I can't remember by what logic my mid-20's brain chose this particular slow cooker with these particular features, but I am thankful. Why? Because I love my slow cooker. I have dragged it on two major cross-country moves, I have made space for it in apartments that really didn't have the space to spare, and I have (astonishingly) put it to regular use all these years. Besides enabling my pulled pork addiction and presenting me with chili after a long day, there are a few special things about this slow cooker that I have come to love.
5 Slow Cooker Features I Love
- Its Size: On my mother's recommendation, I bought a 6-quart slow cooker. It seemed massive (excessively so) when it came, but I have since come to appreciate her advice. It can handle a whole chicken, fit a large shoulder roast for my beloved pulled pork, or make enough of any slow cooked recipe to feed a crowd. When I threw my first dinner parties, meals from the slow cooker were a life saver — I was a stress basket of a hostess, but knew that at least there would be delicious stew to serve my guests. Even when it's just my husband and myself, I still like to make a big slow cooker meal — most slow cooker recipes freeze well and extra servings equals future dinners.
- Programmed Cooking Times: Since this was my first (and only) slow cooker, I didn't even realize that other models didn't have programmed cooking times! With mine, I can set the exact cooking time I want, knowing that it will click over to the "warm" setting if I'm not there right when the dish is done. This saves me from feeling panicked if I'm running late or get distracted in another room.
- The "Warm" Setting: Besides saving my sanity if I'm stuck running errands when the slow cooker is done, I have come to appreciate the "warm" function for its original and best intent: keeping food warm at a party. Whether it's dinner rolls at Thanksgiving or a pot of beans at a party, I love that I can use this setting on the slow cooker and save my (or my host's) stove top burners for other things.
- The Digital Control Panel: It's a little thing, but I like being able to just touch a button to turn on the slow cooker and set the cooking time. This display is also much easier to clean.
- Insert Is Easy to Clean: I'm a lazy dishwasher. Very lazy. As such, I appreciate that no matter what I put my slow cooker through, it always cleans with just a few swipes of a soapy rag. I very rarely even need to soak it. The insert is made of enamel stoneware, similar to enamel-lined Dutch ovens, and somehow this this translates into "lazy girl's best friend."
3 Features I'd Change
- Add Some Rubber Lining Around the Lid: I've noticed that many newer models have a soft rubber lining around the edge of the lid, which (it seems to me) would create a much better seal for retaining heat and moisture. It would also keep the lid from clanking around when transporting it to a party.
- Independent Time and Temperature Controls: On my slow cooker, I can cook foods on High/4 hours, High/6 hours, Low/8 hours, or Low/10 hours. Sometimes I'd really like to just cook something on low for, say, 5 hours or high for just 2 hours. I know that I can set the cooker to Low/8 hours and just stop cooking after 5 hours, but that requires me to be extra attentive. Not a huge deal (I can be attentive when needed), but I'd love the option of controlling the time and temperature independently. I know some newer, fancier models have this function and it seems like it would be handy.
- Stove-Top-Safe Insert: I don't mind a little prep work before throwing ingredients in a slow cooker, but I would love love love an insert that is safe for the stove top so I can avoid getting extra pans dirty. Again, this is a feature on many newer models — if you're in the market for a new slow cooker, keep an eye out for it!
Your turn! What are your favorite features on your slow cooker — and what do you wish you could change?
(Image: Emma Christensen)