Get Your FREE Spice Blend Recipes!
The Best Slow Cookers
If you open up Pinterest or peruse the cookbook section of any store, you will quickly see quickly that slow cookers (or Crock-Pots) is super popular! And for good reason!
Our lives are busier than ever (social distancing and this season of Coronavirus aside!). Between jobs, school, extra curricular for kids, church activities, social events, family events, trying to fit in fitness, personal development…. you get it. We are busy people living busy lives!
So, while I personally LOVE getting lost in some music and wine while I spend an hour or two in my kitchen making dinner, I don’t always have time! And I recognize that there are so many of you who DON’T love spending hours in the kitchen or just simply can’t swing it.
That’s why slow cooking is such a life saver! You start dinner whenever you have a spare 10-15 minutes and then go about your day! Right about the time your family starts asking, “What’s for dinner?”, you have a beautiful meal packed with flavor that only comes from time.
Pro Tip – At our house, I plan on making at least one slow cooked meal a week and incorporate it into my weekly meal plan. I plan on having that meal for dinner on our busiest day of the week.
This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase using this link. Please see my disclosure for more details.
What is Slow Cooking?
Slow cooking is any cooking method that involves cooking food at a LOW TEMPERATURE for a LONG PERIOD of time. This includes Crock-Pot cooking. But you can also slow cook food in the oven, on the stove, in a smoker, or over the fire. Even some grills have capabilities for slow cooking! It’s all about what kind of flavor you’re going for, and what kind of time you have to monitor your dish.
For convenience and ease of use, traditional slow cookers are an amazing invention. Seriously, I would not be the Midwestern mom I am today without my three beloved slow cookers. But, it can be confusing to figure out which is the best to purchase for your needs!
The Best Slow Cookers
This is my personal favorite all around slow cooker. It’s the one I use for dinners like a whole chicken or pot roast because it is spacious and comes with a super handy temperature probe, which takes the guess work out of cooking meat. You can program it to switch to a WARM setting based on time or temperature. And the lid locks into place, making it the perfect slow cooker to take to the church potluck or your family holiday party.
What’s it good for?
- Meats (whole chickens, roasts, etc.)
- Feeding a large group
- Bone broth
This slow cooker has a special place in my heart. It’s the first one I ever owned, and has been around the block a time or two. After a decade of use, it’s still not quitting any time soon. While it is not as high-tech as the previously mentioned programmable option, this slow cooker will get get the job done for you.
What’s it good for?
- Everyday meals
- Large batches of dips
- Dump and go meals
This little slow cooker isn’t big enough for a family dinner. But it is perfect for small dishes, like dips and side dishes. Just 1.5 quarts, it stores easily and is quite convenient to prepare and clean.
What’s it good for?
- Slow cooked side dishes, like cheesy potatoes, or green bean casserole
- Meals for 1-2 people
Common Questions About Using Slow Cookers
Can you leave the house with your slow cooker on?
Despite what we all saw on This Is Us, it IS safe to leave your slow cooker on low while you leave the house. For recipes that require 6-8 hours, go ahead and set the slow cooker to low before you leave the house in the morning. You’ll come back to a delicious meal!
Should you brown meat before adding it to a slow cooker?
The short answer is no. You can put raw meat in a slow cooker, together with the liquid recommended by the recipe, and end up with a scrumptious meal.
However, brown food is flavor y’all. So if you have the time, I highly recommend searing your meat after seasoning with salt and pepper. The carmelization on the meat surface isn’t just color. It’s deep flavor – that savory “umami” that is synonomous with comfort foods like stews and sauces.
What size crock pot do I need?
If your family is three to five people, assuming none of those people are teenage boys, a 6 quart slow cooker is more than enough. My family is four people, two of whom are small-ish humans. My 6 quart slow cooker makes enough food for two dinners. If you do have teenagers or a larger family, you may want to upgrade to a 7-8 quart slow cooker.
What are the alternatives to a traditional slow cooker?
As I mentioned earlier, I am pretty obsessed with my enameled dutch oven. These are fantastic for starting something off at higher heat and then slow cooking your dish to perfection. Roasts, soups, stews, rice, breads… need I go on? I own three in various sizes, but this 6 quart Martha Stewart dutch oven is my *soul mate kitchen item*. My mother-in-law gifted it to my for my bridal shower. It ain’t cheap, but I do plan to have it for the rest of my life.
If you were to ask my husband about slow cooking, he would skip all Crock-Pot talk and start going on about his smoker. Summer Sundays at our house are filled with smell of smoked ribs, pork shoulder, or chicken wings. But we have also smoked non-meat dishes like tuna salad, mashed potatoes, and deviled eggs! Electric smokers take some of the intimidation factor out of using a smoker, and allow you to program the temperature just like an oven. This is the Masterbuilt 40-inch smoker my husband uses.
The Last Thing You Need to Know about Buying a Slow Cooker
- The beautiful thing about using slow cookers is that the process is suuuuper forgiving. Really. So once you buy your new slow cooker, get crazy and try new recipes!
- Your slow cooker is an investment. I plan to own each of my slow cooking products for a very long time. As such, I made my investment after lots of research, planning for what I would be cooking in them.
I Want to Hear From You!
What’s your favorite slow cooker meal? Share it below and get featured on my blog!