Looking for patriotic inspiration? Here are a few fast and inexpensive Fourth of July desserts and side dishes.
6-Quart Slow Cookers, Oval Slow Cookers
Slow Cookers Capacity
A slow cooker is a slow cooker, and two of its few distinguishing characteristics are slow cooker size, otherwise known as capacity, and shape. Be it a 6-quart slow cooker or a 2-quart model, experts say that optimal results are achieved when the slow cooker is between half and three-quarters full.
The Crock-Pot 32041-C Little Dipper with a 16-ounce capacity is the smallest slow cooker we researched. Next in line are 1- to 2-quart models, like the 1.5-quart Proctor Silex 33015, which are just the right size for a one- to two-person meal. Consumers say it neatly holds a cut-up chicken breast or legs with sauce or some vegetables; singletons report it makes enough food for one dinner plus leftovers.
The most common slow cooker size is the 3- to 5-quart range. These slow cookers, such as the 5-quart Hamilton Beach 33155, are considered "family-size" and perfect for neighborhood potlucks. Home cooks posting at Walmart consider the 4-quart West Bend 84384 the right size for most recipes that feed up to four people. The largest capacity slow cookers for home use are 8-quart models, but a 6-quart slow cooker is sufficient for large families or get-togethers and for leftovers destined for the freezer. For many reviewers of the Crock-Pot SCCPVP700-S, its 7-quart capacity is their favorite feature.
Our research into 6-quart slow cookers and other popular sizes also found that the actual usable capacity may be smaller than advertised. For example, user reviews claim that the cooking vessel in the 5-quart Hamilton Beach 33155 only holds 4 quarts worth of ingredients.
The shape of the slow cooker matters to some users, and we found that oval slow cookers are often preferred to their round counterparts. Among those we researched, the Hamilton Beach 33155, Hamilton Beach 33141 (starting at $24), Hamilton Beach 33163, Crock-Pot SCCPVP700-S, and West Bend 84384 are all oval slow cookers. Users assert that the oval shape allows for larger cuts of meat, nicely contains a whole chicken, and works better for casseroles -- even lasagna, according to a comment posted at Amazon. Consumers also say the spacious but efficient design of oval slow cookers hogs less precious counter space than a round slow cooker with the same capacity.
Slow Cooker Lids.The lid on low-cost slow cookers is made of clear glass with a "stay-cool" plastic handle on top. The rounded shape of the glass and the glass itself help collect and distribute moisture during the cooking process. The clarity of the glass lets you see the food without lifting the lid, which would otherwise interfere with the proper functioning of the slow cooker.
There have been two improvements on the standard lid design. First, many slow cookers, especially those marketed as "cook and go" (or some variant thereof) now include a rubber gasket around the rim, which creates a tighter seal and traps moisture within. Absent a gasket, all the steam and pent-up pressure may cause the lid to rattle as steam escapes; models with the rubber gasket generally include a small hole in the lid to vent the steam. The gasket also prevents leaks and spills while moving a full slow-cooker from kitchen to some other venue. Both the Hamilton Beach 33155 and Hamilton Beach 33163 Stay or Go slow cookers sport gaskets.
Consumers do appreciate these rubber seals, noting they make it possible to transport a pot filled with cider, say, to potluck dinners or cookouts without worries about the contents sloshing on to the back seat of the car. But there may be a downside to the seals. Reviews on sites such as Target ding the gasket for capturing and retaining cooking odors (think onion) that leach back into future meals.
The second innovation is a mechanism for securing the lid. This arrangement likewise keeps a tighter seal and prevents spillage during cooking or transport. The latches on the Hamilton Beach 33163 Stay or Go get a few shout-outs in user reviews, although one says the combination of side latches and handles make it hard to lift a full pot out of the cooking bay. A strap that wraps around the lid and side handles of the Hamilton Beach 33155 claims both fans and a few critics, the latter saying it doesn't work (either too tight or too loose); some note that the lid says in place even without the band.
Hamilton Beach 33141 Review
Crock-Pot 3735-WN Review
Crock-Pot 38501-W Review
Crock-Pot SCCPVP700-S Review
Hamilton Beach Stay or Go 33163 Review
Hamilton Beach 33155 Review
Proctor Silex 33015 Review
Enjoy summer with a picnic! We have suggestions for cheap picnic essentials, including a cooler and utensils and where to find them.
To make your outdoor cooking experience even more enjoyable, load up with these cheap grilling accessories.