Mid-May is the perfect time to hunt for an apartment or a temp job. ...
Programmable Slow Cookers
Slow Cooker Heat Settings
The best budget slow cookers, including all of our picks, feature three heat settings -- high, low, and keep warm. Most slow cookers at this end of the price range are manual models with a single knob (or dial) made of "stay-cool" plastic that's turned to set the heat level.
Of course, manual slow cookers require the cook to make the switch from high or low to keep warm (or off) at the appointed hour. With a programmable slow cooker, the switchover to warm occurs automatically, so you can leave the pot completely unattended until serving time. The auto-warm feature on the Crock-Pot SCCPVP700-S was the key selling point for several consumers who commented on Walmart, although some found the four pre-set heat/time combinations too limiting.
Consumers note that some trial and error may be necessary before finding the heat level and cook time that works for a given recipe. For example, you may start a dish on high for an hour or so and then switch to low for several more hours to complete the cooking. Or, you might determine that four hours on high or ten on low will do the trick. Switching over to warm when cooking is done maintains the status quo for a while.
Indeed, countless reviews of the best cheap slow cookers indicate that consumers rely on the warm setting to prevent food from overcooking, burning, and/or drying out. Expert reviews of the Proctor Silex 33015 list the "keep warm" setting as one of the model's biggest "pros" because it affords busy cooks another level of scheduling flexibility. A pork roast and vegetables that simmered for five hours in the Hamilton Beach 33163 and rested on warm for one hour proved to be mouth-watering, says a consumer post on Overstock. Then there's the Crock-Pot 38501-W, which takes heat from consumers who assert that it runs so hot that the contents boil even when set on warm.
The absence of a warm setting may not be a deal breaker, however. The 3.5-quart Crock-Pot 3735-WN (starting at $24, Amazon) rates highly with consumers who report on Amazon that the high and low settings are enough functionality to insure a delicious meal.
Slow Cooker Safety.Slow cookers are generally considered to be among the safest of cooking appliances. There's no open flame and temperatures rarely reach boiling point. And "stay-cool" handles are the norm. Still, it's important to take care when using a slow cooker. For example, it's generally a good idea to put the slow cooker on a heat-proof surface, such as marble, steel, or ceramic tile, when in operating mode. Also, most budget slow cookers don't have skid-free legs and may slide if nudged too hard.
Although slow cookers are designed to keep the heat in, the outside often gets hot. This seems to be more of a problem on some models than others. A number of users who commented on Amazon about the Hamilton Beach 33141 mention that the outer walls get hot enough to burn. Some consumers likewise assert that the lid handle on the Crock-Pot 38501-W is too hot to touch.
An indicator light that signals when the slow cooker is powered on is a good safety feature. It's less common on manual slow cookers but does make an appearance on the Hamilton Beach 33163 and the West Bend 84384. Experts consider the absence of an indicator light a strike against the otherwise well-regarded Hamilton Beach 33141. Both programmable slow cookers we researched, the Crock-Pot SCCPVP700-S and Crock-Pot 38501-W, sport an indicator light.
Slow Cooker Maintenance.One reason for the popularity of slow cookers is the no-fuss/no-bother aspect of their care. Both the inner cooking chamber and the lid on almost all the best budget slow cookers are dishwasher safe. We found nary a complaint about clean-up hassles. One user of the Hamilton Beach 33163 reports that the three-day-old remains of a cheese dip easily came off with a cleaning brush after an overnight soaking. Another consumer covers the inside of the Crock-Pot SCCPVP700S-7 with a dedicated slow-cooker liner, which further facilitates clean-up and doubles as a container for leftovers. Hand washing the pot and lid also proves to be a breeze, according to user reports, and the rest of the unit can be wiped down with a damp cloth or paper towel.
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
With Mother's Day upon us, Memorial Day weekend is just around the bend. ...
Find out how to grab bargains on swim attire for the entire family.