A small electric appliance that slowly cooks food with a low, moist heat. This piece of cookware allows food to be prepared at a consistent low temperature and is designed to cook for a period of six to twelve hours. Several features of value to consider when purchasing a slow cooker are volume to be cooked and the shape best suited for the types of foods to be prepared. Slow cookers are typically best for cooking amounts of food that use 3/4's of the space in the cookers, which are available in sizes that hold one quart of contents up to six quarts. If cooking for only one or two people, then the smaller size is best suited for the foods anticipated. If the meals being prepared most often will be serving four or more people, then the models that hold close to 6 quarts of volume are better suited for the purpose. The two shapes that are made for slow cookers are either round or oval. Whole roasts and larger poultry fit better into the oval shape while smaller foods can be best suited for the round shaped cookers. As slow cookers change in design and features, additional options that should also be considered include programmable settings and removable cooking pots. Many slow cookers allow for the temperature, time, and other instructions to be pre-programmed into the cooker so it starts at a designated time and cooks as programmed. Although not included on all models, if programmable features are available, they assist to simply the cooking process. Removable pots also make cooking easier, allowing the food to be served from a pot that can be lifted easily from the heating element and controls.
Since slow cookers can cook at a low temperature, they do not provide a significant amount of heat in the kitchen area, as may occur with oven cooking. Although it is best to thaw food prior to placing it in a cooker, if the foods are frozen when placed in the cooker, allow additional cooking time for the thawing required. The term "crock pot" is often used when referring to a slow cooker, but "Crock-Pot" is actually the brand name for the Rival® brand of their slow cooker.