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Guide to slow cookers

This kitchen appliance is useful year-round. Here are food writer Sarah Swain’s tips on how to choose the best slow cooker for your needs.

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Key features

When buying a slow cooker two features need your consideration:

  • A removable inner cooking pot. This is essential and allows for easy cleaning and the ability to take the pot to the table for serving or potluck dinners.
  • A snug-fitting glass lid. This means the moisture in food is retained and a transparent lid allows you to check on food without breaking the seal and losing heat and liquid.

Size and capacity

The size and capacity of your chosen slow cooker will depend on your personal needs. For one or two people, a 1.5-litre pot will suit, while a family of four will want something larger such as a 4.5-litre pot. Pots with a 6.5-litre capacity will suit those catering for larger parties.

Shape and colour

Smaller pots tend to be round while larger pots can be oval or round. Aesthetics, or how much room you have, can govern your choice here. Oval pots fit a whole chicken or joint nicely. Round pots may be easier to store.

Colours and finish of the outside of your pot can vary from stainless steel to black or white.

Settings

Choose a pot with a temperature switch and at least two settings: low and high.

A high setting will heat the pot up quickly whether you plan to cook on high or low. It will cook the ‘average’ recipe in four hours.A low setting will cook the average meal in seven to eight hours. This setting can also be used to keep food warm.A timer or auto switch means you can have the meal ready at your convenience. This useful function now features on most slow cookers.

Medium settings and warm settings can be additional features. You may find them useful, so worth considering, but as they are not a necessity for successful slow cooking, generally you pay more for these functions.

Care and maintenance

  • Always turn your slow cooker off before cleaning. Unplug it.
  • Allow it to cool before cleaning.
  • Lids can be washed either in the dishwasher or with hot soapy water.
  • Always cool the pot thoroughly before washing rather than plunging it into cold water. It will not withstand sudden temperature changes and could crack.
  • Most models now have removeable stoneware inners. The inner pot can be washed in the dishwasher or with warm soapy water.
  • Use a non-abrasive cleaner or vinegar with a non-abrasive cloth to remove stubborn stains. Do not use scouring pads.
  • The outside of the heating base may be cleaned with a soft cloth and warm soapy water and then wiped dry.
  • Never immerse the heating base in water or liquid.

 

HFG picks

Breville Avance Slow Cooker: This has an attractive white casing for those who want the pot as a bench-top feature. The Avance Slow Cooker is perfect for making large quantities, with 5-litre capacity — great for doing whole chickens and joints, too. It is also easy to clean — a bonus if used regularly.

Cascade Slow Cooker: This slow cooker is perfect for making small meals and it is very affordable. It is easy to store in a cupboard — and being compact and light, there are no issues with heavy lifting from cupboards up high, or down low.

 

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