How to Choose a Crock Pot

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Crock pots, or slow cookers, became popular in the 1970s, and with today’s busy lifestyles there is a renewed interest in these kitchen appliances that make dinner easy. In the market for a slow cooker? With all the choices you have, you may be wondering exactly what to look for. When shopping for a crock pot there are some things you should definitely consider.

  • Consider the size of the vessel you'll need. If you plan on using your crock pot for small stews or soups for 1 or 2 people, think about getting a 2- or 3-quart size. If you plan on making roasts, whole chickens or have a larger family to feed, you might want to go for one of the larger 6½-quart models. If you’re just interested in making dips, sauces, fondues or melting chocolates, smaller crock pots that hold 1 quart or less will be ideal for you. If you plan on using your crock pot often and for many different purposes and meal sizes, having 2 o or 3 in assorted sizes would be the best option.

  • Look for a crock pot that has at least three settings: low, high and warm. These are the main settings you will require. Some come with as many as five settings, or with an automatic shift function that will change the setting at a time that you program it to do so. The extra settings are nice, but unnecessary.

  • Crock pot basins can be made of stoneware, glass or nonstick metal. The stoneware is the most popular and usually considered the best among crock pot cooks because of it’s superior ability to maintain temperature. The downside to stoneware is that it can chip if not handled carefully. The most durable is the nonstick metal, but metal also causes the most temperature fluctuations.

  • A good cover is important for keeping heat in during cooking time. Heavy glass covers are ideal for this. Many crock pot producers cut corners on covers by making them out of plastic. These will usually result in a cheaper product, and in this case, you get what you pay for. If you intend to use your crock pot for more than just an occasional soup, it’s best to spring for the glass cover.

  • When shopping, consider also purchasing some accessories. Crock pot liners, usually found in your grocery store’s section with foils and plastic wrap, are heavy-duty plastic bags that fit inside the crock pot. This makes cleaning your basin as easy as lifting out the liner and disposing of it. Dust covers will also help keep your crock pot clean and ready for use. Travel cases make it easy to tote your crock pot on the go when you are bringing a dish to a holiday gathering or pot-luck. A metal rack is great for allowing better heat circulation around the food, and for keeping food up out of the way of fat drippings from meats. Having an extra “divided” basin, which is split down the middle, allows you to cook two separate parts of a meal at the same time without the food intermingling. You can cook dinner on one side and dessert on the other. Finally, if your crock pot does not have an automatic shift function, consider purchasing a simple light timer to plug it into so that you can set it to go on, or off, when you want.

  • Photo Credit M.S. Beltran
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