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Jul 29, 2012 06:15 PM

slow cooker

I'm thinking about purchasing a slow cooker. Is there a best brand? What size do I need for a family of three? Any advice is appreciated.

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  1. You might want to peruse these threads, I'm sure there are LOTS of suggestions! :)

    1. Make sure you get at least a 6 quart model. If it were me I'd go to a thrift store and buy an older model. The new slow cookers heat too hot when compared to the older models. The USDA temperature guidelines apparently indicated that the older slow cookers stayed in the danger zone of 40 to 140 too long. What happens with the new models is that warm is low, low is high, and high is really high. The new models will work if you keep in mind that they operate at a higher temperature than they used to.

      11 Replies
      1. re: John E.

        If it were me I'd go to a thrift store and buy an older model. The new slow cookers heat too hot when compared to the older models. The USDA temperature guidelines apparently indicated that the older slow cookers stayed in the danger zone of 40 to 140 too long.
        Why on earth would you purposely put yourself and your loved ones at risk? I know, I know, "(Insert relative here) had one for (insert number of centuries) and we all survived." We know more now than we did then, and forewarned is forearmed. The fact is that some people did get sick or worse, hence the new guidelines.

        I would recommend an electronic model. I have two Cuisinarts, a 4 qt. and a 6 qt. and I love them. Hamilton Beach and Rival also make well-rated electronic models.

        The electronic models have a couple of big advantages. They heat on "high" until the food is sufficiently hot and then switch to your setting. You can also set the cooking time, after which it will switch to "warm" so you won't overcook your dish. Amazon is always a good place to window shop.

        If you wonder about the temp settings of the unit you are interested in, the manufacturers FAQ might tell you, or you could call customer support.

        1. re: al b. darned

          Huh? Go back and re-read my post. I never mentioned electronic models of slow cookers. I was writing about those with settings of warm, low, and high. I don't even actually use a slow cooker with those settings. I have an electric cooker with a thermostat that has a crock insert. Thanks for your concern however.

          1. re: John E.

            aren't they all electronic?
            I think the concern was the part that was quoted... to go buy an old one which you said keeps the food in the danger zone for too long, hence the newer models. That's the concern.

            1. re: wyogal

              No, they are not all electronic. The low-end models contain only resistance heating coils and a switch.

              1. re: GH1618

                Electronic as in they have multiple settings?

                1. re: wyogal

                  I take electronic to mean there is a thermostat to set the temperature. The older models are not like that (neither are the inexpensive current models). They have heat settings for the heating element in the base unit. My intention was not to stir up a controversy. I've never had a problem with a slow cooker at too low of a temperature. I have had problems with slow cookers that got too hot. I have never been in a situation where there was any concern over anybody's health related to a slow cooker.

                  1. re: John E.

                    No, a thermostat is not necessarily an electronic device. An electronic device modulates the electron flow beyond merely switching the current on or off, using transistors.

                    1. re: GH1618

                      When I made that statement I was thinking of the newer slow cookers with a digital thermostat and controls. I believe that qualifies as electronic. I know I didn't write that, but that's what my intent was.

                  2. re: wyogal

                    Multiple settings has nothing to do with whether it is electronic. The low-end slow cookers have a switch with "off," "warm," "low," and "high" settings, and resistance heating coils, and nothing else (not even a thermostat). That is electric, but it is not electronic.

                2. re: wyogal

                  Sometimes my brain works faster than my fingers and I'm not too clear. When I recommended an "electronic" cooker I meant one with digital controls. These models usually allow you to set a cooking temperature and time, and after the set time they shift to "keep warm."

                  For Example: Your recipe calls for 8 hours on "low." When you turn it on it will heat your food on "high" so it heats up quickly past the "danger zone," shift to "low" for the remainder of time, and then to "keep warm." This way the food will not be overcooked if you don't happen to be there at the end of the 8 hours, like it could with rotary switch model.

                  AFAIK, what you will not find is a model that will do dual programming such as 2 hours on high followed by 8 hours on low. (I've seen a few recipes that call for similar procedures.)

                  What you will not find, for food safety reasons, is one that allows for a delayed start. To me this is a no-brainer, but it is amazing how many times I see this comment in Amazon reviews saying it would be a desirable feature.

                3. re: John E.

                  John -
                  Sorry if I wasn't too clear with my comments.

                  My comment was a counterpoint to your recommendation that the OP buy an older low temperature cooker. I don't think that is a good idea for the reasons I outlined I the first paragraph.

                  While *you* never mentioned electronic models, I *did* as a recommendation/answer to the OP's original inquiry, again for the reasons outlined.

            2. I like having two. I use the big one on occasion, it's great for making chicken stock, or larger amounts of chili or beans or pulled pork. I like the smaller one for cheese dip, or just a couple of porkchops or other protein. It's also good for things like baked beans or spaghetti sauce when you don't want to make a whole lot of it.

              2 Replies
              1. re: wyogal

                What are the capacities of yours?

                1. re: sherrib

                  I don't know, just regular big, and regular small..... ha! I could fit the carcass from a turkey breast in the larger one, it's circular, not oval. I got the smaller one for one of our college-bound kids years ago. Probably got it at Wal-mart.
                  Both have removable inserts (I think they pretty much all do now).

              2. I love my slow cookers -- I have 4 in all (4-qt, 1.5-qt, 2-cup, plus an ornamental 3-qt I don't use often). All different brands, all inexpensive. I cook just for two of us, and I need the variety of sizes.

                Do browse through the other threads that wyogal posted, lots of good info. And do consider what your family likes to eat and how you like to cook; my worst crockpot meals were the ones I cooked in the wrong size crock.

                1. We have a couple of Crock Pots that work quite well. One round, one oval. We also have twoNesco Roasters that have variable settings that can and are used for slow cooking all the way up to roasting a turkey. Their cooking well is porcelain coated steel. We have not experienced any sticking problems with them.

                  Regarding brands, Crock Pot is probably the oldest and most recognized. The best? That I cannot attest to. As to size, a 6 or 8 quart should do nicely.

                  I have found that using a stove top pressure cooker can achieve roughly the same results as a slow cooker, in much less time. But that is just me. I am sure that there are those who will disagree with me for various reasons and all will be valid. But there is a nice benefit to tossing some meat and vegetables into the Crock Pot and coming home to a nice meal. My biggest worry of leaving any in use cooking appliance unattended is a house fire. Probably silly of me, but that to me is a big worry.