5 Times When a Slow Cooker Is the Perfect Appliance
The rewards of cooking don’t always match the effort you put in. Home-cooked meals may be delicious and good for you, but when you consider the time you have to spend chopping, simmering, and sautéing (not to mention the annoying clean up that comes afterwards), takeout can start to look mighty appealing.
Fortunately, there’s an appliance that lets you prepare out-of-this-world food with way less effort: a slow cooker or crock pot. By delivering a constant, low heat, a crockpot cooks meals with minimal effort or attention on your part, and is especially good if you’re looking to use tough, cheap cuts of meat (like brisket, short ribs, or pork shoulder) or reduce fat. Just throw a bunch of ingredients in the pot, turn it on, and go about your day. A few hours later, come back to enjoy a tasty dinner.
Here are five times when a slow cooker comes in handy, as well as our recommendations for the perfect one to buy for each situation.
1. When you want to warm up
Slow cookers are excellent for preparing cold weather favorites like soups, stews, and pot roast. When you’re craving a hot meal but don’t want to spend a lot of hands-on time preparing it, your slow cooker will deliver.
Bachelors who don’t want to shell out a lot of cash for the convenience of a slow cooker should consider the no-frills, compact Crockpot 4-Quart Slow Cooker. It’s smaller than many other crockpots but is still large enough to fit an entire roast chicken — which is one of the reasons Real Simple declared it one of its top picks for slow cookers.
2. When you’re tailgating
When you want to whip up tailgating favorites like pulled pork, chili, cheese dip, and wings, reach for your slow cooker. Many have crocks that will keep food warm for a long time after you unplug the appliance, so you can prepare your food ahead of time and then transport it to your parking lot of choice. But if you’d prefer to do your cooking on site, you need the RoadPro 12-Volt Slow Cooker.
This handy little 1½-quart appliance plugs into your car’s 12-volt power outlet. What it lacks in capacity, it more than makes up for in convenience. Use it while you wait for the big game to start or when you’re camping or on your next road trip. Get one here.
3. When you need to serve a crowd
A slow cooker is a lifesaver when your extended family descends on your home for Thanksgiving dinner or you have a bunch of friends over for a big barbecue. For one, you can prep the food in advance, which means more time to spend socializing and less time slaving away in the kitchen. Plus, jumbo-sized slow cookers make it a snap to prepare large quantities of food for ravenous guests.
The Elite Platinum 8.5-Quart Stainless Steel Slow Cooker is one of the largest slow cookers you can buy. While it doesn’t have the fancy features of some more expensive models, it will more than get the job done when you need to feed a crowd.
4. When you’re ridiculously busy
No time or energy to cook when you get home from work? A slow cooker is the solution. While the “set it and forget it” aspect of crock pots is universal, some models have extra features that make them ideal for people with busy lives.
The 7-Quart Digital Slow Cooker from Calphalon has a 24-hour digital timer with auto turn-on and shut-off. That means you can throw a meal together in the morning and have the confidence that it will be cooked to perfection when you get home, even if you have to stay late at the office. While it’s on the pricey side, Good Housekeeping had high praise for the appliance, saying that it “prepares food beautifully and has state-of-the-art features to boot.” Get yours here.
5. When you need an appliance that does double (or triple) duty
If you’re trying to fight kitchen-counter clutter, a crockpot may seem more like a limited-use space hog rather than a useful appliance. But unlike that quesadilla maker, a slow cooker is surprisingly versatile, especially if you buy a multi-function model.
Standard slow cookers can be used to make everything from split pea soup to spinach lasagna. But the Philips Multicooker can tackle so much more. This 16-cup powerhouse is a slow cooker that also steams, sautés, simmers, boils, and bakes. Plus, there are automatic presets for risotto, rice, and yogurt. At a recommended retail price of $249.99, you’ll pay for the convenience, but as Food Republic declared in its review, “It’s a hell of a machine … smart, easy to use, and incredibly versatile.” You can order one here.
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