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How to buy the best slow cooker

Slow cookers are inexpensive and convenient for preparing healthy meals at home with minimal effort. A good one will allow your food to develop a flavor you cannot achieve in any other way. 

Even in the summer, a slow cooker can prepare a pot roast or one-pot meal without overheating the kitchen as an oven would. 

What is a slow cooker? 

A slow cooker is a countertop appliance used to cook food over a prolonged period. You can prepare your meal in the morning, place it in the slow cooker, and go about your day before returning home to a ready-to-eat meal. 

Should I own a slow cooker? 

A slow cooker is a practical and versatile kitchen appliance. Soups, casseroles, and stews are cooked at relatively low temperatures for extended periods (several hours). They can transform a tough cut of meat into a tender, falling-apart meal, and they’re great for soups with meat, chicken, and legumes such as lentils and pulses. 

Why a slow cooker may appeal to you 

  • Typically, items can be left unattended. 
  • Cooks inexpensive meat cuts while retaining their natural juices. 
  • Makes less mess 
  • It doesn’t require stirring 
  • It generates little heat in the kitchen and can be used year-round. 

Why a slow cooker may not be your best option 

  • increased cooking time 
  • A power outage Can disrupt storage-intensive 
  • Certain foods may require additional cooking steps (browning meats, cooking onions, garlic, or frying curry pastes/powders) to bring out their full flavor. 

Are slow cookers environmentally friendly? 

Even when a slow cooker is cooking all day, it uses very little electricity, making it an energy-efficient cooking method. And if you use one during the summer, it will produce less heat than your oven, reducing the need for additional cooling. 

Are rice cookers and slow cookers identical? 

Slow cookers are distinct from rice cookers. Even though manufacturers combine their functionality in multi-cookers, these cooking methods operate differently. 

Slow cookers, as their name implies, simmer food at a consistent temperature to develop flavor. 

In contrast, using a rice cooker is a significantly faster cooking method. First, high heat is used to bring the liquid to a boil and generate intense steam; then, the temperature is reduced to finish cooking the rice or vegetables to the desired texture. 

What capacity should my slow cooker have? 

  • For cooking for two, a 3–4.5L slow cooker is sufficient. 
  • Consider a 5–8L model if you’re preparing a group meal. 

You can always make extra and freeze the leftovers, but do not allow them to cool in the slow cooker for too long. 

Searing slow cookers 

It is essential to sear meat before slow cooking so that caramelization can occur and more flavors can develop. Slow cookers on the market can sear meat and vegetables either within the slow cooker or by transferring a removable inner pot to a stovetop. This eliminates the need for multiple pans (and additional cleaning) when searing foods. 

Difference Between A Slow Cooker and A Crock Pot 

Slow Cookers, including Crock-Pots, contain an electrical element in the housing base, manufactured and distributed by various brands. A crockpot is a slow cooker with electrical features on the bottom of the pot and the sides of the casing. I am creating a more uniform heat source. 

Additionally, the crockpot is manufactured by numerous brands. Crock-Pot is a brand name that manufactures slow cookers, crockpots, and countless other kitchen appliances. 

How to buy the best slow cooker 

In this slow cooker buyer’s guide, I’ve outlined the most important factors before purchasing a new slow cooker. These include your budget, the size, the types of food you will be preparing, and any settings and accessories you may require. 

Size 

There is an abundance of slow cooker sizes available, from the highly compact and portable 1-quart to the 22-quart roaster. Consider the following factors when selecting the size of your cooker. 

Important because you cannot underfill (overcooked food) or overfill (undercooked food) the unit when cooking; otherwise, the dish will not be prepared according to the recipe. 

When preparing food in a slow cooker, the inner pot cannot be filled beyond the 2/3 mark for the appliance to function correctly. Follow this simple conversion chart: 1 pound of meat equals 1 quart. Therefore, a 5-pound roast would require a slow cooker with a 5-quart capacity. 

Servings 

  • 1 to 3-quart (1 person or a couple) 
  • 4 to 5-quart (couple or small family) 
  • 6 to 7-quart (families or entertainers) 

Consider the location where the cooker will be stored. Keep it where it is easily accessible to increase your usage. You may feel the need for multiple sizes of slow cookers. There are alternatives to purchasing various home appliances. There exists a cooking device with interchangeable cooking inserts. 

Shape and Style of the Slow Cooker 

We are all familiar with the conventional round shape of a slow cooker, which is ideal for stews, casseroles, etc. There are also rectangular and oval cookers for cooking meat on the bone, poultry, roasts, ribs, etc. 

Also, a rectangle or oval cooker will fit into spaces, countertops, and cabinets with more space around them than a round cooker. Black and stainless-steel ranges are attractive and straightforward to clean. In addition to patterns and colors, there are also decor options available. 

In addition to shape, style, and color, you should consider whether a lockable lid is necessary. This makes your cooker portable by preventing spills and allowing you to transport it to parties, barbecues, and potlucks. 

Construction of the Slow Cooker 

Checking the heat-up and cool-down times on low and high settings – the faster, the better – helps prevent the growth of bacteria. 

  • Slow cookers that are rectangular or oval are space efficient. 
  • Additionally, sleek, easy-to-clean designs prevent bacteria and food from becoming lodged in crevices, etc. 
  • Stainless steel can appear dirtier than other colors and will require a bit more maintenance to appear great. 

Metal Inserts 

Cooktops with a sautéing function typically include a metal insert. They are lighter, permit meal preparation in a single pot or appliance, and are simple to clean. 

Still, others are constructed from non-stick material. Some inserts are suitable for the stovetop, oven, microwave, and freezer. Consider transportability and safety when removing the insert from the casing. Ensure that your unit has handles of sufficient size to lift the entire unit, including the insert, if transport is required. 

Also, examine the insert itself to ensure that it has built-in handles or a lip for removing it safely from the casing. Ensure that the cooking pot can be removed for serving and cleaning and is not integral to the entire electrical unit. 

Indicator lights 

Look for bright indicator lights and an easily accessible, clearly labeled control switch. 

Cracks and crevices 

There should be few or no crevices or cracks where food can become trapped. 

Cleaning 

Each component should be simple to clean. The exterior of a stainless-steel object may show fingerprints and require more wiping. Large cooking bowls can be difficult to wash in the sink or fit in the dishwasher, but you must do so! 

Timer 

A timer is helpful because it counts down the cooking time on your slow cooker and alerts you when it’s done. This is not to be confused with a delayed-start timer. Several members desire a slow cooker with a delayed timer that can be programmed to turn on or off while you are away. We do not recommend doing so, as food left in the oven at a moderately warm temperature will breed bacteria. If your slow cooker turns off prematurely, discard the food immediately; it is probably not worth the risk of food poisoning. 

Automatic setting 

This setting is convenient because it begins the cooking process on high to bring the food to temperature and then switches too low for the remainder of the cooking time. 

Regarding elderly 

People with mobility issues should look for a stove that is not too large and is easy to handle; a large bowl may be cumbersome or not fit in a small sink. It should have easy-to-use front controls that are large, well-labeled, and accompanied by clear instructions. 

Cost  

Slow cookers typically cost between $20 and $300 but can be more expensive depending on brand and features. Although slow cookers are less expensive than other appliances in virtually every kitchen, there is a significant price difference between the lowest and highest models, so you should consider your budget before purchasing. 

For a cook that does the grocery shopping, prices range from ten dollars to several hundred dollars or more. Occasionally, low-end slow cookers perform significantly better than high-end models. 

The number of features included in high-end slow cookers is the primary reason for their higher prices. Like various cooking functions, timers, auto functions, fancy controls, glass bowls, etc., most of these features are rarely used in daily cooking. 

Therefore, you should choose a slow cooker with valuable features, as unnecessary features can increase the price. Another option is to pay less for something that provides all the required features without any extras and then replace it if it breaks. 

Slow Cooker Lids 

Good slow cookers always have transparent, tight-fitting glass or plastic lids. Clear lids are required to monitor the cooking process without removing the cover. Loose lids allow steam to escape, slowing the cooking process and allowing food to spill onto the countertop. 

Slow Cooker Accessories 

There are some kitchen accessories that you likely already possess and should consider using. Using plastic, wooden, or silicon utensils will prevent damage to the cooker insert. If the unit gets hot, a cutting board placed beneath the stove will protect the cooktop from damage. If you dislike cleaning, you could use slow cooker liners, which are available for most sizes of slow cookers. 

Rapid Method For Using A Slow Cooker 

If you need a little more convincing to purchase a slow cooker, you should know how simple it is to operate. 

What Can Be Prepared Using a Slow Cooker? 

Depending on your cookware’s size, shape, and model, you can prepare traditional stews and casseroles. 

Consider also the following; 

  • Whole, juicy breasts, thighs, and pulled chicken 
  • Beef – slow-cooked brisket and chuck steak with rich sauces from any country or spiced up. 
  • Lamb consists of curry-prepared lamb chunks, lamb shanks, legs, and shoulders. 
  • Pulled pork is made from pork belly, shoulder, and loin. 
  • Vegetables, prepared similarly to any meat dish, are layered to form lasagne. 
  • Dessert – The exhaustive list of puddings, cinnamon rolls, brownies, cakes, cheesecake, and peach cobbler. 

Preparation 

Before cooking begins, all ingredients must be chopped, weighed, and measured. 

Browning 

Browning would have to be done in a separate pan because a traditional slow cooker cannot heat fast enough or at a high enough temperature to achieve this. 

You can do everything in a single pot if you purchase a cooker with an integrated browning element. 

Layering 

If the recipe calls for it, after browning, the most significant pieces, such as root vegetables and meat on the bone, are placed at the bottom of the pot and layered upwards. 

Afterward, liquids and additional ingredients are added. 

Temperature 

Select either the low-and-slow or high-temperature cook mode, then cover the pot to initiate the cooking process. Please refrain from removing the cooker’s lid during cooking, as doing so will cause heat loss and alter the cooking time. As soon as possible, refrigerate leftovers. Not allowing it to cool in the slow cooker will prevent the growth of bacteria. 

To Conclude – How to Select a Slow Cooker

When selecting a slow cooker from a local store or an online retailer, you should consider all the advice discussed in this article. Although there are numerous types of slow cookers on the market, the price difference between the cheapest and most expensive models can be three to four times greater. Additionally, it would help if you visited Amazon to compare prices and purchase the best slow cooker at the best price. 

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