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Published October 02, 2011, 12:00 AM

Savvy Consumer: Best slow cookers for delicious dinners

As winter draws near, it’s time for you and your family to warm up with some delicious home cooking. But before you prepare that pot roast, take a tip from the Good Housekeeping Research Institute.

By: Good Housekeeping Reports, INFORUM

As winter draws near, it’s time for you and your family to warm up with some delicious home cooking. But before you prepare that pot roast, take a tip from the Good Housekeeping Research Institute: The secret to a hearty winter meal is a great slow cooker. A great slow cooker keeps food simmering without overcooking. GHRI tested on High to Low to find the ones that perform best. Bon appetit!

Best overall

All-Clad 6.5-Quart 1500632304 ($180)

Our top performer, the All-Clad, maintained the most even simmer on both high and low heat, turning out a perfectly cooked beef stew and a tender (not stringy) pot roast. A well-lit digital control panel allows you to program cooking times up to 26 hours.

Plus: It has the sleekest look of all tested. The insert and lid are designed to be used only in the cooker (not in the oven); both are dishwasher safe.

Versatile

West Bend 6-Qt. 84966 ($80)

This compact West Bend may be a godsend to anyone with a small kitchen. As a slow cooker, it simmers nicely on low heat, producing a moist roast. The dishwasher-safe nonstick pot can be used on the stove or in the oven, and the base doubles as a griddle and a warming tray.

Plus: It’s very lightweight (about seven pounds), making for easy storage, and has simple-to-use electronic controls and an up-to-12-hour cooking timer.

Small size

Cuisinart 3.5-Qt. PSC350 ($110)

For smaller meals, dips or fondues, consider this petite 3.5-quart Cuisinart. It made a great beef stew, and our roast emerged juicy (not dry) when cooked on low heat. In addition to High, Low and Warm, it also has a Simmer setting, which is useful for long cooking.

Plus: The insert is both dishwasher and oven safe. Its digital controls are simple to set for up to 24 hours. It’s lighter than most at 10 pounds.

Budget buy

Hamilton Beach 6-Qt. 33967 ($60)

A large-size model at a great price, this Hamilton Beach slow-cooks well, particularly on Low. Like the others, it has time cooking (up to 12 hours), and its included probe lets you cook a roast to a specific internal temp. Handy cord storage keeps the cord tucked away when not in use.

Plus: A latching lid makes it less likely to spill if you often take food to potlucks. The insert is safe to use in the oven, microwave, and dishwasher.

Splurge

Cuisinart 7-Qt. Multicooker MSC 800 ($200)

Although pricey, this Cuisinart is a major multitasker - a slow cooker, roaster, skillet and steamer in one. Slow-cooked stew was excellent, and a roast cooked on Low came out just right. Simple electronic controls are easy to set up for up to 24 hours on High, Low, Simmer and Warm.

Plus: The insert isn’t oven-safe, but it

doesn’t need to be: Additional settings include Roast, Saute/Brown and Steam, all of which are done right in the unit.

On another matter ...

Speed-Clean Your Mattress

How to rest easy by knowing that your bed is clean and allergen-free.

Ditch dust

Go over the mattress’ top and sides with your vacuum’s upholstery attachment, pressing down firmly to pull dust up. Pop on the crevice tool and quickly run it along the stitching and edge welting.

Zap stains and odors

Stained mattresses are unsightly and also may not smell great. Use an upholstery cleaner for spots, or try GHRI-tested Bissell Pet Stain and Odor Remover ($7; Bissell.com) if you’re cleaning up after accidents. Then mist with a disinfecting spray, like Lysol, to kill any odor-causing bacteria.

Recalls alert

The following products and vehicles were recalled by the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Unless otherwise indicated, discontinue use of the products immediately and return them to the store where purchased for a refund. For more information about the products, call the manufacturer or CPSC’s toll-free hotline, (800) 638-2772. Only some cars or trucks recalled are affected. Contact a dealer for your model to see if it is included in the recall. The dealer will tell you what to do.

- LED night lights. Available at various companies as a free promotional product, imprinted with the company’s name from December 2010 through March 2011.

These night lights may overheat, smolder or melt. Consumers should immediately stop using the night lights and discard them. Please contact Camsing Global at (877) 924-4624 or visit the company’s website: www.camsingglobal.com

- Volvo S80 2007. In some of these vehicles, manufactured between March 2006 and May 2007, a hose associated with the power steering may have been incorrectly routed, which can result in increased pressure in the power-steering system. The driver may experience a sudden loss of power steering, increasing the risk of a crash. Volvo dealers will inspect the routing of the power steering reservoir return hose and make repairs as necessary, free of charge. Owners may contact Volvo at (201) 768-7300.

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