How to Choose the Perfect Slow Cooker for You
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If you're someone who spends a lot of time cooking for holidays, special occasions or just dinner each evening, buying a slow cooker might be one the most important decisions you make in your kitchen appliance-buying career. Before you buy, however, it's important to know How to Choose the Perfect Slow Cooker For You. Below, you'll find questions you should ask yourself before heading to the store, along with some insight regarding your specific cooking needs. We hope that upon finishing this article, you feel a little more confident in your purchasing decision and ready to tackle all the slow cooking situations that may arise in the future.
The Who and the What
First off, how many people are you cooking for? If you're cooking or one or two only, you'll obviously want a different size slow cooker than someone cooking for a family of 6 or more. On a similar note, you'll likely want a larger, rectangular-shaped slow cooker if you're preparing the holiday turkey, however, if you're using your slow cooker as the serving vessel as well as for cooking, you may opt for a smaller, oval-shaped model. Whichever, you choose, here are some rules of thumb for what works best for the amount of people and the occasion.
• A 4-quart slow cooker will feed 2-4 people; this is also a great option for serving dips or drinks at a party.
• A 3.5-quart slow cooker is very similar to 4-quart, but works better for a 2-3 person household.
• A 5-quart slow cooker works well for a family of 4-6.
• Unless you have a very large family (more than 6), are preparing food in mass quantities or like to cook meals ahead of time and freeze them, you'd likely never want or need anything larger than a 6-quart slow cooker.
The Shape of Things to Come
Round or Oval? This is the next factor you need to decide on before heading out to the store or confirming your online purchase. Will you use your slow cooker mainly for baking? If so, you're going to want to go with an oval slow cooker because it lends itself well to cakes, cookie bars, pizzas, and breads. It's likely to help you achieve a crispier crust because it's more enclosed than a round or rectangular slow cooker. Round slow cookers are much better for soups, stews and chilis because they tend to have more "hot spots." Round slow cookers are generally also better for using as serving vessels because they're a bit roomier (think ladling soup), although oval ones will do the job too.
The Waiting Game
If you're looking for something more modest, a manually-timed slow cooker is the way to go. If you're planning to splurge a bit, however, you'll want to choose a programmable slow cooker, as it has the ability to switch to switch to a warm setting after a specific amount of time that you set. If you're someone who often comes home later or has an unpredictable schedule, it's a nice idea to spend the extra money on the programmable option. It will pay for itself by not ruining your dinner!
Muliple Functionality or Classically Constructed?
Many people are likely to opt for the traditional slow cooker, which does that and that alone. More recently, however, multicookers have made their way to the market, and are kind of great if you have use for them. One of the leading brands, Instapot, can be used as a slow cooker, pressure cooker, rice cooker or yogurt maker. Pretty cool. You can also sauté right inside, making clean up a breeze. Best of all? It has a stainless-steel insert which none of the rice cookers seem to have as an option. Instapot offers a 5- or 6-quart version.
Just You? No Problem!
If you're living alone, you probably don't consider a slow cooker as a cooking option unless you're really into freezer meals because they often make far more food than one person can eat without it going bad. Enter: the 1.5 to 2-quart slow cooker. These will cost you only about 10-20 dollars, and the options are endless. You can make everything from breakfast to dips and fondues. You can even and cook a single serving of beans or rice at one time. This option is perfect for a quick and healthy oatmeal in the morning.
Check out our Slow Cooker Product Reviews
As you may or may not know, AllFreeSlowCookerRecipes.com reviews and gives away products on a weekly basis. We've used and reviewed various slow cookers and accessories in the past, and we're sharing the links to these reviews below for your convenience. Read a few to help you make up your mind. There is also some wonderful information elsewhere onine to help you in your pursuit of the perfect slow cooker. Consumerreports.org and Amazon.com are two of our favorite resources.
- Hamilton Beach 6-Quart Programmable Slow Cooker
- KitchenAid 7-Quart Slow Cooker
- KitchenAid 6-Quart Slow Cooker
- Cuisinart 4-Quart Cook Central 3-in-1 Multicooker
- Wonderbag Slow Cooker
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