April 20

A Guide to Crockpot Sizes: How Big is Too Big?

Written by: Jane Sofia

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Many chefs love slow cooking. The flavors better mix and mesh together. The nutrients aren't disintegrated by heat and slow-cooked food keeps amazingly well.

The crock-pot is an essential of any modern kitchen. You just prepare everything and let it sit for hours, no work required.

However, do you know how big do you need it? This depends on what you're cooking, and for how many people.

Differently sized slow cookers are used for different things.

(Everyone seems to measure the size of these things in "quarts." If you're like me, you have no good visual on that, so here's the conversion: 1 quart = 1.1 litres. Basically, a "quart" is a litre.)

Some Background - The "Crock Pot"

slow-cooker

A "crock pot" is actually just a slow cooker.

The name "Crockpot" is a trademark and refers to a slow cooker produced by The Rival Company. The word "crock" just refers to a large pot used to store food.


And slow cooking?

Slow cookers have a brief history. They've only been around since the sixties, originating after World War II, as women moved from their traditional roles as housewives cooking at home all day, into working full-time jobs just like their husbands. These women needed a way to prepare food in the morning and have it cook while they worked.

The slow cooking trend has caught on lately. People are starting to realize that it's far healthier than traditional cooking, which destroys nutrients. In many ways, slow cooking is superior to cooking in a traditional oven.

If you don't have a slow cooker, you should definitely look into getting one. It's superior to other ovens in many ways.


"Crock Pot" vs. "Slow Cooker"

slow-cook-stew

There's no difference. A "Crockpot" is a slow cooker.

As mentioned before, "Crockpot" is just a brand name that's become generalized in everyday American English, much like Kleenex or Band-aid. These are called "proprietary eponyms," and here are a few that you might not have realized came from branded products.

"Styrofoam" is another, and we have a whole article about microwaving that stuff.


Extra Components to Consider

There are a lot of things that can complement your slow cooker. You probably don't need every accessory, but here are some of the most useful:


Slow cooker travel bag

Check out these on Amazon.

Why not take your slow cooker on trips, and have delicious homemade food preparing while you're seeing the sights?

Most of these are designed for cookers in the 3-7 quart range.


Lid lock

Check out these on Amazon

This could work great with the travel bag mentioned above. Don't want to have your slow cooker spilling all over your car.

It's adjustable to fit slow cookers with a capacity from 3-8 quarts.


Slow cooker liners

Check out these on Amazon.

Don't dread taking your meal out of the pot because of all the cleanup it entails. With these, there's no steel wool needed.

They are, however, not the most environmentally friendly of things.


Roasting rack

Check out these on Amazon.

Easily turn your slow cooker into a roaster with this nifty contraption.

The downside? A slow cooker is generally pretty small. For 10+ quarts, you need a roaster oven to really get the job done.


Most Commonly Bought Crockpot Sizes

slow-cooking

The most common slow cooker size is six quarts, or even seven. This serves several people and is great for families, but even if it's only you, there will be plenty of easily reheatable leftovers (there's actually a scientific reason why leftovers taste so good).

Most slow cooker recipes that you find are geared to pots of this size, which makes things easy. Otherwise, you may need to adapt them.


Multiple crock pots?

The second-most-common size is the "casserole" size, which is 3.5-4 quarts, or about 4 litres.

Many families have two slow cookers: a full-sized (6-7 quart, 7 litre) and a half-sized "casserole" pot.


Crockpot Size Comparisons

stew

The size of slow cooker you select depends on how many people you want to serve, and how averse to the concept of leftovers you happen to be.

If you have room in your fridge, you should definitely make leftovers. Slow-cooked leftovers can be reheated right in the slow cooker, tend to preserve very well, and, as mentioned, leftovers actually taste better than fresh-cooked food.


1-2 Quarts (1-2 Litres)

bowls-of-dips

Example

Serves: one, unless used to make condiments.

Best Dishes: Condiments, dips, jams and jellies and things like "apple butter."

These are very small. They're good for making and holding things that complement food, but not for cooking main dishes. Or you can use this tiny appliance as a homemade yoghurt maker, with cow milk or vegan alternatives.

Smaller slow cookers tend to be more deep than wide, as opposed to the larger models that you're probably more used to seeing.

Read up on how small these actually are.


3.5 Quarts (4 Litres)

dinner-for-two

Example

Serves: two (unless you're a really hearty eater)

Best Dishes: casseroles, but also anything from a breakfast hash to potatoes.

These are called "casserole style" crock pots, but of course they're good for more than that. Here and here are some recipes you can cook in them.


5-6 Quarts (6-7 Litres)

ham-and-pineapple

Example

Serves: a family of 4-6, depending on the appetites of the children, or a couple who really likes their leftovers

Best Dishes: With this size, you're getting big enough to cook meat. But that's not the only thing. There's a lot for which a 5-quart slow cooker is useful, and a 6-quart cooker can be used to make anything from soups to spaghetti to tacos.

This is the most common size crock pot or slow cooker, and a lot of recipes that you'll find online are made to go in one of these. It's good to have, even if you use the casserole-style pot more frequently. A 5-6 quart crock pot is really an essential in any modern family's kitchen.

Even if you're just a couple, or if you live alone, it's good to have. You can use it to serve friends when they visit.


7-8 Quart (8-9 Litres)

dinner-party

Example

Serves: 8+ people. These are great for entertaining.

Best Dishes: If you have a slow cooker this big, you can cook just about anything as a main dish. However, unless you want a lot of dip, you should probably have a smaller size to make condiments.

Be the hostess with the mostess, or the host with the most. These larger-sized slow cookers are great for entertaining. The best thing is that they'll keep food warm as your guests help themselves, so you don't have to interrupt your party for a sit-down dinner. Guests can help themselves to food that stays warm but isn't overdone.


Bigger than 8 Quarts (10+ Litres)

plates-of-food

There are slow cookers that come in sizes up to ten quarts (11 litres), or even larger... but let's be realistic. Unless you're feeding an army, you won't need to make that much soup or casserole. If you're buying something like this, it's probably to roast meat of some sort.

In which case, you're better off with a roaster oven. We have separate (updated) articles on the best roaster ovens and the best countertop ovens – for when slow cooking (and mostly meat-cooking) needs exceed normal crock pot sizes.


Slow cooker or roaster?

vegetables

Yes, you can slow-cook in a roaster oven. Yes, you can cook a roast in a crock pot. So what's the difference?

If you're trying to slow-cook in a massive 22-quart oven, you won't have the best results. And you won't be able to easily cook reasonably-sized portions of soups or casseroles.

If you're trying to roast meat in a crock pot, you'll find that you have to do it over many iterations, in small portions.

It's better to use these appliances for what they're designed for. Get both a roaster oven and a slow cooker if you'd like to try both kinds of recipes.


Conclusion

Maybe a slow cooker can't do everything (you'd probably be best with a roaster oven to brown a bird) but a slow cooker can do a lot, and it's versatile.

And if you thought, like me, that large slow cookers are mainly just good for meat, that's not the case. Check out these great plant-based slow cooker recipes.

Just make sure you get the size right, because if you only fill it to 1/10 capacity, it's not going to cook right. Determine what you want to make, and how many people you want to serve with it.

And be prepared, if you sometimes have guests and sometimes just cook for yourself, to either buy a second smaller slow cooker, or make a lot of leftovers!

Jane Sofia


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About the author

Jane Sofia Struthers is a self-taught vegan chef who’s always terrorizing kitchens of one continent or another. When she’s not culturing her own soy milk yogurts in the oven, she’s either cooking plant-based goodies for her Couch-surfing hosts or on the lookout for more delectable, animal-free goodies.

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