Comments: Personal preference matters. It's one thing whether you routinely cook for a crowd and need a 7-quart slow cooker or just for a few and need a small one. But it's the bells and whistles – programmable timers, various cooking modes, stay-warm settings, etc. – that matter to some people and not at all to others. If you're delving into the world of slow cookers for the first time, however, you might as well opt for the bells and whistles (if you can afford them), and use them or not as you get comfortable with it.
This oval-shaped programmable slow cooker from Cuisinart is one of the smaller models, with a 3-1/2-quart ceramic pot, which makes it ideal for one or two people, or for managing some leftovers. You can get the same features in a Cuisinart model that is essentially twice this size for a larger group.
The slow cooker, quite elegant in brushed stainless steel, has a touchpad control panel. It has a 24-hour timer, so you can cook beans and other foods that cook almost endlessly. There are four cooking modes – high (212°F (100°C)), low (200°F (93°C)), simmer (185°F (85°C)), and warm (165°F (74°C)). The slow cooker automatically switches to warm once the cooking time has run out to prevent overcooking, and will stay on that setting for as long as 8 hours.
This model features a glass lid, allowing you to keep an eye on the cooking process, nonslip rubber feet, and stay-cool side handles so you can move it. The ceramic cooking pot and glass lid can go in the dishwasher for quick cleanup. An instruction manual includes dozens of recipes.
If the current crop of slow cooker cookbooks is any indication, slow cookers are enjoying not a renaissance, but an outright boom. Apparently you should have several at your disposal. but perhaps this one – or its larger brother – would be a fine place to start.