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A Guide to Selecting a Crockpot

Samuel Gilmour

The “crockpot” is actually a brand name that has entered the English language (much like “xeroxing” for photocopying). The “crockpot” was first marketed by the company Rival Manufacturing in 1971, even though the idea of a slow-cooking pot was first patented in 1940. It was a welcome answer to the greater demand for working mothers having to get food ready for their families. They could set up the ingredients for a stew or soup in the morning, and it would cook over the course of the day without any supervision. By suppertime, a meal was ready for an entire family!

But crockpots are more versatile now than in the 1970s. You can buy basic slow-cooking crockpots, selecting what’s best according to the size of your family. There are also devices that are capable of steaming, sauteeing, and browning as well. And there are multi-cookers that combine other functions as well, such as pressure cooking.

We’ve composed this buyer’s guide to help you look through the options when selecting a roaster oven. We’ll help you:

  • Choose the right type of crockpot for your preferences,

  • See useful tips about that particular type of crockpot,

  • Read reviews of different crockpots, and what customers are saying,

  • Select the right brand of crockpot, and

  • Compare prices and find the best deals.

Types of Crockpots

Types of Crockpots

You’ll notice that there are two main types of crockpots available on the market:

  • Slow cooker only: These are simple crockpots, where you dial in the cooking time and the desired temperature. They will typically have three temperature settings: high, for quick cooking, low, for slow cooking, and warm, which is used to either warm up cold food, or to keep food warm after it has completed the cooking cycle. An example is the Hamilton Beach Portable 6-Quart Digital Programmable Slow Cooker. A nice feature of this particular model is the temperature probe. It will tell you the internal temperature of a large piece of meat so that you can be sure that it is cooking properly.

Hamilton Beach Portable 6-Quart Digital Programmable Slow Cooker

  • Multi-cookers: You’ll also see crockpots that go beyond the minimal “set-it-and-forget-it”. An example is the Cuisinart 3-in-1 Cook Central (Model MSC-400). It comes in 4, 6, and 7-quart models, and is capable of steaming, browning/sauteing, and slow cooking. You can set it to up to 450 ℉ for roasting, and for 500 ℉ for browning or sauteing. It also comes with a steaming rack, allowing you to steam vegetables or fish for up to 90 minutes.

Cuisinart 3-in-1 Cook Central 

You can also select crockpots with even more functions, such as the Breville Fast-Slow Pro Slow Cooker (Model BPR700BSS). It is also capable of functioning as a pressure cooker, with 11 pressure cooking settings.

Breville Fast-Slow Pro Slow Cooker

What reviewers say

What People are Saying

  • Care with a ceramic insert: If your crockpot has a ceramic insert, certain precautions should be taken. For example, one user said that he made the mistake of trying to wash the insert while it was still hot--and it, unfortunately, cracked due to the sudden change in temperature. It’s best to let the insert cool down entirely before attempting to clean.

  • Inserts that can be used for stovetop cooking: Also, a ceramic insert usually cannot be used to heat on a stovetop, such as that in the All-Clad Programmable Slow Cooker. They also have a model with a cast aluminum insert, which can be used on a stovetop or in the oven, as well as for serving.

Important Features

Useful Tips for Shoppers

  • Programmable cooking: Crockpots typically will be programmable, allowing you to set the cooking time for anywhere from 4 to 20 hours, in 30-minute increments. They usually will switch to a “keep warm” mode once the cooking time is finished, for anywhere from 4-6 hours, depending on the model.

  • Dishwasher-safe insert: The crockpot will have an insert where the food is cooked. Depending on the model, the insert can be made of aluminum, ceramic, or stoneware. Regardless of the material, check that they are dishwasher-safe, so as to make cleanup easier.

  • Clip-on closure on the lid: Many crockpots will feature clips and a rubber seal so that you can close the pot tightly. This will prevent spills if you choose to transport food from one place to another. There are also crockpots such as the KitchenAid KSC6222SS 6-Qt. Slow Cooker, which has a dual-sided hinged lid, to make it easier to serve food.

KitchenAid KSC6222SS 6-Qt. Slow Cooker, with its hinged lid

Final Verdict

Programmable crockpots provide you with an easy and convenient way to cook. They have intuitive controls, letting you set the cooking time and temperature so that your foods come out just right. The inserts are made from special non-stick materials that spread the heat evenly, thus avoiding the risk of burning the food. Consider investing in a countertop crockpot, and expand your cooking repertoire!

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