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I don't like my crockpot

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  • Aimee Mar 23, 2010 05:05 AM
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This is the third time I tried cooking meat in it and I'm not really satisfied. This time it was a pot roast. I seared it and sauteed veggies and added liquid. After about 11 hours it softened and had decent flavor but it would have come out much better braised in the oven. Am I doing something wrong? It wasn't that tender and was slightly dry.

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  1. I think you may have overcooked the meat. Even 11 hours on low is too long. It could also be the cut of meat, what was the "pot roast" labeled for the actual cut? Round, shoulder, rump?? I prefer a chuck roast for pot roast. Sometimes markets label rump roast for pot roast but it will be a drier, tougher cut. Your technique to sear and add veggies/liquid is correct. What crockpot brand are you using?

    2 Replies
    1. re: mrsgreer

      I never thought about overcooking, but that's a possibility. It was a chuck roast. But I also had no luck with brisket a few months ago. I ended up finishing it in the oven and it was great. It's a West Bend versatility crockpot. The glass lid just sort of sits on top, maybe they make different ones that have better seals? I like the idea of a crockpot but not the finished product.

      1. re: Aimee

        I agree that it overcooked. I also wouldn't have sauteed the vegetables first.

        I like the crockpot for what it is, but it certainly doesn't replicate an oven-cooked meal. It's convenient.

        They all have lids that just sit, they don't seal.

    2. i would say too long as well - I don' use mine as much as I would like but these work great for me:
      new england boiled dinner
      15 bean soup (fantastic in a crock pot - I will usually add some smoky sausage or leftover ham, pork)
      pulled pork roast
      ribs

      this is a really neat blog, she used a crockpot everyday of the year:
      http://crockpot365.blogspot.com/

      I'm in the middle of a 3 rm renovation - I should really look closer at her blog now.

      Have fun.

      1 Reply
      1. re: lexpatti

        How do you do a New England boiled dinner in a crockpot?

      2. I agree about overcooking. Does your crockpot have a timer so it'll turn off automatically? Mine turns to warm but it's still warm enough to keep cooking so I have to adjust the time. Also, did you cut the liquid? I do it by half almost. That said, I like my crockpot because I can come home to a hot meal but it isn't as good a braising in the oven or on the stove. I don't find it dry, though. I just don't find the liquid as concentrated with flavor. Another thing I've done lately is added a towel under the lid. The towel absorbs some of the evaporating water so the liquid gets slightly thicker. It's closer to oven braising, though takes longer. Some crockpots run hot where even the warm temperature can overcook the dish in a short time.

        1. At 11 hours it was overcooked indeed but I have a slightly different take; the oven does create better meals. Crock pots are good for weeknight meals but I wouldn't ever use it for dinner with guests for instance.

          The crock pot is merely convenience, not culinary superiority.

          10 Replies
          1. re: Fuller

            I agree. You can't regulate temperature in a crockpot. Plus, I don't think it's any more convenient. I can brown meat in my stockpot or dutch oven and put that straight into the oven. If I used a crockpot, that would just be one more dish to wash.

            If I want a weeknight braise, I'm going to cook it a day or two before, strain, and cool it in the braising liquid. I'll then defat, reduce, and reheat the night I want it. It's arguably better that way anyway.

            1. re: jeremyn

              "You can't regulate temperature in a crockpot."

              You can regulate temperature, but it's NOT AT ALL convenient. I do low temperature baking in a crockpot and the temperature has remain fairly steady in some of my recipes. I put a small oven thermometer inside and manually regulate the heat when baking. An instant read thermometer can tell you if the food is done.

              1. re: icecone

                I own a Hamilton Beach crock pot that comes with its own meat thermometer. You can program your crock pot to switch to low once it reaches a certain desired internal meat temperature. Of course, this isn't regulating heat in a crock pot, just enabling you to measure it.

                Also to the OP, when it comes to overcooking, the size of your slow cooker matters. If the crock is not filled, it will overcook. To prevent overcooking, the crock should be filled half-full to no more than one inch from the rim.

                ~TDQ

                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                  TDQ, I've been wondering about those crockpots with temperature probes. Can you use it for baking? For example, if bread is done when it has an internal temperature of, say, 200 degrees F, can you set the probe for that and have it turn off when the bread is ready?

                  One problem is that the probe could interfere with the rising of the bread and could deflate bread before it sets under heat.

                  Sadly, even if that did work, it wouldn't save me any time or much effort. I am experimenting with baking at temperatures under 250 degrees F to reduce the number of toxic compounds that form at high temperatures. The HB temperature probe would not keep the crock temperature under 250.

                  1. re: icecone

                    Interesting. I've never tried it for baking, and there's nothing in the product guide that says what the temperature of the crock is at low and at high. There is a recipe on their site for a chocolate cake, but it doesn't use the probe... http://www.hamiltonbeach.com/recipes/...

                    I personally haven't had great luck baking cakes in a crock pot. My results have been very uneven. Have you had much success?

                    ~TDQ

                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                      Yes, I bake all the time in my crocks (large and small), but it's work.. I put an oven thermometer in my 5.5-quart and use an instant thermometer with my 1.5-quart. The crock temps must not go too high, so I watch them every 15 minutes or so.

                      I'm not sure if an oven would be better. 250 degrees is below the range that most ovens are expected to operate with accuracy. Plus, home ovens are considered "accurate" if they are off by 50 degrees either way,which is too much leeway for my purposes.

                      If that temp probe on the HB worked for baking, it would make life easier for me. I've seen a picture of one and it's large enough to interfere with the baking.

                      1. re: icecone

                        Do you have a favorite baking recipe to recommend? I'm curious enough I'd be willing to try it out for you and report back. Probably not until June, though, if you can wait that long. I'm crazy busy until then.

                        ~TDQ

                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                          It's too soon to have a favorite. I experiment across 3 cooking paradigms: slow baking, steaming and dehydration - all are forms of low temperature baking. I toss many recipes because they don't work. The ones that do work go up on my blog.

                          If you just want to bake, your slow cooker probably goes higher than 250 degrees (for baking only). Try a regular recipe that has a low oven temperature - around 325 degrees - and bake smaller quantities.

                          1. re: icecone

                            Oh, I'm not interested enough to pick random recipes and experiment, though I was willing to test a fav recipes of yours "for the sake of science." :) in order to let you know how it works out with the Hamilton Beach probe.

                            I've tried, several times, a couple of crock pot baking recipes that were supposedly well-tested that were really a waste of time and good, organic eggs.

                            I'm sure it's just me, or just my crock pots, but, meh, I don't have the patience or a strong-enough desire, I guess.

                            ~TDQ

                            1. re: The Dairy Queen

                              I know all about how much patience you need to bake in a crockpot, believe me. One day, I might be able to afford an oven with a super-accurate thermostat. I wouldn't be doing it except to gain an understanding of low temp baking.

          2. I also think you over cooked the meat; I cook my roast between 6-8 hours. I disagree that the crock pot is inferior to the oven. If you know what you're doing, the crock pot is as good as an oven (with the exception of the ability to brown) IMO

            14 Replies
            1. re: Cherylptw

              #1 there are crock pots that allow you to brown on the stove and transfer to the heating element on the crock pot.

              #2 the crock pot (AKA slow cooker) has traditionally been used to cook things slowly over a period of hours (set it in the morning and have it for dinner). That is convenience and does not require training and/or special knowledge to operate it. You shouldn't have to "know what you're doing" to operate a crock pot.

              1. re: Fuller

                oh, I'm with cheryl - everything has it's advantages (even when taste is your objective). I'm one who really doesn't know the crockpot as I wish I did - but I know many that do know how to really do it right. It's not just about walking in a having dinner ready while you've been gone all day.

                the same could be said for a microwave, I only use it to defrost and reheat but there are some who really "know how to use a microwave".

                1. re: lexpatti

                  Tell me one thing a crock pot can do better than an oven or a stove aside from the obvious like storing it in a cabinet or portability - I'm talking culinary advantages. Likewise a microwave.

                  A crock pot is simply a cheap, self-contained little stove/oven. It stays at a low temperature to keep things a little safer, cooks things slowly over the period of hours, and thus is a tool for convenience.

                  Some people may use them as a gift from heaven but if I went over to someone's house for a weekend dinner and I saw the main dish in a crock pot, I would immediately realize that they aren't great cooks. That's fine, everyone has their strenghts, but I can't say that is has any advantages culinarily speaking.

                  1. re: Fuller

                    Chilli.

                    Make your chilli at night and put it in the fridge in the crock pot. In the morning plug in the pot and let it cook all day. Makes chilli much better and it's so nice to come home to dinner smells in the house. Mmmmm

                    1. re: julesincoq

                      There's no culinary advantage of cooking chili in a crock pot versus the oven or the stove top. The same results can be achieved and in many cases better results when not using the crock pot.

                      One could argue that the fact that the chili sits in the fridge overnight for the flavors to mingle is the reason it tastes better... not the cooking vessel.

                      1. re: Fuller

                        Fuller -- I've had similar discussions on this site before. None have led anywhere.

                        1. re: jeremyn

                          Point taken - thanks. ;-)

                    2. re: Fuller

                      Well, it's a gift from heaven for anyone who has a family on the go, gets home late and wants a hot dinner--I think in that sense, that meal is far superior to anything else I can make that quickly. But, in the sense of making the best food possible w/out constraints, I agree. I couldn't live w/out my crockpot in the winter but for the purpose it serves. So, like a stand mixer, rice cooker, immersion blender, food processor, you can cook just as well w/out any of that but they are helpful for situations.

                      Most people incorrectly use crockpots by throwing all ingredients in and turning it. That never makes a good meal, no matter what cooking method. So, I think you do need to know what you're doing to get a decent meal out of a crockpot--and I don't think the 365 day blogger does. Overall, I prefer to use the stove/oven and think braising, even making chicken stock, is better that way. But, I still love it for what it is.

                      1. re: chowser

                        I agree completely. It's entirely convenient and when used for that purpose, it's a fine tool. I have one at home and I use it myself when convenience is desired... I don't use it often but then again I don't have kids (I think) so the aspect of time isn't as important to me as it might be to others. I guess the point I have to make is that it isn't knowing how to use a crockpot, it's knowing how to cook in general. It's not a miracle machine and some people treat it as such.

                        1. re: Fuller

                          My kids are home from school by 4. I'm home from work by 6:30. If there is something hot, ready and nutritious they can eat it before I get home (gasp!! you don't eat all together every night??? Uh no. they are hungry and want to eat not wait). I love my crock pot for that reason alone.

                          You are right about the chilli. Day old chilli is always better so that is why I always make it a day ahead. Everything I could do in the crock could be done on the stove...but I'd have to be there and I'm not.

                          Sigh... I wish I could be at home to make non crock pot meals!! That's what I love about weekends!

                          1. re: julesincoq

                            I'm with ya! I have no argument against the convenience factor.

                            I just think that when someone who is accustomed to braising in the oven switches to a crock pot and gets inferior results (let's ignore the fact it was in there 11 hours) they should not be too surprised. Like I mentioned before convenience, not culinary superiority.

                            1. re: Fuller

                              Fuller, I think you've gotten off on your own lil tangent - I'm not sure anyone mentioned that crockpots had any "culinary superiority" but just that knowing how to use one could yield better results!!!! tooo funny!

                      2. re: Fuller

                        The thing a crockpot can do better than anything but a maid is have dinner ready when you walk in the door. Try your crockpot again with beef stew, beef curry, lamb curry, chicken curry, African chicken, beef burgundy, chili, or pulled barbecue. And, Fuller, that crockpot cook you are judging rather harshly may have spent the day at the office, in court, in surgery, or at the pediatrician's with a sick baby. How nice that the family gets a hot meal nonetheless.

                        1. re: Fuller

                          Growing up we always used our crock pot for chinese bean soups - red bean soup, green bean soup, peanut soup, congee. I think it's probably perfect for those items and does do an arguably better job than cooking on the stove. Those are all dishes that involve tossing a couple ingredients in a pot, adding water, and cooking for a long time without burning.

                          It's also really good for making french onion soup because it frees up a burner and you don't need to watch it closely. I've served that to friends and we're fairly sophisticated in our cooking at dinner parties.

                  2. Based on recommendations from chowhounds (can't remember who, exactly, sorry), lately I've tried several of the crock pot recipes from Rick Bayless' book "Mexican Every Day" and have been very pleased. One thing that surprised me is that most of his crock pot recipes call for six hours on high. He says that the food will keep for another 4 hours on "warm" if your crockpot has that setting. Prior to that, I was cooking a lot of my recipes for 10 hour on low. I'm not going to do that any more.

                    I also have had great luck with this beef daube recipe from Cooking Light http://find.myrecipes.com/recipes/rec... and this char siu pork recipe from Cooking Light http://find.myrecipes.com/recipes/rec...

                    Of course, these aren't the world's most authentic recipes, but they are satisfying and good for a family on the go.

                    ~TDQ

                    1. Crock pots & slow cookers are nice for convenience. You can set things up and let them go. They should, indeed, be braisers. They use low controlled heat so they should be great. Only one problem... they don't put out as good a product as cooking them in your dutch oven in the oven. It's good but different. You have to make a decision as to whether the difference is worth the convenience. I understand that the only thing they do as well is making a stock but I haven't tried that one myself.

                      They cook beans well but they are whole and don't fall apart. Unfortunately, I'm used to beans breaking down some... ok, a lot!.

                      Bottom line. I have not found crock pot cooking as good as a slow braise.

                      Here are some suggestions to make it a little better.

                      When braising, the cookbooks usually tell you to turn the meat over a few times during braising because the liquid is only up half way or so. I suspect that might make the pot roast in the crock pot a little better. Also, the better crock pots nowadays have a warm feature that after a set period of time goes to warm feature to stop the cooking. Also good crock pots have a glass lid but most of the old cheap ones have a plastic lid that doesn't keep the liquid from evaporating.

                      1. Aimee, you don't say how much liquid was added, but you do need to add quite a bit.
                        "it softened and had decent flavor" not sure what else you were expecting the crockpot to do here. The people I've worked with that want my recipes, seem to be so easy on seasonings. For a roast I would add 2 nice size onions, lots of broth ( not to cover it mind you), and lots of fresh garlic. Then of course lots of seasonings for whatever recipe I was wanting to make.
                        I love pork butt done in the crockpot, but you do need broth. I always use good chicken stock or beef stock, and I use salt. I cover the entire top of my pot with seasonings when I put a pork butt into it. That may sound really excessive, but for me it works. I add a lot of onions. You can saute them first to get that wonderful camalization flavor and that helps tremendously. Onions bring not only flavor but moisture to the dish. I add the onions in the beginning and almost towards the end of the cooking time.

                        1. I have found the Crock Pot to be fun to experiment with. I bought it when a friend recently told me that she had done her pulled pork by placing a pork shoulder (and nothing else) in her slow cooker and cooking it for 24 hours on low.

                          Last week I d id a pair of large lamb shanks in sous vide style by seasoning them with s-p, garlic and rosemary, sealing them in my foodsaver, and then cooking them on high for four hours. By the end of 4 hours the temperature had reached 200 deg. They came out nice and tender without having all the falvor sucked out of them. At the end I crispened them up in a 475 oven.

                          In the process I was monitoring the temperature every half hour, and I contacted the Crock Pot company by email to find out what the baseline tem of low and high settings was. This was the response I received:

                          "Thank you for contacting Crock-Pot, a brand of Jarden Consumer Solutions.

                          Both the Low & High settings cook at 215 degrees F., but they cycle differently. Therefore, the High setting will still cook the food in a shorter period of time than the Low setting will. Please remember that these are all approximate temperatures and they can vary depending on what you are cooking. It can also boil on High and Low. We do recommend that you always fill your slow cooker at least 1/2 - 3/4 of the way full with liquid or sauce, and you may also have to adjust your cook times accordingly. This will prevent the food from drying out and burning."

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: junescook

                            My crockpot gets way too hot. It sterilizes everything I put in it. Even on "keep warm" everything ends up in a hard boil after an hour or two. Pot roast always turms out tough and chewy. I understand the temperature is set this way for food safety. I think its more energy efficient than using my electric oven so I wish I could regulate the temperature better.

                            1. re: junescook

                              That response from the company is a little bogus. What do they mean by "cook at 215 degrees F?" I hope they realize that is above the boiling point at sea level. Furthermore, all crockpots regulate is energy/power output, not temperature. Thus, there is no way they could reasonably make the 215 degree claim, even if the lid provided a pressure seal. The temperature depends on the amount of food in the crockpot, the seal, the external temperature, etc.

                              Perhaps they just mean "both the low and high setting will eventually end up boiling your food." I agree with Rhee above: the crockpots I've used have all been way too hot.

                            2. I never used a slow cooker until I bought one last year. I love placing "tougher" meat, beans, or both in it in the morning and coming home to a meal.

                              I use it for all offals (so far) and many roasts including corn beef recently. I liked how the corn beef turned out so I may actually buy it more than just for St. Patrick day. ;)

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: Crockett67

                                I have two Crockpot brand slow cookers--an old-fashioned harvest green one I purchased in the 1980's, and this new modern larger one I purchased last year. I was hoping the larger one would accommodate larger quantities, particularly roasts, but I find it cooks a lot faster than my old one, so leaving it all day while I'm at work is counterproductive because I get home and everything is boiled to hell. I still use the smaller one when I want to leave it during the workday.

                                1. re: noodlepoodle

                                  I don't have a link handy anymore, I've read that "new" crockpots cook at a higher temperature than "old" crockpots. I think it is because they were concerned about food safety issues when they learned a number of people (apparently) put frozen chicken in their crockpots and let it cook all day. So, they changed the heating mechanism. :( .

                                  ~TDQ

                                  1. re: noodlepoodle

                                    If you're at all handy electrically and IF your slow cooker is a basic model without any fancy electronic controls, you could build an external temperature control for your cooker. It's nothing more than a light dimmer. Then you could dial down the heat as desired.

                                    http://vaporbaker.com/2010/06/28/how-...

                                2. The brand of slow cooker makes a HUGE difference. The CrockPot brand cooks much too hot. America's Test Kitchen and Consumer reports both did tests. All Clad and HamBeach with temp probe were in the top recommended brands. I have the Ham Beach and I love it. Everything has turned out great. Also, recipes make a difference. The Slow Cooker Gourmet/ Alley and ATK's Family Cookbook have excellent recipes. You really don't need all that much liquid.