365 Days of Slow Cooking: What kind of slow cooker should I buy?
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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

What kind of slow cooker should I buy?

In the last few weeks I've had 3 different people e-mail me and ask, "I need a new slow cooker.  What kind should I buy?"  This is what I've told them:
In the market for a new slow cooker?  Read this before purchasing!  Tips for buying a new slow cooker.

I personally have several different sizes and I have the Rival Crock-Pot, Hamilton Beach, KitchenAid, Salad Master, GE and CoolCooker brands.  I'm not familiar with any other brands but I'm sure there are some great models out there.

Before buying a slow cooker consider these ideas:

1.  How many people am I serving?  What size should I buy?

1 to 2 Quart Mini Slow Cookers: 1-2 people.  Also good for dips and spreads.

3 to 4 Quart Slow Cookers: 3-5 people.  I personally use my 3 quart slow cooker most often.  It is perfect for my family of 4.  These sizes also work well for larger quantity dips or appetizers, such as meatballs or chicken wings.

5 to 6 Quart Slow Cookers: 5-7 people This size is useful when trying to make complete meals that consist of meat, potatoes and vegetables in the slow cooker.

7 to 8 Quart Slow Cookers:  7+ people.  These are nice when making meals for large families or when you are having extra guests.

Also, remember that slow cooker recipes are written as if your crockpot was filled 2/3 to 3/4 full. If it's not, your food will cook quicker than what is listed on the recipe.  So sometimes it's appropriate to have a couple of different sizes.  If you have a very large slow cooker but only want to cook for 2-4 people simply insert an oven safe dish into the bottom of your slow cooker (water is not necessary) and fill the dish up with the ingredients.  This helps the food to cook low and slow, the way it's supposed to.  For example, I did this with the No Stick Steel Cut Oats.

2.  Slow cookers are cooking a LOT hotter these days than 20 years ago.  Is your slow cooker is cooking too hot?  Check out this article for more info.  Some of those old recipes from your mom will not need to be cooked for the 8-10 hours listed on the recipe.  More likely they'll only need to be cooked for 4-6 hours.
Also, from my personal experiences I feel like the stainless steel slow cookers and dark colors cook hotter than the light colors.  For layered dishes and casseroles, use a foil collar.

3.  Are you going to be working?  If so, I recommend purchasing a slow cooker that has a timer on it.  I have a slow cooker than you can set in 30 minute increments.  I like this option much better than some of the slow cookers that only give you the option of cooking for 4, 6, or 8 hours.

4.  America's Test Kitchen pick for their favorite slow cooker is Crock-Pot Touchscreen Slow Cooker.  I don't have this slow cooker, but I do trust America's Test Kitchen.

5.  Get to know your slow cooker.  All slow cooker cook differently!  Adjust your recipes once you figure out how your slow cooker works.  One quick way to determine how hot or cool your cooker runs is to perform a simple water test.  Fill your slow cooker 2/3 full of room temperature water.  Cover it and cook on either HIGH of LOW for 6 hours, then measure the temperature of the water.  The water should be between 195 and 205 degrees (if it's higher or lower, you'll need to adjust recipes).  Some slow cookers run hot or cool on just one of the settings, so if you're having issues check both settings.

6.  Oval.  I like the oval shaped slow cookers over the round.  They can fit odd cuts of meat and seem to cook more evenly.

7.  Having trouble with chicken in your slow cooker?  Check out this post.

Hopefully, that covers it!  Good luck picking out your new slow cooker.  If you have a question about slow cooking contact me and I'll try my best to answer it.


  1. Thanks for the hint on cooking smaller recipes in a larger crockpot. I never would have thought to put a dish inside the crockpot!