Slow cooker vs Rice cooker
I'm looking for a new appliance for slow cooking / simmering large amounts of food.
I currently just have an 8cup rice cooker with Cook/Warm settings. It works fine for rice, but requires lots of babying to cook stews, make stock, & other wet dishes due to the lack of a "soup" mode.
I definitely need a second appliance. I want more convenience and the ability to I can cook rice and slow cook in parallel. The question is, what type? Ideally, I want a final setup that can cook meals for 4 adults. I also like to "fire and forget" when I cook, hence programmable timers are useful.
I see the following options:
(A0) Buy a rice cooker with a soup mode
(A1) Buy a fuzzy rice cooker with a soup mode
(B) Buy a slow cooker with a timer mode
(A*) Pros: more versatile wrt what it can cook. Also many useful cooking modes for Asian food, which is what I grew up eating.
- Hard to find one with programmable cooking timer for slow cook mode.
- A1 gets into a ridiculous price territory for a 10 cup model, which is the size that I need to comfortably cook enough food for company and to get enough leftovers when cooking for myself. I will cry the first time I scratch the pan.
Pros: I can find slow cookers with programmable cooking timers, much larger capacity, and a versatile form factor for serving. Stoneware is also more robust against abuse than a non-stick rice cooker.
Cons: implied above
The right strategy seems to be to buy a $50 slow cooker now. When I feel like it, buy a $100 5.5 cup rice cooker and donate my current rice cooker toa good cause.
Any advice & suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
Another possibility is using an induction hotplate with a Le Creuset French oven. I use that combo much more often than my Cuisinart slow cooker for making stew, chili, gumbo, etc. If you already have the LC, the price should be about the same as for a good rice cooker.
It's also more versatile. You can also use the induction hotplate as an additional "burner" in the kitchen or as a food warmer on the tabletop.
PS. Since you mention you like Asian food, an induction hotplate is perfect for Japanese "nabe".
re: tanuki soup
Sorry, iyc_nyc, but since I live in Japan, I'm not really familiar with the brands available in the US. Induction is really popular here in Japan, so you can get hotplates from pretty much all the major electronics manufacturers (Panasonic, Toshiba, Hitachi, Mitsubishi, Sharp, Sanyo, Zojirushi, etc.) as well as all sorts of off-brands (efeel, DRETEC, Twinbird, Edel, Tescom, EUPA, Yamazen, E-Grow, Pearl, etc., mainly from China). Personally, my portable units are Panasonic and Zojirushi and my built-in induction cooktop is a Mitsubishi, but I don't know if they are available in the US. Hopefully, somebody in the US can jump in with some recommendations for you.
re: tanuki soup
Hey, thanks for the suggestion -- I had been wondering about induction hotplates. My family travels regularly to Taiwan, which broadens my selection.
But... the induction + french oven combo isn't designed to be left unattended, is it?
I'm wondering about fancy features, too.
I see a couple that come with auto-shutoff timers -- are there any that automatically drop to low to maintain a safe hold temperature?
What about heat control via thermoprobe?
I wouldn't want to leave a French oven on an induction hotplate completely unattended (e.g., go out shopping), but I often read in another room and check the pot every half hour or so.
Most models seem to have an auto-shutoff timer, but I've never seen one that will automatically drop to low or one that can be used with a temperature probe.
Despite these limitations, I still think that you would find an induction hotplate to be a nice addition to your kitchen.
re: tanuki soup
I think the features to look for are reasonable power (1400 watts or more), lots of power setting levels (at least 7, the more the better), timer functions, direct temperature setting (i.e., the ability to maintain a set temperature such as 160 degrees C, which is useful for things like deep frying), and an auto resume function (all units will switch off when the pot is lifted, but it should automatically resume at the same settings when the pot is put back). My Panasonic has some sort of "Course" menu for pre-programmed cooking control (like the latest Japanese microwave ovens), but I've never bothered to figure out how to use it. I also like units that have fully sealed controls for ease of cleaning and resistance against spills. Finally, I'd look for a unit with a quiet fan. Hope you find a good one!