A slow cooker, unlike this little guy in a chef’s hat, is an ingenious appliance. It’s simple. It cooks slowly. Really slow—like it takes 8 hours to get a meal ready where other methods can take 30 minutes. But unlike that 30-minute meal, a slow cooker doesn’t require work. It doesn’t need a babysitter. No coddling required with a slow cooker. You can just throw the ingredients into the slow cooker, set it and walk away.
But that’s not all. A slow cooker requires very little energy. It costs on average, 21 cents to run a slow cooker for 10 hours. If you roast a pork roast for 2 hours in the oven instead of using the slow cooker for 10 hours, you would spend $2.51 to operate an electric oven or $1.49 to operate a gas oven. Multiply the low cooking costs for a slow cooker over an entire year, and you will experience real savings.
There’s one more thing: A slow cooker doesn’t heat up the kitchen the way a stovetop or oven can. This time of year with temperatures soaring right along with home cooling costs, that’s a big deal.
Slow cookers are pretty basic. Some have programmable timers, but generally it’s On or Off plus a dial to tell the thing how many hours to cook. Slowly.
The thing you want to pay most attention to when selecting a slow cooker is the size. For peak performance you want it to be about 3/4 full while doing its job. That means that a 7-quart model would be inappropriate for say a family of 2. And conversely, a family of six would not be happy with a 1.5 quart model.
Here for your consideration are my picks for the three best inexpensive slow cookers on the market today.
Proctor Silex 33015YA 1-1/2-Quart Round Slow Cooker. This small slow cooker, suitable for two or three, has the regular high, low and warm settings. The removable crock and glass lid go in the dishwasher. About $18.
Crock-Pot SCV401TR 4-Quart Oval Manual Slow Cooker. This beautiful red slow cooker (it does come in silver or black as well) is your basic work horse. It has high, low and warm settings, the removable stoneware and lid are both dishwasher safe. Perfect for four or more; handles a four-pound roast well. About $25.
Crock-Pot SCV700SS 7-Quart Oval Manual Slow Cooker. This beauty is the cooker of choice for a large family—perfect for nine or more; a 7-lb roast fits well! This slow cooker has the same features as those above. It just bigger! About $35.
Starting tomorrow and each Friday during the summer season, I’ll be sharing my favorite slow cooker recipes so you can give your stovetop and oven the summer off!
photo credit: FunnyAnd.com