Crockpots are ideal time-savers for busy families (vegetarian or not) and perfect for stews, sauces, soups, chile, whole chickens, barbequed pork, and cheaper cuts of meat like pot roast. They cook food slowly using what's called the moist heat method.
Crockpots have recently experienced a revival. Indeed, today's crockpots are not your mother's crockpots. With so many brands and styles of crockpots, also known as slow cookers, on the market how do you figure out which one to buy?
First decide whether you want one that is programmable--where you determine the number of hours your food will be cooking for--or one that is preset. Preset crockpots typically have settings that read low and high. When you set the dial to low for example, the crockpot will cook your food over a longer period of time. When the control dial is set to high, food will cook over a 3 to 6 hour period. Some slow cookers also have a warming setting that keeps food at a warmer temperature even after it is finished cooking.
Second, and for many people the most important factor, is the size. Crockpots typically come in 3-quart, 4-quart, 5-quart, and 6-quart models. Some like the Rival brand of slow cooker also have a crockpot in a 5.5-quart size. Figure on one quart per person, even if you currently have small children. Remember they will soon be tweens with large appetites! Choose a larger crockpot if you plan on making extra to freeze for meals or lunches later on in the week or month.
Third, crockpots or slow cookers are available in two shapes, oval and round. Oval crockpots or slow cookers are better when you have limited space or if you prefer a smaller size crockpot, say the 4-quart size but also want to be able to cook a whole chicken or a small roast.
There are a couple of other things to consider as well. Choose a slow cooker based on quality not price tag. You want the crockpot to be sturdy and well constructed, not flimsy or cheap. A removable crock liner makes cleaning the crockpot much easier and also allows you to move the food straight to the fridge for leftovers.
Whichever crockpot or slow cooker you choose, you're sure to get lots of use out of it for many years to come!
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