A slow cooker is a kitchen appliance that allows people to cook a meal at a low temperature, which can take anywhere from eight to ten hours. How a slow cooker works is all of the ingredients for the meal are placed in the slow cooker pot and then the slow cooker is turned on. Different foods require different cooking temperatures, so the slow cooker will need to be adjusted accordingly. Once the slow cooker has been turned on, the food can be left alone to cook.
With slow cookers, there are two different types of slow cookers, which are mechanical and programmable. The mechanical slow cookers come with a knob that must be adjusted to set the cooking temperature. With the mechanical models, somebody must be around to turn the slow cooker off or to keep warm once the food is done cooking. Programmable slow cookers are a digital slow cooker that offers a variety of programming options.
The most basic programmable slow cookers allow users to set the cooking time and once the slow cooker is done cooking, it automatically switches over to the keep warm setting. Other programmable slow cookers allow users to set what time they want the slow cooker to start cooking. While programmable ones are preferred over mechanical ones attention must be paid to the programmable features to ensure the slow cookers has the features that are needed.
Like all other products available, there are certain features that every slow cooker should come with. Before going out and purchasing a slow cooker it is important to learn what those features are. This will not only save you money, it will also save you the time and hassle of returning a slow cooker that doesn’t work, as you need it too.
Must Have Features:
- Size of Insert. Every slow cooker will come with an insert, but the size can vary. When purchasing a slow cooker the family size needs to be taken into consideration to ensure the right one is bought. In order to safely cook food the slow cooker cannot be more than two-thirds full, but it also must be at least halfway full. Large families should go with a 6-Quart while couples, small families or single people should go with a 4-Quart.
- Shape of insert. The shape of the slow cooker insert is also important because it allows certain foods to be cooked. Consumers planning to cook cuts of meat more than soups should purchase an oval shaped slow cooker, while the round ones are great for soups, chili, and anything else aside from meat. Although the round ones can handle meat it just has to be cut a bit different.
- Style of insert. Different slow cookers come with different types of inserts, but they all cook the same. Majority of slow cookers come with a stoneware insert that is removable, but they are heavy. Some inserts can be used in the oven, on the stovetop, and in the fridge. Other slow cookers use stainless steel or aluminum versus the stoneware insert. Others have a non-stick coating, but these need to be handled with care so as not to damage the non-stick.
- Easy to cleanup. Not all slow cookers will be easy to clean up, but majority of them are. If using the dishwasher to clean dishes is a high priority ensure the stoneware and lid are 100% dishwasher safe. Removable inserts are the best ones because they come out to be easily cleaned.
- Food safety concerns. One thing that needs to be avoided is extended heat-up and cool-down times because of food safety. If the slow cooker takes too long to get to a safe cooking temperature bacteria can breed in the food and cause consumers to get sick. Pay attention to reviews to see if long warm up periods are required before the food starts to cook. Consumers can also cook the meal on high for the first hour to help avoid this.
Knowing the specific features to look for on slow cookers is nice because it gives you a general idea of what to look for, but knowing the most popular brands available is also helpful. Learning about the popular brands is helpful because it teaches consumers about what features are in demand, but can also help narrow down the choices. The most popular brands of slow cookers generally have the must have features, but they also feature a variety of extras. Not to mention that the most popular slow cookers are often made by the companies that people know and trust.
- Hamilton Beach. This is one of the most well known makers of slow cookers. Hamilton Beach makes a variety of slow cookers that come with stoneware inserts. They also make slow cookers in a variety of sizes. They even have a slow cooker that comes with three different sized stoneware inserts with one base.
- Crock-Pot. This another popular name in slow cookers, partly because it was the first slow cooker ever made. This brand of slow cookers comes in a variety of sizes, but you can also find the mechanical and programmable models. Crock-Pot is also a brand that consumers know and trust. Crock-Pot also makes a model with a stainless steel insert for those that do not want the stoneware insert for whatever reason.