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.