Stove-top browning saves time and cuts down on kitchen cleanup. Digital timer counts down the cooking time, then automatically switches to "Warm" when time is up.
Some owners felt that the low and warm settings cooked too hot, burning their food.
Set cooking time from 30 minutes to 20 hours: when time is up, the Crock-Pot automatically switches to "Warm" setting. Oversize handles and locking lid make the slow cooker easy to transport to potlucks and more.
A few owners complained that the pot cooked too hot and too fast. A handful of owners claimed the pot developed hairline cracks soon after purchase.
Perfect if you entertain, or like slow-cooking roasts, whole chickens, or casseroles and pasta dishes like lasagna. 3.5 quart size feeds 3+ people. Lid locks for easier transport. 5 color options.
If left on the high setting for long periods, the paint on the outside can peel off.
Locking lid means you can easily transport the cooker to a potluck or family gathering. The mini size and oval shape are perfect for casseroles.
None to speak of, but be aware that this is a much smaller Crock-Pot than the most popular models, so it's not suitable for large batches of food.
We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
Do you dream of arriving home after a long day at work to find dinner cooked and waiting for you? Do you like to watch your pennies at the grocery store, but still want tender, flavorful cuts of meat? Do you dread facing a sink full of pots and pans after cooking? If your answer to the above is a resounding, “Yes!” then the answer to your prayers is a Crock-Pot.
While it’s true that a Crock-Pot can’t replace all of your cooking devices, this handy and easy-to-use appliance definitely has a place in your kitchen. And to make it easier to choose the model best for your needs, we assembled this guide to choosing and using a Crock-Pot.
What is a Crock-Pot?
While many people use the term Crock-Pot as a synonym for slow cooker, it’s actually the brand name of the original slow-cooking device introduced back in 1971 by Rival, and now owned by Sunbeam. Early Crock-Pots — which were first marketed as an easy way to cook beans — were simple appliances. The ceramic inner crock didn’t pull out for easy cleanup, as today’s models do, and controls were limited to a low and high setting. Today, while still easy to use, there are models of Crock-Pot with a wide range of settings.
But whether basic or top-of-the-line, what all Crock-Pots share is convenience. Simply add your ingredients to the crock, turn the appliance to your desired setting, and let it cook. Several hours later, you’ll have a delicious meal ready to eat, without the mess and bother of additional pots and pans — not to mention your precious time tending to the cooking.
You can cook a very wide range of dishes in a Crock-Pot. Stews, soups, casseroles, rice and risotto recipes, vegetables, pasta, egg dishes, and even desserts all are easy to make in your slow cooker. As a plus, thanks to the lengthy cooking process, lower-priced cuts of meat that tend to be tough when cooked with other methods turn out tender and moist after an all-day session in the Crock-Pot. That means you can save a bit of money at the grocery store.
There are a lot of Crock-Pots available, but they break down into three broad categories: manual, programmable, and multi-function.
Manual Crock-Pots are the most basic. They consist of an outer metal shell with a heating element in the bottom, a heavy ceramic crock that pulls out for serving or cleaning, and a glass lid. Most manual Crock-Pots are round, but there are also oval models, and also low-but-wide casserole styles. The typical manual Crock-Pot has only four settings: low, high, warm, and off. Operation is as easy as can be — add your ingredients, turn the knob to your desired setting, and turn the appliance off when your meal is ready.
Programmable Crock-Pots add the convenience of an automatic timer that switches the appliance to the “warm” setting when your desired cooking time is reached. Most let you set a cooking time anywhere between 30 minutes and 20 hours, and have digital touchpads, rather than knobs like the manual models. While the majority of programmable Crock-Pots are oval, there are also casserole models for those times when you need a slow cooker that’s wider than it is tall.
New on the Crock-Pot scene are versatile models that do more than just slow cook. Express-cookers offer a pressure-cooking function as well as the familiar slow cooking setting, plus settings for browning, steaming, boiling, and sautéing.
Multi-cookers don’t have pressure cooker settings, but depending on the model, include slow cooking, baking, roasting, browning, and steaming functions. All of the multi-function Crock-Pots are programmable, and the express-cookers have several one-touch settings for different types of food, including meat, poultry, beans, and yogurt. Like traditional Crock-Pots, the inner crocks of the multi-function models remove for easy serving and cleaning.
Loaded with features
The Crock-Pot 6-Quart Countdown Programmable Slow Cooker lets you select a cooking time from 30 minutes to 20 hours, and then automatically switches to “warm” when the time is up. But what makes it really versatile is the inner crock, which safely goes stovetop for browning or sautéing, then slips into the metal shell for slow cooking.
There are many models of Crock-Pot, and a wide variety of special features distinguishing them. Some of the most common include:
Cook & Carry: This is a must-have feature if you attend a lot of potlucks, or want to tote your slow-cooked meal to a party or picnic. These models have tightly locking lids and carrying handles for easy transport without spills.
iStir: This smart feature gives your cooking food an automatic stir every half hour. It’s ideal for soups and stews.
Stovetop: Set your slow-cooker crock on top of the stove to brown foods before cooking them through.
While the majority of Crock-Pots are perfect for everyday use in your kitchen, the company does offer a few specialty products.
The Lunch Crock is basically a Crock-Pot combined with a lunch tote. It lets you heat up your food and keep it warm, but it does not cook your food. This is a great choice for toting lunch to a busy office with limited cooking appliances or a job site.
The Hook Up Connectable Entertaining System is an ingenious system that lets you connect two or more Crock-Pots for cooking and heating several different dishes at the same time. These models plug into each other, so you only have use one electrical outlet for all of them. These are perfect for parties or family gatherings.
Casserole-shaped Crock-Pots are perfect for roasts or large pieces of protein, as well as lasagnas, ribs, corned beef, and other recipes that require a large pan.
As a general rule, one hour of cooking on high is equivalent to two hours on low.
Multi-function Crock-Pots let you pressure cook as well as slow cook.
Crock-Pots come in a range of sizes. The best one for your needs depends on how many people you typically cook for.
Mini Crock-Pots, or those that hold only one or two quarts, are suitable for one person, or for cooking side dishes.
Three to four-quart models are perfect for two or three people.
Five to six-quart slow cookers are the ideal size for a family of four or five.
Seven-quart or larger Crock-Pots are big enough for a large household, potluck, or party.
A Crock-Pot isn’t a budget buster by any means. You can buy a four-quart, manual model for under $20, or a six-quart Cook & Carry model for less than $40. Most programmable Crock-Pots cost between $50 and $80.
The multi-function appliances are a bit more expensive. Expect to pay between $80 and $120 for an express-Crock and $100 to $120 for a multi-cooker — but there are often great sales on all of these.
The Cook & Carry feature of the Crock-Pot 6-Quart Cook & Carry Programmable Slow Cooker means the lid tightly locks in place, plus it has large, easy-to-grasp handles that make it a breeze to transport the slow cooker wherever you need it to go. You can program your cooking time from 30 minutes to 20 hours, and the slow cooker will automatically switch to “warm” when the time is up.
While it’s easy to use a Crock-Pot, you’ll get the best results using these tips.
For even cooking, your Crock-Pot should be between halfway and three-quarters full. Less, and the food is likely to dry out or overcook. More, and you risk spills or unevenly cooked food.
Hard or thick vegetables, such as potatoes, carrots, and squash, go at the bottom of the Crock-Pot, followed by meat, and then soft ingredients and liquids.
Try not to take the lid off your slow cooker unless absolutely necessary. It can take up to 30 minutes for the device to regain the lost heat.
If cooking with fresh herbs, or soft vegetables such as peas, add them toward the end of the cooking cycle so they don’t get overcooked and mushy.
Slow cookers do not need to be preheated.
Avoid placing frozen meat into your Crock-Pot, as it won’t cook evenly.
Cheese and other dairy foods should be added toward the end of the cooking cycle so they don’t curdle.
Almost anything you slow cook will make its own liquid, so be careful not to put too much liquid in to start, or you might can overly thin, watery results.
Almost all Crock-Pot appliances are beloved by long-time owners and new cooks alike, so it was tough to pick our top five. We also love the Crock-Pot 6-Quart Countdown programmable oval slow cooker with dipper, and think any Crock-Pot fan who likes to serve party food on game days will love it. For larger families who may have different tastes, or for hosts who love preparing a couple slow-cooked dishes, the Crock-Pot SCCPMD1-CH Hook Up Connectable Entertaining System is a great two-crock cooker in one nicely organized package. We also love all the different themed designs, so check out all their offerings.
Q: What’s the cooking temperature of a Crock-Pot?
A: Typically, a Crock-Pot reaches a maximum temperature of around 210 degrees. It takes the device longer to reach that temperature on low, however, so as a general rule, cooking one hour on high is equivalent to cooking two hours on low.
Q: Do Crock-Pots come in any colors beyond black, white, and stainless steel?
A: While black and stainless steel are the most popular and common choices, there’s actually a wide range of other colors and patterns available, and even some Crock-Pots with the insignia of your favorite NFL team. That means you can find a Crock-Pot to match your kitchen, or look good on the table before, during, and after the game.
Q: Is it safe to eat meat that’s been cooking for hours, then switched to warm only?
A: As long as food is in the Crock-Pot long enough to reach full temperature for the recommended cooking time, it should be hot enough to kill any potentially harmful bacteria. Overcooking it just means overly soft results. Follow the instructions as far as how long you can leave your cooker on the warming only setting.
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