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There are four types of slow cookers: manual, programmable, multi-function, and digital slow cookers.
Understanding each type’s features, kitchen usability, installation needs, and sizes will clearly understand which type to buy.
For instance, you may prefer to get slow cookers versus Dutch ovens based on the quality of food they cook and their cooking methods.
Knowing the different slow cookers available in the market, including their strengths and weaknesses, can help you determine the type to choose for your kitchen.
What are the different types available for slow cookers?
The different slow cookers are manual, programmable, multi-function, and digital.
The following list includes the different types of slow cookers available in the market:
- Manual slow cooker
A manual slow cooker is a basic slow cooker with an adjustable knob. This slow cooker is suitable for easy, one or two ingredient dishes.
The cooking times on the high and low settings will vary from 3-4 to 6-8 hours. After that, the keep-warm feature activates. The controller can be a knob that controls these settings.
You can set the temperature manually to four different levels—on/off, low, high, and keep warm.
- Programmable slow cooker
A programmable slow cooker is an appliance that comes with numerous settings. This allows you to set your preferred temperature and time.
A programmable slow cooker works by using an internal heating element and sensors to maintain a low cooking temperature automatically while also releasing steam periodically, so your meal comes out moist.
Most models have controls that allow you to select the number of hours you want it to run and the temperature you want to use.
- Multi-function slow cooker
A multi-function slow cooker is a slow cooker with multiple compartments. This allows you to slow cook more than one dish at a time.
A multi-function slow cooker can be used as a regular slow cooker, but with multiple functions for different types of cooking. For example, it can have three temperature settings or four time settings.
This type of slow cooker allows you to come home from work and have dinner ready as you walk in the door. All you have to do is put everything in before leaving the house—set it and forget it. It is also controlled by a special digital panel and has an automatic keep-warm function, perfect for running late or forgetting that you need to turn it off.
A multi-function slow cooker saves time, energy, and money—they use about 70% less energy than a conventional oven.
- Digital slow cooker
Digital slow cookers have settings that allow you to connect to them remotely. This means you can control the slow cooker's setting on a smartphone.
Its programmable feature makes cooking hassle-free without sacrificing flavor. Just add the ingredients, set your cooking time, and your meal will be cooked—allowing you to focus on other tasks.
What are the different ways to use a slow cooker?
The different ways to use a slow cooker include the following:
- Making soups and stews
- Baking brownies and cookies
- Steaming food
- Melting various ingredients
Making soups and stews is the most common way to use a slow cooker. You can make incredible soups and stews in a slow cooker with the right recipe and ingredients, which is more convenient than ordering takeout.
Baking may not be a top–of–mind use for a slow cooker, but this appliance can be versatile in the kitchen, especially for those in tiny apartments without an oven. You can bake your brownies, cookies, and favorite desserts using a slow cooker—without heating the whole house or paying close attention to temperature and time as using an oven does! You can also make bread if you don't have a bread maker!
Steaming food using a slow cooker is also a possibility, especially if you add and heat water using the “high” settings. Once it produces steam, add your food, i.e., dim sum in a heat-proof tray or a glass plate.
Melting ingredients like chocolate and butter is made easy with a slow cooker without worrying about scorching them. For best results, put a couple of inches of hot water in the bottom of the slow cooker, then set anything you must melt in a glass jar with the lid on. Voila—your butter, shortening, or chocolate is perfectly melted unscorched.
While there are many uses of a slow cooker, this kitchen appliance requires thoughtful operation and extra care to make it last longer.
What sizes do the slow cookers come in?
Slow cookers types are similar in shape and size. They typically come in approximately 35.5 L x 25 W x 35.5 H centimeters.
The ideal size of a slow cooker depends on the number of people in your household and the types of dishes you make. Smaller slow cookers are better for dishes like soups or stews. A large slow cooker is better for cooking meats or pasta dishes. Multi-function slow cookers are a good option if you cook multiple dishes at one time.
If there are 1-2 people in your household, a 3-quart slow cooker is sufficient. If you have 3-4 people in your family or like having leftovers, you may want a 5-quart slow cooker. If you have more than four people in your household or entertain often, you'll wish to use a 6-quart or larger slow cooker.
Here are the approximate sizes of each type of slow cooker:
Manual slow cooker: 24.1 L x 36.6 W x 36.6 H cm
Programmable slow cooker: 26 L x 35.4 W x 21.3 H cm
Multi-function slow cooker: 35.5 L x 25 W x 35.5 H cm
Digital slow cooker: 34 L x 26.4 W x 33.5 H cm
What foods can be cooked in different slow cookers?
The foods that can be put into different slow cookers include:
- Meats like beef and lamb
- Ingredients like butter and chocolate
What determines the best slow cooker type?
The best slow cooker type can be determined by the following: programmable settings, warm setting, digital controls, removable insert, glass lid, large capacity, multiple pots, pre-set cooking, brand, and price.
Programmable settings: Programmable settings allow you to set your slow cooker and forget about it. Programmable settings may include cook time or temperature.
Warm setting: A warm setting keeps your foods warm after they’re done cooking. This is a good feature if your dishes finish cooking before you’re ready to eat them.
Digital controls: Digital controls can make it easier to view your cook time and settings on your slow cooker.
Removable insert: A slow cooker with a removable insert makes it easier to keep your appliance clean.
Glass lid: A glass lid allows you to check if your ingredients are cooked or melted without having to remove the cover.
Large capacity: A large capacity slow cooker allows you to cook larger dishes, which is beneficial when entertaining.
Multiple pots: A slow cooker with numerous compartments allows you to cook more than one dish at a time.
Pre-set cooking: Pre-set cooking features let you choose automated cooking times based on the type of food in the slow cooker.
Brand and price. The price of slow cookers varies according to the type and brand. Recognized brands are known for quality and reliability but are on the higher end of the price slow cooker. Consider your budget and whether you'll use slow cookers regularly or sparingly.
Are multi-function slow cookers safe?
Slow cookers are safe appliances when used correctly, but there are safety precautions to keep in mind.
- Always make sure the appliance is plugged in before adding ingredients or starting cooking and turn it off once finished. This is especially important when leaving the house.
- Do not let the slow cooker sit fully unattended on a countertop or table. Secure it on an even surface to prevent falling or tipping over. If this happens, unplug immediately.
- Never have something laying across the lid of your slow cooker, even if you think it's secure—it may come undone while cooking and risk falling onto your dish.
- Some users have found that specific models tend to overheat quickly or shut down automatically after twelve hours. If you leave your slow cooker unattended for over twelve hours, check that the model has a setting that will prevent this.
- Never submerge the heating element in water or put it through a dishwasher's sanitizing cycle. Make sure that parts do not come into contact with any liquid while using your slow cooker. The only part meant to get wet is the lid, though make sure not to submerge or immerse it too deep or for too long (i.e., washing on the top rack only).
What is the average price for a slow cooker?
The average price for a slow cooker varies between $30-$100. Smaller slow cookers that hold less volume cost less than larger slow cookers that cook larger dishes.
What is the lifespan of different slow cookers?
The average lifespan of a slow cooker is between 6-10 years. The frequency of use and maintenance of the slow cooker affects longevity. Keeping up with cleaning and maintenance will help your slow cooker last longer.
The factors that affect the lifespan of a slow cooker include:
Frequency of use: How often you use your slow cooker affects how long it lasts. The more you cook with your slow cooker, the more you wear and tear the power supply.
Maintenance and upkeep: Maintaining your slow cooker can help it last longer. This includes thoroughly cleaning the slow cooker out between uses.
Initial quality: The initial quality of the slow cooker affects how long it lasts. Stainless steel slow cookers last longer than other slow cookers.
Types of foods cooked: The kinds of foods you cook using your slow cooker can affect how long they last. Loading larger ingredients in the slow cooker makes it work harder.
How does the slow cooker type affect the cooking process?
Slow cookers are known for cooking food over several hours. They heat up slowly and then simmer once they reach an optimal temperature.
Safety features prevent the slow cooker from reaching temperatures that cause overcooking, fire, burning, and spillage. A slow cooker is generally used for making large batches of foods like stews, soups, pasta sauces, or chili. Because it uses low temperatures over a more extended period, these types of dishes can be prepared easily with little preparation or effort on the user's part.
Slow cookers are handy for cooking foods on very low heat over an extended period. They can keep food warm on a buffet or serve as an additional appliance, allowing people to prepare meals ahead of time and not worry about their quality upon serving them. Such features make slow cookers more energy efficient than other stoves. The energy required to cook with these appliances is far less than ovens, grills, or even microwaves.
The cooking process may vary for each type based on the availability of pre-programmed settings and remote access. Manual slow cookers may not have as accurate a temperature control and duration as other types like programmable, multi-function, and digital slow cookers.
What effect does the slow cooker type have on taste?
Cooking food in a slow cooker helps avoid overcooking and often result in perfectly cooked meals. It makes preparing meals easier for anyone—slow cookers are perfect for those new to cooking or unfamiliar with how long certain foods need to be cooked or at what temperature.
Is it better to use manual or digital slow cookers in the kitchen?
Deciding whether it's better to use manual or digital slow cookers in the kitchen boils down to kitchen space and functionality.
Kitchen usability is considered when deciding between the two types of slow cookers. It refers to the function and structure of kitchen appliances that make them easier to use.
Both manual and digital slow cookers have similar looks and sizes, so kitchen usability does not differ much. Hence, deciding which one is better to use in the kitchen depends on functionalities and control over cooking.