How to Choose a Slow Cooker – Buying Guide
Once you are convinced by the benefits of a slow cooker and have brushed up on the different slow cooker features available you are ready to make the final decisions before taking the plunge and buying a slow cooker. These slow cooker buying tips will give you a checklist of questions to ask yourself before you start shopping.
Size Isn’t Everything
The key purchase factor for most people is the size of their slow cooker. There are models available at most price points for most sizes, differentiated by brand and functionality, so everyone can find a slow cooker to suit their needs and budget.
It is not always clear what size you need so we’ve poured our knowledge into our handy size picker!Show 102550100 entries Search:
|Capacity||Servings||Ideal for||Price Range|
|3-5 quarts||4-8||Couples who freeze|
|Over 5 quarts||Over 8||Large families|
Freeze in bulk
|Under 3 quarts||Under 4||Singles or couples||$20-$100|
It’s difficult to avoid repetition here but we consider it absolutely essential that you get a removable cooking pot and glass lid with any slow cooker purchase. For most people with modern lifestyles and work commitments, a timer and keep warm function are also required and it is rare to see a recent slow cooker without at least two heat settings.
The key choices are then capacity, shape and size as well as whether you need some of the less common features such as a locking lid for transport to parties and picnics. Take a moment to think it over so you can quickly browse the online catalog and find your ideal slow cooker.
What Features You Should Follow While Buying A Slow Cooker
We have created the list for you by what we consider to be the most common buying factors.
- A removable cooking pot should be considered a 100% essential feature of all modern slow cookers regardless of size or price. A removable pot allows for easy cleaning and then ability to either transport the pot to the table for guests to serve themselves or to take to a pot-luck party.
- Similarly, a glass lid is a must-have for all buyers. A well-manufactured lid keeps the moisture in the food and allows you to monitor the cooking without having to break the seal and lose liquid to evaporation each time.
- The slow cooker capacity is very much a personal choice based on your family and entertaining needs. There are options from 16oz mini slow cookers for one person all the way up to 7+ quarts/6 liters for large scale entertaining. Remember that you can freeze any leftovers and some larger cuts of meat or whole chickens need a larger capacity.
- The dimensions and shape are also critical for many. Space constrained urban kitchens often can’t house large gadgets easily so a smaller footprint, more upright design may work better but remember that as with capacity, some dishes may be harder to do in the rounder, small slow cookers compared to a large, oval design.
- For those with hectic lifestyles or long work commitments, a timer can be useful to ensure that you only cook the meal for as long as it needs without overcooking. Regardless of when you come home, you know that the food will be done to perfection.
- In conjunction with the timer, a stay warm function is useful for those with variable working hours. Once the timer has finished, the slow cooker stays warm functionality turns the temperature down to keep the food at serving temperature until you get back. Some models feature a manual stay warm function that you need to engage yourself.
- Most slow cookers come with two temperature settings or more to allow for different cooking styles. Especially when doing pale meats such as chicken, cooking on a higher temperature for at least part of the time is strongly recommended for best food safety.
- Whilst cooking chicken for an hour on high and then turning it down is recommended, it stops you from throwing the ingredients in and walking away. A programmable slow cooker allows you to set an initial period of an hour on high followed by cooking the remainder on low. This is the recommended way of raising the food temperature to try to kill foodborne bacteria.
- For those that like their pot-luck parties or an outdoor bbq, a locking lid for transporting the slow cooker is a very handy option to have to reduce the chance of spillage. It can even be useful when moving from kitchen to dining table, especially whilst entertaining!
Accessorize your Slow Cooker
Once you’ve selected your new slow cooker, make sure you have everything you need to get the best out of it from day one. By buying all the accessories you need with the cooker you can often save on shipping costs.
If you are cooking in bulk to freeze, make sure you have enough freezer storage to store your culinary creations in. Most slow chef’s need a variety of sizes of freezing containers so they can store meals for one, two or more separately. You will find that you need more than you think as the slow cooking bug bites you!
If either you have a model of slow cooker that doesn’t have a removable pot, you may want to use pot liners that cut down on cleaning.
Make sure you have the right utensils to prepare, on some occasions stir and serve your slow cooking meals. A good set of knives and a set of spatulas, ladles and serving spoons are perfect here as well as a trivet for your dining table to put the warm cooking pot on.
The mainstay of many chef’s needing to break out of simple soups and stews. Tap into a wide variety of slow cooking recipe books to expand your range of slow cooker recipes and techniques.
Are Slow Cookers Worth The Investment?
As shocking as it is, many people around the world simply haven’t heard of a slow cooker, let alone have they had the pleasure of cooking in one. Think about it, for decades now, we’ve all been brought up to cook our food in an oven. Some appliances have become more mainstream, such as the deep fryer and pressure cooker, but the slow cooker still remains widely unknown.
Funnily enough, the slow cooker is an appliance which takes longer to cook your food. But, as a wise person once said, “those who wait and are patient always win the race”, and we honestly feel this saying applies to the slow cooker.
By cooking your food quickly (usually with dollops of oil), you are effectively losing all of nutrients, goodness and great flavors that foods naturally contain.
Because you are losing these sumptuous tastes, appliances are built to effectively replace the taste with something else. When you deep fry a chicken nugget, you’re getting rid of all the chicken’s flavor and replacing it with oil.
Sure, it may taste the same, or even nicer, but your internal organs certainly don’t feel the same way. With slow cookers, you’re trapping in all of the flavors.
Flavors and tastes are usually lost through the evaporation process (steaming), and that’s why slow cookers come with tightly sealed lids. They effectively lock in all of the flavors and prevent them from escaping (similar to a real-world prison, eh).
Now yes, slow cooking your food may take up to 8-hours in length, but the process is well worth it. Most people are simply put off by a cooking time longer than 45-minutes, but you really shouldn’t be.
Nowadays, slow cookers are built to be completely safe. You can setup your slow cooker and leave it cooking for 8-hours without looking at it once.
In fact, that’s the main selling point of this specific appliance. You can leave it cooking away while you’re at work. Don’t worry about it burning, because slow cookers come with an auto keep-warm feature which is pretty outstanding and reliable.
If you’re interested in learning more about slow cookers, we heavily recommend reading through some of our slow cooker reviews.
With the in-depth understanding this short guide has given you, you are ready to make the final step and buy a slow cooker. Every item reviewed has been evaluated against our key features checklist for easy comparison and is browseable by price, brand, capacity or servings so finding your ideal slow cooker is quick and simple!