I Tried It, I Loved It: The Lunch-Sized Crock Pot Has Changed My Meal Prep Forever
Prepping a meal for both dinner and the next day's lunch sounds smart, but it isn't always easy as it seems. Some foods are okay in a microwave, but it doesn't always cook foods evenly or well, leaving that second version of the meal a lot sadder than it should be.
But what if I told you there's a way to securely transport and cook everything from soups and stews to grains and even roasted proteins and veggies—and you can skip a microwave altogether? Meet the Crock Pot Lunch Crock, a miniature model of everyone's favorite slow-cooker.
The Crock Pot Lunch Crock is perfect for stews and soups in the winter, saucy pasta recipes in the spring, hearty sauteéd vegetable medleys in the summer, and even reheating all the sheet-pan dinners you'll make this fall.
There are two models: the "deluxe" version, the product I tested, rings in at 34.99. And there's a slightly smaller model that can carry around 20 ounces of food and liquids that retails on Amazon for just $21.99.
This Crock Pot is a far cry from other slow cookers—in fact, it's truly not a slow cooker at all. It's designed to simply warm up your meal, soups and other leftovers alike, without you having to leave your desk. And unlike other Crock Pots, this gadget is adept at keeping all of the food securely in one place—there's no way that stew will seep out into your tote or backpack with this thing.
But the reason that this mini Crock Pot has stolen my heart is that it makes portion control so very easy—the interior container, which comes detached from the Crock Pot warmer itself, can only hold 24 ounces of liquid or a similar amount of solid food. It's the perfect size for a filling lunch and it also helps you make big-batch dinners—like this braised pot roast—last much longer over the week.
The interior chamber of the Crock Pot is equipped with an air-tight lid to keep everything inside—simply fill it up, place it into the mini Crock Pot, close both lids, and plug the gadget in. There are not a lot of settings or options to consider here: Just plug it in when you get to work, and flip the power switch off when you're ready to eat.
Crock Pot sent me their latest model to test over a week's time—I purposefully made a few different dishes in advance of the test to see how the meal would fare. The first thing you should know about this tool is that it's not as instantaneous as a microwave. You'll need to turn on your Crock Pot at least 20 minutes before mealtime in order to have your lunch hot and ready.
To start, I put a whole bowl's worth of this superfast chicken soup (which comes together with leftover rotisserie chicken and pre-cooked tortellini) in the 24-ounce container and put it inside my shoulder bag before heading to work. Not only did the soup not leak into my bag, but I was pleased to discover that my lunch was steaming hot in just 30 minutes.
But the real test came when I brought in a batch of cold double-sesame noodles, loaded with green peppers, peas, and onions, to warm in the Crock Pot towards the end of the week. Would delicate udon noodles become stuck to the pot if I left it sitting too long? And what about veggies, would they burn or become inedible?
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To avoid any chance of getting leftovers too warm, I put just a splash of water—about a teaspoon—into the container before heating the food. And voila! I purposefully left the noodles for a whole hour in the pot—they were perfectly hot and I was able to eat my lunch straight from the container, without issue. Nothing was dried out, and it was much tastier than it would have been had I tried to blast it in the microwave for more than a few minutes.
Don't get me wrong. There's nothing wrong with takeout containers, especially reusable models designed to get food from one point to the next. But the beauty of the Crock Pot Mini, beyond its ability to reheat your food to make it taste like new again, is that it makes meal prep feel exciting and so much more than just a chore—more than I can say for a boring black plastic container.