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Are Crockpots Lame?

Santa has offered to bring me a crock pot, but I have to admit I've had an (unfounded perhaps) aversion to them. I haven't eaten much crockpot food in my life, but I have always assumed it all tastes similar - mushy beef stewy. I don't know why I think this, as many things benefit from a low, long cooking.

My main arguments for one are that we purchased a 1/4 cow this fall, and I am now working outside the home part-time and it seems like it would be useful. But, I am curious what other chowhounders think. I have had a now-defunct pressure cooker, but I did find most of the (vegetarian) meals that came out of it tasted similar.

If you do like them and have a cookbook recommendation, I'd appreciate it.
Thanks!

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  1. I love my crockpot! I do all kinds of things in it. I make my homemade stocks in it, process pumpkin for pies, and make soups and chili with it. I've seen recipes for baking cakes and breads, but I haven't tried any yet. I honestly could not live without my crockpot.

    3 Replies
    1. re: northside food

      I finally started using my crock pot after a year for the same reasons as northside--fresh pumpkins and stocks (it scares the in-laws less than having the stove on for a day or so).

      No luck in the meat department, however. All I got was dried out meat suitable for dog biscuits (flavourful tomato soup, though).

      If you're worried that you might not like it, get the smaller, classic Crock Pot to test with instead of one of the enormous ones.

      1. re: Caralien

        Really? I've had great luck with pot roasts, and pulled pork dishes. The trick, I think, is choosing fatty cuts of meat with lots of connective tissue. The melted collagen makes a terrific mouth feel.

        1. re: northside food

          I've done really well with my pork shoulders in the oven (220F for up to 20 hours depending on the size), and my husband might kill me if I were to do it any other way.

          I might try it for a pot roast one more time during the summer, but when it's 13F outside, I have no problem turning the oven on. :)

          FYI: Crock Pot is a brand name of slow cookers

    2. There is an excellent Beef short rib recipe that was on America's test kitchen in the early fall - but make it in a slow cooker, not a crockpot and it will taste MUCH better ; )

      2 Replies
      1. re: Bigley9

        Uhhh..."Crockpot" is the brand name of the original slow cooker. Your post makes no sense.

      2. lame? no, some people like them

        something I use, or like? no.

        Mine sits in my basement collecting dust until I have a large party, and I need to keep something warm. I do not use mine to cook, and never will. I have also had food from a crock pot at others homes, and found the food pretty bad. Buy a large stock pot, and you will be a happy.

        different strokes.

        6 Replies
        1. re: swsidejim

          Now, Jim, a while back you said that you'd never say "never"!

          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

            you are correct, never is a pretty unbending stance, but in the case of preparing a meal, or a stock in a crock pot , I think I am safe with that statement (give me my uncovered stock pot, and hours of time cooking in the kitchen any day). lol

          2. re: swsidejim

            I couldn't agree more. I've had all manner of dishes cooked in crockpots and NONE of them were anything more than pedestrian meals.

            That's just my opinion, so please no dogpiling.

            1. re: Scagnetti

              No dogpiling, but do you think it could be user error? It took me years, closer to a decade, to appreciate what a crockpot can do (and even more important, can't). I mean, my SIL's stove and oven produces terrible food but I'm not blaming the appliance. Ooh, snarky.

              1. re: chowser

                Hey, it's just not me. I've had plenty of crockpot food made by OTHER people and it's all been mediocre.

                Also, if you're telling me it's going to take 10 years to "appreciate" a crockpot, then I'm out.

                1. re: Scagnetti

                  Ooh, sorry, I didn't mean to imply that it was you. I've had terrible crockpot meals made by others. I think people who can't cook tend to gravitate towards things like crockpots because they think it's easy. Throw it all in, add a can of condensed soup and, voila, dinner. That's why almost every crockpot recipe I've seen is pretty bad. It took me 10 years to start using my crockpot, not 10 years of playing around with it. I bought it, tried a few things and hated them all. I put it away for a decade and only the past couple of years started playing with it and discovered it could make a good meal. But, it's not quick and easy. It gives me the option to prep/cook when I have a chance (middle of the day/early in the day) and come home to a hot meal.

          3. I love my slow cooker, I'm using it right now. There are some great ideas at the crockpot ladies website. www.crockpot365.blogspot.com She has even made curry dishes in her's.
            Most meats I cook, I sear them first. Fatty and cheap cuts of meat work really well.

            1. They only lame thing about a crockpot I can think of is the tacky floral designs on the outside.

              24 Replies
                1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                  I don't think I have ever heard or seen Hello Kitty and swastikas in the same breath.

                  Hello Kitty has a huge following by the way..

                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                    Laugh all you want but I have a Hello Kitty toaster and sandwich maker. I'd get rid of them but they both work and were gifts. Who else can start the day w/ an odd blobby image of Hello Kitty on her toast?

                      1. re: Davwud

                        LOL, yeah, Hello Kitty head outlined on a toast does look like Satan. I'll call it my satan toaster and start the day off with a bang.

                      2. re: chowser

                        We bought the Hello Kitty toaster because it was on clearance for $5 at Target. It really does not make good toast. It's only come out recently because we couldn't find the box with our regular toaster, then immediately boxed it again because of the horrible toast it makes. It is, however, adorable.

                        1. re: Caralien

                          Really? My toast turns out fine. I mean, other than the blobby Hello Kitty. It's going on 8 years now. It's that appliance that you WANT to break but just keeps on going strong.

                        2. re: chowser

                          We have a Hello Kitty Sushi maker, it makes me laugh every time.

                          1. re: chilihead

                            What in the wide wide world of sports is a sushi maker????

                            1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                              It is a rice press that makes the nigiri sized rice balls. This one is in the shape of Kitty's head, with eye and wisker impressions. Picked it up at the Sanrio store in S.F.

                              1. re: chilihead

                                chili, I don't know what to say!!! I either want to get one for myself or gouge out my eyeballs, set myself on fire, and thow myself off a cliff (paraphrasing AB).

                                1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                  If I recall correctly you mentioned living in the central valley, the store I mentioned was (an still is) in San Francisco's Union Square. We affectionally called it the Hello Kitty Death Star. Two floors of some of the strangest Sanrio products around.

                                  1. re: chilihead

                                    I live in Colombia (grew up in the Central Valley before Hello Kitty came along). My five year old daughter has a couple of Hello Kitty things; but Hello Kitty is not that big here. Hello Kitty is the most important to young adult Japanese women who live with their parents. Next time I overnight in SF on my way to or from Asia, I'll check out the place e on Union Square!

                                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                      As in South America? or South Carolina? I lived/studied in the former during the late 80's, mostly in Bogota and la Guajira.

                                      1. re: chilihead

                                        In Cali, Colombia, SA, for the past 15 years.

                                    2. re: chilihead

                                      Try making a Hello Kitty cake...I used a circle cake for the head, a square cake for the body, shaped it, the arm in the middle of the body. It never occured to me how, um,...phallic... the arm is in the middle of the body. People still give me a hard time about making a pornographic Hello Kitty cake for my 8 year old niece. In fact, she asked me to make it again for her for her hs graduation cake.

                                  2. re: chilihead

                                    Note to self: quick fire off note to Santa "Need Hello Kitty sushi maker"

                                    ~TDQ

                              2. re: chowser

                                I saw an entire Hello Kitty kitchen appliance series in a department store last week - toaster oven, toaster, coffe make, etc. Very $$$ but cute, I was trying to imagine a little white kitchen that would set them off properly....

                            2. re: Beach Chick

                              Ours is brushed stainless with black ceramic, and the crock is removable (unlike the shades of poo versions from the 70s).

                              1. re: Caralien

                                Same here. I mostly use mine at the holidays as another source to keep food warm. My mom and I have a family menu we make often at the holidays that consists of Klops an kugel (savory noodle kugel - no sugar, raisins, noen of that stuff.) Klops are intensely flavored meatballs in an equally intensely flavored sauce that are just outrageous served alongside the noodle kugel. Oh god, I'm starving right now too. Drool. Any way, I usually make the klops in the slow cooker, freeing up the range top for other sttuff.

                                    1. re: Jeri L

                                      There is a Klops recipe in the Joy of Cooking

                              2. I think if you get one and get into trying different things, you'll really like it.

                                I had some marinaded beef short ribs in the fridge I wanted to use up. I stuck them in the crock pot and by dinner time they were a nice beefy meaty thing. I made some rice and mixed the two. It wasn't a pretty dish but it tasted great.

                                I like to do my jerk chicken in there as well. The chicken is fall apart good and you get a lot of gravy to put over your rice and side veg.

                                I've also just added a hunk of beef with a can of rotel and used it as a simple taco filling. It could very easily be used as an enchilada filling too.

                                DT

                                1. I've had some terrible crockpot meals, in fact most outside the house. You can't think of it as a short cut, or a way to use velveeta cheese or cream of mushroom, or whatever, soup. Think of it as a way to cook on low heat, in a moist environment, eg. braises, stews. If you don't sear the meat, sautee the vegetables, etc. first, you'll get mushy results where everything tastes the same and that's the biggest problem that 90% of people who use it. That's the case w/ crock pot recipes and books. I use regular recipes that call for dutch ovens, etc. follow it but leave out some liquid and where it's cooked in the oven or on the stove, I put it in the crockpot. I also use it for simmers, like making stock or good spaghetti sauce. A big question is how close to dinner you come home. If I get home at 7pm and dinner is read and hot and the house smells good, it's a winner. You can't do that on the stove. If you're home at 3-4 and can cook, then you don't need it.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: chowser

                                    ITA - with this and your other post above. And per what you & jzerocsk say, you can't rely on those horrible slow cooker cookbooks... instead, start modifying normal recipes to incorporate the slow cooker during the "braise" or other slow/low sections of the recipe. One great cookbook that's very crockpot-friendly is Paula Wolferts' Slow Mediterranean - not a shortcut or Velveeta or a Knorr bouillion in the lot of them.

                                  2. It's only as lame as the recipe/ingredients you use in it. To this end, anything you would cook "low and slow" should work well but you may have to tinker with the proportions, particularly the liquid.

                                    It's great in the winter for "wintry" dishes like stews, soups, pot roasts, spaghetti sauce and it's nice in the summer because you can do certain things that you might ordinarily do in the oven without generating all that extra heat.

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: jzerocsk

                                      Also, a crockpot will use less energy than your stove or oven. It's a very "green" appliance.

                                      1. re: northside food

                                        From a post on another site, I found that it cost $.90-$1.80 in electricity to run a Crock Pot continuously for 2 days (based on a discussion of weather making fresh stock was worth the cost of running it vs. only the base price of stock, not transport/recycling/etc.). Crock Pot Stock won, and there's no MSG.

                                        1. re: Caralien

                                          That is great to know, as stock is one of the mane reasons I'm thinking of getting one; I can get great bones from quality poutry at a farmers' market nearby. I find even the quality so-called organic stocks lack body, and of course most of the others contain far, far too much salt. A good stock is flavourful even without salt.

                                    2. While it's certainly possible to make horrible things in a slow cooker, it's just as easy to make good things in one. I've had the best luck with soups, slow cooked fruits & compotes, steel cut oats, bean soups, stews, chilis, meatballs and sauce, cabbage rolls, cooking winter squashes etc.

                                      Highly recommended to get one with a timer that will switch it to "warm" after a set number of hours cooking. I recently got a cuisinart 4 qt model which I like very much.

                                      Some favorite cook books:
                                      "Slow Cooker Ready and Waiting" by Rick Rodgers...everything I have made from here has been fantastic. His intructions are spot-on and recipes all well tested.

                                      "Not Your Mothers Slow Cooker" by Hensperger....fruit compotes (strawberry-rhubarb is outstanding), zuni veggie stew, roasted winter root veggies, split pea soup, and other different things that I liked

                                      "Healthy Slow Cooker" by Finlayson...excellent beef barley soup, morrocan chickpea/lentils, breakfast dishes and many more I plan to try.

                                      I've also made granola and apple butter in my slow cooker with good success.
                                      and plan to try making some cakes in my slow cooker soon.

                                      6 Replies
                                      1. re: poptart

                                        I'm not sure how a cake would come out in a slow cooker, but I recently made a lovely persimmon/candied ginger/dark rum steamed pudding in mine and it came out great. You do the pudding in a pudding mold or, lacking that, in a heat-proof bowl with two layers of foil on top, tied around with twine to keep the water out. You put it in your slow cooker with about 2 inches of water. I forget how many hours it was and whether it was on high or low, but the recipe is in the "Not Your Mothers Slow Cooker" book by Hensperger.

                                        I use my slow cooker all the time because of work and my kids' busy sports schedules. I can assure you that everything doesn't come out tasting the same. I do a lot of different soups, stews, chilis, roasts, etc. The only thing I'm never too crazy about is poultry. It ends up with a funky texture. There are some recipes where the poultry cooks on high for 3 or 4 hours, and I'll bet they'd come out better, but I need the longer cooking recipes. If I'm home 3 hours before dinner, I'll just cook something the regular way.

                                        I'm getting the new book "1,001 Slow Cooker Recipes" for the holiday. I can't wait to see what's in there!

                                        1. re: AmyH

                                          I find that breast meat comes out with an odd texture. I always use chicken thighs when I make chicken in the crockpot.

                                          1. re: AmyH

                                            The pudding sounds really good. Will have to look for it in the book, thanks for the report!

                                            Totally agree about poultry. Since I am not crazy about dark meat I end up skipping most poultry recipes.

                                            I just got the "1001 Slow Cooker Recipes" book myself and have started marking some good ones to try for the winter!

                                            Also, last week I made a thai pumpkin soup recipe from "Healthy Slow Cooker" which came out great.

                                            1. re: AmyH

                                              I just made a gingerbread cake with cream cheese frosting in my slow cooker, recipe is from "1001 Slow Cooker Recipes". I added dried cranberries, apples and candied orange peel to the recipe. Won't taste it till dessert tonight but I am curious!

                                              1. re: poptart

                                                I've started making things out of "1001 Slow Cooker Recipes", too. I made the Green Vegetable Soup the other night. It was pretty good. I'm making the Cincinnati Chili tonight.

                                                I must say that I was a little disappointed to see that it was one of the "combine all ingredients in slow cooker" type of cookbooks. They don't even soak beans first. I like to sautee onions before I put them in the slow cooker, so I just do that anyway. I'll probably brown beef cubes and chicken first, too. And soak beans, of course. I do like that the book has nutritional info for each recipe. But I don't like that ingredients are grouped together by the amount. So in today's Cincinnati chili recipe, it called for 1/2 cup each, chopped onion and water. I find that really annoying.

                                                1. re: AmyH

                                                  Chili is great in the crockpot but yo'ure right, you have to soak the beans, cook it up first before putting it in the crockpot. I soak the beans with the quick method. Sautee the beef, remove, sautee onions, deglaze w/ beer and finish the rest of the recipe. Add to the beef and beans in the crockpot. So, all you're using the crock pot for is simmering.

                                          2. Would I want to eat crockpot cooked food every day? No. Do I find it to be a useful tool in my arsenal? Absolutely. I do work full time though, which may color my impression.

                                            Things that cook very well in my slow cooker:
                                            Pot roast
                                            Red Beans (to mix with rice, not cooked in the slow cooker)
                                            Many soups -- I have an excellent chicken tortilla soup I make in the slow cooker
                                            Rice Pudding
                                            French Onion Soup (really, you just use the slow cooker to caramelize the onions).
                                            Stock (after Thanksgiving Dinner I just dumped my turkey carcass and a few stalks of celery into my crockpot, filled it with water, and left it on low overnight. Strained out the turkey, vegetables and bones and was left with copious amounts of excellent gelatinous stock).
                                            I, too, have Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker, and I think it's a good resource

                                            5 Replies
                                            1. re: Amuse Bouches

                                              Another vote for "Not Your Mothers..." it's a great cookbook. Here's my favorite slow cooker recipes - sauerkraut, white chili, posole, collards, hot and sour soup:

                                              http://motherskitchen.blogspot.com/se...

                                              Hope this helps!

                                              1. re: Amuse Bouches

                                                I was skeptical of caramelizing onions but gave it a try. No more standing by the stove and stirring and stirring and stirring. It's so easy.

                                                1. re: chowser

                                                  I make my French onion soup in a cast iron dutch oven using the oven to caramelize. It works beautifully.

                                                  But I do use my slow cooker to make red beans and ham (I buy the beans fresh, so I have no idea if it makes a difference with dried) and chili. Both come out just fine.

                                                2. re: Amuse Bouches

                                                  This is an old post, but could you tell me how you caramelize onions in your crockpot?
                                                  Thanks so much !!

                                                3. I made some wicked goulash in my crockpot last week. I used beef shin and it worked very well.

                                                  1. Been a married, working full time mother for over 25 years and have never used a slow cooker or crock pot. I am a huge make-ahead person. If you asked about vacuum sealers, definitely invest. As with LeCresuet (don't have cause I can't lift) or other 4 or 5 qt similar size pot. I have a 16 qt stock pot that has paid off in spades.

                                                    I make a lot of brisket, pot roast, short ribs, other stuff that has to roast/braise/bake for a long time but have never wanted one. Initially, I didn't have the counter or storage space. By the time I did, 10 years of marriage, I was used to not having one.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: Diane in Bexley

                                                      Diane, I've been married for 48 years now and didn't have nor want a "Crock-Pot" until a co-worker served our group of ladies pulled pork several years ago. We all asked for the recipe! Slow Cooker, good piece of pork shoulder, and a package of McCormick's Slow Cooker Pulled Pork seasoning! (The package has other ingredients listed to add.) I bought a 7 qt KitchenAid shortly afterward! We love it! (The other McCormick's Slow Cooker seasonings (pot roast, beef stew, chicken) are good too) I sometimes substitute a rich red wine for the water in the pot roast. Mmmmmm, yummy.... no mushy meat here! I use a good piece of meat, too. Angus sirloin tip, etc. Gets lots of compliments.

                                                    2. not a huge fan as I haven't found much that I like but the 2 things I do love are overnight oatmeal and new found help with making apple butter.

                                                      1. I used crock pots, then I disdained crock pots

                                                        Now I love my "new" crock pot. "America's Test Kitchen" cookbook has an excellent slow cooker section complete with recipes and explanations for true slow cooker success.

                                                        1. That's a tough call. They are kind of lame, but can serve a useful purpose. I mainly use mine to keep foods warm (i.e. chili at our annual chili cook-off). But I suppose they're okay to slow cook a Boston butt roast or some beef stew (personally, I'd rather not use it tho). I strongly suggest that if you're cooking pork or beef you should brown the roast on the stove top first and then transfer to the crockpot. I used to make pork and sauerkraut in my crockpot if I planned on not being home all day.

                                                          BTW, what is the difference between a slow cooker and a crockpot?

                                                          5 Replies
                                                          1. re: lynnlato

                                                            Crockpot is a brand name for a particular slow cooker.

                                                            I think it's important to remember that caramelizing benefits meat as well as veggies (as was recently pointed out in another thread). Searing first and then slow cooking will lead to flavorful results more than just tossing a chunk of meat in the cooker and letting it go. Slow cookers are nice, but they're not effortless if you want good results.

                                                            1. re: JonParker

                                                              I think that's the big reason so many people report getting flavorless mush out of their crockpots, they just dump all the ingredients in and let it cook all day. I used to do that when I was first using one too. But after some experimentation, I learned that I needed to sear the meats, and which ingredients hold up really well to the long cooking time.

                                                              1. re: northside food

                                                                Exactly, that's my feeling, too. People don't know how to use crockpots correctly (or maybe optimally is a better word) and meals don't come out good. It gives crock pots a bad name because it's perfect for things like braised meats.

                                                                1. re: chowser

                                                                  I concur that the key to this entire thread is the pre- slow cooker phase of food prep. If you make a braised dish in the oven or on the stove top and don't brown the meat before introducing the liquid, the final result will be lacking. Same thing in a slow cooker. It's just a vessel in which to braise, nothing really remarkable- you still get what you give to it. If you treat it as you would your big LeCreuset in the oven with short ribs or pork shoulder or whatever, preparing the food as you would for that, you'll get good results.

                                                              2. re: JonParker

                                                                See post above... I don't brown my pork (for pulled pork) nor my LEAN beef for pot roast and the results are wonderful. When I used the oven & a dutch oven, I did sear the meat. It wasn't any better than the slow cooker roast. As I said, no mushy meat here! Just delicious "gourmet" roasts.

                                                            2. Barbecued Beef. Curry (beef, chicken, or lamb). Beef stew. Boeuf Bourgignon. Persian stew (Koresh, with yellow split peas, eggplant, and sour lemon). Red beans, andouille sausage, chunks of ham, and a spicy tomato sauce which will become Red Beans & Rice once it meets up with the rice. Goulash Soup. Spareribs & Sauerkraut. Chili. Chicken Stock. Steamed puddings. Mulled wine or cider at a winter party. A whole turkey breast in the summertime when you don't want to heat up the kitchen. Potroast with Madeira in the gravy. Spaghetti Sauce. African Soup (peppery chicken soup with tomato). Polenta. A way to have dinner ready when you don't know within four hours when your relations will arrive in town. A way to have dinner greet you when you walk in the door from a long day at work. A way to get six pints of something good in your freezer with minimal effort. Not lame.

                                                              1. Crockpots, microwaves, good ingredients, frozen orange juice, ketchup, iceburg lettuce, recipes, and katanas are the same: bad in the hands of fools and great in the hands of those who lend the item informed practice and patience.

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                  Sam, you almost convinced me to get one a short while ago when I was slaving away tenderising bony goat meat stew (which turned out fine after a very long, VERY slow cook). Perusing these threads to see if there are enough other things I enjoy making to make the space investment worthwhile (I can get a basic one very cheap; I don't need programmable so much as I often work at home - but it is great to have a device that doesn't need babysitting if I am concentrating on work - yes, I have burnt soup bones, I'm ashamed to say).

                                                                  There is an excellent local dark beer, St-Ambroise Oatmeal Stout, that is ideal for braises.

                                                                2. My MIL ruined my husband forever with her crockpot. Her version of using it was just to throw a bunch of random stuff in it and call it dinner. My husband shuddered anytime I would even mention using one...even for a pot roast.

                                                                  I got a brand new stainless steel one a few months ago and love it. Ive only used it a few times but it really is good for those hard hunks of meat that take forever to cook. But I dont use it every day and Im not just going to throw random crap in it to see what happens. My husband seems to like the few things I have made in it but Im not going to turn into someone who uses it for every meal.

                                                                  :)

                                                                  And the Hello Kitty sushi maker sounds freakin awsome! I have a takoyaki maker I should drag out sometime and make some octopus balls :)

                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                  1. re: jenwee

                                                                    That's weird! Just finished writing my January 14th food column for the local paper, and I've got a recipe for takoyaki in it. (Actually not tako, since octopus is hard to come by here -- I used shrimp). I made mine in an ebvelskiver pan, and it worked great. Haven't had these goodies since I was a kid in Japan in the 60's.

                                                                    1. re: jenwee

                                                                      My Grandmother did the same for me and a pressure cooker! She was a good cook.... when she had time and wanted to... but most of the time the only thing good was the yeast rolls. haha My MIL ruined the fried chicken for my husband... no slow cooker there, just not a good cook. A sweetheart, but not a good cook.

                                                                    2. I love my slow cooker. It's just a cheap old one, but it can be relied upon to turn out great chili, pork shoulder, chicken stock, applesauce, etc. Since I'm not lucky enough to have a huge cast iron dutch oven and an oven that's worth a d*mn, my slow cooker plays an important part in my arsenal.

                                                                      I am currently coveting this model: http://www.williams-sonoma.com/produc...

                                                                      5 Replies
                                                                      1. re: Vetter

                                                                        I have the older version of the All Clad from W.S., and love it. Their website has some
                                                                        good slow cooker recipes. I like the book The Gourmet Slow Cooker by Lynn Alley. Try the pork with prunes....yummy. I just bought volume 2.

                                                                        1. re: susanct

                                                                          I have her first book and recently fixed Italian pot roast and also a chicken and artichoke heart dish. They were both very good. And, yes, most of her recipes have you doing prep to enhance the flavor. I recommend the book.

                                                                        2. re: Vetter

                                                                          I've seen that and love that the crock can be cooked on the stove. I use so many pans to braise in the crockpot because I have to sear the meat first, use the crockpot, then if I want a thickened sauce, I take the meat out, remove the juices and thicken in another pot. That would eliminate all the extra work. But, that price tag is crazy.

                                                                          1. re: chowser

                                                                            I have a Rival Versaware slow-cooker. I'm sure it's not as fab as the W-S one but it's also only about $60. The crock can be removed and used stove-top or in the oven. It's pretty neat.

                                                                            ~TDQ

                                                                            1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                              Thanks--something to keep in mind if I need to replace mine.

                                                                        3. simple Crockpot=Awesome

                                                                          1. Just got one and I couldn't be more pleased with it- except that it gets a trifle hotter than I would like. Applesauce ( and variations on the theme), poached pears, stock, cooked a butternut squash for soup.
                                                                            And I loved the fact that I was able to make a pot roast for the freezer while I was cooking a turkey and sides in and on my oven.

                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                            1. re: carfreeinla

                                                                              Go to yard sales and look for an old Crockpot -- they cook at a lower temp than the newer ones.

                                                                              1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                I think they made the newer ones hotter because of food safety. Nothing like getting food poisoning because of the temp being too low.

                                                                            2. I also love my crockpot/slow cooker. Made the best pot roast ever and it is great with chicken thighs & legs. Two things....brown the meat first. Adds great flavour and you will not have that "everything tastes the same feeling". 2..try to get one with a temperature probe. It takes all the guesswork out and you have the flexability to not have to follow recipes. Hard veggies like carrots & potatoes take longer and will be underdone, so parboil them a bit first. Enjoy

                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                              1. re: billieboy

                                                                                If you put the hard vegetables UNDER the meat, they will cook through just fine. You probably don't need to parboil anything before hand.

                                                                                1. re: momskitchen

                                                                                  I always put the veggies around the meat... but then, I have a 7 quart that has the room. I think under would be better in a small cooker.

                                                                              2. Beware of the latest Crock Pot brand slow cookers from Rival. Mine just lost the handle from the glass top yesterday. The handle is fastened to the lid only by a thin rim of plastic over a single metal nut. The plastic broke when I lifted the hot top off of the cooker. Luckily the lid fell back onto the crock and I wasn't burned and did not have to clean up broken glass. This problem is a design flaw. I googled replacement handles and found out that many others have had this problem and have gotten no satisfaction from Rival. Replacement parts are forever out of stock, in addition.

                                                                                As to the heat too hot problem, this has been caused, I think, by fear of lawsuits over inadequately cooked food causing illness. Rival's Crock Pot faqs say that both low and high settings eventually reach the same temperature, so if low and slow is your goal, get an older model some how.

                                                                                My slow cooker experience is quite successful as all I expect is slow cooking without the need to stir, add more liquid during cooking, or monitor the process. Just remeber to brown first, cut hard veggies small and put them on the bottom, and avoid excess liquid (unless you want soup).

                                                                                5 Replies
                                                                                1. re: therealdoctorlew

                                                                                  My All-Clad died in six months. Now it spits and allows steam to escape.

                                                                                  1. re: Romanmk

                                                                                    I think you should take that sucker back, or contact the manufacturer/distributor and raise hell until they replace or refund.

                                                                                    1. re: Mawrter

                                                                                      I have an All Clad, too, and have been very disappointed...the ceramic insert cracked, and I had to spend hours on the phone to convince them to honor their warranty and to send me a new one. I am still waiting for it. So much for premium customer service - that thing cost $150, which is more than a crock pot rightly should.

                                                                                  2. re: therealdoctorlew

                                                                                    I had the same problem of the lid handle coming off. I went to the hardware store and bought a cabinet knob. It gets hot, so I use a potholder to lift the lid now. I also find that I "slow cook" on the keep warm setting rather than low, which gets rather too warm.

                                                                                    1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                                                      I used the same repair method, but I got a wooden drawer knob and a stainless steel wood screw to hold it and the wood does not get hot. I now see the same defectively designed glass pot top handles on multiple brands of cookware made in china. Beware!

                                                                                  3. I have had a crock pot for many years.
                                                                                    I have been disappointed with everything out of it and for that matter out of the crock pots of others.

                                                                                    Stovetop or oven, my results out of my ancient cast iron Griswold are better, and i can both brown the meat and then slow cook in the CI!

                                                                                    Because some things CAN be done in a crock pot does not mean they should be!
                                                                                    Best.
                                                                                    dick

                                                                                    1. Slow cooker = GREAT COLLARD GREENS. Fill cooker w/ freshly-washed greens, add 1 T apple cider vinegar, a half cup of chicken broth, one quarter cup chopped onions, one smoked turkey drumstick, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Cook on low for 5 hours. When done pull turkey meat off bone, shred and mix into greens. An exceptional recipe from a friend's grandma.

                                                                                      1. Can anyone offer how a slow cooker is better than a large heavy pot and an oven at 200 degrees? Surely there must be some advantages (portability, perhaps cost of running the thing), but is there anything you actually *need* a slow cooker to cook?

                                                                                        5 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: tommy

                                                                                          Of course it isn't absolutely needed. Does anyone NEED a deep fryer (sp?) or can you use a pot on the stove? Do you need a microwave, or can you heat stuff up in the oven? Hell, do people need toaster when you can toast easily over your stove?

                                                                                          Need is a silly term. There are very good arguments for why a slow cooker is better than a pot in an oven, but there is no argument that it is absolutely essential. But then again, your oven isn't essential either right? I mean, you can cook a whole lot of food without one.

                                                                                          1. re: Zedeff

                                                                                            Perhaps you could provide one of those very good arguments of why a slow cooker is better than a pot in the oven, which is what I asked.

                                                                                            1. re: tommy

                                                                                              The two key arguments are safety and energy efficiency with the further implication of convenience (implied only in that if the product is perceived as safe, one is more likely to use it even if they can't be around to babysit it). If these arguments are compeling enough to actually purchase a unit... well, that's up to the individual consumer, is it not?

                                                                                              Please note that I don't get off on internet debating. I don't own a crockpot, but I can understand why other people do and there are very reasonable grounds for them to do so.

                                                                                              1. re: Zedeff

                                                                                                I'm interested in those reasonable grounds to which you refer. Thanks.

                                                                                          2. re: tommy

                                                                                            I'm generally home between 11am-1 pm and can make dinner then. We get home anywhere from 6pm to 9pm. You can't leave dinner in the oven that long but I can leave something in the crockpot w/ a timer. When it's done, it turns to warm. I make potatoes/rice in a rice cooker and that keeps it warm. Both can also be done on the stove w/out a rice cooker but not for our schedule, at least easily so I love my rice cooker, too. We walk in the house and dinner is ready. Pure and simple. It's not better than the oven or stove and that's what I'll use if I'm home for hours (not often). I'll tell you nothing beats walking in the house exhausted at the end of the day, with the kids starving, and having a delicious home cooked meal with little added effort.

                                                                                          3. "I have had a now-defunct pressure cooker, but I did find most of the (vegetarian) meals that came out of it tasted similar."

                                                                                            I don't know about crockpots, but I love my new pressure cooker! I love it best for meat - though I've heard that bean-eaters love it for beans.

                                                                                            6 Replies
                                                                                            1. re: werewolf

                                                                                              If I were to get one electric appliance that cooked "in a pot", I'd opt for an electric pressure cooker. A slow cooker seems like it would be a good thing -- you know, load the removable crock up the night before, store it in the fridge then start it up in the morning. Somehow it doesn't work very well for me, probably because it's more than 10 hours from the time I leave in the morning until the time I get home & the food is overdone. I tend to use mine as a "keep it warm while serving to a crowd" appliance -- I make the food in something else then transfer it to the slow cooker for keeping warm & serving (an example would be meatballs/sausage & sauce).

                                                                                              Once you have made any kind of meat dish (pot roast, stew) in a pressure cooker, food from a slow cooker seems bland. I think it has something to do with the pressure "pushing" the flavors into the food; slow cooker food never seems to get that marriage of flavors that I get from the pressure cooker. The pressure cooker is also wonderful for beans. Soak your beans while you are at work, then cook them in the pressure cooker when you get home. Takes less than an hour & the beans are awesome. One of my favorite tricks is to use a big jar of salsa as part of my liquid. Come to think of it, the salsa works with meat as well.

                                                                                              1. re: PattiCakes

                                                                                                I have a Fagor 3-in-1 cooker (slow cooker, pressure cooker, rice cooker) that has a browning feature, and a keep warm feature. I absolutely love it, and highly recommend it.

                                                                                                1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                                  Oooh! Thanks for the product endorsement, pikawicca! I just checked it out on amazon.com and I just may buy one with the gift certificate we got from my father-in-law. It really looks amazing. It could potentially replace my big slow cooker (I have 3 of them in different sizes) and my rice cooker. And the pressure cooker part of it doesn't even look scary like my mom's was.

                                                                                                  1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                                    Pikawicca, have you had any problems cooking recipes designed for 15 psi pressure cookers in your Fagor 3-in-1 since it only cooks at 9 psi? I sent a note to the Fagor customer service and they sent me back a conversion table from missvickie.com which says (a few times!) that using a 9 psi pressure cooker will give inferior results.

                                                                                                    1. re: AmyH

                                                                                                      Sorry, Amy, your post just popped up. I've had no problems with any recipe I've tried.

                                                                                                      1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                                        No problem. Chowhound does strange things sometimes. I've used my Fagor 3- in-1 quite a few times since January, I have also not had any problems with recipes. They are perfectly cooked at the times given in the recipes. That's because (as I know now, from my mechanical engineer husband) that the conversion table on missvickie.com is wrong. She has done the conversion based on a ratio of the pressure, when actually it should have been done by a ratio of the temperatures. Even more correctly it should have been done as a ratio of absolute temperatures, in which case the difference in cooking times for various psi is insignificant. Which is exactly what we have found in practice. Overall I have been very pleased with the Fagor 3-in-1.

                                                                                              2. I LOVE my slow cooker so much that I have three different sizes! I have a medium round one (fits turkey breast), a large oval (fits large whole chicken roaster and veggies) and an extra large rectangular one (fits 2 boston butts). I cook everything from pot roast to wild rice to baked/steamed potatoes or bean soup with a big ol' ham hock in it. I think its great for pasta sauce, and I just leave the lid off (with a splatter guard over) so it can cook down. I use them also just to keep stuff warm for cookouts and potlucks, especially my wood smoked BBQ! I even use them when I cook Thai, Chinese or Indian food!

                                                                                                Because the bulk of my family meals are eaten at home and I work full time I plan menus and the crockpots are simply invaluable especially when you can place stuff totally frozen in it and it will be cooked by the time we get home for dinner. I'm surprised that more families don't use them.

                                                                                                1. GREAT ITEM FOR MAKING CHOCOLATE FONDUE!!!

                                                                                                  1. I have the Hamilton Beach 3-in-1 (2/4/6 Qt) slow cooker. Its great. I love it. I probably have not used it to its full extent but I absolutely love it. One of my most favorite dishes (that I prepare) is done within the slow cooker.

                                                                                                    I have had a few slow cooker recipe failures but it was because the recipe itself was not for a slow cooker and it accumulated too much excess liquid. Simple trial and error. I have never thought about making stocks in it but I have to assume its probably VERY EASY and VERY TASTY!!!

                                                                                                    Long live in the SLOW-COOKER!!!!!!!!!