> Best Crockpot Buying Tips
Best Crockpot Buying Tips
6 1/2 Quart Programmable Crock-Pot
Favourite of slow cooking expert Stephanie O’Dea
Crock-Pot is the U.S. trademarked name for slow cooker. In the UK, the trademarked name is Slo-Cooker. All three terms are often used generically now, and I’m the most familiar with crockpot (no hyphen) so I’ll be using it in this post.
Crockpots have been popular for decades but most people don’t realize how affordable, versatile, safe and easy to use they are.
After you read this post look at the best selling crockpots on Amazon via this link.
I recommend buying from Amazon because prices are competitive, shipping is fast, guarantees are decent, and user reviews can be helpful.
First, a few notes on crockpots, then on to buying tips:
A crockpot is a handy cooking device to own because crockpots:
* Simplify meal prep and creation. Recipes are easy to find online for free, and many of them call for inexpensive ingredients that can be found in any supermarket
* Save electricity. Operating a crockpot requires little energy.
* Save money. The energy saving alone is money saving, but also of note is that cheaper cuts of meat can be used in crockpots. Slow cooking softens connective tissue without toughening the muscle so cheaper tough cuts will be meltingly tender.
* Protect food from burning. The low temperatures used in slow cooking make it less likely that you’ll burn your food even if you cook it too long
* Are handy for singles, couples and households of all sizes
* Serve as an inexpensive replacement for several kitchen appliances. A crockpot can also be used as a rice cooker, fondue pot and yogurt maker.
* Improve the digestibility of certain foods like steel cut oats and tougher cuts of meat
* Are simple to clean. Having a single pot to clean and less chance of burning makes clean-up easy.
If you’re concerned about the safety of non-stick coatings found in most crock pots, there’s a newer option to consider: a crockpot with food safe unglazed clay inserts. Click below to read more about it:
Rice cooker/crock pot with a special food safe clay insert
Best Crockpot: Buying Tips
Crockpots vary in size.
Small: 1.5-3.5 quarts. Good for 1-3 people
Small units are great for making mashed potatoes, rice, small batches of stew, small roasts, meat & rice mixtures, fondu, and yogurt.
Medium to Large: 3.5-8 quarts. Good for four or more people, thus ideal for families, or anyone who prefers to make big batches of food to eat as leftovers and/or freeze for later use (a good money and time saving strategy).
Medium to large units can be used to cook whole chickens, large roasts and larger portions of anything that you can cook in a smaller crockpot.
ADVICE: Not sure which size is best for you? A crockpot that will hold 1-1.5 quarts per person that you want to serve is usually adequate. It’s also helpful to determine the maximum volume of food that you’ll want to cook in your crockpot, keeping in mind that you shouldn’t fill a crockpot more than 3/4 full or you’ll risk spillover during cooking. To determine that, fill measuring cups with water and pour them into your current pots and pans to find out what they hold, add a bit to the measurement to make sure that you’ll be able to cook that amount in your crock with space to spare to avoid spillover. Because crockpot sizes are in quarts, measure on a quart by quart basis (1 quart = 4 cups = 1 litre)
2. HEAT SETTINGS
ALL crockpots will have two basic settings at least: low and high. Some will have a medium setting too.
A typical crockpot heats food to 170°F (77°C) on low, and 190-200°F (88-93°C) on high. Some recipes that include liquid will reach the boiling point around the edges while the food in the centre stays gently cooked. Crockpot settings are based on wattage, not temperature.
Low will cook food in 8-12 hrs. This is a good safe setting to use if you’ll be away from home for an extended period.
High will cook food in 4-6 hrs (see the interesting option at the end of this post for the “healthier” crockpot that cuts that time in half or more).
Keep Warm. The cheapest crockpots sometimes don’t include this feature, but it’s a valuable one. Keep Warm allows you to cook food then keep it warm for several hours so it’s ready to to eat with no reheating necessary.
3. MANUAL VS PROGRAMMABLE
Manual crockpots are the original way that crockpots were designed. They’re usually cheaper than digital versions. You have to keep track of cooking times with a manual crockpot because they can’t be programmed to start or stop cooking at specific times.
Programmable crockpots allow you to set specific times for cooking and keeping warm.
Most modern crockpots are oval.
A small disadvantage of oval crockpots is that they’re longer lengthwise than round crockpots so you might need more counter and shelf space to store them.
The advantage of oval crockpots is that foods that are more oblong, such as roasts and whole chickens, tend to fit into them better than round crockpots.
If space is limited, or you don’t plan to cook whole chickens and roasts, then a round crockpot is a good choice. However, almost all round crockpots are only available in smaller sizes so they’re only suitable if you want to cook for 1-2 people.
Or check the special clay insert models here