The slow cooker craze is yet to recede and it is easy to see why. Throwing your ingredients into the cooker in the morning and returning home to a delicious and wholesome stew in the evening is hard to beat and the benefits of a slow cooker don’t stop there either. If you live alone or are a family of two you might think that a slow cooker is off the cards, but this is certainly not the case. There are some fantastic small slow cookers out there to suit all budgets and requirements.
In this article, we run through why you need a slow cooker in your life and take a look at some of the best small slow cookers around.
- What is a slow cooker?
- What can I cook in a slow cooker?
- How does a slow cooker work?
- Is a slow cooker safe?
- Slow Cooker Buying Guide 2020
- Top 5 Small Slow Cookers 2020
What is a slow cooker?
A slow cooker follows the low and slow method of cooking but without the need to have your oven going all day. A slow cooker is a free-standing device that can be kept on your worktop or stored away when not in use. In a slow cooker, you can cook pretty much anything and, in addition to saving you time cooking dinner when you get home from work, they are also super energy efficient and preserve the nutrients in your food even though it is cooked for so long. They’re a great device for busy lifestyles and come in various different styles.
What can I cook in a slow cooker?
When you think of a slow cooker the first thing that comes to mind is often a stew, however, slow cookers are capable of cooking a multitude of other recipes. A slow cooker can be used to cook lasagne, roast chicken, chili con carne, mashed potatoes, yogurt, desserts, curry, eggs, shepherd’s pie, soup, porridge, and even granola! The opportunities are endless when it comes to using a slow cooker and there are plenty of recipes online that you can take your pick from.
How does a slow cooker work?
One of the main benefits of using the slow cooker is the fact that everything can be cooked in one place, this not only saves time it also reduces the amount of cleaning up to do after in terms of pans! But how does a slow cooker work?
Slow cooking can either be done via a dry heat such as for roasting meats or liquid can be added to create stews, casseroles, and soups. The heat comes from the base of the cooker and then spreads to the sides so that the food cooks inside. It ranges from around 80 to 150 degrees Celcius and the temperature and time of cooking can be set manually. The food then cooks at a low temperature until the food is ready to eat. Most slow cookers will also have a warm setting to ensure the food is ready to eat when you need it even though it has already cooked through.
Is a slow cooker safe?
Understandably, leaving a slow cooker on all day can seem scary at first especially when leaving your oven on is a definite no-no. However, slow cookers are designed to be left on for long periods of time and have important safety devices installed to prevent them from overheating. There are also some practices that you can follow to ensure that you are using your slow cooker in the safest way possible (always make sure you read the manufacturers guidelines also). These include ensuring your slow cooker is only used on a heat-proof and flat surface, ensuring the lid is securely in place, making sure you don’t overfill your slow cooker, keep the heat down low and make sure the slow cooker is switched off when not in use.
Slow Cooker Buying Guide 2020
So, you know you want a slow cooker – but where to start? In this buying guide, we will take you through everything you need to think about before purchasing your slow cooker.
You’re already shopping for a small slow cooker, but some mini slow cookers are bigger than others. Make sure you check the quart size before purchasing to ensure you will be cooking enough food and also look at the surface dimensions to check that you have enough room on your worktop to accommodate the slow cooker.
There are a variety of slow cookers available ranging from basic slow cookers if you’re on a budget and slow cookers with some savvy features if you have a bit more to spend. Some slow cookers come with some additional features such as sous vide, air fry and sear to allow you to experiment with even more recipes. There are also some technical features that you might want to look out for in a slow cooker such as the ability to check the temperature inside the cooking pot and the status of your meal. It’s always a good idea to have a keep warm setting also as this means your dinner will always be ready to serve even if you’re kept late at the office.
#3 Digital setting and programmable cooking times
When you get to the higher end of slow cookers you will find that a digital control panel and the ability to program in the cooking time become regular features. A digital control panel is handy as it enables you to easily set the cooking time as well as being able to monitor how long your dinner has left to cook. The ability to program cooking times also means you can set your slow cooker to start after you have already left the house and also plan in a warm setting if you know you won’t return until after the cooking has finished.
Top 5 Small Slow Cookers 2020
So now you’re ready to make your choice of slow cooker. Here, we outline 5 of our top picks for slow cookers to help get you started.
#1 Best Mini Slow Cooker: Crockpot’s 2.5-Quart Mini
If you’re looking for a truly space-saving slow-cooker, then you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better one than this. Its compact 2.5-quart design makes it easy to store and move even when full. However, you can still cook pretty decent sized portions for between 2 and 3 people, depending on the appetites you have to feed of course! For a cheap and cheerful slow cooker that saves you space, this is an excellent choice.
Other things to like about this mini slow cooker are that: it is incredibly good value for a slow cooker; it has a secure lid and is able to keep your food warmed through throughout dinner due to its excellent insulation; it looks stylish and is small enough to leave on the kitchen countertop; it is dishwasher safe, and you’ll love the flavors this dish draws out of meats. The downside of this mini slow cooker is that it isn’t the most durable slow cooker out there and it is just a slow cooker so don’t expect an array of features with this unit.
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#2 Best 1.5 Quart Slow Cooker: Procter Silex’s 33116Y
This slow cooker is great for people looking to make a meal for just one or 2 people without having to mess around with measurements when it’s full, you’re ready! It is also a decent size to use as a serving dish and thanks to its inbuilt warming setting you won’t serve cold food or overcook your food whilst you wait for everyone to finally sit down at the dinner table. For smaller households or as a serving plate, this slow cooker is worth a look.
Other benefits of this 1.5-quart slow cooker are that: it is a good price; the removable parts are dishwasher safe; it is suitable for moving around thanks to having a spill-proof lid; it comes with a helpful list of recipes to try out and some surprise suggestions included, and; it doesn’t suffer from overheating so won’t turn your dishes into mush. The downside of this 1.5-quart slow cooker is that it is just a slow cooker so doesn’t have a variety of settings and it genuinely is pretty small!
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#3 Best Small Cooker: Cuisinart’s MSC-400 3-In-1
If you’re after a slow cooker with a bit more room, but still falls in the small category, then you should check out this multi-functional slow cooker. The built-in LCD screen makes it easy to keep track of time and make sure your dish is not overheating. For a small slow cooker big enough for 3-4 people, this cooker stands out from the crowd.
Other pluses of this small slow cooker are that: it has a range of functions including an option to sauté your veg, brown off meat joints, or slow cook a deliciously tender beef stew; it has an excellent non-stick central cooking pot that is easy to clean to die for; it can also be used as a steamer so you can cut down on pans in the cupboard, and; it is technically dishwasher safe. The downside of this small slow cooker is that the surface can bubble up a bit after time and although it is safe for the dishwasher it is probably a bit big to fit in many.
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#4 Best Slow Cooker for Features: Instant Pot’s Nova 3-Quart 7-in-1
If you’re after a slow cooker with plenty of features, that’s easy to use, and will actually save you in cupboard space, then this is the best slow cooker for you. Made to replace a full 7 pieces of kitchenware, from yogurt maker to steamer, this nifty device is making slow cookers sexy again. No longer do slow cookers have to be cumbersome devices that clog up cupboard space, and with this one in your cupboard you can get rid of a few pots and pans too.
Other pros of this 3-quart slow cooker are that: it is easy to use with 14 different programs available at the push of a button; it makes some of the most tender, sticky, and delicious ribs you can imagine; at 3-quarts, you can make hearty portions for 2-3 people and it won’t be a pain moving around, and; it has a range of safety features. The downside of this 3-quart slow cooker is that it isn’t suitable for larger dinner parties than 3 and they don’t have the greatest customer service of all time.
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#5 Best portable Mini Slow Cooker: Crock-Pot’s Food Warmer
If you’re after a slow cooker designed for your lunch desk at work, then you’ll be pleased to know about this impressive little number. With a capacity of 20-ounces, you have space for a healthy lunch-sized portion and all you need to do is chuck in your ingredients before you head to work. You won’t have to worry about spillage either as this travel-safe lid will keep your food in place, and cooking, all the way until lunchtime.
Other advantages of this portable slow cooker are that: it has a built-in handle to ease portability; it comes in a range of colors for the fashion conscious or the superstitious; the removable parts are dishwasher safe; it doesn’t get hot on the outside so you won’t make everyone sweaty by bringing this into the office, and; it is very cheap for what it offers. The downside of this portable slow cooker is that it is only big enough for one and it needs to be plugged in (so it won’t be warming whilst you’re on your journey to work).
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With a slow cooker in your life, you can say goodbye to those ready-meals and hello to wholesome, healthy, and delicious food with minimal effort. Throw your ingredients in, in the morning and leave your slow cooker to do the rest and you can look forward to tasty home-cooked food at the end of the day.
There are numerous options out there when it comes to small slow cookers. Be sure to check out the quart size and dimensions of the slow cooker before purchasing to make sure it is suitable for your needs. Also take a look at any additional features the slow cooker may have as a digital display and the ability to programme the cooking time are certainly useful.