thinking about a crockpot...
i'm thinking about adding a crockpot to my Christmas wish list, but i have no experience with one, so i'm a bit overwhelmed with all the features and figuring out what i need and what i don't.
'i mostly cook for 2 people, but i'd like to be able to cook in bulk (probably no more than 6-8 servings, though) - what size is appropriate? the electrical ones are much more expensive than manual - is it worth it to keep the food warm? also, doesn't need to be dishwasher safe, and i doubt i'd use it for potlucks.
also, do i even want one, or is it a waste of counter space? i know some people rave about theirs, but i enjoy the act/process of cooking, and i'm wondering if it's less satisfying to have a machine do it all. i'm not so busy i can't come home and make dinner, and with only two people, it's not like i really need to stockpile food.
thoughts? any help/advice/cautions/recommendations welcome! thanks in advance!
I bought a crock pot, second hand so it was cheap, and have only used it twice so now it's taking up space in the hall closet. I tried it for chutney--came out way too watery and had to transfer it to a pot on the stove. Tried it for stew--same problem. Like you I cook for two and have the time to do so and certainly wouldn't leave the house with a crockpot cooking. I know if I took the time to get to know how it works I could modify some recipes and use it for stews which I really like to make, but since I still have to do all the browning in another pot, I just stick with the Le Cruset that I've used for decades--if I want to cook it low and slow I put that in the oven.
With little counter space and limited time, I've never found a slow cooker to be very useful. It's only really good for stews and soupy things; I don't like what it does to chicken; and on weekdays I'm typically out of the house for much longer than the recommended cooking time, so the food has to sit around in the pot before and/or after cooking. Over the years, I've optimistically purchased at least four slow cookers and have ended up giving away all but one--and I only keep that one because it occasionally gets used for making a lot of caramelized onions the lazy way. On the other hand, I'm a total fan of the modern stovetop pressure cooker: fast, easy, and much more versatile. But this is just my own experience. Many people seem to do quite well by their slow cookers.
I used to have a programmable crockpot -- after the specified cooking time, it would just hold food -- and it worked great. (gave it away when I moved overseas)
I have braised turkey with prunes braising away right this second.
Nothing beats it for a way to have slow-cooked food ready when you walk in the door on a busy day -- and it makes the house smell good, too.
I make dressing for Thanksgiving and baked beans for the 4th in it, too -- works like a charm.
I don't keep mine on the counter. I keep in the cabinet under the counter, but use it on a regular basis like every weekend. I recommend a removable insert and the programmable "Smart Pot" that will hold food warm after the cooking time finishes. I love to come in the winter to a nice hot meal. I do beef roast, chili, soups, stews and I only cook for me and my husband. I also like to use it for keep things warm after i have cooked them on the stove to free up stove top space if cooking a big meal like during the holidays. One tip- always brown your meat first before putting it the pot. Crockpots don't do raw meats very well in my opinion.
4 quart is plenty, that's the size I use for 2 people plus a lot of leftovers. 6 quart is gigantic, heavy, more awkward to wash and store. Don't be overwhelmed by features, and don't put it on your wish list. Get a basic model on sale for about $15 (hi, lo, warm), see if you use it, then make note of features you want and then put a nicer one on next year's list. It's only a waste of counterspace if it collects dust.
I agree completely with mlou. i have two, in a small condo. A 4 qt. and a 6qt. I am surprised how often I end up using the 6. I often go to potlucks (10-15/per year), and it is great for that. I also use it for things like stew, chili, spaghetti, etc. I am single, but I don't mind eating leftovers for a couple of days, and I like to portion the remainder into single or double servings and keep them frozen. I work 1-1/2 jobs, both of which regularly require extra time and effort, so knowing i have a good meal or three in the freezer keeps me from hitting the drive thru more often than i should. But it all depends on your life. If you don't eat leftovers, don't have/use a microwave, enjoy and are able to cook almost every meal fresh from scratch (even if it is stew and you are letting it sit in the fridge overnight), then it doesn't make sense for you.