If you’re looking for the best slow cooker you’ve come to the right place. We’ve put in the leg work to bring you everything you need to know via reviews and guides!
With tons of designs and styles to choose from, not to mention the plethora of hi-tech features and amenities available, the slow cooker market can easily confuse a person unprepared for the options. Compiling all of this info together was anything but easy, but we think it’ll be worth it in the end when it comes to simplifying the purchasing process. So read the following thoroughly, and then you’ll be more than prepared to take on the stores to purchase the ideal slow cooker for your home.
Slow cookers are a relatively new addition to the cooking market when you compare them with other cooking pots, such as pressure cookers and rice cookers. In 1940, Irving Naxon patented the first model, and since then slow cookers have come quite far in their development. In fact, a research study conducted by NPD Group Inc. two years ago indicated that now more than 83% of American households use slow cookers—furthermore, results showed that demand has doubled since the 1980s.
There are tons of things to be on the lookout for when purchasing a slow cooker. You’re more than likely to encounter models featuring a combination of oven safe crock and a built-in stove. You may be on the lookout for newer digital ones with tons of features, or just seeking the most price friendly option. All in all, it’ll come down to your cooking needs and time constraints.
But, before we get too weighed down in discussing features already, let’s take a look at some of our featured models.
Top 5 Best Slow Cooker Reviews
|Picture||Top Picks||Our Rating||Size||Price||Our reviews|
|Cuisinart MSC-600 Cook Central 3-in-1 Multicooker||4.9/5||4 - 6 - 7 (quarts)||Read review|
|Hamilton Beach Set 'n Forget Programmable Slow Cooker||4.7/5||6 (quarts)||Read review|
|Crock-Pot SCCPVL610-S Programmable Cook and Carry Oval Slow Cooker||4.6/5||6 (quarts)||Read review|
|Cuisinart PSC-350 Programmable Slow Cooker||4.5/5||3.5 (quarts)||Read review|
|Crock-Pot Pittsburgh Steelers NFL Cook & Carry Slow Cooker||4.9/5||6 (quarts)||Read review|
10 Advantage of Using a Slow Cooker
Slow cookers are simply an amazing culinary tool, especially when you consider the price. There are plenty of designs and models to be had under $100, and even some of the more quality models can still be found for below $50.
However, if you really want to wrap your mind around the benefits of a slow cooker before actually using it, we’ve got to dig into some reviews and further details. Let’s keep going in our search and find out what slow cookers, in general, have on offer, and why you should do yourself a favor and purchase one.
- No Threats of Bursting
Slow cookers can reach temperatures as high as 400°F while remaining safe for any home (Remember all those myths associated with pressure cookers?). There are no bells, no beeps, and certainly no chances of the lid bursting off during cooking. Slow cooking is entirely different from gimmicky forms of cooking and is closer to traditional cooking than anything else. The only difference is, slow cookers don’t let the steam escape.
- Trouble-free Cooking
The most-talked-about benefit of slow cookers has been the ease-of-use. For starters, you have the options, as a chef, to easily avoid recipes that demand hours of pre-preparation. Dishes, such as stews and soups will taste and feel much better after coming out of your slow cooker in comparison to the ways you were cooking them before—and the best part is that you don’t need to do anything, just throw all the ingredients in the pot, set the temperature, and presto!
You can execute different preps with a slow cooker as well. For instance try out raw onions or cooked onions, brown meats for better color and taste, and more. For these things, just set the timer and let your slow cooker handle the rest while you appreciate how much time your new slow cooker will save you.
- Best Slow Cooker Saves Money
Like other utensils – traditional pots/pans and pressure cookers, slow cookers can also cook beef brisket, lamb shoulder, pork and chicken thighs. But what makes them exceptional is the flavor and taste that remains through the end—so much more rich and flavorful, as the slow cooking method allows juices to remain in your recipe adding that much more pizzazz.
- Saves Oil Consumption
According to many professional chefs, slow cookers can also require less oil as compared to traditional cooking pots while allowing the moisture to stay in the ingredients. This means you can rely more on a food’s natural flavor and less on added oils.
Generally, slow cookers are also a healthier option, since you’re not frying anything. And although you wouldn’t think so on first inspection, by choosing to use a slow cooker as your culinary tool of choice, it can quickly lead to general improvements in your diet.
- Saves Liquid Consumption
Just like with oil consumption, liquid consumption is also far less in slow cookers compared to ordinary cookers. The tightly sealed lid offers no escape space for the vaporized water used in cooking, so there’s no need to keep adding water. Simply add enough water to cover vegetables and meats, not drown them, and you’re set!
- Your Food Doesn’t Thicken
Unlike pressure cookers, liquid neither reduces nor thickens in slow cookers—it just allows natural flavors to build. This allows for more flavorful and juicy meats. However, should you desire a thicker substance, a cooker needn’t limit you, just simply add a bit of flour to your recipe. The same effect can also be achieved by adding a corn flour based paste to your dish at the end of cooking and allow it to simmer.
- Gentle Heat Brings Out the Best
According to the previously referenced professional chefs, slow cooking on Low setting is the best way to extract the taste and flavor of food. So, don’t worry if you’re going out for a day, leave the slow cooker on Low heat and it’ll cook you an unbelievably savory dish that’ll be waiting for you come dinner time.
- Get Ahead
Great slow cookers don’t always have to cook slowly. In fact, you can get your food cooked in as quickly as 30 minutes with some models. However, you can still choose to prep for slow-cooked food overnight. Slow cookers are also great for stocking with your ingredients ahead of time, storing it in the fridge, and then putting it on to cook first thing in the morning. In short, few things are capable of adding convenience and time back to your life like a slow cooker!
- No Need to Monitor
Finally, the best advantage of a slow cooker is that it doesn’t need constant monitoring. Programmable and digital slow cookers work on their own, just like a washing machine, only smarter. Top rated slow cookers come with a “keep warm” feature that automatically switches your food to “warm” when it’s cooked. In this way, your food will not lose its freshness, heat, or cooked in flavors, and most models with this feature can keep the food warm for up to 6 hours.
- Less Maintenance
Slow cookers possess durable bodies and powerful DC motors. Exteriors can simply be wiped with a damp cloth when dirtied. Interior components are often removable and dishwasher safe, so you won’t have to dread hand washing everything.
Even if the food particles seem tough to remove initially, simply add some hot water, close the lid, and set your slow cooker on High temperature. After a few minutes, turn it off and open the lid. The remaining food particles should be much easier to remove at this point.
Types of Slow Cookers Based on Features
Slow cookers can differ in a variety of ways, on the basis of size, capacity, functionality, construction, components, and heating elements.
On the basis of shape, slow cookers can be divided into round, oval, and rectangular slow cookers.
- Round-shaped slow cooker: Slow cookers with circular-pot-style shape are the most common and usually the cheapest as well. They are not only the best for preparing stews and soups, but you can prepare small cuts of meat in them as well. The downside is that they don’t work well for roasted dishes and casseroles.
- Oval-shaped slow cooker: These models are more versatile than the round models, and allow you to cook large cuts of meat and casseroles.
- Rectangular slow cooker: This shape is the most versatile of all. It’s spacious enough to accommodate conventional roasts, casseroles, and can even be used to prepare stews and soups. Soups and stews are cooked best in deep pots, so the rectangular pot does need to have an appropriate depth.
Concerning heating elements, slow cookers can be divided into two categories; griddle and electric pot. Both are capable of cooking all kinds of slow-cooked recipes. Nevertheless, they have some differences.
- Griddle: You don’t normally find griddle-style heating in round or oval slow cookers. It’s more typical for rectangular models. In griddle heating, the detachable crock is placed on top of the heating base. This pot can be used for traditional stovetop cooking as well as in the oven, or you can put the ingredients in it and store it in the fridge. Similarly, you can use the griddle to cook different types of foods, not just the slow-cooked foods. It offers more temperature controls as compared to electric pot option.
- Electric pot: This style is often featured in modern, digital slow cooker models that are oval or round. The pot rests inside the heating unit which is capable of providing heat through the base as well as the walls. Most models feature removable pots for easy cleaning.
Slow cookers are also available in different sizes. You can either have the mini slow cookers that offer 1 – 2 quarts and serve up to 3 people at one time, or there are medium-sized slow cookers, often regarded as standard slow cookers. These have a capacity ranging between 3 quarts and 6 quarts and are spacious enough to cook medium cuts of meats, as well as large sized meals. A standard-sized, 6-quart slow cooker serves up to 7 people for a one-time meal. Finally, there are large slow cookers that can serve up to 10 people at once. They have a capacity up to 8 quarts, which is usually enough to accommodate even the largest meat cuts.
Programmable Slow Cookers
Normally, manual slow cookers are unable to vary the internal temperature on their own. But recently, we have seen innovative slow cooker models come complete with internal sensors. These programmable slow cookers are smart enough to change the course of the food, without any external interference.
For example, as soon as the food is cooked, internal sensors detect the temperature and switch to “keep warm” mode in which the food retains its temperature. This ability helps the food to retain its taste and flavor until the appliance is turned off and the meal is eaten.
How to Choose the Best Slow Cooker?
Before you go on to choose the best slow cooker for your kitchen, you need to understand what you will be dealing with, what your requirements are, and which functionality you are going to need the most. Your decision depends on many factors, such as:
- The number of people to be served: Household slow cookers come in a variety of sizes ranging from 1-quart to 8 quarts. Usually, one quart of food is more than sufficient for one person’s meal, so decide accordingly.
- Day’s activities: Are you an occasional cook, a seasoned chef, a working parent, or on your own away from your home? Slow cookers are meant to liberate you from cooking requirements, giving time to concentrate on other important activities. If you find yourself pressed for time, a slow cooker will take care of your cooking with simplicity.
- Time spent in the kitchen: If you’re used to working in the kitchen for the entire day, preparing fresh meal two times a day, a slow cooker can be your lifesaver, freeing you up for other things.
- The frequency of use: Whether you should go for an expensive model or settle with a cheaper one with basic features depends on how often you will use it, as well as what you’ll be cooking. If meat and veggies are common in your house, a slow cooker will be a necessity.
Ultimately, there are a plethora of reasons behind a possible slow cooker purchase, and they’re quickly becoming a modern necessity.
The real confusion doesn’t come from if you need a slow cooker, but simply deciding between the army of options and features available.
Basics of a Slow Cooker
Despite all the modern designs, attractive constructions, attention-grabbing features, and brand names, all slow cookers have 3 things in common: a heating unit, the gasket lid, and the cooking pot.
- Heating element: Slow cookers come with either a heating base or a dedicated unit for 3-dimensional heating. The heating element can be an electric pot or a griddle. Most often, the models that you see on the market have an electric pot that usually accompanies round and oval shaped models. It offers limited features and is quite simple to control. On the other hand, the griddle is for rectangular pots and can be used for non-slow-cooked as well. It offers extensive settings and increased controls compared to electric pots.
- Gasket lid: The gasket lid secures tightly to seal the interior, allowing the food to cook properly without letting the steam and vapors escape. Gasket lids come in different materials, but a glass lid is often demanded more than stainless steel or hard plastic and should be considered when purchasing.
- The Cooking Pot: Some slow cooker models feature aluminum alloy pots, while some of them have stainless steel pots. However, modern-day Crock-pots come with stoneware pots that can withstand even the highest heats. Even better, they are removable and presentable as well.
Things to Make Sure When Buying the Right Slow Cooker
The slow cooker is a modern-day problem solver in the kitchen, but it can create a problem outside the kitchen when it comes to choosing the right one. So, forget about the budget for the time being and concentrate on the following aspects while choosing the best slow cooker for your kitchen:
All slow cookers are convenient and fairly easy to use, but some are more convenient than other. So, if you’re a regular cook, and the kitchen is your first love, you’ll be better off with the basic slow cooker that features manual controls. But if you’re more focused on relaxing and allowing your slow cooker to work on its own, without constant supervision, you would ideally go for a programmable slow cooker that works automatically.
- Quality of Food
The quality of your meal will often depend on your slow cooker choice. Meal quality is related to the way heat enters the pot. If only the bottom is heated, the food will take more time to prepare, and the chances are that the bottom layer could be overcooked. We recommend you should go for the crock-pot models that offer continuous cooking due to equal distribution of heat throughout the food.
Instead of falling purely for ascetics, look into the specs of your cooker and find out more about the materials. Brushed stainless steel exteriors are ideal for slow cooking because it’s more durable, requires minimal maintenance, and lasts longer.
Similarly, ceramic inner pots are better for cooking food when inside a heating unit.
Temperature controls, cooking timers, and ‘keep warm’ features have become essential for digital slow cookers. The latest, most expensive models also have steaming and browning options. Moreover, some models come with internal sensors to determine when the food is done so that it can switch to keep warm mode. If you prefer a cooker to brown meat and veggies as well, you’ll want to keep that in mind when deciding as well.
- Warranty – the value for money
No matter how alluring the slow cooker is, don’t buy one without a warranty. Good brands always consider this and offer at least a year’s warranty. Some of the best brands offer up to 3-year limited warranty—as seen in many of our choices presented today.
FAQ – Tips & Tricks
Here are some general instructions and tips from the experts, to help you use your slow cooker in the best possible manner.
Cooking Time Conversion: Normal to Slow
Cooking time is essential to making the most of a slow cooker recipe, but how to convert a traditional recipe’s cook time to that of a slow cooker can often vary and be somewhat vague. Here’s how you should convert the traditional cooking time to slow-cooking time.
- Quick recipes: If a recipe takes about 15 – 30 mins in an ordinary pan, it will take about 1 – 2 hours in your slow cooker, given that you set the temperature on High. On low, it will take about 4 – 6 hours.
- Medium-speed recipes: If traditional cooking time lies between 30 mins and 1 hour, on slow-cooking, it will take 2 to 3 hours (high wattage) and 5 – 7 hours (low wattage)
- Slow recipes: A traditional recipe that takes 1 – 2 hours normally will take 3 – 4 hours on high, and 6 – 8 hours on low, if cooked in a slow cooker.
- Very slow recipes: If you want to slow cook a recipe that takes 2 – 4 hours on stovetop cooking, you have to set the timer for 4 – 6 hours with the High-temperature setting. On low temperature, it might take 8 – 12 hours to cook properly.
Stuffing the food
While putting the ingredients in the cooking pot, make sure that the root vegetables should be placed close to the heating element (near the walls or at the bottom), since they often take longest to cook.
Know What and When to Add
Slow cookers are ideal for the recipes that demand all ingredients to be added at the start. Then you have nothing else to do. But if you want to extract the best out of your rice, pasta, or fresh herbs, it might be best to add them towards the end of cooking time.
Confusion regarding Crock-Pots and other Slow Cookers
People tend to get puzzled seeing the “slow cookers” label on the model that has the characteristics of a Crock-Pot slow cooker – heating unit, ceramic pot, and low/high settings. So, instead of moving away, see what the specs say.
Which one’s better; Crock-Pot or Ordinary Slow Cooker?
All slow cookers are similar, except for the Crock-Pot’s ability to heat the pot from the bottom and sides (as well as its use of a ceramic pot) But, other slow cookers offer more control options, timers to balance the internal temperature, and may provide increased durability.
As far as cooking is concerned, cooking time seems to be the only difference, but overall, both types of slow cookers are capable of preparing exceptionally delicious meals. All branded models from reputable manufacturers are included in this rule.
When it comes to the best slow cooker, there is plenty of thinking and consideration to be done before choosing the right model. Since we have covered the appliance from all the angles and explained every technicality you might come across while you’re shopping, the decision should be much simpler now. Regardless, if you have any doubts about the chosen models on our list or any other model available online, here’s what you should do:
- Verification: Go through the list of features on an e-commerce website and verify these features from the manufacturer’s website.
- Consideration: Compare the benefits and features with your basic requirements, whether you need a cheap slow cooker with basic features or a programmable slow cooker with multiple functions.
- Slow cooker reviews: To know more about the product, read what previous customers had to say. They’re the best source from which to get honest and true information.
- More information: If doubts are still there, go through the Q&A section where additional information about the products will be available.
After filtering the product through all these factors, you should be more-than-set to purchase the crockpot ideal for suiting your needs.
For more information on slow cooker history: wiki
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