crock-pots and slow-cookers: looking for recommendations

<p>Hi,
I am hoping to revolutionize our diet and budget with one of these! Also, D1 is now a vegetarian, and I need to learn how to cook beans and such... After immersing myself a bit on the web, I realized there are some big issues, and I thought of all of you!</p>

<ol>
<li>is the ability to program really important, or can these things be left alone for a long period on just one setting?</li>
<li>size: what can hold a roast or chicken? cooking for four means a minimum size of how many quarts?</li>
<li>shape: I am assuming oval is best for roasts and chickens, but any other thoughts? </li>
<li>inner pot material; I avoid cooking in aluminum and on teflon or other coatings, and prefer stainless (are there any inner pots made of this?) or ceramic.</li>
<li>handles: on the inner pot to pull it out more easily?</li>
<li>cramps: to create a tighter seal?</li>
<li>what should I be looking for to make cleaning easier?</li>
<li> what are your favorite slow-sooking cookbooks? recipes??</li>
</ol>

<p>Generally, what are your experiences with these appliances?</p>

<p>Appreciate any advice you can offer- thank you, all.</p>

<p>Here's what I like. I have a round ceramic pot (one piece) that I "inherited" from my sister. It had a clear glass lid that S2's teacher broke when I lent it for a school function. It was easy to find a round glass lid that fit.</p>

<p>I also have an oval pot with a ceramic interior that I can pull out and put in the dishwasher if I want. </p>

<p>Both had only Hi & Lo settings. I wouldn't pay more for programmable. </p>

<p>Check the lids carefully. My oval one had a glued-on plastic handle that has broken. I haven't been able to find a suitable replacement so I have to remove it with tongs. </p>

<p>As for cleaning, get the plastic liner bags to cook in. They're wonderful. No more scrubbing the inside of the pot ever. You can tie them up and drop in the garbage. You can poke holes in them and strain out large chunks from the juices. You can cut the corner off one to transfer liquids to another container.</p>

<p>My removable ceramic pot cleans easily, I find the bags a little cumbersome. The clamps are used to transport food, not to get a better seal. I get virtually all my recipes online.
This is the one I have, I love it. Roast or chicken, no problem. <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Crock-Pot-SCCPVP600-S-6-Quart-Smart-Pot-Stainless/dp/B004ZUW52W/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1323894278&sr=8-6%5B/url%5D"&gt;www.amazon.com/Crock-Pot-SCCPVP600-S-6-Quart-Smart-Pot-Stainless/dp/B004ZUW52W/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1323894278&sr=8-6&lt;/a&gt;&lt;/p>

<p>You may enjoy getting ideas (lots of tried and true recipes) from this site: A</a> Year of Slow Cooking</p>

<p>She only made crockpot recipes for one year. </p>

<p>If there are only 4 of you, then a 4 - 5 quart size if plenty big. I think that a 6 quart would be too large. I have a 6 quart but it is at times too large when not everyone is here for dinner (we have a larger family).</p>

<p>I do just about any kind of stew-like recipe in my crockpot. Beef & noodles, pulled pork/chicken barbecue, onion soup, chili. I love ratatouille made in the crock pot.</p>

<p>agree with tango, would not pay extra for programmable. All you need are hi and low settings. I've always found the ceramic crocks to be easy to clean as well. Just bought one for S1's GF for Christmas along with a vegan slow cooker cookbook. It's a great time saver and makes yummy meals...you'll love it!!</p>

<p>Thanks so much for the great tips!!
I will head over the BB&B tomorrow for a quick view of what they carry.</p>

<p>Any brands to avoid or look for?</p>

<p>How timely!! I just bought this one for my DS for $16!! Amazon.com:</a> Stay or Go 33162 Cooker & Steamer: Kitchen & Dining However, he moved across country so it is sitting, unopened, in the basement. It looks good and had good reviews, just not sure if we will keep it (I don't own one) or give it to younger s for his post graduation apartment.</p>

<p>Its a 6 quart oval-- will hold a chicken or good sized brisket <a href="http://www.amazon.com/dp/B003WJVUH8/ref=asc_df_B003WJVUH81818261?smid=A189JNVGY6Y2W8&tag=shopzilla_mp_1058-20&linkCode=asn&creative=395105&creativeASIN=B003WJVUH8%5B/url%5D"&gt;http://www.amazon.com/dp/B003WJVUH8/ref=asc_df_B003WJVUH81818261?smid=A189JNVGY6Y2W8&tag=shopzilla_mp_1058-20&linkCode=asn&creative=395105&creativeASIN=B003WJVUH8&lt;/a> Interested?? :)</p>

<p>I've been in the market, too. Lots of completely contradictory reviews out there. Price does not seem to correlate with quality and there are differences not only in the features, but performance, safety ( some don't get hot enough), reliability and customer service. Lots of issues with All Clad reliability, I hear. Kitchenaid and Breville get so-so reviews. Some reviewers really like the Cuisinart, others are not impressed. Many of the Rival brand reportedly run too hot. This one got good reviews in both Cook's and Amazon and is the one I'm leaning to for myself.</p>

<p>Amazon.com:</a> Crock-Pot SCVT650-PS 6-1/2-Quart Programmable Touch Screen Slow Cooker, Stainless Steel: Kitchen & Dining</p>

<p>Hamilton Beach supposedly makes a very good line and they are pretty inexpensive, too.</p>

<p>roshke, you are waaay ahead of me!
But even MORE confused (frown)...</p>

<p>My finding is that Hamilton Beach (also well-priced!) has not got ceramic inserts, which is what I am looking for (another frown). Am I missing a model??</p>

<p>I like this model, with 3 crocks (2qt, 4qt, 6qt).<br>
Amazon.com:</a> Hamilton Beach 33135 3-in-1 Slow Cooker with 2-, 4-, and 6-Quart Crocks, Stainless Steel: Kitchen & Dining</p>

<p>There are different settings per size, so less chance of food being overcooked or undercookes. Also I like the wide mouth crocks better than my old deep one.</p>

<p>Warning - Even though the crocks nest, it still takes a lot of room to store it due to height and wide handles. </p>

<p>If you just want to give crockpot cooking a try, borrow one from a friend. Or buy one at a local thrift shop - I see them a lot.</p>

<p>OK- jym, does yours (Hamilton Beach!!) have a ceramic inner pot??</p>

<p>Yes, the inner pot is ceramic (well its called "stoneware") and removable.</p>

<p>I looked into the digital programmable ones, but some reviews said they had a tendency to turn themselves off in the middle of cooking, and if you werent home the food would sit half cooked.</p>

<p>Mine's not programmable. But, it does have 5 heat settings: 4 hr high, 6 hr high, 8 hr low, 10 hr low, and warm. </p>

<p>The best thing about my crock pot is that it will automatically reduce heat to "warm" after the cooking hours are finished. This prevents overcooking very nicely. (No one is home while we cook in the crock pot, so this is very important.)</p>

<p>During the winter, we have crock pot dinners at least twice a week. Summer it's about 2 - 3 times per month. For years I've sworn that my family would starve without the crock pot. It really is a life saver. :)</p>

<p>I don't have a crock pot but this thread reminded me that last Christmas I bought a great cookbook for a fried who had just bought one. It's called "Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook." I'd read a good review of it and the recipes looked wonderful.</p>

<p><a href="http://www.amazon.com/Your-Mothers-Slow-Cooker-Cookbook/dp/1558322450/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1323969843&sr=1-1%5B/url%5D"&gt;http://www.amazon.com/Your-Mothers-Slow-Cooker-Cookbook/dp/1558322450/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1323969843&sr=1-1&lt;/a&gt;&lt;/p>

<p>One more idea--INSTEAD of a crock pot, my sister loves her thermal "Magic Pot," which is a metal pot inside an insulated metal container (like a thermos). You bring the pot to a boil & then set it inside the insulated metal thermos container. Before serving, you bring to a boil again. It's great for stews, roasts, soups, and many of the things you'd cook in a crock pot.</p>

<p>Another thing I use is the unglazed clay pot. Soak it in water & then cook it starting in a cold oven that you turn on to desired temperature. It's DELICIOUS but I only do it when I'm home to watch (don't trust cooking things when no one is home).</p>

<p>DougBetsy,
Would you mind sharing the brand and model, size and material of insert it has? Thanks!!</p>

<p>I feel as if I am over-thinking this, given that these are not horrendously expensive, but I hate buying things that I end up disliking or regretting, or that break down easily. Just want to get it right! So I appreciate the discussion, as well as the recommendations for good recipes and cook-books!</p>

<p>I recommend "Fix it and Forget it" cookbook. The book has multiple variations of popular recipes so you can find one that fits what you have on hand.</p>

<p>

No problem. It's this one: Amazon.com:</a> Crock-Pot 38601-C 6-Quart Oval Smart-Pot Slow Cooker, Chrome: Kitchen & Dining Apparently it's out of production. :(</p>

<p>Sorry for the delay in responding.</p>

<p>I've got an All-Clad 6 qt. slow cooker--had it for three years and have had no problems. I use it at least once or twice a week in the winter.</p>