Think of savory soups or stews, cooked long and slow at home. Then casseroles, big pots of baked beans, chili and cabbage rolls. These are often made on the stove top or in the oven. Then in 1971, the Crock Pot by Rival came onto the marketplace and expanded the possibilities in home cooking.
Today, the generic term slow cooker is used alongside the brand name Crock Pot. The various modern models are the busy home cook's friend. Many classic comfort foods are also slow cooker classics, easy to make and easy to serve in bowls to warm family and friends snowy winter evenings.
The original Crock Pot was an innovation at that time. I remember when these came out, and they were as hot as any modern, small kitchen appliances you see advertised now.
These practical cooking tools have evolved into multi-tasking heavyweights. They have lots of bells and whistles that your mother and grandmother would have wanted. Sizes cover a broad range, from 1 quart to 7 quart, even 8 quart capacity. The newest models include programming features, multiple temperature settings, multiple and removable stoneware inserts, hinged lids, clamp-on lids, and the list goes on.
Slow cookers continue to be popular because they serve the needs of busy moms and home cooks to make easy, delicious meals for their families. You can create a meal, set it cooking, and have dinner underway while doing other tasks. Or, cook the meal overnight, refrigerate it while you are away from home, and reheat it at dinner time in your microwave.
The innovations found in today's cookers are born directly from customer experience over the years. Stoneware inserts are removable for cleaning. Temperature controls allow for a broad range of cooking methods, and programmable features let you control the settings as your dish cooks. Some even include a probe which is inserted into the meal, to monitor the progress of recipes that require the food to reach a certain temperature.
Consider these things when you shop for the best slow cooker for your household:
- Choose a size that you will fill at least half but no more than two-thirds full, so that the food gets hot enough, but does not overflow while cooking. Large capacity models are in the 4 to 7 quart range, with small capacity in the 1 to 4 quart range.
- The locking lids, available on some models, are made to help you transport the unit with food in it. These are handy for carry-in dinners, potlucks and buffets.
- Models with oval-shape stoneware liners (vs. round) work better for roasts, whole chickens and similar foods. Choose yours based on size and shape of the foods you cook the most.
- Removable stoneware liners make clean up easier.
You won't want to save your slow cooker for annual potluck dinners once you discover all the luscious recipes that you can make with your cooker. Everything from a hot breakfast to a hot toddy can be made in a slow cooker.