Forty years ago, women started entering the workforce en masse. That meant they had less time for cooking big dinners, so people began looking for shortcuts in the kitchen. TV dinners were on the scene, but they lacked the quality of home-cooked meals. Enter the slow cooker, commonly referred to as crock pots. These appliances allowed soups, stews, and roasts to cook over hours with little to no attention.
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Crock pot reviews at this time centered on two main factors: convenience and energy savings—slow cookers consume less electricity than a full-sized oven and project less heat. While these characteristics remain relevant to today’s family chefs, slow cooker designs have advanced from those earlier days. Of course, they’re still more than efficient for soups and stews, but oval cookers accommodate larger items, such as whole chickens or large roasts. Also, more timing options grant users greater control over cooking parameters.
When conducting your own crock pot reviews, consider the following factors:
Standard slow cookers generally range in size from 4 quarts to 7 quarts; however, you can find larger and mini versions, too. The size that will work best for you is the size that will hold the amount of food you want to cook. This is an important consideration for food safety. Because these appliances operate at lower temperatures, it’s critical they heat up properly, and the quantity of food within the vessel affects that process. Experts suggest the cooker needs to be at least half full, but no more than 2/3 full.
• Type of Food
The dishes you plan on cooking in the appliance will dictate the shape. If you like the idea of plopping in a large chunk of meat, then choose an oval design. If you are more inclined to use it for soups or stews, then the traditional circular models should do fine.
• Pot Insert
The traditional pot insert is stoneware, but newer models also come in aluminum or stainless steel, which can be used on a stovetop for searing meat before slow cooking it. Also, look for one that’s dishwasher safe for fast clean-ups.
Many models allow users to program start and stop times. When the timer goes off, most machines switch over to a keep-warm mode to prevent food from going cold, but not overcooking it.
A few models for your consideration.
High-End ChoiceCrock-Pot SCVT650-PS 6-1/2-Quart Programmable Touchscreen Slow Cooker, Stainless Steel
There’s room enough in this large oval cooker to pop in a whole chicken in the morning, program the cooking time, and arrive home to it still hot thanks to the auto keep-warm feature. The stainless steel exterior has metal handles with silicone wraps that stay cool to the touch. The interior stoneware vessel and glass lid are dishwasher safe.
Economic ChoiceHamilton Beach Set n Forget Programmable Slow Cooker, 6-Quart
There are three ways to get this slow cooker cooking: Program the timer before you leave for the day, set it manually if you’re going to be home, or use its probe. Insert the probe into the meat, set it for the desired internal temperature, and turn on the cooker. Once the meat reaches doneness, the cooker turns off the heat element and turns on the keep-warm function.
Budget ChoiceProctor-Silex 4-Quart Slow Cooker
This is more of a traditional slow cooker—round, 4 quarts, glass lid, and manual cooking settings, including “keep warm.” Both the stoneware insert and lid are dishwasher safe.