Equipment Review: Best Slow Cookers (“Crock Pots”) & Our Testing Winner
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Recipes & tips in our slow cooker guide: http://cooks.io/2krSikq
We tested eight 6- to 7-quart slow cookers to find the best one:
KitchenAid 6-Quart Slow Cooker With Solid Glass Lid
Cuisinart 6-Quart 3-in-1 Cook Central
Ninja 3-in-1 Cooking System
Crock-Pot 6-Quart Slow Cooker with Stovetop-Safe Cooking Pot
Hamilton Beach Stay or Go 6-Quart Programmable Slow Cooker
Crock-Pot Smart Wifi-Enabled WeMo 6-Quart Slow Cooker
Gourmia SlowSmart Express 7 Qt Digital Programmable Slow Cooker
Black + Decker 7-Quart Slow Cooker—Teal
Can machines designed for the same simple purpose—cooking food slowly enough that you can walk away—be all that different? You’d be surprised.
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WINNING TRAITS OF A GOOD SLOW COOKER
– At least 6- to 7-quart stated capacity and nearly the same in actual, usable capacity
– Oval shape that can accommodate roasts
– Digital and programmable; automatically switches to warming mode when cooking is done
– Glass lid and countdown timer to let you check progress
– Easy, intuitive display and controls that give unambiguous feedback to user
– Internal temperature sensor that automatically maintains temperature control to prevent boiling
– Internal insulation that prevents hot spots and maximizes cooking efficiency
– Handles that are large and easy to grip and that stay cool
WHAT WE EXAMINED
We tested eight 6- to 7-quart slow cookers, preparing a variety of recipes using both low and high temperature settings and varied cooking times. We used temperature probes to map heating patterns, and a panel of testers evaluated how easy the cookers were to use and clean. We also dismantled a set of the cookers to understand the placement and type of heating elements they contained. All slow cookers were purchased online.
We prepared boneless, skinless chicken breasts; whole bone-in turkey breast; and pot roast. We evaluated the texture and flavor of the food and rated the cookers on the uniformity of cooking. We did a final round to test the built-in browning function, when available. We gave highest marks to cookers that produced evenly cooked, juicy, and tender foods every time.
EASE OF USE
We evaluated how easy the cookers were to fill, set, and maneuver, including the intuitiveness of controls, displays to monitor cooking, weight of the crock, size and shape of handles, and whether the handles became hot.
We washed each model six times by hand and 10 times in the dishwasher (unless the manual instructed not to do so). We gave high marks to models that were easy to clean, with few nooks and crannies to trap food or water. We also gave preference to pots and lids that were dishwasher-safe and emerged from 10 dishwasher cycles good as new.
To map heating patterns, we used temperature probes to track the temperature of each cooker’s contents as it heated 4 quarts of room-temperature water over a period of 6 hours on high and 12 hours on low.
America’s Test Kitchen is a real 2,500 square foot test kitchen located just outside of Boston that is home to more than three dozen full-time cooks and product testers. Our mission is simple: to develop the absolute best recipes for all of your favorite foods. To do this, we test each recipe 30, 40, sometimes as many as 70 times, until we arrive at the combination of ingredients, technique, temperature, cooking time, and equipment that yields the best, most-foolproof recipe.
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