This kitchen appliance is not one size fits all.
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Best Slow Cooker

My very first slow cooker was a 10-quart beast. I won it at a white elephant gift exchange at an office holiday party. After a very strong drink, I decided that slow cooker was mine. Nothing was going to stop me. I "stole" it from a co-worker, then my boss "stole" it away from me. After another drink, I took it back from her. No one dared get between me and the slow cooker after that bold move.

I lugged the enormous box home, up two flights of stairs, set it down in my matchbook-sized kitchen, and realized I had made a huge mistake. My husband and I couldn't eat 10 quarts of anything. I tried to put it away in a cabinet and I couldn't even shut the door. The next day, I left the slow cooker in my boss's office. We had a good laugh about it and after that, I basically swore off slow cooking.

Fast forward several years later. Now I have a toddler, a house with a normal-sized kitchen, and much less time on my hands to do things I enjoy—like cook. Re-enter the slow cooker. While I had my doubts that a bulky appliance would change my cooking life, I figured I should give it another try. So I did my research, and decided to scale down to a six-quart model from Hamilton Beach. Why buy a bus when you only need a sedan?

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I chose this model because of the overwhelmingly positive online reviews, but also because it has a countdown timer and automatically switches to "warm" when the cook time is over. Which is very useful when something is simmering away for a long period of time, like when you're away from the house, or better yet, sleeping. It also has a locking lid, which makes it easy to transport. Just in case I ever felt like bringing six quarts of soup to a party. You never know!

I unpacked the slow cooker, found a spot for it in my kitchen where it wouldn't get in the way, and promptly made some brisket chili. And then a batch of pulled pork ragu for pasta. And then some vegetable stock. And then some soup. Everything turned out deliciously, and was mind-bogglingly easy to prepare. It hardly felt like cooking. I didn't have to worry about fitting it in my cabinet because I couldn't put the thing away.

It turned out that a slow cooker was exactly what I needed, I just needed to get the timing—and the size—right.