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Slow Cookers

Friday, 24 February 2006 | Tags: ,

Popular in the 60's and 70's, slow cookers (or crock pots) are trendy again, not only for feeding the family, but also to simplify cooking, and go far beyond just simple stews. We find out more about what to look for when buying a slow cooker.

The Basics

  • Slow cookers basically a metal container that houses a burner, with a ceramic insert that holds your food.

  • Look for a slow cooker with a removable insert to make clean up easier. Plus, most are also dishwasher-safe and can double as a serving dish or put it all in the fridge.

  • Basic models have simple high or low settings, with manual on/off.

  • More sophisticated (and expensive) models will have an auto shut-off or keep warm feature, which helps avoid overcooking your meal.

  • For smaller kitchens and 1-2 servings, look for a round cooker under 3 quarts.

  • For larger kitchens or if you plan to use it often to feed a big family, oval models accommodate larger recipes, as well as whole chickens and larger roasts. Most popular large sizes are 5-quart and 6-quart.

  • Make sure it has a tight-fitting lid so no precious heat escapes, which can add to your overall cooking time.

TEST CRITERIA

We invited some veteran slow cooker users to help us test these products:

  • West Bend (basic model: high, low and warm): $45
  • Oster (programmable settings with auto switch to warm): $70
  • Rival (programmable settings with auto switch to warm): $120
  • Kitchen Aid (programmable settings with auto switch to warm): $180

Cook Test

  • The West Bend just didn’t have enough features and didn’t cook as well as the others.

  • The Oster was the top pick of 75% of our testers with its easy-to-use features, and it cooked our meat to perfection.

  • The Rival was a bit trickier to figure out, but had a nice design.

OUR TOP PICK

Our favourite was the Oster. We all agreed the “auto keep-warm” feature on any model is a must in case you’re held up, so you won’t come home to a ruined dinner.

 

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