The Best Slow Cookers of 2016

Slow Cooker Features To Look For

Capacity

Crockpots are designed to make a large meal in a single pot, so they are great for families of four or more. You can make meals smaller than the maximum capacity, as well, if you are single or there’s just two of you. A smaller crockpot can hold 3-3 ½ quarts of food, while 5-6 quarts are good for 6+ people. A 6-pound roast would fit in a 6-quart crockpot.

Cooking modes

Crockpots usually have at least the basic cook modes, like a keep warm setting, simmer, low, and high. Some are more detailed and offer choices like a “Probe” mode, which is intended for large cuts of meat that need to reach a specific temperature. The crockpot will stay on the temperature you selected until the meat’s internal temp is safe. “Defrost” is also a very useful mode because you don’t even have to thaw out food before sticking it in the crockpot. More advanced slow cookers have modes based on foods, like “Bagel, “Cookies,” “Pizza,” and so on.

Digital timer

Slow cookers are all about convenience, so a flexible digital timer is crucial. This way, you can cook meals very slowly and go about your day without worrying about preparing dinner. You can slow cook meats and veggies for as long as 20 hours, or as short as 30 minutes. Many slow cookers have a versatile range, so you can choose 2, 4, 6, 7, 10, or 12 hours. The control panel typically includes a countdown timer so you know how much time is left on the meal, and once it is done, it will enter the keep-warm mode. Some slow cookers even keep track of how long the slow cooker stays in the keep-warm mode.

Removable stoneware

The part of the crockpot where the food actually cooks is usually stoneware like ceramic, though some are made from aluminum. These materials are best for evenly distributing heat during cooking, and retaining it during the keep-warm phase. The pot is also removable for easier clean-up. The most versatile stoneware is safe for the dishwasher, the fridge, the oven, and the microwave. Technology like HeatSaver stoneware can keep food warm even when it is isn’t connected to a power source, so you don’t have to worry about cold meals ever again.

Construction

Stainless steel and glass are the two most common materials for slow cookers. The housing part of the crockpot – where the stoneware resides during cooking – is typically coated or brushed stainless steel. This material is easy to wipe clean and has a modern, sleek look. Lids are glass so you can see the cooking process, and the handles (which should be stay-cool) are metal. Handles also sometimes have extra material around them, like silicone, to help with heat reduction.

Easy clean-up

Slow cookers are easy to keep clean. The stoneware is removable and dishwasher-safe, as are most glass lids. The exterior of the crockpot can simply be wiped clean with a cloth. Some crockpots even have removable crumb trays that catch stray food debris so you don’t even have to clean off the table or counter.

Weight

Slow cookers are known to be one of the heavier food appliances, though the smaller ones can be fairly lightweight. 5-10 pounds is not uncommon (without food), and the larger ones can be 13-15 pounds. Features like locking lids and carry handles help keep everything safe and secure when you carry a heavy crockpot.

Best Slow Cooker Brands

Cuisinart

Cuisinart is one of the world’s premier food appliance brands. It began in 1971 when the Cuisinart founder was inspired to create a food processor after seeing a similar machine at an exhibition in France. Cuisinart went on to produce juicers, ice cream makers, microwaves, popcorn machines, slow cookers, and more. Their slow cookers can be very expensive and boast innovations like 3-1 in cooking capabilities.

Crock-Pot

The Crock-Pot brand began as a Naxon Utilities Corp. creation, which created the “Bean Pot” slow cooker. This little company was purchased by Rival – a home appliance company – and the Bean Pot was re-released in 1971 as the Crock-Pot. The slow cooker became a huge success and allowed busy families to make delicious meals very easily, even with cheap cuts of meat. Crock-Pot released recipes along with their products and expanded into fully-programmable slow cookers that made cooking even easier.

Hamilton Beach

In 1910, Hamilton Beach was manufacturing home appliances with a lightweight universal motor that one of the co-founders (Chester Beach) had created. The company made floor polishers, meat grinders, food mixers, and more. They also have a large range of slow cookers that are more affordable than other brands, and prioritize portability.

West Bend

West Bend was founded in Wisconsin in 1911 and originally manufactured two-stroke cycle engines for boats as well as cookware and electric appliances. In the 1950’s, West Bend released its first electric slow cooker and continued to improve on it as the years went by. In 2001, the small kitchen appliance part of West Bend was sold to Focus Products Group LLC, and was renamed West Bend Housewares. The company makes bread makers, coffee makers, skillets, popcorn makers, and much more.

Features of Professional & Commercial Slow Cookers

Multipurpose and versatile

In addition to the oven-like power of the slow cooker stoneware pot, many slow cookers are safe for use on the stovetop or stored in the freezer. Some even include features like a heating base that also serves as mini griddle. Cuisinart sells a slow cooker that can perform 3 cooking functions in the one pot. You can brown ingredients like meat, and steam veggies and other foods as well as slow cook.

Portable

One of the great things about slow cookers is that you can cook a big meal for an event like a potluck. However, you then need to take the crockpot with you to the event so it stays warm and is easily served in the stoneware. Many crockpots are designed for portability and include big carrying handles and hinged, locking lids so nothing spills during the trip. Handles on the side of the crockpot are also very convenient, as are handles that fold down for more compact storage.

Energy-efficient

Slow cooker features like the Element IQ technology (on Crock-Pot slow cooker) allows the crock pot to be more energy-efficient. The sensor adjusts power and temperature so no energy is wasted during the cooking process. This results in a faster cooking time, which the Element IQ will also adjust on the digital display.

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