The slow cooker is predicated upon using heat at lower temperatures and extended cooking times to make food taste great. You’ve likely heard them called Crock-Pots after the brand that has become well-known for making the most popular models in the business. But there are a variety of brands such as Hamilton Beach, Frigidaire, and Proctor-Silex, among others, that offer dependable and reliable versions of the same type of product. The appeal of these cookers is simple, they’re extremely easy to use because you don’t really have to do much more than select the cooking temperature and stir or check your food from time to time. The cooker does the rest for you, producing amazing results with everything from chili to short ribs to pork shoulder and anything else you slow roast over an extended period of time.

With so many different brands out there and each one offering various features and materials in the manufacture of their particular products, it might prove just a bit confusing as to which one is the best. Luckily, there are websites such as http://www.slowcookersheaven.com to help you out. This site has it all, reviews of the best models, explanations of what they do, there’s even a buying guide to break down the essentials for slow cooker ownership and use. Once you find the one you like, there are links to buy the products at online retailers with the best prices.

But before you head on over there, you might want to familiarize yourself with the simple basics of slow cookers. There are plenty of variations, enough to make things just a bit confusing to the uninitiated. So here are some of the fundamentals when it comes to choosing the right slow cooker for your culinary needs.

Size

Consider how much cooking you plan to do with the slow cooker and for how many. If you’re single and live alone, intending primarily to make meals for yourself, then you really don’t need a cooker with much more than a 2-4 quart capacity. Anything bigger is going to be a waste of space. Families or couples might want to get something that holds 5-6 quarts and if you really plan on making lots of food at any given time, there are 7 quart units out there.

Materials

A slow cooker is usually composed of two major parts, the heating coil shell and the pot insert where the food is placed for cooking. The insert is where you need to focus your attention as these are most commonly made of stainless steel or ceramic. Each one has its own advantages and disadvantages, but one tends to handle certain foods better than the other. With stainless steel you can use it to brown meats, while ceramic reacts to heat more evenly which is good for stews and chili.

Lid Type

Most slow cookers come with a clear lid and that’s a helpful thing to have when you want to check your food but don’t want to let out the heat. That can result in your food not being cooked evenly which is bad. Therefore, make sure your slow cooker has a transparent lid and you can look in on your food without having to disturb it.

Special Features

Most slow cookers are pretty comparable in their capabilities, but there are always products that offer a few extra bells and whistles. Digital versions that can self monitor their temperature and cook time, feature LED displays and setting presets, along with other fancy gadgetry are available and certainly very helpful in making your food taste great. But not every consumer is going to need these extras and you’re definitely going to spend a little extra to own them. These aren’t necessities but they sure are useful luxuries that can make slow cooking even more fun and enjoyable.

Now that you have some of general information about slow cookers, go do some more research and find the cooker that fits your needs and your budget. These are wonderful appliances that can make even the worst cook look like Wolfgang Puck. Don’t be intimidated by their capabilities either, it all starts with you and your culinary imagination. The cooker just does the work for you while you relax or tend to other more pressing matters around the house. Good luck and happy cooking!