Aug. 1, 2012 at 11:59 AM ET
When you think of summertime cooking tools, chances are a grill or a camp stove springs to mind before a slow cooker. Crock-Pots and the like are best known for wintery meals such as chili and stick-with-you stews. But what about lime cilantro chicken? Or pulled pork sandwiches? A WebMD nutrition expert shares summer slow cooker recipes and points to the convenience of using this small appliance for a party or barbecue. You can also save yourself from having to fire up the oven on a 100-degree day.
Below are Cheapism’s top picks for affordable slow cookers.
All these slow cookers have three heat settings: high, low, and “keep warm.” Users set the heat level on most budget models by turning a knob on the front. The programmable Crock-Pot SCCPVP700-S has buttons for setting not just the heat but also the time: four or six hours on high, eight or 10 hours on low. When the time is up, the Crock-Pot automatically reverts to warming mode. (Higher-end models offer far more flexibility when it comes to cooking time.)
The budget slow cookers on the list above feature removable, dishwasher-safe crocks for easy cleanup. The lids, too, are dishwasher-safe -- and they’re clear so you can see the food inside without taking off the top and letting heat escape.
Size is a deciding factor, of course. A 7-quart, oval-shaped slow cooker can hold a roast and serve a crowd, but it may prove too heavy to transport easily or take up too much space in a small apartment. Unless you regularly make enough food to fill a large pot at least halfway, it's best to opt for a smaller size.
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