The slow cooker battle
Turns out that there are many, many different slow cookers out there. For the uninitiated, slow cookers have a larger variety of sizes, features, and combinations than even your best car salesman could talk up.
So, without further ado, we present 3 distinct iterations that span the gamut of price and features.
Hamilton Beach 33969A Set ‘n Forget Programmable Slow Cooker, 6-Quart
Winner: Basic Bitch Award
Here you have your basic slow-cooker, the one above is specifically good for someone who is truly a “first-timer”, or maybe just someone who is food safety paranoid. The temperature probe is unnecessary for any experienced cook because after a certain amount of time there is no way your food won’t be at temp unless the cooker is not functioning properly.
However, for the truly new it can give an excellent baseline for understanding what cuts of meat look and feel like when they hit certain temps. If you don’t need this and just want a basic slow cooker there are even cheaper ones I would recommend such as Crock-Pot SCCPVL600S Cook’ N Carry 6-Quart Oval Manual Portable Slow Cooker, Stainless Steel
Ninja MC750 3-in-1 Cooking System
This is a lovely slow cooker and I especially love how big it is. Many of the more advanced slow cookers with tons of features tend to be the smaller sized, so this one is great for family style cooking. The “3-in-1 system” is also very convenient.
Sear a shoulder of pork with the stove-top function and then switch the dial to slow cooker mode and let it go for 6 hours until fork tender. One pot, less mess.
Or drop some chicken thighs on a bed of veg and use the bake function, especially convenient in the summer. Steam or poach some fish, even bake cupcakes and bread.
This thing is surprisingly versatile. I have had mine for two years now and still works perfectly.
I do recommend getting the recipe book for this machine (my slow-cooker actually came with the book) as the recipes are tuned to the specific functions of it — a recipe for baking cupcakes with steam for example (using half the butter or oil of regular cupcakes), wont be found in too many places but this recipe book.
Instant Pot IP-DUO60 7-in-1 Multi-Functional Pressure Cooker
Winner: I Have a Slow Cooker and I’m Not Afraid to Use It Award
Now this is a truly advanced machine. This machine packs in the most possible features with smallest kitchen counter footprint.
Of course, pressure cooking is a very different animal from slow cooking; it’s a whole different cooking style with significant differences in use and outcome.
I only recommend this machine for the more advanced user or someone with a tiny kitchen and really needs a ton of features in one. This machine is a slow cooker, pressure cooker, rice cooker, steamer and has a sauté function.
The more advanced ones have a yogurt maker (you read that right, the 7-in-1 has a fermentation ability), and even Bluetooth connectivity! Believe it or not, the Bluetooth feature can actually come in handy. When you have food cooking for four, six or even ten hours it’s really nice to be able to leave the house and keep an eye on things.
So, now it’s decision time
You need to look at the features and decide for yourself. No one knows better than you how your kitchen runs or what kind of food your family likes to eat.
Do you make a lot of big meals with complicated steps? Then the Ninja 3-in-1 might be best for you.
Do you like to experiment, try new food styles, get bored quick? The Instant Pot will keep you entertained for a long time with tons of features, different cooking styles and options — you can make some truly unique and creative dishes.
And if all of this seems like way too much and you just want to start out and see what slow cooking is like, go for the simplest one!
See for yourself how delicious, cheap and easy it is to slow cook a huge piece of pork or beef with almost no effort and I promise you’ll be back for more.