Top of The Line Slow Cooker?
First time posting. I have been browsing around the interwebs to find out which slow cooker I want to get. It is for my wedding registry. What is the "Top of the Line" in slow cookers? We are registered at Williams Sonoma, Crate and Barrel, Amazon, and Bed Bath and Beyond, so pretty much ANY manufacturer will be at one of those places? Suggestions? I have read Cook's Illustrated and they like the All Clad, but I have also read bad things about it... and then they even have two models, the ceramic one (which I have heard stories of the liner cracking, and the aluminum one. Any thoughts?
Generally, slow cookers are low-budget affairs. If you want "top-of-the-line", you need to decide what that means. A big price tag does not necessarily equal real value, but usually features like:
--Ceramic liners that can be used on the stovetop. (Allowing a high-temp braise without messing up a separate pot/pan) This is the only feature that seems to warrant the big price tag, and, sorry, ceramic ANYTHING on a stovetop gives me the willlies.
--Stainless steel finishes.
--Sophisticated electronic programming
--Prestige branding, "European" styling, and assorted je ne sais qua.
The price tag can be quite high for assorted All Clads, Brevilles, Cuisinarts, DeLonghi's, Kitchen Aids, etc. They look beautiful, and am sure work really well.
Or you get a less fashionable Rival/West Bend/Ham Beach for $40-$60. For that you can get a unit in brushed stainless with basic electronic programming. My Ham Beach unit even has a lid that clamps down for transport and a serving spoon that clips onto the lid.
If this is a registry item, I say take it easy on your guests. Let some of them "slum it" -- the ones with dough can spring for flatware, crystal and china. I hate when the only thing I can afford on the gift register is the Oxo peeler and the candles.
I'm partial to my Cuisinart because it has electronic controls. That means you can set it for, say, 6 hours on low and when it reaches 6 hours it automatically switches to "keep warm." Convenient if you get sidetracked and don't get to it at the end of the desired cook time. It also has a "simmer" setting. I've had a 4 qt. one for about a year and a half, and really like it. They also make a 6.5 qt model.
All Clad also makes one with electronic controls, but according to Amazon reviews the ceramic inserts tend to crack.
re: al b. darned
The electronic programming is becoming pretty common, even on the less expensive units.
Not sure about the cracked liners for the All Clad. For some reason, I think some of those folks put the liner on the stovetop. Right now, All Clad doesn't say that you can, but perhaps they were sold that way. There are ceramic liners that are supposed to be safe for stovetop use.
I agree w/ what MikeB has said, especially about slow cookers being low budget items. What features are you looking for that you want a top of the line slow cooker? I have used my inexpensive crockpot from Costco (came with a little one that we do fondue in) for years. It has a removable crock, timer that turns off and keeps it warm. If there were any other feature I wished it had, it would be that the crock could be used on the stove but it would cost another $170+ for that feature so I happily do without. What types of things do you make in the slow cooker and how often are you planning to use it? That might help narrow it down which would suit your needs best. The last time I saw a slow cooker that caught my eye, it was one base with three different crocks that fit into it. I think Hamilton Beach made it. Far from top of the line but most utilitarian and space saving.
efaden - congrats on the wedding. I too am doing the wedding registry thing. I registered at amazon and I think that is the best place to register hands down.
I registered for this slow cooker http://www.amazon.com/Crockpot-SCVT65.... It is $85. I def wouldn't go over$100 for a slow cooker. If someone is going to spend more money on you, you want it to be an AC pan or something like that.
I love my Cuisinart 4.5 qt. slow cooker. And I hated my previous models. I checked reviews on Amazon, and made my choice. It is a good cooker.
I have both a round, deep crock pot from the 1980's and an oval stainless steel Rival, I got at Costco. I hate the Rival. It gets very hot. I come home after 8 hours on low and food is boiling and some times totally dried out and burnt beyond recognition. I've read that the newer ones run much hotter. I like my 'old school' one. Check out some thrift stores if you don't care about the 'latest'.