Slow Cooker Comparison
Hamilton Beach 33231
Hamilton Beach 33969
Hamilton Beach 33957
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Slow Cooker Buying Guide
What is a Slow Cooker?
Slow cookers, or crock pots as they are also known to be called, are time saving kitchen appliances that help cooks prepare one pot meals that are delicious and filling, without having to spend hours in the kitchen. Most recipes that are made in slow cookers are very easy to assemble and then all the work is handled by the slow cooker itself.
Many people who work fulltime jobs away from home like to put the evening’s meal in the slow cooker before they go to work. The meal cooks safely while they are away and they come home to a dinner ready to serve.
Benefits of Using Slow Cookers
One of the most notable benefits to using slow cookers is that you are able to purchase lesser quality meats. This won’t affect the taste of the dish because the appliance will tenderize the meal during the many hours it’s slow cooking. This can decrease your food bill which is always a good thing.
Another benefit is the time it saves. Many people would love to cook better, healthier meals for their families but due to work and other obligations, time seems to be at a premium. Using the slow cooker enables them to cook meals they otherwise wouldn’t have time for.
Slow cookers are usually very easy to use. Even someone who isn’t very kitchen savvy can follow a slow cooker recipe with relative ease and produce meals that will please and surprise family and friends. It is a popular kitchen appliance and has only grown in popularity over the years due to the above factors.
What is the Difference between Crock Pot and Slow Cooker?
Crock Pot® is actually a registered brand name for slow cookers that are sold by the company Rival. Because they are so well known, many people call slow cookers “Crock Pots”. Rival is not the only company that sells slow cookers. Hamilton Beach, Sunbeam, Proctor Silex, West bend and Cuisinart are just a few of the companies that also have these excellent kitchen appliances that make cooking whole meals so easy. So while a Crock Pot® is a slow cooker, a slow cooker is not always going to be a Crock Pot®.
Because the name is a registered trademark, other companies call their versions slow cookers. From a practical food cooking standpoint, they all do relatively the same thing and that is to slow cook food over a period of hours without worry of the food burning. Don’t worry so much about the brand name as you do the features it has. It’s the features that will enable you to do many more things with it than just slow cook.
What Size Slow Cooker is Best?
This is a question that is going to be answered the best by determining how many people you feed on a consistent basis. A couple with no children will not need a huge capacity slow cooker in theory but it also depends on what is going to be cooked. They come in a range of sizes from 3 quart to 6 quart or bigger.
One thing to think about when purchasing your slow cooker is to think about WHAT you will be cooking. If you don’t cook roasts or large pieces of meat (like whole chickens, etc) then you would not necessarily need a large capacity slow cooker but most people like to have that extra space just in case they have parties or want to cook extra.
What Shape Do You Need?
Slow cookers traditionally come in three shapes; round, oval and rarely you can find them a little more squared. Round and oval are the most common shapes and t he easiest to find. If you do a lot of roast cooking the oval shapes hold larger pieces of meat much easier. The round slow cookers are great for soups, sauces, chili, and smaller items where space is not an issue.
Common Slow Cooker Features
Slow cookers come with all kinds of features that make them work even better and more efficiently for the user. The basic features that every slow cooker comes with include a temperature dial, an insert, a lid and a heating base. Some of the fancier features include digital controls, the ability to brown the meat before cooking, different colors and more. When you start searching for your slow cooker, pay attention to the features it offers so you can be sure you’re getting the one you want.
Slow Cooker Design – You can choose from stainless steel, white, black, classic red and some even have designs on them. The great thing about all these choices is that it gives you the ability to match the slow cooker to your existing kitchen décor. As far as the cooking ability, the color doesn’t affect that at all but it does give you the ability to color coordinate.
In addition to colors, you can choose a stoneware slow cooker or stainless steel/metal one with nonstick coating. Many people prefer the stoneware models because they hold heat well, can be refrigerated, come in a variety of colors and styles and look great sitting on the table.
Temperature controls – some slow cookers will just have a dial on the front where you can turn it on and set it at low, medium and high. Others have full digital controls where you can set a whole lot more than just three temperatures. The digital controlled slow cookers cost a bit more than the dial ones because they are able to do a lot more than just cook and heat.
Slow Cooker Settings – There are many different settings that a slow cooker can have depending on how high tech the model is. You can find slow cookers with warming setting, programmable delayed cooking timers, multiple temperature settings and more. The dials tend to be restricted to warm, low, medium, and high. Some of the dial models don’t even have the warm setting and just have low, medium and high. It will vary according to the slow cooker you choose. When you purchase one, it will come with a user manual that will go over how to use the settings function, especially if it is a digital model that has many functions.
Dishwasher Safe – It is much easier if the insert pot comes out and is dishwasher safe. Slow cooker meals can be messy, so having this capability makes cleanup much more pleasant. The outside of the base where the heating element is located and the cord is attached cannot be submerged in water but you CAN wipe it off with a damp rag.
Safety Features – Some models of slow cookers have safety features in place that help keep the user as safe as possible. A few of these safety features include a locking lid to prevent spilling hot food on yourself or someone else, a steam release button and a safety pressure value. These safety features don’t come on every slow cooker but they are prevalent on models that have pressure cooking and steaming capabilities.
Two or three slow cookers in one – There are some styles of slow cookers that actually have two or three inserts lined up next to each other on one main base. While these are not good for large cuts of meat such as whole chickens or roasts, they are great for cooking sauces and two or three elements of a meal such as the main course, side dish and dessert all at once. Typically these two and three unit slow cookers will have separate temperature gauges, one for each unit. If you do a lot of entertaining, you could very easily use a two or three in one AND a larger single unit for large cuts of meat.
Slow Cooker Safety Tips
While it is true that slow cookers are convenient, useful kitchen appliances that help people create delicious meals; they can also be extremely hazardous if not used properly. Below we have outlined several important things for anyone to remember and follow when using a slow cooker. Following these tips will ensure that you use your slow cooker as safely as possible while serving up tasty dishes for friends and family.
- Do not use frozen meats in the slow cooker, thoroughly defrost them first in the refrigerator and then they are safe to cook in the slow cooker. The reason for this is because it will take too long for the meat to reach the proper cooked temperature of 145-160 degrees and this means the meat will be at unsafe temperatures while it is waiting to reach that correct temperature.
- Any ingredients that you will need for your dishes should be prepped and kept in separate storage containers in the refrigerator before cooking. Uncooked ingredients should not be refrigerated in the slow cooker insert because it will have the same problem as cooking frozen meat in the cooker will; it will take too long to reach the desired, proper temperature.
- Your larger pieces of meat will cook faster if you cut them into smaller pieces. Cooking meat slowly raises the food safety risk, so the faster your meat can cook the safer it is.
- Fill your slow cooker to the proper height. It should be filled no less than half and no more than two thirds full to get the best results.
- The USDA recommends that when you cook meat in the slow cooker the first hour should be on high and then you can turn it lower for the remainder of the cooking time. This isn’t always practical so you can bring liquids to a simmer and THEN add the meat to the slow cooker on low. Doing it this way jumpstarts the creation of heat and protects against bacteria growing in the meat.
- You should always avoid lifting the lid during the cooking process because it can cause the slow cooker to lose valuable and important heat. It takes 20 minutes to regain the lost heat lifting the lid causes and the internal temperature of the food drops by 10-15 degrees each time the lid is lifted. This will also affect the cooking time. For this reason, glass or heavy plastic lids come in handy because you can better monitor the cooking process without having to disrupt the heat. At the end of the cooking process it is okay to lift the lid briefly to check to see if the meal is done.
- Due to food safety rules, it is not good to reheat food in your slow cooker. It will take too long for the food to reach a safe temperature. The best way to reheat is with a microwave or stovetop and then once the food is reheated completely, you can transfer it to the slow cooker to keep warm for up to two hours safely. The food should be served within two hours of reheating and keeping warm.
- Before cooking with your slow cooker it is important to always start with clean utensils, prep surfaces and slow cooker. Also don’t forget the most important safety measure…washing your hands before beginning and in between working with meat and veggies to avoid cross contamination.
- Because bacteria can grow rapidly at room temperature, keep all perishable food in the refrigerator until you are ready to add it to the pot.
- You can make sure that your food is done by using a food thermometer. Unless your slow cooker has a temperature probe (and some do) using a food thermometer will ensure that your food is at the proper and safe internal temperature for serving. There are many charts online that can tell you the correct and safe temperatures to indicate a food is done. The proper temperatures for safe eating are:
- Roast – 145 to 160 degrees
- Poultry – 165 degrees
- Soups, sauces, stews – 165 degrees
- Any leftovers that remain in your slow cooker need to be cooled in shallow containers and refrigerated within two hours of removing the food from the slow cooker to avoid food spoilage.
- Whenever you are making a dish in your slow cooker that includes both meat and vegetables, it is important not to cross contaminate during the preparation process. Take care of the veggies first, keeping the meat in the fridge until you’re ready to work with it. After the veggies are prepped keep put them in the fridge, wash the cutting board and then take care of the meat portion. If you are ready to cook right away, go ahead and combine all the ingredients but if it will be a little while before you start, cover and keep the meat in the fridge too until you’re ready.
- If you are ever cooking a meal in your slow cooker while you are away and the power goes out, unfortunately the food must be thrown away. You have no way of knowing how long the power was out and the food can go bad during the time it is not cooking. This can result in food poisoning. Some of the newer models have a safety device in place that takes care of short power outages and keeps the slow cooker working for a short time after the power goes out. Be sure you are aware of the time frame it stays on to avoid serving spoiled food.
- Vegetables cook slower than meat so they should be added to the slow cooker first then add meat and then the liquid or broth. Slow cookers are perfect for cooking foods like chili, stew, soup and other liquid based foods. Steam builds up when cooking these foods which get the food out of the unsafe temperature zone quickly.
Cleaning Tips for Your Slow Cooker
It is inevitable that you will sometimes have some big messes to clean up when you use your slow cooker. The good news is, thanks to advancing technology, slow cookers are much easier to get clean. Nonstick inserts and utensils make for quick cleaning so you can get out of the kitchen and back with your family and friends. Below are some great cleaning tips that will keep your slow cooker looking and working great.
- Many slow cookers have dishwasher safe inserts so if the mess is only on the inside and isn’t too caked on, putting the insert in the dishwasher can be sufficient to clean and deodorize it properly. If you don’t have room in the dishwasher, you can wash it by hand in the sink with hot, soapy water.
- If the food won’t wash off easily you can soak it in hot soapy water for one to two hours. This is usually sufficient to get anything dried on to come off easily.
- If you’re still battling tough, baked on food in your slow cooker, dump out the water from soaking and sprinkle baking soda all over the inside and scrub. This will usually do the trick but if it doesn’t, put ¼ cup of baking soda and a dash of dish liquid in the cooker and fill it with water until the water covers the burnt/baked on areas. Put the slow cooker insert back on the heating base, turn it on and cover and cook for 2-4 hours.
- All else fails you can use oven cleaner and let it sit for a few hours to overnight. It is rare that you will have messes that require this.
Preventing Slow Cooker Messes
The best way to not have to clean up big, burned on messes in your slow cooker is to prevent them from happening as much as possible. Below are a few tips you can use to keep big messes from becoming a problem. These tips will cut your clean up time dramatically.
- Slow cooker liners are heat safe, plastic liners that can be cooked in. They are very similar to an oven bag. Whenever you’re cooking something that involves things like barbecue sauce or cheese, these oven liners can make a huge difference in your clean up time after the meal.
- Cooking spray can be a big help in keeping food from getting burnt to the side of your slow cooker. It will not alter the taste of the food at all and will keep your slow cooker looking great.
- Pay attention to your cook times and try not to overcook your food. Here’s an example: if a recipe calls for a cooking time of 4-6 hours, start checking it for doneness at the 4 hour mark. Don’t check too often as this extends the cook time. Also make sure that your slow cooker has a warm setting that it can switch to once the internal temperature of the food is reached. This will prevent overcooking and burning the food which in turn eliminates having to clean burned food off the sides or bottom of your slow cooker.
Taking all this information when it comes time to find a slow cooker you like will help make the search easier, faster and the end result will be that you are happy with your purchase and the meals you can make with it. We’ve covered everything you need to know about how slow cookers work, and how to find the perfect one for your kitchen. They are handy kitchen appliances to have around and can save you time and money.
- Crock Pot SCCPVL610-S – http://www.reviewshotspot.com/