Like being single itself, cooking for one person can be great or annoying. Let's not get into the joys and tribulations here because I already have before. Let's talk now about one obvious problem with the whole deal: no one will cook dinner for you when you don't feel like doing it yourself. Sure, you can turn to cheese, crackers, and crudités. But, especially in the fall and winter, you want something warm. Facts are facts: When you live alone, there's zero chance you'll arrive home to a warm dinner that's already been prepared for you.
Unless you have a slow cooker. Slow cookers, like some but not all romantic partners, will cook for you. But you need a specific slow cooker.
See, when you're looking to feed your family with ease, turning to a typical 6–8 quart slow cooker—which can make you enough warm chicken soup for dinner that night and a few lunches throughout the week—is a real lifesaver. But, when you're cooking for one person, making a soup in a slow cooker of that size means you'll need to overload your freezer or eat that soup for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day for the foreseeable future to get through it. You'll still be single, but you'll be in a monogamous relationship with Tuesday night's braised chicken. And that's why you need a mini slow cooker.
A 1 1/2-quart slow cooker has become an essential fall and winter dinner tool for me. While it doesn't make dinner for me per se, it gives the illusion of doing so since I throw all of the ingredients in the slow cooker before I leave for work and arrive home to some kind of soup or braise-y chicken deal. Enough time has passed and I've stared at screens long enough to forget I ever prepared the dinner in the first place. The magic machine did it!
And if you love cooking extra food for yourself, don't worry. So do I. Just not an insane amount. In a 1 1/2-quart slow cooker, you'll have enough food for 2–3 servings of soup or stew or braise (or whatever), which is perfect for meal prepping for one person. You won't have to eat the same thing forever, but you will get more than one meal out of your cooking session, which is handy for lunches throughout the week or dinners later on.
Here are some other bonuses of the mini slow cooker. It takes up very little space. Seriously, it's smaller than a mixing bowl! Stash it away super easily in a cabinet and pull the lightweight contraption out whenever you need it. It'll fit on even the smallest countertop when you're using it, too.
Normal slow cookers are inexpensive: the one that won our product test is just 50 bucks. But mini slow cookers are wildly inexpensive: the one I have from Crock Pot is just $14. I also tried the $22 one from Elite pictured above and it worked like a charm. Even if you're cooking for two people, it's a useful tool for small kitchens and people who want to make a slow-cooked meal or side dish without leftovers.
The other obvious problem that comes along with cooking for one—the fact that recipes are rarely designed for one person—isn't solved here. You'll have to halve or quarter typical slow cooker recipes to make them in this tiny machine. Basically, as a rule, you'll want to get them down to two or three servings. (If a recipe serves six, just divide each ingredient quantity in half. You get the idea.)
Listen, the days are getting shorter and the weather will (maybe) eventually get colder. Winter is coming and you need to batten down the hatches. At the risk of sounding melodramatic, as the dark days set in, a mini slow cooker is going to make you feel less alone in the world—or at least provide you with a warm meal after a long day of work.
Originally Appeared on Epicurious