When you want to enjoy a delicious meal but you don't want to spend all day in your kitchen, a slow cooker is the perfect solution. When cooking with a slow cooker, simply add your ingredients to the crock, set the temperature, and forget about it until you are ready to eat. Slow cookers are widely available from several brands, however Crock-Pot is the most common. While the name "Crock-Pot" has become synonymous with slow cookers, these appliances are also manufactured by Hamilton Beach, KitchenAid, Cuisinart and Instant Pot. These cookers come in both round and oval shapes and in several sizes to help you make everything from roast and stew to soup, sauces and more. Don't switch on your oven to make dinner tonight. Use a slow cooker from Overstock instead. Whether you love the look of stainless steel or you'd like to brighten up your kitchen with something a bit more colorful, we have Crock-Pots and other cookers that are available in several colors and styles. We even offer free shipping on certain models.
Types of Slow Cooker
Mechanical Slow Cookers
There are two basic types of slow cookers - programmable and mechanical. The mechanical type is the most basic. To use one, all you need to do is add your ingredients and turn the control to low, medium or high. These cookers do not have timers, so you have the monitor the food's process on your own. While most are intended only to cook food, some mechanical models do feature a keep-warm setting.
Programmable Slow Cooker
Programmable slow cookers work just like mechanical cookers but make slow cooking easier by adding electronic controls and a digital timer. Depending on the model you choose, you may be able to program it to cook for up to 24 hours in 30-minute increments. Many switch over to a "keep-warm" setting automatically once the cooking time is up. Some programmable slow cookers also offer a manual mode, and there are even some programmable slow cookers with additional features like automatic stirrers that eliminate hot spots. If you plan on using your Crock-Pot to prepare meals while you're away at work, opt for a programmable model that allows you to simply set it and forget it.
Parts of a Slow Cooker
Most slow cookers come with an insert known as a crock. Most crocks are made from ceramic, but there are some that are metal or stoneware. Ceramic and stoneware pots are durable, but they should be handled with care. Crock pots range greatly in size. Some only have a 1.5-quart capacity while larger models can hold 6.5-quarts, 7-quarts or more. Most crocks are dishwasher-safe, but you should always read the cooker instructions thoroughly prior to washing. No matter what you are making and how many people you are feeding, there is a cooker that is the perfect size to suit your needs. There are even single quart slow cookers that are perfect for cooking for one.
The lid is an important part of your slow cooker. Whether your pot has a plastic or glass lid, it allows you to take a quick view and monitor cooking without allowing heat to escape. Some feature hinged split lids while others have glass lids that simply lift off. If you plan on taking your slow cooker along with you to potlucks and parties, consider investing in one with a locking lid. Crock-Pots with "Clip-Tight" features are perfect for taking your favorite meals on the go.
Slow Cookers 101
Additional Features and Options
Many higher-end programmable slow cookers offer impressive features to make cooking easier. Many brands like Cuisinart and KitchenAid have temperature probes to help you ensure your food reaches the perfect temperature. If you plan to carry slow cooker foods to get-togethers, look for accessories like carriers to help you avoid messy spills. The Crock-Pot brand is well-known for the slow cooking accessories. They even offer their own slow cooker recipes to help users prepare taste bud-tantalizing meals.
If you're looking for a small, multi-use kitchen appliance, you may want to consider stepping up from the basic Crock-Pot to a multicooker or pressure cooker. Brands like Instant Pot have become increasingly popular for their easy-to-use pressure cookers that can be used for pressure cooking as well as slow cooking. These kitchen electrics have several features and settings that make them effective replacements for traditional ovens. They can be used to cook, roast and create delicious one-pot meals with minimal cook time. Electric pressure cookers are safe, and they drastically reduce cook time for many foods. Whether you prefer to let your food cook all day or you're looking for a faster alternative, a multi-cooker like the Instant Pot could be the perfect solution.