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Slow Cooker Quality & Recommendations


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I'd like to buy a slow cooker. There doesn't seem to be any recent threads on the subject, and numerous reviews I've read complain about the quality of many of the current cookers on the market.

I don't need anything fancy, nor do I need a large capacity - however, what I do want is quality, a cooker that works properly and that will last. I used to have a Rival Crock Pot (ex-wife took it in the divorce) that worked well. It was simple to use, easy to clean, and convenient.

So, what slow cooker today has those attributes? Reviews on the current Crock Pot are mixed. I'm getting tired of buying mediocre, made-in-China, junk. Unfortunately, high prices don't seem to equate to quality. I want good quality and durability. What's out there? Thanks!

...Shel

 ... Shel


 

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the Test Kichen liked one that was about $ 200,

http://www.americastestkitchen.com/equipment-reviews/detail.php?docid=10677

http://www.bedbathandbeyond.com/product.asp?SKU=14581588

it looked a lot like the All Clad.

take your 20 % off coupon and get somethiing at bed and bath. I cant see more than 75 for these things. that may not be a lot of help. get then all clad then.

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I have the All Clad with the "stovetop to cooker insert" that you can sear in -- that's a nice option, but I would definitely say that its not really a must have -- I must say however, that the insert is pretty cheap and like 1980s Teflon, has started to chip and scratch in a couple of places -- but that hasn't had a negative effect (and this is not due to metal scraping against it).

I would say that another option I would prefer if I was to buy another one would be more temperature control -- not just high, low and warm.

Overall, I would say that the All Clad works, but the insert is slightly cheap, and for the price compared to other slow cookers, is grossly overpriced. I do not have the one from the BB&B site -- I received the one I have from WS (as a gift mind you). Here is the link:

http://www.williams-sonoma.com/products/all-clad-deluxe-slow-cooker-with-aluminum-insert/

I appears that this one is slightly bigger. A whole extra 1/2 quart for $100!

If not for the insert, this would probably be pretty close to worth it.

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I was watching an ATK episode yesterday with all slow cooker recipes. I don't know the vintage of the show (though it did have Lisa McManus, who I believe is a more recent addition to their cast of characters), but they recommended the Crockpot 6.5 qt with the touch screen controls. At the time it was apparently about $130 if I recall correctly; I looked it up last night and it can be had for about $80 from some retailers on-line.

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We have a Rival which we really like. It's a very simple one with no time or other fancy features, but it does have 3 interchangeable pots 2, 4 and 6qts which we find very handy.

I've learned that artificial intelligence is no match for natural stupidity.

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What's the material of the insert? I couldn't determine that from the Amazon site. Thanks! ...Shel

I have this one http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B001E5CWVU/ref=wms_ohs_product?ie=UTF8&psc=1.

It's a smaller size and has four heat settings.

According to Cuisinart, it's "an oval ceramic cooking pot." IOW, the same glazed pottery as traditional Rival crock-pots.

The thing to remember about slow cookers is that none of them (AFAICT) have an effective thermostatic control. The upshot of which is that they all end up cooking at a boil eventually. The only way I've found to beat this problem is to use a PID to control the cooker. And, for that, you need to use an analog rather than digital unit. Don't know whether you have a PID controller (e.g., an Auber or Sous Vide Magic) but, if not, you're likely to be frustrated no matter how much (or little) you spend. Conversely, if you don't care about boiling, a cheap unit will work as well as an expensive one.

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The thing to remember about slow cookers is that none of them (AFAICT) have an effective thermostatic control. The upshot of which is that they all end up cooking at a boil eventually. The only way I've found to beat this problem is to use a PID to control the cooker. And, for that, you need to use an analog rather than digital unit. Don't know whether you have a PID controller (e.g., an Auber or Sous Vide Magic) but, if not, you're likely to be frustrated no matter how much (or little) you spend. Conversely, if you don't care about boiling, a cheap unit will work as well as an expensive one.

Well that explains a lot. A bought two Remington crockpots a few years ago and returned the first one because even on low it would take the contents to a boil. The replacement did the same. I now have a better one but it eventually gets to a boil too. I believed the whole idea of a slow cooker was to keep the food under a boil. I thought I was just unlucky with slow cookers. Mystery solved! :smile:

Edited by Ozcook (log)
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The thing to remember about slow cookers is that none of them (AFAICT) have an effective thermostatic control. The upshot of which is that they all end up cooking at a boil eventually. The only way I've found to beat this problem is to use a PID to control the cooker. And, for that, you need to use an analog rather than digital unit. Don't know whether you have a PID controller (e.g., an Auber or Sous Vide Magic) but, if not, you're likely to be frustrated no matter how much (or little) you spend. Conversely, if you don't care about boiling, a cheap unit will work as well as an expensive one.

I don't know what a PID is. I used to have a Rival Crock Pot, maybe 20 years ago, and there was never an issue with boiling, regardless of what temp setting was used or the length of cooking time. I believe that quality control for many contemporary items just plain sucks. ...Shel

 ... Shel


 

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Not my experience. And I did a lot of work with crock-pots over the period fifteen to twenty years ago. Had pretty much every size and shape they made at the time (all with analog controls), a dozen in all, a few of which were duplicates. (I used them as buffet servers for parties, as well as cooking with them.) Worked up slow cooker variations for pretty much every recipe in my then-repertoire where they fit (that ended up being more than 150 recipes),

There was a pretty consistent trade-off of convenience vs. quality, which I eventually realized was because the crock-pots always ended up at a low boil. (Not to be confused with a rolling boil, like one can get on a stove-top.) Venting the lid slightly helped with this problem, but didn't eliminate it altogether. I've since solved the problem by using a PID controller (although, in fact, I rarely use a slow cooker as such anymore, preferring sous vide, a pressure cooker or, crazy talk, a conventional simmer), but apparently this solution doesn't appeal to you. Your choice. Good luck in your search.

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I have a Cuisinart that boils even when set on low. I rarely use it.

A few months ago I got a Tiger combination rice cooker, warmer, steamer and SLOW COOKER that unlike all the others is MADE IN JAPAN and it works great. (JAH-T18U) capacity is 10 cups so it has a smaller capacity than most slow cookers but is fine for me - It makes more than enough for two or three generous portions that can easily be stretched to four.

The controls are easy and it cooks on LOW. I got it for $189.00 on an Amazon "gold box special" as I had it in my shopping cart.

Regular price is 199.00

I have an induction rice cooker but I cracked the liner in my favorite slow cooker and thought I would give this combination unit a try since I don't want to purchase anything made in China.

I've cooked beans in it and they came out perfect. Used it for a batch of very thick, meaty spare ribs, also excellent. I also used it for a batch of dulce de leche and it took a bit less time than my old slow cooker.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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I've since solved the problem by using a PID controller (although, in fact, I rarely use a slow cooker as such anymore, preferring sous vide...

Yes. It boggles the mind that one can't set an exact temperature with any slow cooker on the market. PID controls should be an option with stoves, slow cookers, you name it. Another industry where we're waiting on a generation of executives to retire.

I've never bought the argument that an expensive juicer pays for itself, though it may for some people. But better control simmering a stew? How many meat stews have to have their quality at stake to pay off any difference in slow cooker costs?

PID controllers work great with hot plates, your pot. The Achilles' heel of sous vide cooking in plastic is the lack of feedback. A restaurant has recipes dialed in, but all-over-the-map home cooks needs to taste what we're doing as we go. Luckily, PID controllers are just as good at controlling "bain marie" setups. I like putting a ceramic bean pot in a PID controlled water bath, for very slow beans or for any stew.

Of course, besides cost there's space and component complexity. Thus, my original point: Why don't slow cooker executives see a market for PID control?

Per la strada incontro un passero che disse "Fratello cane, perche sei cosi triste?"

Ripose il cane: "Ho fame e non ho nulla da mangiare."

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Why don't rice maker companies make a couple of modifications, change the label and call it a sous vide unit? Probably for the same reason that it took 40 years of toaster ovens before Breville had the wit to make one that really works well.

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I don't know what a PID is. I used to have a Rival Crock Pot, maybe 20 years ago, and there was never an issue with boiling, regardless of what temp setting was used or the length of cooking time. I believe that quality control for many contemporary items just plain sucks. ...Shel

A PID is a "proportional-integral-derivative" controller and around here is most often discussed in conversations about temperature control for sous vide cooking. Not my expertise either! I think the point being made here is that the technology could be integrated in slow cookers to get the kind of temperature control that would make them much more precise and useful.


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Yar. for about < 20 bucks the fuzzy logic rice cookers could add a SV temp select mode along with all the other things this fantastic machine does.

a 10 cup model would work fine for a few items SV.

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A PID is a "proportional-integral-derivative" controller

Yep, my first PID controller went on my ceramic cooker (http://komodokamado.com), made by BBQ Guru (http://thebbqguru.com/). They're all the rage at BBQ cookoffs; people really want to abandon their smokers to automatic control so they can go schmooze.

These PID controllers adjust the proportion of time a fan is blowing air into the fire, over six second intervals. Suppose you want a 220 F barbecue pit. If you blow all of the time when the pit drops to 200 F, none of the time when the pit rises to 240 F, and a proportionate fraction of the time for temperatures in between (e.g. half the time at 220 F) then the fire will stabilize at some temperature in between. Unfortunately, this might not be the midpoint, 220 F. To a topologist (a kind of mathematician) this is the same kind of problem as two hikers starting towards each other from opposite ends of the same trail. They're surely meet, but probably not in the middle.

The PID algorithm is a famous engineering solution to this puzzle, where the device adjusts the rules of the game until the stable point is 220 F (or whatever one desires). These work with many different applications, such as walk-in freezers. "Learning" different control problems (e.g. different rice cookers with a Sous Vide Magic (http://freshmealssolutions.com/)) can lead to overshoots and the geeks among us actually adjust algorithm parameters by hand.

The bottom line is I can set my charcoal fire with a twist of a dial, like an old-school oven. This is way cool. I'm making Provencal daube this week, which required a long slow cook long before the advent of sous vide, and a Spanish clay pot in my ceramic cooker will be my "slow cooker".

Per la strada incontro un passero che disse "Fratello cane, perche sei cosi triste?"

Ripose il cane: "Ho fame e non ho nulla da mangiare."

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andie, that looks like a really cool unit. Not sure I'm going to get one, as I've already solved this problem by other means and have rather limited space. But it's definitely going on the "recommend" list for friends looking for a small slow cooker. And, really, it's plenty large enough for lots of dishes, especially those like Beef Bourguignonne and Roghan Josh which are basically just meat in a sauce. Indeed, those sorts of dishes are about half my slow cooker repertoire.

And, yeah, Syzgies, "boggles the mind" nicely captures my annoyance that no one has brought a temp-controlled slow cooker to market (besides the unit Andie mentions, which isn't quite the same thing). It would be darn easy to do.

By the way, in case anyone wants to try my solution, here's what I do. As mentioned, this only works with an old-fashioned analog slow cooker. I hook this up to an Auber PID controller, but the Sous Vide Magic (linked above) is similar. Rather than the settings recommended in the manual (or those generated by auto-train), I use P = 40 and I & D = 0. (The manual explains how to do this.) Those settings were suggested by someone in the original sous vide thread (at a time when I was a lurker rather than a poster) and I find they work very well. What happens is that, when the controller senses the target temp is being approached, it dials back the flow of electricity. (This is why only an analog cooker will work; a digital one would have fits if that happened.) In effect, the controller becomes a thermostat and prevents the cooker from exceeding the target temp. Problem solved.

Edited by pbear (log)
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I loved my All-Clad aluminum insert model, but then the insert coating started to fail. The second one was ok, but the cooking quit in the middle once, ruining dinner. Decided I couldn't trust it. Since it is a WS product, I took it back exchanged for the Cuisinart multi-cooker, also a WS exclusive. So far it has worked fine, but it does eventually get to a slow boil on low. WS also has a Breville unit that looks nice, but has no timer.

Until I got the All-Clad, I really liked this one: http://westbend.com/cooking/slow-cookers/5-qt-oblong-slow-cooker.html

Basic, but I liked the variable temperature dial and that the insert was light and easy to clean. Only 5 quarts but looks like they have a bigger oval one now too. Downside is you can't brown or sauté in the insert (which I use often on the above).

Mark

My eG Food Blog

www.markiscooking.com

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Umm, to clarify, although the West Bend slow cooker has an adjustable heat control, it's not a thermostat. I never tried using it as a slow cooker for that reason, together with the fact that it's completely uninsulated. On the other hand, the cooking vessel makes a fantastic bain marie insert for a Sous Vide Supreme, which is why I bought it in the first place. (Gave away the base.) Which, incidentally, is another solution to this problem and, in fact, the one I use most often. (Various inserts, not just the WB). Be sure to elevate the insert somehow, so heat will flow around it.

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I have a Westbend Slow Cooker like what mgaretz linked to. I just used it this past weekend to cook my St. Paddy's Day corned beef. I've had the slow cooker for almost 30 years.

The insert/pot can be used on the stove to brown meat. I believe it's aluminum with a non-stick coating inside.

It has a general knob for heat settings so there's no precise temperature settings. With my slow cooker, the high setting will bring contents to a boil but the low setting on mine does not boil.

 

“Peter: Oh my god, Brian, there's a message in my Alphabits. It says, 'Oooooo.'

Brian: Peter, those are Cheerios.”

– From Fox TV’s “Family Guy”

 

Tim Oliver

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I don't use mine very often, but I'm happy with the All-Clad with aluminum insert. My non stick is still as new. I mostly use it for beans, have not seared much in the pot, though it's a nice option to have. I did never notice any "boiling" at either low or high setting, high might make a slow simmer. Tolerances are probably not very tight with these units, maybe I was just lucky.

Should use it much more often, but since it's usually in the closet it's out of sight, out of mind...

"And don't forget music - music in the kitchen is an essential ingredient!"

- Thomas Keller

Diablo Kitchen, my food blog

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On the other hand, the cooking vessel makes a fantastic bain marie insert for a Sous Vide Supreme, which is why I bought it in the first place. (Gave away the base.) Which, incidentally, is another solution to this problem and, in fact, the one I use most often. (Various inserts, not just the WB). Be sure to elevate the insert somehow, so heat will flow around it.

I use every size of steam table insert that will fit.

"water cooling" computer fanatics are petrified of mixing metals, because of cross-metal corrosion. Sous Vide Supreme seemed blithely ignorant of this issue, when I complained that their aluminum "elevate the insert somehow" rack had corroded. You'd think they'd offer a stainless option. I use a Sous Vide Supreme in one kitchen, but I do feel that they're in it for the money.

Per la strada incontro un passero che disse "Fratello cane, perche sei cosi triste?"

Ripose il cane: "Ho fame e non ho nulla da mangiare."

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