Top slow cookers for every budget
When everything in life speeds up, a busy family needs a break when it comes to mealtimes. So if you’re busy at night picking one up from piano lessons, and catching the game, it’s a little tricky to have dinner on the table (or in laps) by 6 or 7 p.m.
Push that workload into the morning, or even the night before. Chop up the veggies, cube meat, get your spices ready and it will take no time at all to toss it in the pot before you head to work. Like magic, it’s a meal that will be ready the moment you walk through the door.
Today’s slow-cookers have some handy gadgets: many will brown your meat, saving you scrubbing an extra pan. Others have timers, if you know you want your food piping hot at a certain hours.
We’ve picked out a few of our favorites for every budget.
A basic but classic is the Cuisinart 3.5 quart programmable cooker. It’s from a name we all know is reliable, and while it doesn’t have as many bells and whistles as some, we appreciate sturdy simplicity. Cuisinart 350 Slow Cooker 3.5 Quart, on sale $59.99 (plus Cash Back), Macys.com.
An even less-expensive pick? The Hamilton 8 Quart Large-Capacity Slow Cooker. Think “warm, medium and low” but sometimes, that’s all a cook needs. It’s a lot of slow-cooker for a low price. Hamilton Beach 8 Quart Large Capacity Slow Cooker, $24.96 (plus Cash Back), Walmart.com.
And now we get into the cooks’ dream. Programmable slow cookers. Turn to Crock-Pot for a 6.5 quart touchscreen cooker. Cooking time varies from 30 minutes to 20 hours, and it’s dishwasher safe. 6.5 Quart Programmable Touchscreen Slow Cooker, on sale $103.99 (plus Cash Back), Kohls.com.
Use West Bend’s 6 Quart cooker in a traditional sense, or brown meat in it, toss it in the oven or microwave or dishwasher after the meal is dished out. It does all the work for you. Focus Electrics West Bend 6 Quart Versatility Slow Cooker, on sale $67 (plus Cash Back), Sears.com
For inspiration, we went to allrecipes.com to find this incredibly simple recipe. If your slow-cooker browns the beef, that’s one less step:
1 pound ground beef
One small onion
Two green peppers
1 15-ounce can kidney beans
2 28-ounce can chopped tomatoes
¼ tsp. chili powder
Sauté the ground beef, and add to slow cooker with the rest of the ingredients. Cook on high for 4 hours.
(p.s., we at the ShopAtHome test kitchen would up that to ½ tsp. of chili powder, add a pinch of cumin and a ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper, along with salt to taste).