Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Slow cooker savvy: which slow cooker do I need?

Steaming fresh pumpkin
Fall is here and it is time to bring out the slow cookers so that with all of the back-to-school hubub, you can have a warm dinner ready when you get homw. If you don't have one, here are some tips for figuring out which slow cooker is best for you, your cooking style and cooking abilities.

  • Size - Slow cokers come in a wide range of sizes; teeny for making dip (1.5 quart) to huge for feeding a crowd (7 quart) - Are you usually cooking for 1 or 2,  or a larger crowd? I am usually cooking for a smaller group, so my 4-quart slow cooker is perfect. Size also applies to your cupboard space. How much storage space do you really have?
  • Programming - some slow cookers simply turn on or off, others can be programmed to cook for a certain amount of time and then reduce to "warm" until you get home.
  • Stove to slow cooker - there are a few slow cookers that allow you to put the insert on the stove to brown meat and then directly to the slow cooker without washing another pan. If you love pot roasts, this may be a valuable feature. Are you vegetarian? Probably don't need it.  
  • Washable? Can the insert go in the dishwasher?
  • Chickpea Curry
  • How snugly does the lid fit on? This is only important if you intend to carry your slow cooker to potlucks and parties. There are also large slow cookers that come with a hindged lid; makes it easier to serve with one hand.
  • Shape of crock? If you're usually doing soups and stews, this doesn't matter. But, if you'd like to roast a whole chicken, an oval shape will probably work best. 
  • Does it come with a carrying case? Just like the lid consideration, this is only important if you intend to bring the crock with you to parties.
  • Do the handles stay cool? Some do, some don't, but this may or may not be important to you.
  • Peeping Tom? Some lids are see through and others aren't. If you like to keep tabs on your slow cooker as it works, you may be interested in a glass lid so that you're not letting out heat when you look at the cooking food.
This is the slow cooker I have: not too big (4 quart), nothing fancy. I don't usually take the slow cooker with me, so the features related to travel didn't apply for me. I don't eat red meat, so browing meat wasn't a factor for my cooking. If you're ready to take the plunge, this slow cooker is amazon prime eligible and well reviewed.

Reader Poll: What would you like to learn how to cook in a slow cooker?

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