A slow cooker is undoubtedly one of the most useful yet least expensive kitchen tools. If you like walking into your kitchen and finding your beautiful meals ready and waiting, you should definitely consider purchasing a slow cooker. However, due to the sheer number of models on the market these days, that is much easier said than done. To make it easier for yourself, make sure to pay attention to the following features.
In this case, size truly makes a difference. If you plan to use a slow cooker to make sauces, casseroles, or soups for one or two persons, you should go with a 3-4 quart cooker. On the other hand, if you need one for making whole meals on a regular basis, you should look for 6-7 quart cookers. If you are not quite sure about this and if you have the budget, don’t hesitate to buy two different sizes.
Typical slow cooker inserts are ceramic. However, there are aluminum inserts as well. Ceramic inserts are known to produce more flavor, while aluminum ones are known for their durability. In the end, it all mainly boils down to personal preferences, since aluminum inserts can also produce their own specific flavor too, while ceramic ones are easier to clean.
Even though some people believe that the shape of a slow cooker does not make much difference, it certainly can. For example, round cookers are great for sauces, stews, and, soups, whereas oval models will let you make all that along with pot roasts, chickens, or hams.
These are typically made of plastic or glass. When choosing between these two, you should probably go with the glass ones, mainly because plastic models can become somewhat foggy over time, thus making it harder to see the food without removing the lid. Keep in mind that the more you remove the lid, the less flavor will remain.
Depending on your cooking needs and requirements, temperature control settings can easily be the deciding factor. When it comes to the controls themselves, there are 3 types. The basic one involves simple on and off controls, the more advanced one involves off, low, warm, and high settings, while the most advanced type allows actual temperature setting. Some models are known to feature the last two types, which you can freely choose depending on your needs.
When making a choice, try to avoid those that only feature the basic on/off type. Now, your choice of the remaining two types should solely depend on what kind of meals you typically like to prepare. With a standard off/low/high type, you could prepare the majority of dishes. However, if you want to make pulled pork or a roast beef brisket, you will definitely need a slow cooker that allows you to set the exact temperature.
Programmable cooking time
Even though this is not a must-have function, you will surely benefit from it greatly, especially if you are working away from your home. With this feature, you can easily set the amount of time you want the meal to cook. Once the meal is done, the cooker will automatically switch to the “warm” mode, and keep your meals hot without overcooking or completely burning them.