Shopping for a slow cooker should be done with as much care and attention to features as one would for any major appliance. The truth is most people find that they get more use out of a slow cooker than expected so it is best to have the best features for the money spent.
The main function of a slow cooker is to offer a convenient alternative to preparing meals just before they are served. Depending on the model, the features can either add to the convenience or detract from it. If, for instance, the slow cooker is a hassle to clean, a person may be less inclined to use it no matter how much time is saved in meal preparation.
In many aspects, the crock is the feature that determines the amount of convenience the slow cooker gives. Removable crocks allow the chef to cook and serve from the same dish. After cooling, they can also be used for storing the leftover food in the refrigerator. All slow cookers come with a top that should fit the crock well.
The detachable crock also allows for easier cleaning of the slow cooker. Most are dishwasher safe or can easily be washed in the sink like any other dish. The finish is usually non-stick so stuck on food is rare.
There are many types of controls available in the slow cooker styles from simple 3-setting dials to digital, programmable controls. With the simple dials, what you see is what you get. There is nothing wrong or sorely lacking with the simple settings although the more complex controls that switch from cooking to warming are more convenient.
Although the controls are an important feature of the slow cooker, they should not be the determining factor in choosing a model of the appliance. The size, shape and quality of the slow cooker should be of primary concern. There are programmable timer modules that can convert the simply controlled slow cooker to one that is more elaborate.
When examining the styles and models of slow cookers, a preference may be developed for a particular type of lid. Slow cooker lids are usually made of heat resistant plastic or glass and occasionally, steal. Although the lids will fit the crock snuggly, they will not fit tightly enough to completely seal in steam or the contents of the slow cooker when transported.
This is because the lid has to allow a small amount of steam to escape during the long hours of cooking so pressure does not build up inside of the slow cooker. Some models have clamping lids to lock in place for convenient transport.
The size of slow cooker chosen will depend on the family size and amount of food generally cooked. The larger slow cookers are usually designed with a griddle heating element which serves several uses. As the name implies, the griddle can be used to cook food without the crock. It will normally have more heat setting options on the control panel for the different uses.