Easy Does It: The 7 Best Slow Cookers

Aug 10, 2015

Category: Food

The world is a fast place full of fast food, fast cars, and fast-acting antibiotics to fight off infections that can be caught from fast women. This doesn’t leave a lot of time for the modern gentleman to spend slaving away in the kitchen. Here’s a secret: a good slow cooker can make a gourmet chef out of the least culinary guys in the world. Rather than learning difficult recipes that take hours to prepare while listening to Gordon Ramsay scream at you, you can create simple masterpieces which can impress your dates, help you drop a little weight, feed your family, or just make sure that you have something better to eat than drive-thru fare.

These cookers (along with crock pots) offer you the ability to throw in a bunch of stuff and come out with a meal that is better for your body than whatever unpronounceable processed stuff you’ll find in a TV dinner. They make it seem like you know how to cook when really all you know how to do is put stuff in a pot. You can make spare ribs that fall off the bone or barbecue that will blow your mind, all set to be ready the minute you walk in the door from a long day at work or just out on your mountain bike. It’s time to take the power back from Betty Crocker and show how a man uses one of the 7 best slow cookers to make some mind boggling dishes.

Proctor Silex 33015Y

Proctor Silex 33015Y

Pro: Dishwasher safe
Con: Very small capacity

Lone Wolf: Most cookers on the market are made for large families or cooking up gallons of food. That doesn’t fit every home or every budget. For the hombre who is living in an apartment that doesn’t have a lot of space to spare or a lot of scratch to spend, but still wants some easy meals there’s Proctor Silex to the rescue. The 1.5 quart capacity is far smaller than anything else, and ideal for singles or couples who don’t want to make a whole cauldron of hamburger soup. The design is truly old school at just 9 inches around with heat-safe handles that you don’t need to wear work gloves to handle. The basic control dial won’t give you many options, but does its job without extra effort. Best of all, the internal crock is dishwasher safe so forget about scrubbing or soaking. [Purchase: $19]

Crock-Pot Cook N Carry

Crock-Pot Cook ‘N Carry

Pro: Perfect cook time
Con: Cannot be programmed

Ultimate Ease: Crock-Pot – the very people who basically invented modern slow cookers – have not been keeping up with the ages and most of their products fall well below the standards of their competition. When buying their brand, it seems going back to basics is the best way to get a good meal. That is where the Cook ‘N Carry works wonders. It just has your basic high, medium, and warm settings on a knob. No frills, no programming, no special features. It cooks easily and will stick to exact recipe times like glue. One of the biggest advantages is being able to use the wide variety of Crock-Pot approved recipes that ensure delicious results every time without some of the guesswork that goes along with programmable cookers whose numerous settings and high-tech accessories can cause more problems than they solve. The locking lid, wide, accessible handles, and quick cleanup make this perfect for the man who likes things easy. [Purchase: $28]

Hamilton Beach Stay or Go

Hamilton Beach Stay or Go

Pro: Lockable lid
Con: Tends to run hot

Travel Model: Don’t be the guy who shows up to the Super Bowl party with chips and dip. Arrive in style with a full 7 quarts of 400-alarm chili. The Stay or Go is ideal for those who like to always be the life of the party but don’t intend to spend a lot of dough. It has one of the highest capacities on the market which works well if you host a lot of get-togethers or have a large family who likes to eat. The low price makes this the entry-level large capacity cooker of choice. The lockable lid allows you to move it around without having to stuff it in a cooler to prevent spills. You can even put it in your car while full of your Mama’s marinara without worrying that your leather seats will be covered in special sauce at the end of your trip. The lock doubles as a hinge that holds the lid up for easy serving. It has no programming options so you’ll need to keep an eye on it and the body runs hot, meaning it can scorch your food or burn your hand if you come too close while it’s working. [Purchase: $36]

Hamilton Beach Set n Forget

Hamilton Beach Set ‘n Forget

Pro: Includes programmable meat probe
Con: Painfully slow

Meat Maestro: When you want to cook up a big slab of meat, some slow cookers can let you down since they broil the outside while leaving you with either a hunk of ice in the center or overcook your cut so badly even your dogs won’t touch it. The Set ‘n Forget will give you a delicious result when cooking a roast or any other chunk of beef, chicken, or pork because it has a meat probe that slides right into whatever you are cooking to give you a core temperature. Tell it what temperature you want the inside of your meat to be and you’ll be able to come back to prime rib that melts in your mouth. Naturally it is a little bit larger at 6-quarts so even bigger chunks slide in with ease. If you prefer not to use the probe, you can use the programmable features or handle the whole thing manually. The one problem with this otherwise bulletproof meat master is how literally it takes the term “slow.” Even at the higher settings, it takes a long time to finish. [Purchase: $49]

Cuisinart Cook Central

Cuisinart Cook Central

Pro: Handles steaming and browning
Con: Controls are strange

All in One: Many of your cheaper options only handle the slowest, easiest parts of the cooking process. They require that you brown meats by hand, sauté vegetables in advance, and do all kinds of extra work. That doesn’t fit with your throw-caution-to-the-winds lifestyle. This helps you take care of all of that right on the unit itself. You can toss in your ingredients, turn on the browning function, and when it is complete, you switch it to slow cook and walk away. It also allows you to steam vegetables or tough cuts of venison to help ensure that they are tender and juicy. At 6 quarts it is big enough for you to handle a whole chicken, just make sure to do a little plucking first. It can also be set for individual portions. The non-stick aluminum pan is good for the multiple functions but doesn’t retain heat exceptionally well so don’t trust the warmer to keep your food at mouth-watering temperatures as well as stoneware or steel. Give yourself a little time to learn the alien controls. [Purchase: $120]

Ninja 3 in 1 Cooking System

Ninja 3 in 1 Cooking System

Pro: Can steam bake
Con: Needs some supervision to prevent overcooking

Unbeatable Variety: Ninjas are supposed to be masters of disguise, which normally means they can hide in a bush really well. Not so with this thing. It manages to emulate several different cooking appliances so effectively that it can replace almost any appliance except your blender. The triple-vector heating system and simple control scheme allow the machine to cook from all sides which ensures everything comes out evenly with no burns or raw spots to ruin your meal. You can use the steamer to roast away excess fat or even bake moist, cakes and brownies for anyone with a sweet tooth. If you need to brown or sear your meat to pull the flavors out and seal in the juices, this can do that as well. While it is easy to program with an intuitive system, you’ll sometimes want to keep an eye on your food towards the end of the cooking cycle since it can get a little aggressive and overcook your food. [Purchase: $130]

Crock-Pot WeMo

Crock-Pot WeMo

Pro: Wireless Cooking Capability
Con: Internet issues can ruin meals

Tech-Savvy: The new age of wireless devices isn’t limited to smart toasters and freezers. The brand spankin’ new item from Crock-Pot and Belkin wireless is a fully web-enabled smart slow cooker that can be controlled from any wireless device thanks to an app from Belkin. You can monitor your meals, receive updates when your food is finished, and change the heat settings all from a smartphone or other enabled device. While it is perfect for the on-the-go crock chef, there are a few issues that make the idea better than the execution. The WeMo can’t always tell the difference between a Wi-Fi outage and a power outage, which can cause problems with cooking times as well as the settings of the device. Like anything else connected to the internet, the ability to receive messages can muddle it. It is certainly cutting edge and can give you improved performance right from your phone, but any interruption with its connectivity could mean a virus in your meat as well as your network. It does work wonders on meat and potatoes and has numerous delightful features. Consider using it entirely offline and you’ll save yourself from most of the risks [Purchase: $130]

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