Buying Guide to Slow Cookers
8 Things to Know Before You Buy
For busy, time-press families, the slow cooker is an easy way to put a hot, healthy meal on the table with minimal fuss. It lets you cook, warm and serve all in one convenient appliance.
No two brands of slow cookers are exactly alike. Before you invest, peruse these must-know facts:
Fact #1: Slow cookers cook slowly.
Although this may seem obvious,, it's still important to keep in mind. You can't depend on a slow cooker to make a meal on the fly -- slow cookers heat your food via coils located on the interior of the unit, a process that takes time because the coils operate at a low, constant heat. The beauty of this process is that you can throw the ingredients in before you go to work and come home hours later to a hot meal -- and a home that smells wonderful.
Fact #2: Some slow cookers do more than just cook slowly.
Certain units come with extras that allow you to do more than just whip up a tasty beef stew. If you're interested in a unit that does double (or even triple) duty, look for one with some of these features:
- Metal inserts that can be used on the stove top to sear meats.
- Heat technology that lets you simmer, steam and bake.
- Compartments that keep dips and sauces warm.
- A base unit that doubles as a griddle.
Fact #3: One size doesn't fit all.
Pick the size that fits your cooking needs. Flying solo or cooking for two? Stick to a smaller 4-quart capacity cooker. Have loads of kitchen space or a large family? Invest in a 6-quart or larger unit.
Fact #4: The secret to success is in a see-through lid.
Slow cooker meals turn out best when the lid is secured tightly throughout the entire cooking process. But a model with a solid lid means you can't keep tabs on your meal. The solution? A see-through lid. For those who can't resist the urge to stir, look for a sow cooker with a hinged lid. It allows you to dip your spoon in without letting all of the heat and condensation escape.
Fact #5: Handles make a slow cooker easier to transport.
If you plan on taking your slow cooker from the counter to the table, look for stay cool carry handles.
Fact #6: Aluminum inserts let you brown meat.
While most slow cookers come with a stoneware or ceramic insert, nab yourself one with an aluminum insert and you'll also be able to brown meat.
Fact #7: Some lids and inserts are dishwasher-safe.
This is a must for any home chef who is pressed for time or dislikes hand washing dishes.
Fact #8: Modern slow cookers have multiple programming options.
Slow cookers can come with some helpful setting options. A timer to let you decide when cooking starts and then switches to warm at the end of the cycle or a model with multiple meal settings (soup, meat, buffet).