Best Slow Cookers

January 22, 2009 6:31:20 PM PST
Slow cookers are the best-selling small kitchen appliance ... Convenience is a big reason why. You can also save money making more meals at home.Nancy Markhoff is in love - with her slow cooker, that is.

"It's an easy kitchen appliance to use. It's one pot, you throw everything in, and that's all you have to clean, and it's dinner," said Markhoff.

Consumer Reports tested 15 slow cookers. They hold six to seven quarts. These cookers make cooking something of a one-step operation. You put all your ingredients in the cooker and it cooks by itself for hours on the kitchen countertop. Testers prepared various recipes, including beef stew, pulled pork, and apple brown betty for dessert. They evaluated how long it took to reach the correct cooking temperature and how good the food tasted.

Consumer Reports Celia Lehrman said, "They all produced food that was tasty and had a nice texture. The real differences were in how convenient they were to use."

Cookers with electronic controls automatically switch to "warm" when cooking is done, a nice feature. But with four, you have to switch the button to "warm" yourself.

"Also think about the finishes. Stainless steel looks nice and shiny when you first buy it, but it's going to be a little harder to clean," said Lehrman.

Oven-safe pots that can be put in the oven for quick reheating are a plus. And a locking lid helps keep food from spilling handy if you're going to a potluck dinner. This Hamilton Beach Set' n Forget has both these features, as well as electronic controls, and costs just 70-dollars.

"If you want to save a little money and are willing to lose some features like the locking lid, the Rival Crock-Pot is a good choice at 50-dollars," said Lehrman.

Another handy feature to look for in a slow cooker is an attached, hinged lid. That way you don't have to set the lid down on the counter when you mix or serve food.

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