The Best Slow Cookers & Crock Pots for ANY Occasion!
The best slow cooker is a culinary wizard that is able to create elegant party foods, ethnic or everyday hearty comforting foods with minimal effort and maximum results. Slow cooking and easy entertaining go hand in hand. It frees up your stove top and oven when you are cooking for a crowd plus it doubles as a great food warmer for buffets. The slow cooker requires minimal attention. Simply prepare your ingredients, turn on the cooker and go take care of something else.
Take advantage of cooking with a slow cooker in the summertime. It takes both the heat and cook out of the kitchen. In the winter you can home or in from the cold to a nice hearty warm meal. A slow cooker fixes dinner while you are at your child’s soccer game too. Of course, use your slow cooker at every opportunity you get. The more you use it, the more you will fall in love with it.
Slow cookers come in round and oval shapes, as well as a variety of sizes from 1 quart to 6 quarts. Most have two settings: Low And high. Low is approximately 200 degree F and the high setting is approximately 300 degree F.
Energy efficiency is one of the hallmarks of a slow cooker. On the low setting the cooker users only the equivalent power of a 75 watt light bulb.
West Bend Slow Cooker
The West Bend Oblong Slow Cooker with its stainless steel insert is a popular shape and size – this 5 quart crock pot lets you create dinner for just you (with some left overs) or for a family of up to 5, depending on dish and appetite size! Spend just a few minutes in the morning putting the ingredients into the slow cooker, turn it on as you dash out the door and when you return 8 hours later a sumptuous meal will await you!
Then at the weekend when you feel like a bit of hot breakfast, the slow cooker base becomes a small griddle, just what you need to heat sausage links and cook some eggs and tomatoes – what a great deal, getting two appliances for the price of one, great space saver too which makes it on the top of our list for the best slow cooker!
The West Bend Oblong Slow Cooker is really easy to use – no tricky programming to master here, the manual dial lets you set the temperature and then change it if and when you want to. This enables you to start off on high to shorten the cooking time, and then manually switch to warm once cooking time is completed. The options are keep warm, low, med, and high.
Product Physical Description
- Exterior: The West Bend Oblong Slow Cooker has a dishwasher proof stainless steel slow cooker pot that sits on a heating base that doubles as a small griddle.
- Handles: The plastic handles on the pot and the base stay cool even when unit is in use.
- Lid: The dishwasher-proof lid is glass, the travel lid is plastic.
- Capacity: 5 Quart
Stainless Steel Slow Cooker: Sear the meat, brown the onions directly in this stainless slow cooker pot, and then cook as required and serve your meal. Allow pot to cool before putting the pot into either the fridge or freezer with the leftovers still inside. Pot can be used on the stove top, in the oven, or on the slow cooker again to reheat the left overs. Saves on dishes every which way! What a great advantage this is.
Non-Stick Griddle Base: How wonderful for the space poor cook to get a bonus appliance of a small griddle with this appliance. Great for heating sausages, eggs and tomatoes for a nice breakfast for two.
Insulated Tote Bag: When you dish has finished cooking, unplug the cord and pop the whole slow cooker in the bag, strap it in and off you go. Stays warm for up to two hours, just plug appliance in again and set to warm, when you arrive at your destination, if power is available.
Care & Cleaning: Conditioning of the metal surfaces of this slow cooker are required prior to use and after pot has been exposed to a dishwasher – please refer to the instruction book for more info. Ensure only nylon tools are used on the non-stick surfaces to protect the coating from scratching.
What’s In The Box: Your instruction manual comes with a 5 quart recipe book to get you started and this cooker has a 1 year limited warranty.
Customer Reviews: Ninety percent (at time of writing) of Customer Reviews rated this appliance 4 stars or higher. Actually, I was most impressed with the number of reviews that said something had happened to their previous West Bend Slow Cooker and they went out of their way to replace it with this one – the one most like their original. For my money, you can’t get a better recommendation.
Pros & Cons: The adjustable dial temperature gauge. The versatility of the stainless steel insert. Being able to freeze it, refrigerate it, cook on the stove with it. The tote bag that keeps it warm in the way out for a meal. Cons – some felt the griddle is not hot enough…
Summary: A great all rounder, with many useful extra special features. I can see why it is so very loved by the cooks that have had several over several decades!
Conclusion: Personally, I appreciate the versatility of this appliance, with the griddle base and also the dial temperature controller. I also like the shape for cooking turkey breast or large roast chickens, it appeals to me. I take my slow cooker out a lot, so having an insulated tote bag is a major benefit too. Best of all, it is available for a very reasonable price. For a worry free purchase, buy online then if you have any warranty related issues, Amazon’s exceptional customer service will be there to help you.
Rival Crock Pot – Slow Cooker
The original Crock Pot transforms basic vegetables and budget meats into deliciously, tender meals, while you are out or attending to other things. Just put everything in the pot for beef or chicken stew or soup, turn it to low and it will simmer away, tenderizing the meat and cooking it perfectly, all day long. In 8-10 hours you will have 4-5 servings of the main part of the meal ready for dinner!
Cooking Modes: Manually select your temperature on the dial, options are off, low and high.
Product Physical Description
- Exterior: The exterior stays cool when in use. The oval ceramic liner has a rinse-clean, dishwasher-safe lifetime stick-resistant coating.
- Handles: Cool touch handles on the base stay cool during operation.
- Lid: The glass is also dishwasher-proof.
- Capacity: 3.5 Quart
How does it work? Just plug in, select high or low and walk away.
The stick-resistant finish on the ceramic line makes clean up a breeze like the best toaster ovens we reviewed here. The wraparound heating system means there is not hot spots or any chance of the contents catching or burning. This compact oval size fits more easily in a cupboard on your counter.
Care & Cleaning: The ceramic liner and glass lid are dishwasher-safe.
What’s In The Box: Your instruction manual comes with cookbook with enough recipes to get you started and to act as a guide to make other dishes – and a 1 year limited warranty.
Customer Reviews: Many customer reviews commented on the Crockpot Slow Cooker being a perfect size for meals when cooking for one or two without loads of leftovers, and also for three to four people. They also loved how easy the liner is to clean and that the unit didn’t take up a lot of room. Over 77% of reviews rated this appliance with 4 or more Stars out of 5, with many of them making positive recommendation comments.
Pros & Cons: Pro’s – simplicity of use, it does what you expect it to do, and it does it well. Cons – some reviewers had experience issue with the lid. As with any electrical item you purchase, it is a good idea to keep your receipt and warranty just in case warranty issues come up. Another good reason to purchase here – as Amazon will help you with any issues.
Summary: What you see is what you get with this cooker, nothing flash or complicated, just clean and simple, easy to use functional and reliable – what more could you ask for? And for the price, you just can’t go wrong. How many take away meals can you buy for that price? The Crockpot Slow Cooker is very good value for money.
Conclusion: Every home should have one! Slow cookers are an absolute essential kitchen appliance these days. With no more than 15 minutes prep in the morning, using primarily healthy, basic and budget conscious ingredients, you can have a nutritious and delicious meal ready and waiting.
Cuisinart Slow Cooker
The Cuisinart 3-1/2 Quart Programmable Slow Cooker is one of the better looking slow cookers on the market today and why I am writing this Cuisinart slow cooker review, which is important if you plan on leaving your slow cooker on the counter to ensure you use frequently! And if you have a busy life which means you need to get your dinner prep time down to under 15 minutes, then you will be using your slow cooker most everyday!
Cooking Modes: The Cuisinart PSC-350 3-1/2-Quart Programmable Slow Cooker has three programmable cooking modes, high, low and simmer.
Auto Warm Function? Yes
Cooking Time: Programmable, with user-friendly touch control pad that has a 24 hour LCD countdown timer.
Product Physical Description
- Exterior: The Cuisinart PSC-350 3-1/2-Quart Programmable Slow Cooker has an attractive brush stainless steel exterior, and an oval ceramic liner with a glass lid.
- Handles: The plastic handles on base stay cool even when unit is in use.
- Lid: The glass is dishwasher-proof.
- Capacity: 3.5 Quart
How does it work? Just plug in, turn on, set the cooking time in 30 minute increments, and select the heat setting. Easy!
Simmer Cooking Mode: If you are concerned because you have read that other programmable slow cookers boil at too high a temperature and burn food, then you will be interested in this feature. Simmer mode allows the long slow, cooking of stocks, soups and stews – which helps them to develop their rich, delicious flavor – while still giving you the benefit for controlling the finish time and switching the appliance to warm mode when cooking time is completed. Perfectly cooked slow cooker soups and stews every time!
Recipe Book: A cook book with 50 recipes all with nutritional values listed, comes with the instruction manual. A benefit for anyone on a special diet that wants to know the nutrient levels of each dish.
Care & Cleaning: The ceramic liner and glass lid are dishwasher-safe.
What’s In The Box: Your instruction manual comes with cookbook with 50 recipes with nutritional values listed, and a 3 year limited warranty.
Customer Reviews: At the time of writing, the Cuisinart Programmable Slow Cooker was the highest rated in Customer Reviews and the best seller of all the 3 quart programmable slow cookers available through Amazon. In fact, ninety percent of customer reviews at that time rated this appliance 4 Stars or higher out of 5.
Pros & Cons: Many of the Customer Reviewers mention how much they appreciate the simmer setting. It’s the perfect size for one or two with left overs or for a meal for 4 people. An essential features it seems is the switch to keep warm once cooking is done – then it doesn’t matter what time you get home! Many rated clean up as ‘super easy’. Cons – some mention they’ve had issues that would have been able to be resolved under warranty, so make sure you keep your receipts and warranty info. Another good reason to purchase here – as Amazon will help you with any issues.
Summary: A good looking slow cooker from a popular, reputable brand, a great size for feeding one to four people. A bundle that ticks all the boxes.
Conclusion: For my money, this digital slow cooker is great value for money – the simmer mode for traditional slow combined with the keep warm function, in such a good looking package has won me over! For a worry free purchase, buy online then if you have any warranty related issues, Amazon’s exceptional customer service will be there to help you.
The Best CrockPot for ANY Size Needs!
What is a Crockpot?
A crockpot is a trademark that has been used to generally refer to slow cooker, or a kitchen appliance for cooking food at low temperature for a long period of time. The crockpot is powered by an A/C cord and comes with a lid. Since the food is heated at low temperature, it can be safely left unattended, thus, a highly useful tool for busy cooks. They also make great mother’s day gift ideas!
After preparing the ingredients needed, you only need to put them inside the crockpot and set the appropriate time and temperature setting (high or low). You can go to work, do about your other house chores, or run errands and after coming home, your meal is ready for serving.
Different crockpot units vary in design, size, and features. So choose one that is according to your needs and budget.
Crock-Pot Slow Cookers
In this swction of this article, I will be heavily focusing on a number of slow cooker units from the Crock-Pot® brand. A good thing to look for a crockpot unit is if it has a removable liner. In the products that I will be featuring, the main body of the crockpot is stainless, while the inside liner is a removable stoneware that can also be used as a beautiful serving dish.
The units differ in prices and your product preference will depend on your budget and cooking needs. So read on and see which suits you best. At the end of this article, I will also include tips on how to use a crockpot properly as well.
One feature of crockpots that makes it appealing to busy cooks is its capability of being set to cook for a specified time period. You can choose either high or low setting of temperature, with the high temperature resulting to faster cooking of course. So depending on how long you are staying outside the home, you may program the setting according to your desire.
And don’t forget, even though there is only one CrockPot, there are numerous slow cookers!
Crock-Pot SCCPVL610-S 6-Quart Programmable Slow Cooker
The cooking time of this crockpot can be programmed from 30 minutes to a maximum of 20 hours with 30-minute increments- pretty good maximum time for people who will be out of home for a longer period. One notable feature of this unit is its automatic keep warm system once the pre-set cooking time is reached. This allows the food to maintain the warm temperature until serving time without overcooking it.
The gasket lid and the handles at the sides allow easy portability. You can even bring the crockpot on picnics or potluck parties without having to transfer the food to another storage. Just like the best travel kettles.
The Crock-Pot SCCPVL610-S belongs to the highest ranked kitchen tools in Amazon and has been the Editor’s choice of Wired magazine. It has an average user rating of 4.4 out of 5 stars. Despite the high approval rating from many customers, there are also some complaints about the product’s undesirable plastic smell during cooking. One user noted that the smell goes away after the first cooking and works fine after that.
The Crock-Pot SCCPVL605-S is another notable unit with a rather high user rating. Aside from the usual removable stoneware and handles that can be similarly found in the previous crockpot I’ve featured, the unit can also be programmed automatically but with a less sophisticated configuration. The crockpot timer can only be rigidly programmed to 2, 4, 6, and 8 hours.
For a shorter cooking time, the unit automatically sets to high temperature, whereas the longer cooking time sets to low temperature. After the pre-set cooking time has been reached, the crockpot automatically shifts to warm setting for a steady temperature of food until serving time similar to induction cooking.
Although a bit inferior to the Crock-Pot SCCPVL610-S due to it’s inability to be set to odd numbers of cooking time, this may be a good choice for people with a lower budget.
The Crock-Pot SCCPVL605-S slow cooker got a higher rating of 4.8 out of 5 stars compared to the more popular SCCPVL610-S. It’s much simpler and less high-tech. Similarly, this product also got a complaint about emitting a plastic smell while cooking. One user surmised that it may be due to a manufacturing defect in some units (for the letters embossed at the bottom of the stoneware are not clearly stamped), thus giving off a plastic smell. The said user had asked for an exchange of the unit and is now satisfied with the replacement.
The Crock-Pot SCCPVL600S, unlike the first two products I’ve featured, is a manual slow cooker. Instead of a digital display is a rubber knob for adjusting the temperature. Since it is a manual unit, you have to adjust the knob manually when the desired cooking time is reached. The settings include high, low, and warm. Some users prefer this simplicity despite the absence of an automatic timer.
The cheapest in the list, this product is able to garner a 4.1 out of 5 stars. Many users are satisfied with its value for money. One user even wrote in the review that the unit works as well as a $100 slow cooker. The settings are simple, with the high really cooking fast, and the low really cooking slow. The warm setting is able to keep the food at the right temperature. One complaint regarding the design is the merely three-legged support of the pot, making it rather unstable.
How to Use a Crockpot
In this section, I will be listing down some pointers on crockpot cooking. Crockpot cooking is very convenient, especially if you’re always on the rush. Despite the short time span needed to attend to the cooking, you can still produce a delicious hearty meal that will satisfy your family’s cravings. This is one of those kitchen gadgets you really want to own!
If you are especially new to this type of cooking process, make sure that the food is well cooked. I highly suggest that you buy a book on this topic. It’s a great investment to take time to learn about crockpot cooking and it will definitely be worthwhile in the long run.
For a general idea on crockpot cooking, here are some guidelines:
- The lid should be snugly fitted over the heater for better cooking. Using a crockpot means you should just leave it there – don’t open the lid during heating as it will only make the cooking time slower. If your unit ‘s lid rattles, place an aluminum foil over the heater for a tighter fit.
- Spray the liner with oil to avoid burning the food in contact with the base.
- Fill the pot half to two-third full only. Filling the pot over the maximum line would only make the cooking less effective.
- Vegetables should be blanched first before adding to the crockpot. The slow cooking process in the crockpot destroys the nutrients in the vegetables. Pre-blanching the veggies will seal in the much needed nutrients.
- Some ingredients may only be added in the last hour of cooking. This applies to ingredients that cook quickly such as tomatoes and seafood.
- If your unit doesn’t have an automatic warming feature, make sure you store the food safely after the cooking time. Leaving the food for too long will only encourage bacterial growth, and reheating it won’t be sufficient to kill the bacteria.
- Remove excess fats on meat. Fats cook faster so overcooking it will result to fats melting, leaving an undesirable texture to the dish.
- Use inexpensive meat cuts for your ingredients. They work better for crockpots rather than the expensive meat cuts.
Our Best Slow Cooker Tips
Raw root vegetables such as carrots, potatoes, parsnips and turnips hold their texture very well during prolonged cooking. In fact, they tend to cook more slowly than the meat. Place the root vegetables in the bottom and sides of the pot and place the meat on top or middle for a more even cooking. Use only the amount of liquid that the recipe calls for because the cooker will draw juices out of the food and there is less evaporation than in traditional cooking, so you may have too much liquid.
Dried beans take longer to tenderize if combined with sugar and acid before softening. Soak beans before adding to your cooker and make sure to add sugar and acids only after the beans have cooked to tender.
Inexpensive cuts of meats are perfect for slow cooking. Briskets, rump roast, stew meat, shanks, short ribs, round steak and chuck roasts are all suitable. These tougher cuts of meat will be fork tender and very flavorful when cooked in the slow cooker. They will also have less marbling of fat. Take time to trim off the excess fat before placing in the slow cooker. The more fat a cut of meat has, the more liquid it will release during cooking.
Meat cooked in even the best slow cooker will not brown as it would in a skillet or in the oven. To add visual appeal and extra flavor it may be necessary to brown your meat in a large skillet on the stove top before putting in your slow cooker but this is not essential to make a good roast. It strictly is a matter of preference.
Slow Cooking Nuts & Bolts
Slow cookers are designed for just that, slow and gently cooking. A slow cooker utilizes the moisture already in the ingredients. Slow cookers have wrap around heat so there is no direct heat at the bottom. It is important to make sure that the lid is securely placed on the pot so that these precious juices do not escape and refrain from lifting the lid any more than is necessary. Every time you lift the lid the steam escapes and the temperature drops. It can take up to 15 to 20 minutes to regain the lost steam and temperature.
You can thicken juices and make gravy by removing the lid and cooking on high for the last 20 to 30 minutes.
There is no need to stir ingredients unless the recipe specifically calls for it. Always layer ingredients as the recipe directs.
The recipe should fill the pot at least halt to three quarter for maximum cooking performance. The fuller your slow cooker, the longer it will take to cook. The more densely packed the cooker’s contents are, the long they will also take to cook. Larger chunks of meats will take longer to cook than if the meat is cut into smaller pieces. Purchase different sizes of slow cookers and use the appropriate size for your dish.
Yes, indeed you can overdo foods in a slow cooker. If your recipe calls for 6 hours of cooking and you stretch it to 8 or 10 hours, you may be disappointed with you dinner. Chicken especially, boneless, skinless chicken will fall apart. But this is overcooking for 2 hours, so there is so much room for error here.
Dairy products such as milk, cream sour cream, cream cheese or other cheeses can curdle and separate if cooked for too long or at too high a temperature. Try to add these during the last half hour of cooking or incorporate them on low heat if possible.
When adding canned ingredients to your recipes, go easy with the salt, because canned foods often have a very high sodium content. Taste your dish at the end and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
In extended slow cooking, whole spices hold up better than crushed. You can tie the spices in a square of cheesecloth for easy removal.
When adding tender vegetables, such as green peas, zucchini or fresh mushrooms, do so during the last 15 minutes of cooking. This will give your vegetables time to add flavor to the dish without dissolving into mush.
Garnish your show cooker dishes with fresh herbs or vegetables such as fresh parsley, snipped chives from the garden, sun dried tomato, freshly grated cheese. The contrast of texture will add surprise and interest for an extra touch that will make it special.
At holiday-time when your burners and ovens are all occupied and you need to make a side dish or vegetable casserole, use your slow cooker instead. The general rule of thumb for conversion is slow cooking equals 1 hour of conventional cooking multiplied by 2 for high setting or multiplied by 4 for low setting.
You can serve hot drinks or appetizers in your slow cooker at your next party.
Slow Cooker Safety
There are a few Basic safety rules that you should meticulously follow when using your slow cooker. Foods left to cool below 185 degrees F for any extended period of time are greatly susceptible to bacteria growth. So promptly transfer your leftovers to a container for the fridge.
A working slow cooker gets hot on the outside so make sure that curious and unsuspecting children as well as adults don’t get burned. Use oven mitts when lifting any of hot part.
Fill the cooker only 2/3 full, especially when traveling with food in the cooker.
To avoid cracking do not subject your crockery liner to extreme or abrupt changes of heat. Always allow the slow cooker insert to cool completely before washing it.
Never immerse a slow cooker in water. Simply unplug it and wipe clean with a cloth.
Slow Cooker Cleaning
Cookers with removable inserts are easy to clean. This is the way most of the cookers are now a days. My old slow cooker is one unit where I cannot remove the inside and every time I cleaned it I was worried about getting the electrical parts wet. But you don’t have to worry about that anymore unless you have an old one like me. Always unplug while cleaning.
Avoid abrasive cleaners, as they may scratch the glazed surface of the liner. Spraying your liner with cooking spray before assembling and cooking your disk makes for a quick and easy clean up.
Do not submerge the electrical portion in water.
Baking soda is the cleanser of choice for cleaning a stubborn residue from the crockery liner. Let the liner soak with a little baking soda and warm water and your pot should some clean like most of the best cookware materials.