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Ask Summer: The Slow Cooker Question

Your Question: “I’d like to pick your brain about slow cookers.  I've been looking online at alternatives, clay, non-electric, stainless steel, etc.  I wondered if you use something like this and if so, what would you recommend?”


My Answer: This is a great question, and one that comes up often with my patients.  When you’re a busy person wanting to make nourishing food choices, a slow cooker can transform home cooking from an impossible dream to a daily reality.  While we don’t necessarily think of a hot meal as our first go-to in the summer months, using your slow cooker will certainly generate less additional heat in your home than turning on the stove or oven to prepare a cooked meal, making it a kitchen must-have all year round.  Below, I’ll discuss three recommended slow cookers, their pros and cons, and direct you to websites where you can purchase them yourself (Hint: Click the image and/or brand name to purchase online).  Of course all of the options I recommend are free from lead or other contaminants, which is one of the most common concerns of savvy shoppers.  


What are your favorite recipes to make in your slow cooker?  Let me know in the comments below.


Pros: Functions as a slow cooker, steamer, rice cooker and yogurt maker.  Programmable, including cooking timer up to 5 hours, delayed start and “Keep Warm” setting. Food cooks in an unglazed natural clay pot like those that have been in use in traditional cooking across the world for thousands of years, preserving flavor with no toxic coatings that can leach into food. Certified “lead-free” with zero lead detected in testing of the clay performed by independent laboratories.


Cons: Largest size available is only about 1 gallon. Some people report food sticking to the sides of the pot more often than with other slow cookers. Cooking pot is breakable. Higher price-point for size than other options.  


Bottom line: If you don’t need a big cooker, VitaClay provides the most traditional cooking option for your food, plus modern bells and whistles to make cooking easier. 


More links to purchase: 


Instant Pot

Pros: Comes with many pre-programed cooking functions, including slow cooker, rice cooker, steamer, warmer, and even a pressure cooker (a great method for speedy meal prep that preserves the nutrients in the food you cook!), with saute/browning and yogurt making settings available on higher-end models. Has cooking timer, delayed start and keep warm settings. There is even a model that can be controlled from your smart phone with a free app! Multiple sizes available up to two gallons. Food-grade stainless steel cooking pot is non-reactive and has no coating, so only the stainless steal will touch the food. Beloved by many Weston A. Price Foundation Chapter Leaders.

Cons: More expensive than other slow cookers.
Bottom line: If you can make the investment in one of these machines, you’ll get a state-of-the-art product that offers the most versatility of the three products I’m recommending. 
More links to purchase:  
  • Click HERE to visit the Instant Pot online store, where you have the option of purchasing a 5, 6 or 8 quart Insta Pot, including the 6 quart bluetooth enabled Insta Pot which you can program right from your smart phone with the Insta Pot app. 

Hamilton Beach

Pros: Lowest price point. Basic models (with high, low and off settings only) and programmable options available, including an option with a thermometer probe that can cook to desired temperature. Multiple size options up to 2 gallons (2 gallon sizes are not programmable).  

Cons: Cooking pot is made of earthenware coated with porcelain enamel, and while the company states that their products do not contain “measurable amounts” of lead as verified by testing and certification procedures approved by the FDA, we can’t be certain of the ingredients in the enamel, or that crocks are entirely non-leeching (though another blogger really dug into this question HERE, and her results were reassuring).
Bottom line: I know lots of folks who love these slow cookers, and Hamilton-Beach offers many affordable ways to begin your slow-cooking journey. However, I would encourage you to choose one of the other two options above if you are able. 
More links to purchase:
What will you put in your slow cooker?  Let me know in the comments below.


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