Slow cookers simplify the cooking process allowing unskilled cooks to make impressive meals with the least amount of effort. The question on everyone’s lips is who makes the best slow cookers you can buy today?
The short answer to who makes the best slow cookers is Instant Pot but Crock-Pot and Hamilton Beach aren’t too far behind!
Just throw in your ingredients, press a couple of buttons and you’re free to get on with more important matters as a gourmet meal quietly cooks quietly in the kitchen!
What is a slow cooker?
In a nutshell, slow cookers are basically just electric pots that have added stoneware inserts. Unlike conventional ovens or stove rings, slow cookers can consistently cook food at low or high temperatures for up to 12 hours at a time.
Slow cookers are economical and very easy to use. They were first designed to prepare healthy meals from budget-friendly ingredients. By trapping heat, these cooking devices are designed to “set & forget” to cook tasty meals over longer periods.
How does a slow cooker work?
The heating coils contained by the outer casing slowly cook the food. The inner container (which is sometimes called a crock) is made of ceramic and fits snugly inside a metal heating element. In some slow cookers, you can completely remove the cooking crock from the outer casing. The machines are fitted with lids that fit tightly onto the crock.
Slow cookers cook based on wattage and cooking time. When you first turn on your cooker, the electrical coils heat up and transfer heat (indirectly) from the cooker’s outer casing to the space between the outer casing and the stoneware pot. The crock then warms up to between 180 and 300 degrees Fahrenheit (82 to 149 degrees Celsius).
This method of cooking gently simmers the ingredients inside the crock at low temperatures until the food is cooked. As your meal cooks, steam is released and is trapped by the lid. The condensation build-up actually creates a vacuum seal between the lid and the rim of the crock, which keeps your food moist and delicious.
The lid is integral to the cooking process. It is important to avoid removing the lid because every time it’s is removed, heat will escape and the cooking time will be lengthened.
One of the biggest reasons to own a slow cooker is the incredible flavors that it can produce. Gently simmering your ingredients in their juices for hours produces a rich, deep flavor that other cooking methods just cannot match!
What can I cook in a slow cooker?
Just about anything you can think of can is cooked this way. Slow cookers are rapidly becoming the preferred method of cooking cheaper cuts of meat such as beef brisket, pork shoulder, and shoulder of lamb.
They are also great for making meals with vegetables in very small amounts of liquid. When cooking this way, you will also find that you will lose use less meat the process extracts every bit of the meaty flavor to permeate the whole dish.
For a massive list of foods/recipes that you can cook in your slow cooker, check out the All Recipes website.
Do I really need a slow cooker?
Slow cookers are great for people that don’t possess tons of cooking skills. It’s one of the easiest (and safest) ways to cook in that you can just add all of the ingredients in one hit and do something else for a few hours as your food slowly simmers to perfection.
Slow cookers are also useful for warming trays for buffets or pot-luck-style dinners. Many folks start by cooking their food in the oven and then adding it to their slow cooker before serving.
The biggest advantage that slow cookers offer is the money-saving aspect. They have become the “must-have kitchen appliance” over the last few years because it is the perfect appliance for a recession. As they work best with cheaper cuts of meat, you just need to add inexpensive staples like root vegetables, lentils, or beans to produce delicious and nutritious food on the tightest of budgets!
What’s the difference between an Instant Pot, a crockpot, and a slow cooker?
Slow cookers have been around since the 70s and are regarded as the granddaddy of cooking!
A true slow cooker has the same three components as a crockpot: a glass lid, a pot, and a heating element but instead of being made with ceramic/porcelain, it is usually made from metal. The hot plates on slow cookers also have a wider variety of heat settings than a crockpot.
Slow cookers heat more slowly than crockpots and have a higher heat level on the base of the pot. This can cause scorching of the food inside so occasional stirring is often necessary. This, unfortunately, means lifting the lid, which will add to the cooking time every time you stir.
Now, of course, the word “crockpot” has become a generic term used to refer to any type of slow cooker. You probably assumed (like most) that a crockpot and a slow cooker are the same things but, if we’re getting technical, a crockpot is a type of slow cooker but not every slow cooker is a crockpot.
There are plenty of similarities but they differ in that a true crockpot is a container that has heating elements along the sides and on the bottom, too. This kind of device is an electric heating oven and has a ceramic/porcelain pot that fits into the crock. It is then topped with a glass lid to trap the heat and moisture to cook the food.
Crockpots are a great way to destroy all bacteria because of the direct heat from the crock and the long cooking time.
The Instant Pot is the “trendy new kid on the block”. With popularity skyrocketing over the last year or so, it has been around for many years! This incredible device can cook anything you can dream up, whereas traditional slow cookers are dinosaurs in comparison. While both kinds of cookers are useful, they serve different purposes and operate in entirely different ways.
Slow cookers usually serve only one function. Just throw in a bunch of ingredients and let it simmer for a few hours. Slow cookers are great for unattended cooking and make delicious roasts, soups, stews, etc. Instant Pots are “slow cookers on steroids!” and serve many purposes.
Instant Pots have many extra functions such as a pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, yogurt maker, sauté / searing pan, steamer, and warming pot. What more could you need???
Folks should note that there is a steeper learning curve with an Instant Pot but if you take it step-by-step, you can soon learn all of the buttons and settings.
Who makes the best slow cookers?
The slow cooking forums are littered with the question “Who makes the best slow cookers?” – Many brands are competing for this accolade. We have looked at reviews, ratings, price, quality, and overall value for money in choosing our top three slow cooker brands.
Best overall slow cooker company – Instant Pot
The multi-purpose cooker has been around since around 2006. Robert Wang is credited as the inventor of the Instant Pot. Their first model functioned as a pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, yogurt maker, sauté pan, steamer, and food warmer.
Instant Pots have gone viral all over the net with recipe sites and how-to guides to help you master this ingenious cooker.
A glance at the 1000’s of Amazon reviews is evidence that Instant Pot is one of the best slow cookers in the world!
Our favorite Instant Pot is the Instant Pot DUO60
Second best slow cooker company – Crock Pot
Irving Naxon (founder of Crock-Pot) was originally inspired by a story his grandmother told about him about how back in her native Lithuanian hometown, her mother made a delicious stew called “cholent”, which took many hours to cook in a hot oven. The company has now been open for nearly 50 years with over 100 million Crock-Pots sold to date!
Irving started using the name “Crock-Pot” in 1971 as slow cookers were quietly gaining in popularity in America during the 70s when many women began to work outside of the family home. With a Crock-Pot, they could start cooking dinner before going to work and finish it in the evening when they came got home.
Our favorite Crock-Pot is the Crock-Pot 6-Quart Programmable Slow Cooker
Third best slow cooker company – Hamilton Beach
Founded in April 1910, Hamilton Beach was started by Frederick J. Osius in Racine, Wisconsin. The company took its name from the two men that Osius hired, Louis Hamilton and Chester Beach. Hamilton was employed as an advertising manager, and Beach as a mechanic. Apparently, Osius didn’t like his name so paid Hamilton and Beach $1000 each for the rights to use their names instead of his own!
Hamilton Beach slow cookers cook hot, mouth-watering meals while you go about your other business and you don’t even need to stir them.
Hamilton Beach’s slow cookers are among the cheapest slow cookers available but don’t think this means that they are of inferior quality. They are awesome machines that are receiving glowing praise from cooks and novices from across the globe!
Our favorite Hamilton Beach slow cooker is the Hamilton Beach 6-Quart
Our featured image is kindly supplied by – By Mark Miller (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons
And our other image is insta pot flickr photo by Robert Couse-Baker shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license
If you enjoyed this article, you might like to check out our list of the best coffee makers for the money from our gear section.