Slow cookers like the Crock-Pot became popular in the 1970s and have been a favorite way to cook ever since, because they practically require no effort or skills to achieve tasty results. All you really need to do is toss in the raw ingredients, set the cooking temp, and let the device do the work for you. In a few hours, you can come back to an aromatic kitchen and bubbling deliciousness. But which one to choose? Find out six things to look for when shopping, plus our top picks.
What to look for when buying a slow cooker:
- Every slow cooker needs a lid — it will help keep your dish from drying out.
- Temperature settings on slow cookers typically don’t bring the food to a different temperature — instead, the settings are based on how long it takes food to reach the simmer point (209°F). A low setting takes about seven to eight hours, while high is more like four. Look for a slow cooker that has at least low, high, and warm settings.
- Six quarts of cooking capacity will give you the most bang for your buck — you’ll be able to cook for a crowd, or have plenty of leftovers.
- An oval-shaped slow cooker will give you more versatility with cuts of meat since you can fit a roast or whole chicken with ease.
- A slow cooker with a temperature probe is especially helpful when you’re cooking chicken, beef, or pork. You can set it to switch over to “warm” once your meat is cooked.
- Some slow cookers have a sear function. This is great for creating a caramelized bark on meats and locking in the moisture before slow cooking. Sautéing veggies for a soup using this function also adds extra flavor before beginning the slow cooking process. However, even if your slow cooker doesn’t have this, you can usually place the enameled pot directly on your stovetop to achieve the same effect before placing it back in the electric slow cooker to finish the job.
Brit + Co’s Favorite Slow Cookers
Best Splurge-Worthy Slow Cooker:Cuisinart Multicooker ($159)
Why We Love It: This versatile appliance can be programed to slow-cook, sauté, and steam and offers four temperature settings (high, low, simmer, and warm). You can keep this appliance on for up to 24 hours without worry too. We also love this little detail: It’ll automatically keep food at the perfect serving temperature, so the days of burning your tongue are through!
Best Budget-Friendly Slow Cooker: Hamilton Beach 6-Quart Programmable Slow Cooker ($50)
Why We Love It: Set this slow cooker by either desired cooking time or until it reaches a specific temperature. If you struggle to know when you’re chicken is cooked through or the beef roast is at medium-rare, this gadget contains a temperature probe, so you can cook more precisely.
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(Photos via Sur La Table and Amazon)