded unit. The type of food you’re planning to prepare also matters. Irregular shaped food is best cooked inside an oval unit as opposed to a round one. What you want to make sure is that your slow cooker, irrespective of its shape, has minimal crevices or cracks in its overall design. This is to help you keep it clean and prevent food from getting trapped. You don’t want to be in a situation where your slow cooker becomes a breeding ground for dangerous microorganisms.
The crock or insert of your slow cooker is where the actual cooking takes place – as such it is important to make this a top factor when making a purchasing decision. Usually, the type of insert you go for should be determined by the cooking tasks you wish to perform. Quite a number of the best slow cookers come with stoneware crocks. These are largely popular owing to their heavy design and sturdy finish – feats that make them functional for everyday home use. Aside from stoneware inserts you can also find models with stainless steel or aluminum inserts. These (aluminum and stainless steel inserts) have built a name for themselves by allowing for caramelizing or searing of ingredients in the cooking process. There are also inserts that come with non-stick coatings while others can be placed in a microwave and others are not. You may want to go for an insert with large handles as this would allow you to easily transfer your meals by lifting them. Large handle inserts also tend to be easy and quick to clean.
Some of the best slow cookers come with a removable liner, which makes them pretty easy to clean. If you are in a hurry, you can even serve your food in the removable crock so you have one less dish to clean up after all. In most cases the liners are designed with wide rims that slope inwards gently allowing any liquid content in your food to accumulate in there. Another point worth pondering upon as far as crocks are concerned is health risks. Crocks made of aluminum, though cheaper and easy to maintain, are commonly associated with health risks. Some people prefer stoneware, which though expensive, offers superior quality and generally stable temperature levels.
The question you should ask yourself at this point is – Do I need a programmable cooker or a mechanical one? Well, the key difference between these two types is a timer. It is true that both come with an adjustable temperature control system but mechanical cookers have to be manned and manually adjusted or even shut down at the end of the cooking process. Programmable slow cookers on the other hand are powered with special technology which can be tuned in advance, instructing the machine to cook for a stated number of hours and pre-determined temperature range. So at the end of the cooking process, a programmable cooker usually shuts down and then adjusts temperature to keep the food warm and bacteria free.
Going hand in hand with controls are indicators. Without indicators how would you decide on the controls to settle for? A good slow cooker is one with bright indicator lights that are easy to see and understand. Such display can go a long way in helping you know when the cooker is working which can help you prevent potential accidents. Without indicators, one would even leave the machine turned on only to come and find it damaged after many hours of being left in operation with no food or water inside it. The right kind of indicators to go for are ones that are accessible and clearly labeled. Some advanced cookers come fully fitted with an LCD display screen, complete with a touch pad. While such a feature offers you lots of convenience, it also leaves your cooker susceptible to damage. So much as it is recommended to go for a unit with LCD display, doing a bit of research and weighing it against your lifestyle can help you make an even better choice.
Top slow cookers will always have snug-fitting lids that are either made of plastic or glass. Clear lids are a big plus because they help you check on what’s happening inside the pot without having to remove the cover and losing some precious heat in the process. Ill-fitting lids tend to release steam, which on the other hand slows down the cooking process meaning you might find your food uncooked even after leaving it for the recommended duration of time. Another weakness with ill-fitting lids is that they may allow food to splash onto the countertop.
Finding a slow cooker with a snug-fitting lid is only a small fraction of a much larger equation. What would happen if your lid got broken or goes missing? You would definitely need to find a replacement lid. It is therefore important to do a quick survey on the availability and cost of replacement lids for your cooker just so you’re double sure of finding a replacement in case anything goes wrong. Let’s face it, lids are often dropped and banged on surfaces and this may cause them to break or even crack which essentially renders them useless.
If you have any form of physical challenge, it is important to invest in a cooker that is not too big and is generally easy to handle. A super-huge bowl may be too heavy to carry and may not even fit into your small sink. Your ideal slow cooker is one that comes with clear instructions alongside large and well-spaced controls for ease of operation. Also insist on finding a unit that comes fully-packed with user’s instructions and guides – presented in an easy to digest format.
Your daily lifestyle is a huge determinant of the kind of slow cooker you should always go for. Basically, you want to go for a basic appliance but if you are a working parent then you might want to give a thought to a programmable appliance. But besides those two options, there are 3-in-1 units which offers a bit more variety. This allows you to remove individual sections for easy cleaning alongside three separate food options. A popular version of the three-in-one slow cooker range includes three cooking sections alongside three additional containers presenting you with additional storage space for dipping items like chips, vegetables as well as crackers. This design may also come with an extra cover for simplified transportation among other design features for convenience. A removable snack container and crock pot are just but a handful of features that make slow cookers an instant darling to most families.
Most people prefer to invest in slow cookers whose color easily matches the appliances in the kitchen decor. But that’s not always the case. You can always go for a unit that’s differently colored in such a way that it stands out when placed in your kitchen. You may also want to introduce a bit of color in your kitchen – there are no limitations as far as color choices are concerned. However, in most cases slow cookers are available in stainless steel, black, classic red and white colors. Besides that, you can always find ones with multiple colors and creative designs – for instance black but with white flowery designs or even red with stainless steel patterns. If you have a small family, you might want to consider going for cookers with cartoon characters printed on them, as this may encourage the little ones to help in kitchen chores.
As technology and market demand dynamics come into play, slow cookers are advancing in different ways. The modern units come with quite a number of optional equipment to improve your cooking experience and add convenience. The most popular equipment you can find nowadays is the Double Dipper Warmer. This is a two-sided cooking device that allows you to prepare two different dishes simultaneously. For instance, cook some small cobble and baked beans at the same time. Yet another helpful piece of equipment is a meat thermometer, which comes in handy in ensuring food safety. Modern slow cookers come with a special slot for this thermometer allowing you to monitor your meal’s temperature without having to lift the lid. A griddle is another popular consumer equipment that is found on top slow cookers. This unit is recommended for making bacon and pancakes. It is usually found on the bottom section of your crock pot. Last but definitely not least are interchangeable crocks. Some cookers come with three sizes ranging from 2-quart to 4-quart and even 6-quart options.
Simplicity is your best friend when it comes to finding a durable slow cooker. However, with the rise of pots with all manner of fancy features such as LCD displays, dials and settings, you may need to re-think your options. Ideally, you should look for a simplified unit that only comes with features that you really need. But what features do most people generally need? Well, a dial that allows you to adjust from high to medium and low temperature is usually sufficient. However, if you use a timer, then getting a pot with a timer would also be a wise idea. Some people prefer to invest in cast iron slow cookers because not only are they comfortable to use, but are also durable – their high price tag notwithstanding.
While marketers talk of things like “Our slow cookers cook with no more energy than a light bulb”, what they don’t tell you is that consumption happens continuously during the cooking process – essentially adding up to a significant bill. Your slow cookers energy efficiency is rated in a similar way to your oven. A typical 5-quart unit with a low cooking power of 180 watts and a high of 250 watts is the most popular variety for households. Using it as an example, it means that if you cook your food on high temperature setting for 4 hours you’ll end up using 1000 watts of electricity hours. If you prepare your food for 8 hours on low temperature, you end up using 1440 watts of electricity hours. That’s definitely more than a 100-watt light bulb which would only consume 800 watts if left on for 8 hours. With that said, it is important to invest in an energy efficient unit that maximizes on available energy through innovative conservation inputs.
Slow cookers have seen sales grow by 55 percent in recent years and typically cost anything from $12 to $55 depending on features and size. All in all, it is imperative to invest in a unit that is decently priced. Preferably, go for one that offers a fantastic value proposition – great prices and great combination of features. Overall, different best slow cooker reviews talk of a reasonably priced appliance, which can help you save some crucial hours out of your busy day schedule.
In general, here are the basic steps we follow when using a slow cooker. You first clear some counter space to create room for the slow cooker. Then prepare the recipe e.g. trimming meat, cutting vegetables and so forth. Then you simply put the ingredients in the cooker being careful to allow at least 25 percent free space in the pot. Cover with the lid, set the cooking time and then walk away. Your food will be ready in 4 to 6 hours if you used high temperature settings or 8 to 10 hours for low settings.
When using a slow cooker, you can go and catch up on other day-to-day activities. One of the best things about using this technology is that it does not require frequent watching or stirring of the food. In fact, some models allow you to pre-program your cooking instructions in such a way that you can leave the house and come back to find a ready-made meal with minimal qualms. Another plus is that once your food is ready, your crockpot keeps it hot enough for your enjoyment and in the process locks away bacteria. So even as you catch up on your busy schedule, even as you move from one avenue to another for business meetings, you can rest assured to find a home-made meal anytime. In the meantime, your cooker uses far less energy to prepare dishes than an oven does. You end up saving on time and money that would have been spent on paying electricity bills – isn’t that such a wonderful thing to know about slow cookers?
There is something about slow cooker-made food that you won’t just find on other types of food. Understandably, slow cookers usually take a long time to prepare all your ingredients and this tends to squeeze out all the nutrients for you to eat. For instance, you can use it to prepare tough meat that would otherwise be difficult to make using an oven or stove. The science of slowly cooking meat (and other meals) has been proven to effectively soften even tough chunks. So in that manner, you get to save on the cost of your ingredients (because tough meat is cheaper than tender one). Moreover, a wide variety of foods can be prepared in this appliance by mixing different ingredients at once. That’s why soups and stews made from slow cookers taste better than oven-made ones – the mixing and blending of different ingredients takes place slowly and wholesomely.
If you are not sure what to prepare in your slow cooker besides soup and roast, you will be happy to learn that there are thousands of slow cooker recipes available online that you can choose from. From mundane things like meatloaf to tasty food items like bread pudding, there’s no limit to what this appliance can help you do. Best of all, you can always get a little help from various cookbook libraries to improve your ideas. With that comes a whole new world of opportunities. You can introduce new meals to your table and your family will thank you for it. Moreover, you will learn how to make the most out of readily available recipes. A good meal has its magic especially as far as building great relationships is concerned. You can therefore always count on your crock pot to give your friends and family fond memories of your relationship. After all, the secret to happiness in life lies in the discovery of fun moments.
On a cold and dank winter day there’s surely nothing that can beat the feeling of coming home from your day’s work to find a pot full of bubbling stew waiting for you. It is therefore not surprising that in these arduous times slow cooker sales boom. Some say owning such an appliance especially at this time of the year is therapeutic. Perhaps the only small qualm with using a slow cooker is that because it is energy efficient it does not emit heat. So your kitchen remains cold yet some people prefer to take advantage of the heat that’s released during the cooking process. Whichever way you look at it, if you are a time-conscious and penny-pinching cook, the hassle-free nature of this culinary experience is next to none.
While eating restaurant food is not always the best option, it has become a routine convenience for many of us owing to our busy lifestyles. But did you know that you actually to receive more benefits in areas of nutrition, economics and health if you limit dining out? Fortunately, that’s what a slow cooker does. Preparing your own meals at home allows you to select your ingredients so you can stick to organic ingredients instead of processed ones. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends reducing the intake of processed foods, as they tend to be high in sugar, fat and sodium. Knowing that you can have a homemade meal at your place even if you have a busy schedule eliminates the need to order take-out which more often than not is expensive and less nutritious.
In addition to improving the texture and flavor of your food, slow cookers can also improve your health. How? You might want to ask. Well, as with any cooking method used at home, using this method gives you control over the nutrient profile you settle for. For instance, you can add more vegetables and create a meal that’s rich in fiber. You can also settle for lower fat meat and lower the calorie content in your meal. The main benefit of slow cooking is that foods are prepared over longer sessions – and low heat does not destroy nutrients.
Using a slow cooker frees up your stovetop and oven for other types of baking or cooking that you might want to engage in. This comes in handy during holidays, especially when you are cooking for a large group of people and every inch of extra cooking space counts. So you get to capitalize on one-step preparation where you simply put all ingredients in your pot. In a nutshell this not only saves your meal preparation time but also cuts down on the amount of cleanup you may need to engage in. So space-wise, time-wise and nutrition-wise, it’s a win-win situation for you.
We live in an increasingly fast-paced world but even then, there are moments when you just need to slow things down. This is where benefits of good slow cookers come in handy. Finding the right model and knowing how to use it can help you make the most out of this wonderful innovation.