I am looking at crockpots, feels sort of like the minivan purchase, I want something that does it all. Suggestions, pros and cons welcome.
This is what I would look for:
-automatic timer cooking function
-quick heat ramp up
-consistent heating (e.g. the stable consistent heating temperature through out the cooking period).
America's Test Kitchen has recent testing for slow cookers. They mentioned what they like on one of their recent podcasts (maybe in December?).
I have a Cuisinart multi-cooker that I absolutely love, love, love. It slow cooks, roasts, browns/sautes and steams. I got it mainly because I wanted to be able to do everything in one pot: sear/saute then dump (insert: didn’t want to clean up extra dishes). The slow cooker function alone lets you cook on low, high and simmer. Warming fuction keeps food warm for 3 hours after cooking (per owner's manual). Programmable timer. Also has a reversible roasting rack/steamer. So far I’ve only used it to roast a fairly large chicken – beautifully. And yes, it can go in the dishwasher. Best $200 I ever spent (from Williams-Sonoma, but shop around). I could go on but best to read about it here: http://www.williams-sonoma.com/products/3214152/?catalogId=14&sku=3214152&bnrid=3120901&cm_ven=Google_PLA&cm_cat=Electrics&cm_pla=Slow_Cookers_&_Pressure_Cookers&cm_ite=Cuisinart_Multicooker_%7C_Williams-Sonoma&srccode=cii_17588969&cpncode=26-306875668-2
Any crock pot liner that can go from stovetop to crock pot wins in my book because there's less dirty dishes in the end. I've been eyeing them for a while, but they're a bit of a splurge.
Why?? With your active family, I'd understand the minivan better. When I had kids and activities, I bought a rice cooker, but despite loving long and slow cooking, I never bought or missed a crockpot.