Author Topic: What do I need a crock pot / slow cooker for?  (Read 8265 times)

kms

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What do I need a crock pot / slow cooker for?
« on: January 09, 2017, 04:12:31 PM »
I keep reading these threads where people are recommending crock pots (aka slow cookers) as perfect way to cook ones meals over the course of the week. I've looked into them but I don't see any real advantages yet, but maybe I'm not getting it (which is quite possible).

What's the benefit of a slow cooker versus using our stove & oven to cook? We already cook our meals every day in the evenings and rarely ever go out, would we benefit from a slow cooker in this situation? I'm sure somebody here can help me shed some light on this issue.

1967mama

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Re: What do I need a crock pot / slow cooker for?
« Reply #1 on: January 09, 2017, 04:20:50 PM »
For our family, a slow cooker enables me to have dinner ready if we've been out all day. Or if I have a busy day at home, I can have dinner going before we even eat lunch! I also like using it to slow cook dry beans and then I bag them up in meal sized portions. I currently hve a rice pudding going in one of my two crockpots using last nights large amount of leftover rice. The crockpot lets you fix it and forget it for hours!

Rufus.T.Firefly

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Re: What do I need a crock pot / slow cooker for?
« Reply #2 on: January 09, 2017, 04:21:12 PM »
Crock pots require even less attention while cooking. For example, I toss all of the ingredients into a crock pot and turn it on at 10pm. I wake up at 6:30 to lunches already pre-made for the entire week. They're very safe (in my opinion) to leave unattended for long hours making them a good option for stews and other similar dishes that need slow, low cooking.

I might be wrong, but I think they're also significantly more energy efficient than stove tops or conventional ovens.

renata ricotta

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Re: What do I need a crock pot / slow cooker for?
« Reply #3 on: January 09, 2017, 04:35:28 PM »
You don't NEED one, in the sense that every recipe for a slow cooker can be duplicated in a good stock pot/dutch oven on low for about half the recommended cooking time, but most people wouldn't chance leaving the house with the oven or the stove on.  If you'd like to leave the house and let something cook for 8-10 hours and have the food done when you return, you need a crock pot or slow cooker.  Sometimes I get it all set up the night before and stick it in the fridge, then put it on the counter and plug it in right before I leave for work.  Simple ones are like $20 (and it's such a simple technology I wouldn't sniff at picking an older model up for less than $5 at a thrift store), so it's not like it has to be a huge investment.

ETA: hands down the best and easiest way to cook dry beans - if you get a bulk bag for super cheap, you can cook up big batches and freeze them in individual portions.  https://www.budgetbytes.com/2010/12/how-to-kick-the-can-of-beans/
« Last Edit: January 09, 2017, 04:37:35 PM by bridget »

Jakejake

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Re: What do I need a crock pot / slow cooker for?
« Reply #4 on: January 09, 2017, 04:47:52 PM »
I might be wrong, but I think they're also significantly more energy efficient than stove tops or conventional ovens.
This depends on the type of stove you have and the time of year.

We have a gas stove. Either we run all the heat for our house from our gas furnace or we divert some to the burner - but either way we use X amount of gas to heat the house. The stove is essentially free to run in winter.

Heat generated by electricity on the other hand is far less efficient - and way more expensive.

So for us it's cheaper to soak beans overnight or do a quick soak if I forget and cook in or on the stove for an hour when I'm home.

JLee

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Re: What do I need a crock pot / slow cooker for?
« Reply #5 on: January 09, 2017, 04:57:03 PM »
My roommates bought an insta-pot on sale - combination slow cooker and pressure cooker. It's magical.

kpd905

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Re: What do I need a crock pot / slow cooker for?
« Reply #6 on: January 09, 2017, 05:20:04 PM »
Toss the ingredients in the slow cooker before work, it is ready to eat as soon as you get home.

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Re: What do I need a crock pot / slow cooker for?
« Reply #7 on: January 09, 2017, 05:24:38 PM »
One of the biggest advantages is that it is a bad habit disruptor.  You make e decision in the morning to turn on the crock pot, so you have a real meal ready when you get home which disrupts last minute decisions to pick up fast food because you are tired, had a stressful day, etc. 

kms

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Re: What do I need a crock pot / slow cooker for?
« Reply #8 on: January 09, 2017, 05:55:36 PM »
Understood, thank you. In that case a slow cooker wouldn't do anything for us. Thanks a lot for the input, I appreciate it.

Jakejake

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Re: What do I need a crock pot / slow cooker for?
« Reply #9 on: January 09, 2017, 06:13:20 PM »
I haven't used my crockpot since I got the instant pot a year ago. Meat just tastes so much better in the instant pot - whereas it gets weirdly dry in the crock pot. And I can brown ingredients in the instant pot, which makes even the veggies taste better before making a stew or soup.

(Really what I'm doing here is mumbling out loud, convincing myself I should craigslist my crockpot. Crockpots. I have three of them. WTF. I need to get rid of them all.)

Unionville

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Re: What do I need a crock pot / slow cooker for?
« Reply #10 on: January 09, 2017, 06:31:16 PM »
I'm with you.  The closest I come to using one is an old tin rice cooker I found on the street and I only use it when I can't watch soup or am afraid I will burn it. It has an auto shut off.  Otherwise, people have cooked for centuries with pots on stoves and everything worked out.

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Re: What do I need a crock pot / slow cooker for?
« Reply #11 on: January 09, 2017, 06:34:01 PM »
One more benefit of slow cookers/crock pots: they put so much less heat into the room/house. This is only relevant in the summer (hot times of year), but then  your AC doesn't have to fight all the heat being put out by a full size oven.

1967mama

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Re: What do I need a crock pot / slow cooker for?
« Reply #12 on: January 09, 2017, 07:48:25 PM »
I put my crockpot outside on the back porch in summer! Works like a charm.

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Re: What do I need a crock pot / slow cooker for?
« Reply #13 on: January 09, 2017, 08:14:33 PM »
i'm also not a fan of slow cookers. i gave mine (a gift) a good try, but remained frustrated that meals that were spectacular in my dutch oven came out kind of bland in the slow cooker. i turned to google and found this  explanation as to why: http://www.seriouseats.com/2016/10/why-pressure-cookers-are-better-than-slow-cookers.html

and then, with righteous vindication, i sold mine on craigslist. never missed it, the taste tradeoff was never worth minimal convenience gains for me. your calculus may differ!

Del Griffith

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Re: What do I need a crock pot / slow cooker for?
« Reply #14 on: January 09, 2017, 08:50:07 PM »
Also, they can be a great low maintenance method for tastefully cooking what would otherwise be a tough cut of meat. You could also use a dutch oven for this, but as mentioned, that would require having the stove on for several hours when you may not be available to be home monitoring.

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Re: What do I need a crock pot / slow cooker for?
« Reply #15 on: January 10, 2017, 05:51:12 AM »
I'm a morning person, and I prefer to do a lot of meal prep in the morning rather than at 5, especially if I have an otherwise busy day.

They are also great if you have a household of people with activities that mean that someone is ready to eat dinner at 4 and someone else doesn't get home until 7...

Rezdent

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Re: What do I need a crock pot / slow cooker for?
« Reply #16 on: January 10, 2017, 06:39:59 AM »
I think the usefulness depends on your go-to recipes and habits.

We eat beans daily, so our crock pot sees a lot of use.
I don't use it for much other than beans during the winter but as summer comes I start cranking it up.  Sometimes I will use it for two different dishes in one day in summer.

It uses very little energy, doesn't heat up the kitchen, and needs little attention.  That means I am not hovering over a hot stove or oven in the hot Texas summer. Win! :)

It's only useful if it's used.  If the majority of your meals aren't convertible for a crock pot, then it likely won't be useful to you.

Cwadda

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Re: What do I need a crock pot / slow cooker for?
« Reply #17 on: January 10, 2017, 07:16:20 AM »
Because you can put frozen raw meet into it, come back after 6-8 hours, and it's fully cooked.

So basically magic.

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Re: What do I need a crock pot / slow cooker for?
« Reply #18 on: January 10, 2017, 07:39:44 AM »
We rarely use our slow cooker anymore now that we have a pressure cooker (not an insta-pot; just a pressure cooker).

We used to use it a lot for pot roasts; but now we can easily make that after work in the pressure cooker and not leave something plugged in all day.

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Re: What do I need a crock pot / slow cooker for?
« Reply #19 on: January 10, 2017, 07:48:40 AM »
Because you can put frozen raw meet into it, come back after 6-8 hours, and it's fully cooked.

So basically magic.
I'm sure it's worked fine for you - but I feel like this shouldn't be out here on the forum as advice without acknowledging that for food safety it's not recommended to cook frozen meat in a crockpot because it holds too long then at a dangerous temperature for bad things to grow.

iris lily

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Re: What do I need a crock pot / slow cooker for?
« Reply #20 on: January 10, 2017, 07:52:27 AM »
i'm also not a fan of slow cookers. i gave mine (a gift) a good try, but remained frustrated that meals that were spectacular in my dutch oven came out kind of bland in the slow cooker. i turned to google and found this  explanation as to why: http://www.seriouseats.com/2016/10/why-pressure-cookers-are-better-than-slow-cookers.html

and then, with righteous vindication, i sold mine on craigslist. never missed it, the taste tradeoff was never worth minimal convenience gains for me. your calculus may differ!

This article is really good! Thanks, I have bookmarked it!

I iust got a Lodge cast iron Dutch oven at Goodwill, and I am retired, so I can make things in the oven for 4  hours at a time. I have never been a fan of my slow cooker but for

1) dried beans, beans and lentils soups
2) pulled pork from pork loins
3) carmelized onions


prognastat

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Re: What do I need a crock pot / slow cooker for?
« Reply #21 on: January 10, 2017, 08:25:01 AM »
As many have mentioned:

- You can throw all the ingredients in before going to work and have it be ready when you come home which saves time and also makes it very hard to justify eating out unexpectedly.
- You can make large batches of affordable healthy meals quite easily to either cover 1-2 people households for 2-4 meals or a whole family for 1-2 meals.
- You can assemble your meals before in ziplock bags and freeze them, move them to the fridge to thaw the day before and then the morning of put them in the crockpot before leaving for work and have it be ready by dinner time.
« Last Edit: January 10, 2017, 08:31:23 AM by prognastat »

Cwadda

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Re: What do I need a crock pot / slow cooker for?
« Reply #22 on: January 10, 2017, 08:29:13 AM »
Because you can put frozen raw meet into it, come back after 6-8 hours, and it's fully cooked.

So basically magic.
I'm sure it's worked fine for you - but I feel like this shouldn't be out here on the forum as advice without acknowledging that for food safety it's not recommended to cook frozen meat in a crockpot because it holds too long then at a dangerous temperature for bad things to grow.

Yes, good call. I've never had any problems. Just like I've never had problems eating raw eggs from the brownie batter, things of that nature.

Informational USDA link on slow cooker food safety:
https://www.fsis.usda.gov/shared/PDF/Slow_Cookers_and_Food_Safety.pdf

BlueHouse

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Re: What do I need a crock pot / slow cooker for?
« Reply #23 on: January 10, 2017, 08:41:02 AM »
What's the benefit of a slow cooker versus using our stove & oven to cook? We already cook our meals every day in the evenings and rarely ever go out, would we benefit from a slow cooker in this situation? I'm sure somebody here can help me shed some light on this issue.

Probably no benefit for you.  I am not disciplined, and I detest cooking.  So if I can get myself to cook one big batch of something once per week, then I have lunches/dinners for a few nights and that means I stay home and eat vs. picking up take-out or going out.  If I cooked every night and if it were part of my routine, then I wouldn't have a slow cooker either. 

Slow cookers do kind of limit you in what you can cook without jumping through hoops.  Some of it is quite tasty and some of can be healthy, but the overwhelming majority of easy recipes are some kind of stew/slop -- throw meat in, then throw some kind of liquid in, let it stew for a long time and then you'll have an edible meal. 

I love my slow cooker because the alternative for me is eating unhealthy or expensively (at a restaurant).   

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Re: What do I need a crock pot / slow cooker for?
« Reply #24 on: January 10, 2017, 09:16:22 AM »
I'm glad you asked this question, because I didn't really get it either, but I didn't want to rain on everyone's parade. (My Vitamix parade has been rained on, and it wasn't fun! To each his own kitchen appliance!)

I love to cook, and I actually really, really enjoy sitting down to plan the next week's meals. My work schedule is such that I'm either out of town (and eating the meals I've already cooked, frozen, and taken with me) or home all day, so I have plenty of time to be around while a pot of beans cooks. So I think this is why I never saw the usefulness of a crockpot/slow cooker/Instant Pot. I can see why someone who works 9-5 daily and has 7 kids would have a whole different perspective, though!

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Re: What do I need a crock pot / slow cooker for?
« Reply #25 on: January 10, 2017, 09:21:37 AM »
I haven't used my crockpot since I got the instant pot a year ago. Meat just tastes so much better in the instant pot - whereas it gets weirdly dry in the crock pot. And I can brown ingredients in the instant pot, which makes even the veggies taste better before making a stew or soup.

(Really what I'm doing here is mumbling out loud, convincing myself I should craigslist my crockpot. Crockpots. I have three of them. WTF. I need to get rid of them all.)

I gave my crockpot to one of my neighbors.  I ADORE my Instant Pot.

prognastat

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Re: What do I need a crock pot / slow cooker for?
« Reply #26 on: January 10, 2017, 09:36:18 AM »
I'm glad you asked this question, because I didn't really get it either, but I didn't want to rain on everyone's parade. (My Vitamix parade has been rained on, and it wasn't fun! To each his own kitchen appliance!)

I love to cook, and I actually really, really enjoy sitting down to plan the next week's meals. My work schedule is such that I'm either out of town (and eating the meals I've already cooked, frozen, and taken with me) or home all day, so I have plenty of time to be around while a pot of beans cooks. So I think this is why I never saw the usefulness of a crockpot/slow cooker/Instant Pot. I can see why someone who works 9-5 daily and has 7 kids would have a whole different perspective, though!

Pretty much, in our household there are no kids, but we wake up at 7 AM and start getting ready to go to work and generally are not back home from work until around 7 PM. At which point spending a lot of time cooking is the last thing either of us want to have to do.

We have tried actually cooking meals with this scheduling, however this just turned in to getting takeout/drive through and eating out a lot.

joonifloofeefloo

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Re: What do I need a crock pot / slow cooker for?
« Reply #27 on: January 10, 2017, 09:56:21 AM »
I too am appreciating this conversation, as I have quietly had the same question...

I cook almost daily, from scratch, in a pot. It takes me 20-30 minutes to make a complete, fancy, tasty meal. But, I believe people when they say their additional appliance (slow cooker, InstantPot, etc) rocks!

I found (!) a beautiful, brand new slow cooker a few weeks ago, so started playing with it. I was mortified to find I couldn't saute/carmelize my onions in my first six-minute step for most meals. So, back to the pot for that potluck dish. There, folks told me it's hours in the crockpot to get the same effect. Oy.

My next go was "perpetual bone broth." The first few days it felt fun to come home on crazy cold days to nice hot broth. But my plan was to eat it down over a week, then start a new batch, so I stopped adding water to it. Day 5 I had a thick, bitter product.

I'll probably try a few more experiments, but I agree it's all about individual systems/lifestyles/preferences, and for me, a 20-minute cook in one pot when I get home seems to be optimal.

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Re: What do I need a crock pot / slow cooker for?
« Reply #28 on: January 10, 2017, 10:08:41 AM »
You might consider getting a pressure cooker instead of a slow cooker.  I have both and likely will never use my crockpot again.  I adore the pressure cooker.  I eat much healthier with it because I can cook beans easily and much faster in it.  I also can more easily make soups from turkey or chicken carcasses.  Super easy to make beets, collard greens, yams, and so much more.  I made a phenomenal elk stroganoff in it the other day too.  Ribs are amazing and easy to cook in pressure cooker.  Save time and go with a pressure cooker....Instant pot seems to be the favorite brand around here, and I agree.  I love cooking and the instant pot is so easy and fun to make amazing meals. 

JLee

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Re: What do I need a crock pot / slow cooker for?
« Reply #29 on: January 10, 2017, 06:43:18 PM »
I too am appreciating this conversation, as I have quietly had the same question...

I cook almost daily, from scratch, in a pot. It takes me 20-30 minutes to make a complete, fancy, tasty meal. But, I believe people when they say their additional appliance (slow cooker, InstantPot, etc) rocks!

I found (!) a beautiful, brand new slow cooker a few weeks ago, so started playing with it. I was mortified to find I couldn't saute/carmelize my onions in my first six-minute step for most meals. So, back to the pot for that potluck dish. There, folks told me it's hours in the crockpot to get the same effect. Oy.

My next go was "perpetual bone broth." The first few days it felt fun to come home on crazy cold days to nice hot broth. But my plan was to eat it down over a week, then start a new batch, so I stopped adding water to it. Day 5 I had a thick, bitter product.

I'll probably try a few more experiments, but I agree it's all about individual systems/lifestyles/preferences, and for me, a 20-minute cook in one pot when I get home seems to be optimal.

You left it cooking for five days...?

Dicey

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Re: What do I need a crock pot / slow cooker for?
« Reply #30 on: January 10, 2017, 06:53:30 PM »
You're right, you don't need a crock-pot. What you "need" is an Instant Pot!!

Browning + pressure cooking + slow cooking + more in one beautifully sleek appliance. That's what I'm talking about!

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Re: What do I need a crock pot / slow cooker for?
« Reply #31 on: January 10, 2017, 07:19:21 PM »
I love my crock pot! Only just recently started using it and thought it wasn't all that necessary. Now using it, I really like it. For me, it makes things much easier. It does the cooking, no fuss. Just dump stuff in, set and go. Also good for making larger batches of meals. When done you can portion it out for meals to freeze. Usually I just make enough for my husband and I but occasionally I'll make extra to freeze if I know we will have a busy week ahead.

You can of course make anything that's labeled crock pot recipe other ways but, for my experience (as someone who use to be against the idea) it's much easier to use a crock pot.

BlueHouse

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Re: What do I need a crock pot / slow cooker for?
« Reply #32 on: January 10, 2017, 08:26:33 PM »
Did you guys know you can make baked ziti in the crockpot WITHOUT BOILING THE PASTA IN WATER????  I made it and it's good (a little on the dry side, so definitely have extra sauce on the side).   

Honestly, anything I can make in one pot is good for me.

Mother Fussbudget

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Re: What do I need a crock pot / slow cooker for?
« Reply #33 on: January 10, 2017, 08:35:12 PM »
Rice cooker (got mine for $30 from CostCo) is a rice cooker, steamer, and slow-cooker ('crock-pot') in one.  I used mine at least twice a week until I got a countertop pressure cooker.  Now I only use it once a week, and the pressure cooker twice a week.

Did you know movie reviewer Roger Ebert wrote a book on cooking in a rice cooker?  (The Pot, and How To Use It)

Telecaster

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Re: What do I need a crock pot / slow cooker for?
« Reply #34 on: January 10, 2017, 09:36:09 PM »
i'm also not a fan of slow cookers. i gave mine (a gift) a good try, but remained frustrated that meals that were spectacular in my dutch oven came out kind of bland in the slow cooker. i turned to google and found this  explanation as to why: http://www.seriouseats.com/2016/10/why-pressure-cookers-are-better-than-slow-cookers.html

and then, with righteous vindication, i sold mine on craigslist. never missed it, the taste tradeoff was never worth minimal convenience gains for me. your calculus may differ!

That was a very good article!  The slow cooker is fine for "fire and forget" recipes and for keeping food warm at parties.   But I found the same thing as the author of the article, a slow braise in the oven is usually better than the slow cooker for whatever reason. 

My wife and I just did a side by side comparison of chicken stock on the stove and in the pressure cooker.   Both of them tasted different, and the pressure cooker stock was not as clear, but we both agreed we could not tell which one was better.   


joonifloofeefloo

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Re: What do I need a crock pot / slow cooker for?
« Reply #35 on: January 10, 2017, 11:15:15 PM »
You left it cooking for five days...?

Yep. Some people do that: one source, one week, adding water as they go. Alas, this round of my particular experiment, not following the rules, was a no-go.

1967mama

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Re: What do I need a crock pot / slow cooker for?
« Reply #36 on: January 11, 2017, 12:02:50 AM »
I use both crockpots and an InstantPot (acquired in the big Amazon sale day in the fall).
I use them for different purposes. So far, bone broth is wayyyyy better in the instant pot and about 8 hours faster too! I also have many tried and true crockpot recipes that have become staples in our family.

misshathaway

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Re: What do I need a crock pot / slow cooker for?
« Reply #37 on: January 11, 2017, 07:01:53 AM »
I keep reading these threads where people are recommending crock pots (aka slow cookers) as perfect way to cook ones meals over the course of the week. I've looked into them but I don't see any real advantages yet, but maybe I'm not getting it (which is quite possible).

What's the benefit of a slow cooker versus using our stove & oven to cook? We already cook our meals every day in the evenings and rarely ever go out, would we benefit from a slow cooker in this situation? I'm sure somebody here can help me shed some light on this issue.

The Mustachian benefit is that you can buy cheaper cuts of meat and make them delicious by cooking low and slow. I love picnic half  / pork shoulder cooked in the crockpot.

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Re: What do I need a crock pot / slow cooker for?
« Reply #38 on: January 18, 2017, 04:52:50 PM »
I just find out  that one can use a liner for slower cooker - no more scrubbing  of the inner pot !  Hallelujah!

Bed, Bath & Beyond sells them at $5/package (8 liners),  if you use the BBB's $5 off for $15 coupon, you pay little over $10 for 24 liners.  The liner is for slower cooker up to 6.5 Qt.  its design  suits the newer version of cooker - in oblong shape.  But it works for  the older oil drum shape, as well.