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slow cooker

pagesinthesun Jul 29, 2012 06:15 PM

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.

  1. w
    wyogal Jul 29, 2012 06:21 PM

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

    1. John E. Jul 29, 2012 08:16 PM

      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.
        al b. darned Jul 29, 2012 10:51 PM

        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
          John E. Jul 30, 2012 09:42 AM

          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.
            wyogal Jul 30, 2012 10:03 AM

            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
              GH1618 Jul 30, 2012 10:55 AM

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

              1. re: GH1618
                wyogal Jul 30, 2012 10:57 AM

                Electronic as in they have multiple settings?

                1. re: wyogal
                  John E. Jul 30, 2012 11:40 AM

                  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.
                    GH1618 Jul 30, 2012 03:43 PM

                    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
                      John E. Jul 30, 2012 04:50 PM

                      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
                    GH1618 Jul 30, 2012 03:41 PM

                    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
                  al b. darned Jul 31, 2012 06:47 AM

                  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.
                  al b. darned Jul 31, 2012 06:31 AM

                  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. w
              wyogal Jul 29, 2012 08:27 PM

              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
                sherrib Jul 30, 2012 07:50 AM

                What are the capacities of yours?

                1. re: sherrib
                  wyogal Jul 30, 2012 07:59 AM

                  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. DuchessNukem Jul 30, 2012 10:47 AM

                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. dcrb Jul 30, 2012 11:12 AM

                  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.

                  1. tcamp Jul 30, 2012 01:46 PM

                    I second John E's suggestion about checking second hand stores. I have a "vintage" 4 qt. crock that has a vertical orientation. I use that one most frequently, for soups, chili, sauces, smaller cuts of meat. I have a newer, larger one (maybe 6 qts?) that I use for pulled pork, bigger pieces of meat.

                    Due to the lower temps, I can leave the pot on overnight, or all day while I'm working, without food being overcooked. No one has died, chez moi, due to unsafe food.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: tcamp
                      al b. darned Jul 31, 2012 07:03 AM

                      I second John E's suggestion about checking second hand stores.
                      At the risk of sounding argumentative...I repeat my admonition against this for the reasons I posted up-thread. With an electronic digital model you will heat the food sufficiently past the "danger zone," cook for the allotted time, and shift to "keep warm" so you never have overcooked food. (At least I never have.)

                      The USDA regulations are written based on science. People *were* getting sick from food cooked in the older low temperature slow cookers. While I suspect the majority of those were due to user carelessness, these are the people that cause the regs to be written.

                    2. s
                      sueatmo Jul 30, 2012 02:06 PM

                      I've recommended this book before, and I guess I'll recommend it again: Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker, by Beth Hensperger. Her books go into detail about the appliances they cover. Have a look at a library copy first, by all means, to make sure you want it before you buy. But you learn an awful lot by reading her books.

                      I have a 4 qt. Cuisinart which I like very well.

                      1. r
                        rasputina Jul 31, 2012 06:44 AM

                        If I was buying my first slow cooker, I'd get the Hamilton Beach 3 in 1. it's 50 dollars on Amazon and it comes with 2, 4 and 6 quart crocks. It works great, provided you are fine with just high, low and warm and no timer programming. I really like mine, but it's my third slow cooker, I also have 2 programmable 6 quart ones.

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