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Should I get a slow cooker...and what brand?

I frequently make soups and stews during the winter months. My Le Creuset Dutch ovens work perfectly for this task, but require a bit of checking every half hour or so to be sure that nothing's scorching or about to boil over. No big deal, but recently have been thinking about getting a slow cooker? Would there be any significant benefits of doing so? Which slow cooker do you like?

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  1. As you noted slow cookers don't need to be checked all the time, you mix your ingredients, turn it on and you're good to go. Pretty much any soup or stew recipe is well-suited for the slow cooker--during the week you can put stuff together beforehand, even the night before, then in the morning put the insert into the element and turn it on, and when you get home from work there's dinner. I use mine regularly all year round, and there's dozens of books and websites with recipes. I have always owned Rival Crock Pots, the most basic version. I have it hooked up to an appliance timer so if I have a recipe that doesn't need to go a long time I can set the timer to turn it on. My only warning is that new slow cookers tend to run hot and you'll see recipes that call for, say, a whole chicken to cook for 8-10 hours. In a new slow cooker you'll have a heap of mushy meat and bones if you let it go that long. My rule of thumb is to take two hours off the least amount of hours at minimum. I've gotten great whole chicken in my Crock Pot in a little over four hours.

    1. Slow cookers make life easier and can be had for as little as $15, so why not get one. The benefit is freedom.

      Don't fret about which one to get, just get a cheap one. The one I use most is a medium size (3 1/2 quart I think, but am not sure), white, hi/lo setting, $15 on sale.

      If you end up using it a lot, and wish it had a browning function or a digital timer, then I'd recommend searching out the exact model to fit your needs. If you use it so much you're looking at it daily, you might want to get a prettier one.

      I have a huge one with a timer, stainless steel, yada yada, and I use it maybe once a year. It's too big, too heavy, and the timer has been useless because I'm never away from the house when the food is ready. I have a tiny one that I thought would be good for small batches of things, but it gets too hot, likes to boil and spit and make a mess--only thing it's good for is superbowl food set on warm.

      1 Reply
      1. re: mlou72

        I have two Rivals. One is large (not sure of exact size) that I use all the time. A few years back my mother offered me a smaller one that she never used and I was about to say thanks but no thanks when I thought about the frequency of parties I host or attend where superbowl type food is served. I use it for queso, artichoke dips, really any kind of dip you want to keep hot. I even brought it on a camping trip recently (we car camp with electricity and water supplied to each site).

      2. This may be overkill for you, but if you entertain it's a nice way to keep 3 dishes at serving temperature:

        http://www.amazon.com/Sensio-13408-Be...

        1 Reply
        1. re: ferret

          These are available for only $40 from Sam's Club - a BARGAIN!

        2. Forgot you asked about brand... only one my mother or I have had is Rival Crock Pot. Haven't had one break on either of us yet. And the only reason she threw out her old orange one was because I told her the new ones had a removable crock. Hamilton Beach makes some really interesting ones though, like locking lid for travel, or removable stovetop safe crock for browning.

          Perfect time of the year to buy one, they'll be on sale through the holidays. I'd never pay full price for one, just wait for a sale.

          I was going to suggest getting an oval shaped one, but it looks as if most are now. My mom used to have a tall cylindrical one, it was hard to fit many cuts of meat or a whole chicken.

          Let me just suggest looking online at Walmart and Sears to get you started, solely because they seem to have a gigantic selection.

          A slow cooker needs to be 1/2 to 3/4 full to work properly. For me, 4 qt. oval works the best for everyday; enough for 2-3 people plus leftovers for 3-4 days depending on what I've cooked. My 6 qt. is for massive roasts or a lot of company.

          2 Replies
          1. re: mlou72

            Excellent advice about the new crocks running hot. I found out about that the hard way. You idea about the appliance timer is an excellent work around.

            1. re: mlou72

              I'm still using my Mom's 1970s orange/tangerine Crock Pot. She passed it on to me when she bought on with removable crock. I have used it Reginald for about 20 years and she did before so the sure last. Nothing fancy to bust.

            2. I have a Cuisinart. I bought a great cookbook for slow cookers: Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook, by Beth Hensperger. You might get a hold of a copy before buying a cooker, just to get an idea of the great things you can do with it. I imagine a library has a copy; or you can examine it at a bookstore. If you buy a cooker, you'll probably want to buy the book too. Hensperger's books are not simply a collection of recipes, but compendiums of information, tips and additional companion recipes.

              I have made several recipes, and have consulted it multiple times.

              I think slow cooking is something everyone should at least try a few times. I hope you have fun.

              2 Replies
              1. re: sueatmo

                Sueatmo - do you have the Cuisinart that browns meat? I saw one in the W-S catalog that is tempting me. We buy our beef by the half so I have lots of roasts and such to deal with.

                1. re: cleobeach

                  OK, I had to go check my manual! No, it doesn't brown meat. I wouldn't do that anyway though. I would always want to brown meat in my CI skillet, adding the ingredients to a warmed up slow cooker. I have 4 temp levels, including HIgh.

                  If you want to do mainly roasts, consider an oval shape, and how big you want the cooker to be.