The Top Rated Slow Cooker Reviews and Comparison Buying Guide (2017): What to Look for in a Slow Cooker
When you’re looking for a slow cooker, you want one that’s going to meet your needs. It has to be a great design, highly affordable, and packed with features that make it easy to use. It should also be easy to clean, with a ceramic (or metal) interior that’s designed to be easy to remove and store for your ease of use.
A Few Initial Considerations About the “Perfect Crock Pot Design”
- 1 A Few Initial Considerations About the “Perfect Crock Pot Design”
- 1.1 Without any further ado, the following crock pots (slow cookers) are generally considered to be the best:
- 1.2 1. Crock-Pot SCCPVL610-S 6-Quart Programmable Cook and Carry Oval Slow Cooker
- 1.3 2. Hamilton Beach Set ‘n Forget Programmable Slow Cooker With Temperature Probe
- 1.4 3. Cuisinart MSC-600 3-In-1 Cook Central 6-Quart Multi-Cooker
- 1.5 4. Elite Platinum MST-900R MaxiMatic 8.5 Quart Stainless Steel Slow Cooker
- 1.6 5. Crock-Pot SCVT650-PS Programmable Touchscreen 6.5 Quart Slow Cooker
- 1.7 What Kinds of Features are “Must Have” Features for Crock Pots?
- 1.8 Some Tips To Make the Most of Your Slow Cooker
- 1.9 3 Must Try Recipes to Maximize Your Crock Pot Experience
- 1.10 Some Questions and Answers About Slow Cookers
- 1.11 In Conclusion: Which Crock Pot is Right For You?
It also has to be sized perfectly to fit in your refrigerator, even if you have a large family, need to store leftovers, or want to marinate your dish for a while. You also need to be able to remove the lid without letting out all the heat, or moisture out of your dish. Otherwise, you’re just wasting valuable energy.
In this “Best Slow Cooker for the Money” review, we’ll address some of the most important things to look for in your next Crock-pot purchase. Otherwise, you could go to the supermarket and pick up a model (for anywhere from $20- $150 or more) and never know what you’re actually going to get. Hopefully, this review helps highlight the most important things to look for in a slow cooker, as well as helps drive your purchasing decisions with more confidence.
Without any further ado, the following crock pots (slow cookers) are generally considered to be the best:
If you’re looking for an excellent, affordable crock pot with a ton of great features, Crock- Pot brand offers one of the best large capacity slow cookers on the market; perfect for serving a group of people on the go. It’s also got features that work for you, like gasket seal technology around the lid and a locking mechanism that keeps everything in place. It’s completely programmable too- meaning you can cook what you want and never have to worry about it getting overcooked or dried out.
Programmable Time Controls So You Can Relax
One of the biggest issues that people have with slow cookers is that you have to stay awake to turn them off or on; and you’re always struggling to get everything cooked just how you like it (unless you’re home all the time). This model lets you program practically anything you can imagine for a period from 30 minutes to 20 hours. You can also set the temperature, automatically moving from the highest settings to lower warm settings whenever you’ve completed your cooking process.
Highly Affordable and Spacious
Another big consideration to make is the price. This model tops out around $45, making it one of the lowest priced models with the most features. That being said, sometimes it cooks food at too high of a temperature (which can be remedied with a little planning and understanding of how the crock pot works). It’s also great about not letting food stick to the inside of the internal ceramic pot.
It has a “smell” but it goes away after using it the first time, and it won’t affect the way that the food tastes at all. Additionally, you can expect a high quality product with the Crock Pot Line. The oval shape further ensures that practically anything you’d want to cook would fit inside.
If you want to reduce your mess in the kitchen while still getting perfect temps and results on anything you cook, go with the Hamilton Beach Set n’ Forget Programmable Slow Cooker. It’s got an option to insert a temperature probe, making it nearly perfect for easily roasting a chicken, pot roast, or beef roast to perfection.
Affordable With Great Features
This model has a ton of awesome features that make it a great buy (for less than $50), including the options that it provides for automatic cooking: cooking by temperature probe, setting your own cooking program, or setting the temperature gauges manually. Imagine all the meat you’ll cook perfectly, even if you’re at work! Reviewers rave about how the cooking probe makes everything so much easier for everything from the perfect family dinner or get-together to a catering event.
All in all, the Hamilton Beach Set n’ Forget slow cooker is a great option because it’s extraordinarily easy to use and has programmable features that cook your meals perfectly. That means you can perfectly tenderize a 6 pound chicken, break down a juicy 4 pound roast, or stew up the perfect pot roast with ease.
Makes Cooking at Home Easier
It’s really never been easier to get a delicious and nutritious home cooked meal for your family. Even if you work long 8 to 10 hour days, you can set up your crock pot before you leave your house for work, come home, and have a savory feast. Even if you’re running late or you’re stuck in traffic you can still expect to eat well with this Hamilton model.
While Crock Pot and Hamilton Beach are probably the most well known slow cooker brands; other companies like Cuisinart have developed some of the most technologically advanced slow cooker models that can do more than traditional slow cookers (including browning meat, sauteing veggies, or even steaming rice or other starches.
Multiple Settings and Sizes for Whatever You Have to Cook
Cuisinart gives users some of the variety that other slow cookers can’t- for example, giving your roast a nice sear or crust. Most of the time, if you need to cook veggies and meat together, you have to worry about the different textures that you might end up with. Not with Cuisinart- all you have to do is push one button and you’ll have it all. It even comes with the steaming rack that you need to ensure rice and veggies are cooked to absolute perfection.
If you need a few extra quarts, go for it! The Cuisinart MSC comes in three different sizes to feed any family (4 quarts, 6 quarts, 8 quarts) to meet your specific needs.
Easy to Read, Easy to Operate, and Easy to Clean
You don’t have to worry about getting caught up choosing between all the settings on this fancy crock-pot. You’ll get a huge, back lit LCD screen that shows you everything you need to know about the temperature of your crock pot, the time that it’s been cooking, and what settings you’re using. All you have to do to set it up is make sure that you’ve pushed the right button.
Like many other designs, the Cuisinart features a completely removable set-up that makes it effortless to keep clean. All you have to do is throw it in the dishwasher after you’ve enjoyed your meal. You’ll never have to wonder what temperature your slow cooker is operating at; and you’ll always end up with a perfectly cooked finished product. In a large, relatively immobile slow cooker.
By far the most affordable crock pot on this list, it also has the fewest features, bells, and whistles. It’s huge- with an 8.5 quart capacity and a beautifully colored stoneware pot that accommodates anything from a massive pot roast, turkey breast or roast chicken. The stoneware pot is well made as well- so you know that it’ll retain the heat you need to guarantee the best quality of product for your money. You can always cook virtually anything you want with ease (with easy access to your food).
Easy to Clean, Even Easier to Operate
A lot of other crock pots are hard to disassemble or have designs that make them difficult to clean in a dishwasher or even put in the sink. The rounded shape on this model makes it easily convert to meet you needs and fit practically anywhere you can imagine. Plus, there’s plenty of room for an army if you needed; and with a little preparation you could set your new slow cooker with just a turn of the dial.
One of the Best Prices on the Market for the Value
If you’re looking for a basic crock pot design that you aren’t going to spend a ton of money on, look no further than the Elite Platinum model MaxiMatic to make the most out of your hard-earned money. In many situations, this inexpensive model can put out more food, faster- giving you your free time back. Plus, it’s got a long cord, so you don’t have to worry about putting it in an awkward spot, or struggle to make room on your counters. It’s monstrous size guarantees you’ll be eating well for several days, too.
If you don’t want to spend a bunch of cash, go with this model of slow cooker. It’s got the highest capacity on the list; but none of the other features that make the other crock pots more convenient to use. That being said, if you understand how to use the device, these features rarely matter. You can insert a cheap thermometer to check the temperature of your dish (without paying extra for a display) and get the same settings with an easy to use dial.
If you’re looking for an impressively designed crock pot, Crock-Pot introduces their own touchscreen model to help address your needs. The touch screen is exceptionally easy to operate, and the polished stainless steel exterior looks great. The programmable settings give you the ability to easily clean and operate your crock pot device with ease, and the silicone exterior, handles, and well-designed lid ensure that heat stays in and cooks your food with professional quality. It’s completely dishwasher safe (except for the electronics) which means you’ll never have to deal with dirty dishes.
A Great Value for the Features and Functionalities
Crock-Pot introduced this model for a retail price around $120, but it’s currently available for half the price. It operates perfectly in practically any setting, and it’s exceptionally easy to program and use. Then, after it’s done cooking, it automatically resets the timer back to the warm setting so that you can easily run any errands or go to work and never have to worry about overcooking anything.
As long as the lid is tightly attached, you’ll be able to cook food easily and effectively. Even more, if the device has any issues; it’s covered by a limited warranty (that covers ceramic malfunctions, lid deficiencies, or other defects caused by manufacturing).
Makes Cooking Convenient Again
More often than not, it’s a struggle to cook (especially after a busy day). In many situations, you’re struggling to make it back and forth from your house to work in rush hour traffic. You end up with overcooked and inedible food in the process, wasting your time and money. This Crock Pot model works well to simplify the task of getting a nutritious, healthy meal for your family, helping you find exactly what you need to get your meal cooked right. It heats from the whole pot too- so you never have to worry about spot cooking your meals.
High Quality, Long Lasting IngredientsCrock-Pot is one of the most trusted brands on the market for a reason- they always provide some of the best materials to ensure that your slow cooker lasts for years to come. It has a polished silver exterior, well-designed parts, and an element that will provide enough heat for practically any application for years to come from soup to spaghetti sauce and everything in between.
What Kinds of Features are “Must Have” Features for Crock Pots?
If you’re researching features that crock-pots should have, you’re probably a little confused. This is because there are a lot of things that you should consider; but you don’t necessarily need all the bells and whistles. By picking a high quality model you can get the best of both worlds (price and functionality).
That being said, there are several features to keep your eye on:
Locking Lids that Prevent Leakage and Heat Loss
Any slow cooker that you purchase has to have a lid that fits well, otherwise you’re wasting energy. The best crock pots have silicone lids that fit tightly, and clamps that help hold in steam. Other models have lids that fold to allow users to only open one side or the other.If you’re planning on taking your crock pot anywhere (for a holiday meal or get together) you’re going to need to have lids that prevent leakage, especially if you’re putting together a soup or sauce. Sometimes, these locking lids are all that saves your meal if the crock pot accidentally falls on its side or turns over!
Programmable Timers are Great For People on the Go
One of the biggest new features on any crock pot is the ability to time your crock pot and forget about it. More often than not, people overcook food because they can’t turn down the heat after 4-6 hours, and they get stuck in traffic or have some other sort of issue that keeps them from getting where they need to on time. Programmable timers do it all for you, ensuring that your dishes get turned down from high to low or warm automatically, taking the stress off of your shoulders.
Plenty of Capacity for Full Meals
Crock pots come in a huge variety of shapes and sizes. Make sure that you pick a design that can hold plenty of food, but remember that bigger isn’t always better. Crock pots work by heating an entire crock of food to a specific temperature. When you have a lot of empty space, your crock pot heats up too fast, has issues with staying hot, or heats food unequally.
Easy to Clean, and Easy to Operate
Don’t pick a crock pot that makes you struggle! Look for a design that fits your needs and works for your family. Also pick a crock pot size that fits anything you might want to eat inside. Oval crock pots are the most common, but there are circular and square crock pots as well.
Easy to Carry Handles and Design
Look for easy to handle crock pots with silicone handles to ensure that you can carry your croc kpot anywhere. Otherwise you’ll have a hard time transporting it from location to location or house to house.
Some Tips To Make the Most of Your Slow Cooker
Tip 1: Make Cleaning Up Easier on Yourself
Try using crock pot liners to make it easier to clean up messes when you’re using your crock pot. It’s easy and effective; and perfect for any dish. Look to purchase Crock-Pot brand liners for the best results. These simple liners play a double role; keeping your crock pot clean and saving you time.
Tip 2: Set It, But Don’t Forget It
Crock- pots are especially useful; but they can be dangerous. Make sure that you set several alarms to ensure that you aren’t leaving your slow cooker on too long. This can overuse the element, burn out the wiring and other components. In many situations, these kinds of problems can cause electrical fires that can ruin your home.
Tip 3: There’s No Reason to Pre-Cook Your Meat
A common misconception is that you have to sear or bake meat before you cook it in a crock pot. In many situations, you don’t have to perform these activities because the slow cooker does it itself. In all situations, cooking a pot roast for 4-8 hours completely cooks the meat and leaves it cooked all of the way through.
By itself, your slow cooker can perform a great many functions- browning and searing, steaming, and even stewing.
Tip 4: Get Creative! There Are Thousands of Great Recipes for Practically Anything You Could Imagine!
Another common misconception is that you can only cook stews and roasts in a crock pot. However, with the right technique and ingredients, you can cook anything from pastas to yogurt and more!
In the next section, we’ll teach you a few great recipes to use after you’ve purchased your next crock pot.
3 Must Try Recipes to Maximize Your Crock Pot Experience
1. Homemade Crock Pot Yogurt
One of the most interesting recipes that you can try is to make your own yogurt. If you prefer plain yogurt, you can add ingredients after culturing the yogurt. If you’d like vanilla or honey flavored yogurts you can do the same thing! This recipe is so simple, you’ll never try any other yogurt ever again.
Remember, the more fat that exists in the milk, the better your yogurt is going to taste. Another good tip is to remember that less lactose exists in yogurt that’s cultured for a longer period of time. It’s also tangier as well.
- 1 quart of milk
- 1 tablespoon yogurt cultures (live-action)
- Empty the milk in your mixture into your slow cooker. Bring it to temperature (180 degrees). It should take about an hour. After your mixture reaches 180 degrees Fareinheit, uplug the crock pot.
- Carefully measure out one tablespoon of cultures. Gently stir them into the yogurt mixture when the temperature of the mixture has decreased.
- Cover your crock pot with the lid and towels to retain heat and prevent light from entering the top.
- Do not disturb the mixture for up to 8 hours.
- Put the yogurt in the refrigerator for up to 4 hours before consuming.
2. Unforgettable 3 Cheese Macaroni
One of the most rewarding tastes in the world is a deliciously creamy macaroni and cheese. This recipe is full of delicious ingredients that any age will love; including three creamy cheeses, evaporated milk, and affordable ingredients.
- 8-10 ounces macaroni (your choice of variety)
- 2 oz oil
- 1 can of evaporated milk
- 2 cups of whole milk
- 1/2 stick butter, in small cubes
- 3 cups cheddar cheese
- 1 cup mozzarella cheese
- 1 cup colby jack or gouda cheese
- Garnish with a shredded cheese of your choice.
- Toss macaroni in oil, then use the rest to coat the inside of your slow cooker
- Pour in macaroni and all other ingredients, and then stir everything up to ensure the cheese is evenly distributed.
- Cook on low for no longer than 4 hours. You should stir up the mixture if possible, sprinkling some shredded cheese on top before you serve it.
3. Better Than Your Momma’s Pot Roast
Just like macaroni and cheese, a great pot roast can hit you in all the right places and feed a small army. All you really need is a fattier cut of beef, some great veggies, and solid stock. This recipe is extraordinarily simple, yet it yeilds some of the most amazing results on there. The secret is to slowly simmer and cook the meat for as long as possible for up to 8 hours.
- Salt, pepper, garlic, and onion powder
- 3 large potatoes, diced
- 1 onion, sliced thinly
- 2 carrots, chopped
- 3 stalks of celery, chopped
- 1 lb pot roast
- stock to cover the bottom of your crock pot
- Coat the pot roast with decent sized amounts of salt, pepper, garlic, and onion powders. Let sit for an hour or two.
- After you’ve cut up all the veggies, put them in the bottom of the crock pot. Add just enough liquid to cover the veggies about halfway.
- Place the lid on your crock pot, and allow to cook for up to 8 hours on low (maximum of four hours on high).
Some Questions and Answers About Slow Cookers
Q: Are slow cookers easy to use?
A: I’m not very good at cooking. Crock pots are one of the only tools to easily add ingredients and let the cooker do the rest of the work. In many situations, the most upkeep that you’ll have to perform is stirring the crock-pot every hour (and even this is sometimes unnecessary).
Q: How do I know which crock pot is right for my family?
A: Pick a crock pot that will hold the vast majority of ingredients you might consider for your family. A good rule of thumb is to allow each member eating from a crock pot to have a quart of space. For example, a family of four would probably be perfectly happy with a four quart crock pot model.
Q: Does the brand of crock pot matter? Why should I choose one brand over another?
A: Most crock pots contain very similar components. The biggest differences come with visible features (like turn dials, touch screens, or attachments).
In Conclusion: Which Crock Pot is Right For You?
Pick the crock pot that you think matches your personality best! If you’re exceptionally busy, pick a crock pot with a timer! You might pay a little more now, but the food that you save will be more than worth it over the long run.