Things to Consider when Buying a Crockpot
Most of the ladies that drop by my house for a visit fall in love with my kitchen because I have just about every small appliance anyone who loves to cook could ever dream of having in their kitchen. A few nights ago, one of them asked me which of all my small appliances I considered indispensable, I told her without hesitation that I considered all of them indispensable. She then asked me if I was just setting up housekeeping and could only afford three small appliances, which three would they be; I could answer that question, for me they would be a programmable coffee maker, a microwave oven, and a programmable crockpot. Our conversation turned to crockpots and what one should consider when buying one’s first crockpot, Cindy was getting her first apartment, and she wanted to buy the best appliances that she could afford on her limited budget.
A few Key Features to look for
No matter whether you’re buying a basic crockpot or one of the more advanced programmable crockpots should have a tight fitting see-through cover, sturdy handles, and a removable liner. The tight fitting, see-through cover prevents the steam from escaping and allows you to visually check on the cooking process without having to removing the cover, removing the cover extends the cooking time by an average of fifteen minutes for each time you remove the cover. Sturdy handles are a necessity because crockpots are heavy especially the larger size crockpots and even heavier when full of food, a removable ceramic or steel insert makes for easier cleaning because they can be immersed in water or placed in a dishwasher. Whether you choose a crockpot with a stoneware insert or a steel insert depends on how you will be using your crockpot, on what you will be cooking. I have both types because, with many of my recipes, I need to sear the meat before adding it to the other ingredients I will be using, with a steel insert I can sear the meat on top of the stove in the insert and then place the insert in the crockpot.
Crockpot Capacity and Shape
This is another important consideration and the choices you make depend on the number of people that you will be cooking for and on what you will be cooking. If you will be cooking for four or more people a 6-quart or larger crockpot will be needed, on the other hand, if you will be cooking for just yourself or for yourself and one other person, a 4-quart pot will better suit your needs, to cook your food safely they need to be at least half-full. The shape of the crockpot is very important because an oval shaped insert will allow you to cook larger cuts of meats and whole chickens, while round crockpots are mostly used for making soups, chilies, and stews. I have several of each size and style, but if you can only afford one, buy an oval one of the appropriate capacity.
Programmable or Mechanical Temperature Controller
A crockpot with a programmable controller is mandatory if you intend to leave the cooker unattended for long periods, the programmable controller will allow you to set the start time and then switch to keep warm setting after the programmed cook time has elapsed, a slow cooker with a mechanical temperature control requires constant attention. You can expect to pay around $200 for a cooker with a digital controller whereas as one with a mechanical temperature controller can be had for $50 or less.
Food Safety Consideration
Not all slow-cookers are created equal, some take far too long to heat water to 160-degrees Fahrenheit that makes them unsafe to use. According to the Food and Drug Administration water, born bacteria thrive in the temperature zone between 40 and 140-degrees Fahrenheit, one way to avoid this danger is to set your cooker on its highest setting for the first hour of cook time and then reduce it to low or medium if the recipe calls for it.
Image Credit » http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slow_cooker#mediaviewer/File:Crock_pot_parts.jpg