You want to know something great about slow cooking? It’s awesome for practically everyone! If you live in a tiny house, it’s great because you don’t even need a stove! If you live in a big house you have plenty of counter space to set up an army of slow cookers if you like. Likewise, if you have a small budget, you can still get a great slow cooker that will cook a perfect dinner. If you have a bigger budget, you can get one with more features and possibly one that multi-tasks. There are even some slow cookers you can control with your smart phone!
So, whether you are new to slow cooking or looking to up your game, I thought it would be fun today to talk about the essential items needed to create a “slow cooker kitchen”. Everything from the basics all the way up to to fanciest gadgets with all the bells and whistles, there are set-ups that will fit for just about everyone. You don’t have to invest a lot to have a great set up and I often use one of my most basic slow cookers that was less than $20 for many of my recipes. That being said, some of the feature-rich slow cookers are pretty nice too, and I use my multi-cooker pretty much on a daily basis. What items do you need for your slow cooker kitchen? Let’s take a look!!
- The first thing to consider is how many people you will be feeding. For one or two people you will want a 2-3 quart slow cooker, for 3-4 people you will want a 4-5 quart slow cooker, and for 5 or more you will end up in the 6-8 quart range.
- The second thing to think about is whether or not you will be home while your food is cooking. If not, you will want to get a slow cooker that is programmable and will switch to warm at the end of your set cooking time. This will save you much frustration over burnt meals not to mention stress if you are running late. Like I said, there are even options now that will let you control the slow cooker via your phone!
- Finally, what kind of features do you want? Basic slow cooking? The ability to brown and slow cook in the same pan? Something that steams or cooks rice or grills too? Do you want a device that can do it all or do you like to have dedicated devices for each of these functions?
That being said, I will tell you about the slow cookers I use and why I love them!
1. Cuisinart 4-quart multi-cooker – This actually comes in a 6 and 7 quart model as well. The reason I chose the 4-quart was that I typically cook for 4 people and this is the perfect size. I chose this particular slow cooker, however, because of it’s features. I love that I can brown my meats or sauté some veggies without having to dirty up an extra pan. When I bought it I wondered how much I would really use this feature, but I can tell you I use it all the time and I love it. I also love that the “crock” is actually a non-stick material and it’s SUPER easy to clean. For these reasons, this slow cooker is used almost daily at my house. Have a larger family to feed? Chose the 6 or 7 quart model. Only have a couple people to feed? Eat half the meal and freeze the other half. I’m going to talk about freezing food in detail later this week.
2. Slow Cooker 3.5 quart Casserole Slow Cooker – this is great for so many things. Obviously, casseroles, but also things like meat or dessert. Check out my post here with many of the things I’ve made using this slow cooker. And again, if you are going to be away from home, this also comes in a programmable version.
3. Hamilton Beach 5 quart Manual Slow Cooker – This slow cooker was very inexpensive, yet it does an amazing job of cooking the food! It cooks evenly and consistently and is the perfect size for a large roast or a batch of chili. I use this one a lot on days when I’m going to be home since it is manual, but it does have a keep warm setting which is especially handy for letting those soups just simmer while you have company.
4. Cuisinart 3.5 quart Programmable Slow Cooker – this is a great option if you need a smaller programmable slow cooker. I used mine for years and it never let me down! I was super sad when I lost it in a slow cooker crock vs. granite composite sink battle and almost replaced it, but ultimately decided to go with a multi-cooker at that time.
5. Rival 2 quart slow cooker – this is so perfect for dips or when I’m just making up a couple of chicken breasts to shred up. Also great if you are just cooking for one or two people, you can cut many recipes in half and make them in here, which I do from time to time when I just want to test things out.
- A great set of tongs – this is probably my most used kitchen utensil. Use it to flip meat, to stir veggies, basically everything!
- A great (and sharp!) basic knife set! It doesn’t have to be fancy, just take good care of them and sharpen often. Here are the knives I use the most.
- A few easy to clean cutting boards. You need more than one so that you can chop meat separate from veggies, etc. I love this set because they don’t slide around on my granite counters and you can just pop them in the dishwasher.
- I personally prefer to shred my cheese from a block instead of using bagged shredded cheese and this is what I always recommend to everyone. The cheese in the bags is coated so that it doesn’t stick, and doesn’t tend to melt as nicely. Good news though… it’s easy with a basic box grater to shred your own cheese quickly. I’ve had this exact one for many years and it’s still going strong!
- I use kitchen shears many times throughout the day. They cut meat, they cut herbs, they help you open packages (your aren’t supposed to use them for this!). Mine have taken beating to say the least.
- My must have when meal prepping? These stands to hold my plastic bags. No more food dumped on the counter as these are pretty sturdy and get the job done.
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