A slow cooker is a small electrical cooking appliance used to simmer and cook food at a lower temperature than other cooking methods.
Slow Cooker Buying Guide
There are a number of factors to consider when purchasing a slow cooker. Some models have metal handles built into the unit while others don’t. No matter which type of slow cooker you buy, you want to be sure the lid fits well. Ideally the lid can lock into place with a latch on or near the handle. Many slow cookers have a built-in indicator light, which lets you know the unit is on.
Some of the other things to keep in mind are:
- Programmable or non-programmable
- Heating element
- Type of insert
There are two types of slow cookers – programmable and non-programmable. For years, non-programmable slow cookers were the only type on the market. Programmable slow cookers allow you to specify cooking settings such as time or cooking level all at once in the beginning. Then when the food is finished cooking they can be programmed to keep food warm. Non-programmable slow cookers can do the same things as a programmable slow cooker but require human intervention to do so. Programmable slow cookers are more expensive than non-programmable models. But, they do allow freedom to do other things since the programming handles steps that you’d otherwise have to be present to do yourself.
Slow cookers come in many different sizes. A slow cooker’s size is determined by volume it can hold and is measured in quarts. Small slow cookers measure 1 to 2 quarts and are frequently round. The most commonly used slow cookers measure from 3 to 6 quarts. Large slow cookers measure 7 to 8 quarts. Size does matter when it comes to slow cookers. You need a large slow cooker if you’re cooking large amounts, or large items such as a big cut of meat. You can use a slow cooker that is larger than what you’re cooking but you can’t use a slow cooker that is too small to hold what you’re cooking.
Slow cookers come in several shapes – round, oval and rectangular. Round is the most common. If you’re going to be cooking casseroles. lasagnas or large meals you’ll probably want to consider an oval or rectangular slow cooker. The oval and rectangular models do take up a bit more counter room but provide more versatility so you can use them to make more dishes.
The heating element in a slow cooker is generally in one of two places – in the walls or underneath the cooker. When the heating element is built into the wall the slow cooker may or may not be one piece. These models are generally non-programmable, and limited to low, medium and high settings. Newer models have removable crocks with the heating element underneath, which is much more convenient for both serving and cleaning. These models are often programmable.
One of the advantages of using a slow cooker is that cheaper cuts of meat that are usually tougher can be used, as the slow cooking process breaks down tougher meats and results in a tender finished meal. Also, because of the ability to cook using low heat under low power, meals don’t have to be closely atched, and some people even use them to cook while they’re away from home. It’s harder to burn foods since the food is cooking at a lower temperature than other cooking methods. A wide variety of dishes can be prepared in slow cookers.
One of the disadvantages of using a slowcooker is that foods can be forgotten and therefore overcooked.
An important note. Crock-Pot is a brand of slow cooker. A Crock-Pot is a slow cooker but not all slow cookers are Crock-Pots.
Wondering what to make in an a slow cooker? There are hundreds of slow cooker cookbooks!