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Report: Best slow cookers for your money

February 3, 2009 7:22:29 AM PST
With a slow cooker, you can save by making more meals at home. You put your ingredients in a pot, and hours later, your meal is done. Consumer Specialist Ric Romero teamed up with Consumer Reports and tested more than a dozen slow cookers to bring you the best for your money.Nancy Markhoff is in love ? with her slow cooker that is.

"It's an easy kitchen appliance to use. It's one pot, you throw everything in, and that's all you have to clean, and it's dinner," Markhoff said.

Consumer Reports tested 15 slow cookers that hold six to seven quarts. Testers prepared various recipes, including beef stew, pulled pork and apple brown betty for dessert. They evaluated how long it took to reach the correct cooking temperature, and how good the food tasted.

"They all produced food that was tasty and had a nice texture. The real differences were in how convenient they were to use," said Celia Kuperzmid-Lehman from Consumer Reports.

Cookers with electronic controls automatically switch to warm when cooking is done, which is a nice feature, but with four of the cookers, you had to switch the button to warm yourself.

"Also think about the finishes. Stainless steel looks nice and shiny when you first buy it, but it's going to be a little harder to keep clean," Kuperzmid-Lehman said.

Oven-safe pots that can be put in the oven for quick reheating are a plus, and a locking lid helps keep food from spilling, which can be handy if you're going to a potluck dinner. The Hamilton Beach Set'N Forget has both features, as well as electronic controls, and costs just $70.

"If you want to save a little money and are willing to lose some features like the locking lid, the Rival Crock-Pot at $50 is a good choice," Kuperzmid-Lehman said.

Another handy feature to look for in a slow cooker is an attached, hinged lid so that you don't have to set the lid down on the counter when you mix or serve food.