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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.