So you want to learn how to buy a slow cooker or crock pot. Great! My name is Michael Gray and I’m here to help you. But–wait a minute–isn’t this a work at home mom website? What’s a guy doing here, talking about cooking of all things? Even though I’m a guy I’m still a work at home parent. I face the same problems and challenges that other work at home moms do.
I struggle with running a successful business without having an office, taking business calls when there are children making noise in the background, picking up the kids from school and getting them where they need to be, and trying to find that elusive work/life balance we all strive for without having a skinny girl cosmo IV drip constantly hooked up to my arm.
I happen to enjoy cooking, so it works out nicely if I can time shift my activities, prepare a meal, and time it so it’s done when everyone is home and we can enjoy dinner as a family.
One of the ways I discovered that you can get more work done during the day, schlep the kids around in the afternoon, and not be so exhausted that you have to order takeout 4 nights a week is to use a slow cooker or crock pot.
I’m going to show you what you need to know and look for when you start shopping for a crock pot.
What Size Slow Cooker Do I Need
One of the first things you’ll notice when you start shopping for slow cookers is they come in different sizes ranging from as small as 4 quarts on up to 11 quarts or more. For a family of four or five people, you’ll find a 6 quart or 7 quart is the perfect size.
If you have the storage space, going a little bigger can help you with guests or leftovers for the next day. Most slow cookers have a stoneware or ceramic insert that separates from the base. Make sure you buy one that does: it makes cleanup and serving much easier. You can also store it in the refrigerator before or after cooking.
Do I Need A Programable Slow Cooker
Most slow cookers have three settings low, high and off. Some models may have a warming setting as well, which is nice but not necessary. Higher end slow cookers will often come with programmable settings. This feature will increase the price of a slow cooker since it adds a small computer to the device. If you plan on setting your slow cooker on the counter in the morning, have it turn on and cook when you’re not there, then switch to a warming setting after a few hours of cooking, you’ll definitely want this feature.
If you plan on starting your slow cooker at noon and have it switch to warm while you’re out running errands or being a taxi service for the kids after school, you’ll find this feature will come in handy. It’s not a requirement, but it is nice to have.
What Kind of Recipes and Food Can I Make in a Slow Cooker
slow cookerSlow cookers are great for cooking soups, stews, casseroles, or any type of meat or fish that cooks in a sauce or liquid. Slow cookers are also really great for taking less expensive tougher cuts of meat and tenderizing them over the long cooking periods. One of my own recipe’s is flounder in cream of mushroom sauce. It’s easy to prepare and was a great way to get my kids to eat more seafood.
Two of my favorite slow cooker cookbooks are Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Cookbook and The Slow Cooker Revolution. Both are packed with great recipes. If you’re more of an online recipe kind of person try SlowandSimple.com, AllRecipes.com slow cooker section, or Food Network’s slow cooker page.
After you’ve made a dozen or so slow cooker dishes you’ll find you can adapt recipes pretty easily and make things you never thought of, like slow cooker lasagna or slow cooker mac & cheese.
How Much Should I Pay for a Slow Cooker
Chances are good that, if you have been married for more than 10 years, you may already have a slow cooker. But you’ve never used it or, like me, you sold that 1970’s avacado green thing Aunt Margie gave you as wedding present at your garage sale. You’ll find that slow cookers in your local department store or favorite online retailer have changed quite a bit. They are a lot easier to use and clean thanks to the removable cooking insert, and they have additional features like programmable timers, making them a lot more flexible. There are a lot of high end slow cookers on the market, such as this Cuisinart Multi-Cooker, but unless you need the programing functionality and plan to use it as a stove-top replacement, you don’t need to spend that much. You should be able to find a decent slow cooker in the $50 to $100 range. This 6qt KitchenAid slow cooker, or 6.5qt Cuisinart Slow Cooker are both under $100 and are perfectly suited for someone who will do a lot of slow cooking.
If you are on a budget or don’t plan to use a slow cooker often, look at the 6.5qt Hamilton Beach slow cooker or 6qt Crock-Pot Cook and Carry. Both are good choices and in the $50 price range. I would steer clear of the low end $30 models, though. They usually aren’t high quality or will have a small cooking capacity.
So let’s recap what you need look for when shopping for a slow cooker:
Choose a slow cooker that’s big enough to cook for your family. Something in the 6qt to 7qt range is the most popular
Try to find a slow cooker with a removable cooking vessel because it’s easier to work with and clean
While you don’t need a programable slow cooker, it’s a nice feature to have
Soups, stews, or recipes that cook in a liquid or sauce work best for a slow cooker
You can usually find a quality reliable slow cooker with all the features you’ll need in the $50 to $100 range.