When it comes to convenience and simplicity in the kitchen, slow cookers have revolutionised meal preparation. While some inserts are stainless steel, many are nonstick, few are ceramic. The following is why I prefer ceramic over the metal insert option.
Nothing beats the convenience of coming home to a ready-made nutritious meal at the end of a busy day.
The automatic ‘set and forget’ types of slow cookers offer this.
An automatic keep-warm setting have meals maintained at the right temperature until you’re ready to eat and a slow cooker is not just about cooking stews. There’s a multitude of easy slow cooker recipes available on the web involving various cuts of meat and vegetables to keep family meals interesting.
Modern slow cookers come with inner bowls made of aluminum, stainless steel, or ceramic that sit above the heating element in the outer shell of the slow cooker. Metal nonstick pots are popular right now. Manufacturers market these as easy to clean. But…Which are best? Let’s look at each.
About aluminum nonstick inserts
I remember a friend serving food from her multi-cooker. On seeing the scratched pot, it really put me off these types. It looked so unappealing. And honestly, I knew she hadn’t had it all that long.
Most aluminum inserts are coated in Teflon and this deteriorates with each use.
With a family and kids helping with cooking and cleaning, it’s hard to keep up with following care instructions.
You can almost guarantee that you’ll be looking to replace it within a year or two of purchase, depending on the amount of use.
And, Teflon pans, used on very high heat, tend to emit nasty fumes (I share more details in my article on ceramic vs Teflon). But, the temperatures reached by a slow cooker are typically below concern levels.
The big advantage is easier clean up.
The downside: The wearing of the nonstick coating exposes an aluminum base with concerns around this cookware material.
About stainless steel pot option
An inner pot of stainless steel is more durable. The thing to note about stainless steel is that it contains chromium and nickel and a 2013 study found certain grades of stainless steel react with acidic foods, e.g, tomatoes, to leach nickel into the food.
This is primarily a concern for those with nickel sensitivities for whom nickel-free stainless steel cookware is a viable option.
Meanwhile, a 2017 study found food-grade 18/10 stainless steel is safe in that the amounts of nickel and chromium released “were below known allergy-triggering thresholds”. The 18/10 ratio refers to the amount of chromium and nickel, respectively. You can read more about this in my review of Made In stainless steel range.
Any metal surface is prone to scratches from the use of metal spoons or knives. Also, stainless steel can discolor, but if it does, there are some easy ways to restore the look.
Why a ceramic inner pot is good
By ceramic inserts in slow cookers, I’m refering to the typical 100% ceramic type, much like the original crock-pot. The glazing of the ceramic allows it to withstand scratching.
In this respect, ceramic is the most durable and long-lasting. Those sold in the US have lead-free glazes, required as part of the FDA approval, meaning there’s no added coating that might pose a risk to you or your family.
Ceramic does not react with acidic foods such as tomatoes and you can store the leftover food in the ceramic pot covered with the glass lid in the refrigerator without having to worry about the flavor being tainted by a metal container.
And, the glazed ceramic surface makes them not only easy to clean but also appealing for table serving.
Downsides: Ceramic pots are not as lightweight as the metal ones. Extreme thermal shock and accidentally dropping the insert can damage ceramic pots beyond use.
To make clean-up a breeze, plastic liners for slow cookers are also an option — see my article covering their pros and cons (and alternatives).
Why buy a slow cooker with a metal insert when you can buy one with a ceramic pot? Why choose a ceramic inner pot?
There’s no denying that having to replace kitchen appliances on a regular basis is expensive. Because the glazed ceramic pots have a durable surface, your investment in this type of slow cooker will last you for years to come.
You can take advantage of ceramic’s natural durability and resilience.
Make sure that you take the time to really look at all the options out there so you can be sure that you find a slow cooker that you’ll love to use whenever you can.
Choosing to go ceramic means you should get all the benefits and ease of any top-of-the-line cooking appliance without the range of drawbacks from nonstick metal alternatives.
As with any type of kitchen appliance or cookware you purchase, it’s important to know that the unit that slow cooks meals over an extended time is a good quality purchase and worth the outlay.
I’ve done some research on automatic units with ceramic inner pots and have put together examples for you to consider. Click through to check out these picks in programmable slow cookers.