Why Slow Cooker? And Top 5 Slow Cookers for Paleo Dieters (Buying Guide)

A slow cooker is a useful kitchen tool especially if you're on a diet. It simplifies the cooking process, allowing you to enjoy sumptuous meals without slaving away in the kitchen. Here are some of the best slow cookers we recommend for Paleo dieters.

Overview

Going on Paleo requires adjusting your eating habits to improve health, maintain a normal weight and avoid processed foods. One such adjustment includes being selective in terms of the food you eat. Since processed foods are a no-no, it's best to make your own meals using wholesome, organic ingredients at home.

A busy lifestyle shouldn't keep you from enjoying delicious, nutritious meals made from scratch that's why a slow cooker or a crockpot is a great investment if you're watching what you eat. A crockpot is a multipurpose cooking tool that allows you to slow cook meals on autopilot. It simplifies food preparation and cooking, making Paleo dieting less intimidating for beginners.

The Benefits of a Slow Cooker

Saves Time

Cooking takes time but if you don't have the time nor the skills to cook healthy dishes then a slow cooker just might be the thing you need to stick to your diet. Unlike ordinary pot or pan, you can leave a slow cooker on all day, even when you are not at home. Just pop all the ingredients you need in the slow cooker, set the timer and let the crockpot do all the cooking for you. By the end of the day, you can look forward to a hot, nutrients-filled meal, it's that's easy.

Save Money

You might not know it, but having a slow cooker will save you money in more ways than one. Ordering out is an expensive – not to mention fattening – habit. Preparing your own meals is more affordable and you get to control the quality and amount of ingredients you put in as you cook.

With a slow cooker, you can also turn cheaper cuts of meat into sumptuous meals with minimal effort. Traditionally, cheaper cuts of meats take longer to cook and you have to pile on the spices to give it flavor. Not with a slow cooker.

You can also make a large batch of your favorite Paleo dish and store the leftovers for later. This way, you and your loved ones have diet-friendly meals just waiting to be reheated any time.

Diet-Friendly Meals

Because you make your own meals using the kind of ingredients you like, using a slow cooker allows you to enjoy delicious and nutrient-rich meals. Because you're buying your own ingredients, you'll learn which items to avoid and understand the importance of being selective of the kind of food you get from the supermarket.

In addition, you don't have to worry about nutrient loss from overcooking because a crockpot cooks food at the lowest temperature. The nutrients from vegetables and meats will not oxidize at all. What's more, you don't have to use unhealthy oils to cook your food using a slow cooker.

Versatility

Slow cookers are one of the most versatile cooking tools there is. Apart from making Paleo-friendly casseroles and soups, you can use a slow cooker to bake bread, make chilis, stews, pulled pork/beef and so much more. Most Paleo cookbooks feature recipes you can do in a slow cooker, giving you plenty of room for experimentation in the kitchen!

Factors to Consider When Buying a Slow Cooker

Performance

Slow cookers work the same way but as far as performance goes, some are better than others. The fact is, there's no standard temperature setting on slow cookers and older models offer lower settings. The temperature setting affects the overall performance of the slow cooker.

In the US, slow cookers are required to reach higher temperatures quickly to kill foodborne bacteria. Newer slow cookers have a temperature setting that range between 165 to 212 degrees Fahrenheit. Most slow cookers have 2 temperature setting – high and low.

Apart from the temperature setting, the seal on the lids can also affect the performance of a specific crockpot. When you cook a dish for hours at a time, you'd expect a certain level of evaporation. Slow cookers with ill-fitting lids cause rapid moisture loss, which may ruin a dish. To get the right slow cooker for you, it's important to know the moisture loss benchmarks. The average rate of moisture loss from mid-range crockpots is 17%. Moisture loss using crockpots can go as high as 43% or as low as 5%.

Features

Heating Method

Different crockpots offer different methods of heating. Generally, slow cookers feature a base fitted with a heating element but there are some that come with heating elements that go all the way to the sides, allowing for even cooking. Other slow cookers have a heating element fitted on the top of the heating unit, which does not distribute heat as evenly. Slow cookers with heating element set on the top of the unit require frequent stirring so the ingredients won't burn.

Warming Function

Most slow cookers have both high and low cooking temperature but not all crockpots come with a warming function. Unlike low setting, warm keeps the dish hot at an even lower temperature. Once the timer goes off, the warming function switches on automatically. This feature is useful if you left the crockpot to slow cook your meal. It's also perfect for special events when you have people over and you want the food to remain warm but not overcooked.

Lid

Some crockpots feature a see-through lid made from tempered glass, others come with thick, metal lids. As far as choosing what type of lids to get for the crockpot, this is a matter of personal preference. If you'd like to see what's going on inside without opening the crockpot, go for the see-through lid.

But if you're not the type to sit in the kitchen waiting for food to cook, an opaque lid is a great choice too. The most important thing to consider when it comes to crock pot lids is the fit. The lid must fit the crockpot snugly to prevent moisture loss during cooking.

Controls

Generally, slow cookers come with digital or manual controls. Whatever type of crockpot you get, just make sure the controls are user-friendly. Slow cookers are simple kitchen appliance and they shouldn't make cooking a complicated affair.

Timer

Some slow cookers feature a digital timer, others come with pre-set cooking times. A built-in timer is a fantastic feature and I highly recommend getting a slow cooker with one. This way, you don't have to rush home every time you slow cook your meals to turn the crockpot off manually.

Construction

Crockpots are often made from porcelain, ceramic, and metal. All these materials conduct heat efficiently so choosing the crock construction is also a matter of personal preference. My advice is to get a slow cooker with removable crock so clean up is easier. The fact is, slow cookers with a built-in heating unit is harder to clean and are not dishwasher-safe.

Size and Shape

Slow cookers come in different sizes and shape. Your needs and preference will dictate the right shape of crockpot for you. If you're cooking for a large family or you love slow cooking large pieces of meat, go for high capacity crockpots with an oval shape. If you're cooking for one because you live alone or you prefer slow cooking small batches of stews or soup, a small to average sized crockpot is your best bet.

Finally, if you love hosting parties and you want to impress guests with your culinary prowess, go ahead and get the largest crockpot you could find. One thing to keep in mind though, most Paleo slow cooker recipes are meant for average sized slow cookers, which is 6-quarts. If your slow cooker is smaller than average, just adjust the ingredients.

Warranty

For a risk-free purchase, choose a crockpot that comes with at least a year of parts and/or service warranty. If you're unsure if a certain product comes with a parts and labor warranty, contact the customer service first if you're buying online. You don't want any nasty surprises when your newly-bought crockpot breaks down.

Top 5 Slow Cookers

Proctor-Silex Slow Cooker

4-quart

PROS

  • One of the most affordable crockpots on the market
  • Dependable performance
  • Sturdy construction and excellent design
  • Temperature runs low so food won't burn

CONS

  • Smaller than average crockpots
  • The lid does not sit flush on the crock

The Proctor-Silex Slow Cooker is a 4-quart crockpot that comes with a removable dishwasher-friendly stoneware for easy cleaning. It also features a keep warm setting, which busy Paleo dieters will appreciate, I know I do! I love how the crockpot's temperature runs low so there's no fear of the food burning while cooking. The size is modest but the overall construction is sturdy.

The Proctor-Silex slow cooker is one of the most affordable crockpots I've reviewed and the impressive performance belies the price tag. It doesn't leak and it heats at the right temperature. The internal crock glaze is nice, it doesn't peel and sticky bits of food washes away with ease.

My only gripe is that the lid tends to not sit flush at the rim of the crock so moisture loss is an issue. If you're on the hunt for a high capacity slow cooker, the Proctor-Silex slow cooker might not be the best choice because it's smaller than average crockpots. I'd say this slow cooker is an excellent starter crockpot for those who are new to Paleo or solo dieters who rarely ever cook large batches of dishes.

Crock-Pot Cook' N Carry Manual Portable Slow Cooker

6-quart

PROS

  • High capacity slow cooker
  • Affordable
  • Secure lid for spill-free cooking
  • Lid-mounted locking system prevents moisture loss
  • Excellent construction

CONS

  • Plastic components
  • Issues with lid shattering
  • Runs too hot

You can't think of crock pots without this brand springing to mind. Crock-Pot's cook n' carry slow cooker is a 6-quart oval crockpot that features a high, low, and warm setting. It boasts of a lid-mounted locking system that prevents spills and leaks. The secured lid also reduces moisture loss so your food stays juicy and tender, not dry and tasteless.

The size is perfect for small families or for solo dieters who want to make a large batch of soup or stews at a time. I love using this crockpot for stews and sauces and I never had any issue with food drying out or overcooking. The keep warm setting kicks in with impressive accuracy. With the keep warm setting, you'll always come home to a warm meal. The brushed stainless steel body makes the crockpot look more expensive than it really is.

That said, some components are made of plastic, which could be troublesome if you're planning to use this crockpot for a long time. The plastic material could melt at some point. The lid is prone to shattering but thankfully; I did not encounter this issue. It does run too hot so it's best to adjust the temperature accordingly otherwise, you might burn your food.

Focus Electrics West Bend Slow Cooker

5-quart

PROS

  • Oblong crockpot with adjustable manual controls
  • Versatile heating base, can be used on stovetop and in the oven for browning or searing
  • Freezer safe and dishwasher safe components
  • Dependable performance, sturdy construction

CONS

  • Heating base is prone to peeling
  • Actual capacity is smaller
  • No keep warm setting
  • Glass lid isn't as tight fitting

The West Bend slow cooker by Focus Electrics is a 5-quart, oblong crockpot that comes with adjustable manual controls. The size of this crockpot is perfect for whipping up great meals for sharing, however; it doesn't really hold 5 quarts of food, only about 4.3 quarts so that's something to keep in mind when considering this product. The features and settings are basic. You can choose between high, low and off.

The West Bend is quite a unique crockpot. It features a removable heating base that doubles as a griddle that can be used in the oven or range top. The removable heating base features a non-stick coating and is dishwasher and freezer safe. The overall construction of the slow cooker itself is dependable and sturdy, it can take a beating.

The West Bend slow cooker comes with a small tote too so if you love the outdoors, you can bring this crockpot with you while traveling. The heating base is no doubt versatile but it is prone to peeling so clean it with care. Also, the lid isn't as tight fitting. That said, Focus Electrics is throwing in a 1-year limited warranty so if you do get a lemon, Focus Electrics has your back.

Hamilton Beach Set 'n Forget Programmable Slow Cooker

6-quart

PROS

  • 3 automatic cooking setting for utmost flexibility
  • Sturdy construction, dependable performance
  • Feature-packed crockpot for convenient slow cooking
  • Secure lid keeps spills and leaks at bay

CONS

  • Tempered glass lid may be prone to cracking
  • Plastic components

The Set n' Forget slow cooker is a 6-quart crockpot that features 3 automatic cooking setting - probe, program, and manual. The Probe setting is recommended for cooking meats while the program is best for chili, stews, and soups. You can use the thermometer probe to check if the meat is done or monitor the temperature via the digital timer. If you chose the program setting, the crockpot automatically shifts to warm setting as soon as it's done cooking. On the other hand, use the manual setting if you'd like to keep an eye on the dish as you cook.

The Set n' Forget slow cooker also comes with intuitive components for efficient, convenient cooking including a clip on spoon, clip-tight gasket lid and power interrupt protection. The stoneware is dishwasher safe for easy cleaning while the tempered glass lid effectively seals your food in so you'll always come up with delicious meals, any time of the day. With this slow cooker, you can whip up Paleo-friendly soups, one pot meals as well as desserts.

Needless to say, this is one feature-rich slow cooker so if flexibility is a priority, this is a great crockpot to try. That said, the plastic components are prone to peeling so they must be cleaned with care. The tempered glass lid is sturdy but it's prone to cracking.

Cuisinart Cook Central Multi-Cooker

6-quart

PROS

  • Multiple cooking setting
  • Digital, easy to use controls
  • Quality construction, dependable performance
  • Dishwasher-friendly components
  • Tempered glass lid and cool-touch handles offers fuss-free cooking

CONS

  • Expensive
  • Teflon coating prone to scratching and peeling

Rounding up our list of the best slow cookers for Paleo dieters is the Cuisinart Central multi-cooker. This is a 6-quart crockpot that does more than just slow cook your meals. You can use it to steam your veggies and seafood to perfection as well as sauté or brown your meats.

The removable nonstick cooking pot is made from quality aluminum covered with Teflon for easy cleaning. The cooking pot can double as a skillet to brown meats on a stovetop or as a baking dish for the oven. It also comes with a steaming rack.

The Central multi-cooker features an extra-large backlit LCD display so you can always keep track of the cooking temp at a glance. The temperature settings are user-friendly and precise, making cooking a straightforward affair. The glass lid and cool-touch handles give you a clear view of the dish you're cooking and comfortable handling, respectively. All removable parts are dishwasher friendly so clean up is easy.

While the removable cooking pot is no doubt versatile, the Teflon coating is easily scratched and I imagine, it'll be prone to bubbling and peeling after some time.

Conclusion

Regardless if you'd like to lose weight or you just want to enjoy healthy meals from organic ingredients, using a crockpot allows you to indulge on your favorite comfort foods without the unwanted calories! Of all the slow cookers I've reviewed, the Hamilton Beach Set 'n Forget Programmable Slow Cooker is my top pick.

The features allow for easy cooking and the price is perfect too. Sure, the plastic components feel flimsy but for the price, the Set 'n Forget crockpot offers more value for your money. I hope that this in-depth guide helped you find the right slow cooker that suits your needs and lifestyle.

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