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What vintage of used Slow Cooker should I look for?

The slow cooker I bought in @ 2004 cooks too hot. Since I'm gone all day at work, I have to cook on Low for 10 hours, and meat and veggies always come out overcooked. For the longest time, I thought it was me, even though I was following the recipes. But lately, I've read a lot about the newer slow cookers running hot, due to a change in the USDA regulations - apparently, they were worried that meats took too long to get to a food-safe temperature. I finally tested my slow cooker - following the guidelines to heat water for 8 hours and then take the temperature. In all cases, whether I heated the water on High, Low or Keep Warm, the water was bubbling and the temp after 8 hours was 212. Boiling! No wonder all my food was overcooked!

So now I'd like to buy a used slow cooker from the days before the USDA issued their new rules. The problem is that I've done numerous searches and can't find the year they did that. Does anyone know? Alternatively, I'm open to suggestions for a new model slow cooker that doesn't run too hot. (I've read a lot of slow cooker reviews, some of which are complimentary, but I'd rather get direct recommendations from my trusted fellow Chowhounders.)

Thank you!

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  1. I don't know a thing about slow cookers, but I recently read that many of them (presumably older ones) contain lead in both the glaze and the ceramic. Here's a blog post that has links to articles etc. (and I don't know a thing about this blogger either, but the links might be legit):

    http://simplyserina.wordpress.com/200...

    8 Replies
    1. re: sciencediet

      Oh dear, I have one of the earliest crockpots. Not the very first - mine has a removeable crock - but a real, harvest-gold crockpot with an old-fashioned plug.

      1. re: sciencediet

        I wonder if we are making a bigger deal than it really is. Like you said, people used to use slow cookers with lead based glaze in America. Pretty much the last two generations. We don't have a huge death tolls in those period. Yes, lead can lower intelligent development, lowering the IQ. There was an article I read about the fact we are using less lead in cookware and therefore the future (American) generation will have higher IQ and therefore increasing productivity... etc.

        Frankly, I doubt the next generation will have higher productivity regardless of the lead. Maybe increase productivity from increasing technology advances, but not productivity because they are higher IQ -- if.

        1. re: sciencediet

          If you are worried about lead in an older crock, you could always use a liner like these:
          http://www.amazon.com/Reynolds-Alumin...
          They work great and virtually no cleanup. They're usually available in the same section of the supermarket as the baggies, foil, etc.

          1. re: al b. darned

            Aluminum? You know what that'll do to you?

            1. re: giantmouth

              The bags aren't aluminum. From Reynolds' Web site: "Reynolds® Slow Cooker Liners are made of heat resistant nylon and designed to make slow cooker cleanup fast and easy. "

              http://www.reynoldspkg.com/reynoldski...

              1. re: giantmouth

                Approximately every single restaurant in the United States uses aluminum skillets. What will aluminum do to me?

                1. re: John E.

                  giantmouth hasn't posted since Sep. Regardless, it sounds like a sarcastic joke to me. By the way, I don't know anything about the Foodsaver question you have. I would think your best bet is to contact the company and see if they have any manual specifically for your model.

                  Do you know any of these manuals come close to looking like your model?

                  http://www.foodsaver.com/manuals.aspx

                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                    I didn't notice the date of the post, just that this thread popped up. None of the manuals on your link is the one I'm looking for. I did find that page earlier. I also found someone else that had no luck in requesting a manual from the company since the company has been sold a couple of times since the unit I have was made. I probably can use it without the manual, but by mild OCB nature compels me to look for one.

          2. I totally understand. I was doing the same thing with my brand new "fancy dancy" slow cooker that I just now gave away! I followed older recipes I had used many times before- and it consistently turned out overcooked food.Frustrating. I got rid of it and bought an old Rival from the second hand shop. I liked it so much, I bought two more in different sizes. It is butt ugly powder room blue. You will sacrifice style for function but they are great. Look for ugly colors and insipid flowers or veggies scalloped across the top! You can't go wrong! LOL

            2 Replies
            1. re: sedimental

              LOL. I can live with the ugly patterns and colors, since I store my slow cooker in the cabinet, anyway. Thanks for the verification about the older slow cooker!

              1. re: sedimental

                Yours may be "powder-room blue", but mine is the classic "baby blew" (otherwise known as harvest gold).

              2. I noticed basically the same thing using a cheap slow cooker last winter. It had three settings: keep warm, low and high. I finally the figured out the keep warm was actually low, low was high and high was really high. After using it to make whole grain breakfast cereal (whole oats, wheat, rye, barley) several times on high the wiring burned up and we threw away the heating element part of the thing. We intended to keep the crock and use it in the oven as a deep casseole (oval shaped 6 quart) but when the need arose we couldn't find it.

                1 Reply
                1. re: John E.

                  It is so disappointing that the newer slow cookers are so problematic. 2 years ago I purchased a cuisinart slow cooker, and this past weekend the crock insert began making pinging noises. Fortunately I was at home, because it turned out to have several fissures running up the length of the crock.
                  While I was reasonably happy with this cooker, it is disappointing that these newer ones don't seem to last very long. I have contacted Cuisinart a second time to inquire about this (no response yet) because I am not interested in buying their $40 replacement crock if this is going to happen again.

                2. If you don't need a really small slowcooker, there's a solution in a small "roaster oven." The smallest is 6qts, but you can set it as low as 150, which solves the problem of the newer slow cookers boiling everything. The one I bought is the Nesco 4816-25-30PR Professional 6-Quart Stainless Steel Roaster Oven.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: valereee

                    Can you leave it on for 10 hours while you're away from the house?

                    1. re: goodeatsgal

                      goodeatsgal, it's billed as a roaster/slow cooker. There is ZERO in the instructions about not leaving it. I don't think I'd set it at 450 and leave the house, but at under 200, I would. It looks EXACTLY like a slow cooker. The only issue is that you have to decide what "low" and "high" temperatures mean. My understanding is that in the UK, which never changed their slowcookers from the original idea, low is probably around 170 and high around 200.

                  2. I had one that ran too hot but my newest programmable is fine. I'd find one w/ a timer so it'll turn down when it's ready and just keep the food hot. I wouldn't buy one w/out that. I have a Rival from Costco now and it came w/ a mini crock which has been perfect for fondue.. This one looks close but mine is a couple of years old:

                    http://www.crock-pot.com/Product.aspx...

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: chowser

                      Maybe you just have to get lucky. I also have a Rival Crock Pot that is programmable with the countdown, similar to the one in the link.. But it's more than a couple of years old and it is stainless and black. I've been afraid to try a Rival again.

                      1. re: goodeatsgal

                        It's really odd how they're so different. The one I had before ran so hot that even the warm setting burned the food. I can't remember the make/model. But, this one is fine.

                    2. About 10 years ago I found a Corningware Electrics slow cooker at a garage sale in like new condition. It is about 8 or 9 quart and has a super nice removeable white crock with glass lid that can also be used in the oven. The control has low, high, and auto. If you can get lucky and find one of these you will be quite happy with it. I can post a pic if wanted.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: terlin

                        That would be great if you could post a picture. Thanks! I'm going on a hunt at garage sales and thrift shops this weekend.

                        1. re: goodeatsgal

                          Here it is. Click on the pic to see larger image. They may be hard to find, but good luck!

                           
                          1. re: terlin

                            Thanks, Terlin! I hope I'll find it or something close to it this weekend.

                            1. re: terlin

                              thanks for this photo! i, too, am now on the hunt. i am going to put this on my phone so i can reference it when i go to a thrift store. i was thinking of getting a new slow cooker just for when my old when goes out (it is really old…) but now, i think i'll just look for someone else's handmedown. corning ware! i never knew they made slow cookers!

                        2. I have found discussion of supposed "new rules" for slow cookers on the web, but not the actual new rules, if any. I do not believe there is any rule which requires a slow cooker to bring water to a boil at the low setting. Here is a link to a document which states that the normal low settins is 185 F, from the Clemson Cooperative Service:

                          http://www.clemson.edu/extension/hgic...

                          Here's another link to the USDA/FSIS from 2011 which states the the cooking temperature should be at least 170 F.

                          http://www.fsis.usda.gov/fact_sheets/...

                          If your slow cooker will not hold the heat at about 185 F on the low setting, I think it is most likely that you just have a poor one.

                          1. Here's a link to the Crock-Pot® Cooking Tips:

                            http://www.crock-pot.com/Hints.aspx?i...

                            "Both High and Low stabilize at the same temperature, it is just a matter of how long it takes to reach the simmer point."

                            That's the way inexpensive slow cookers work. Whether the high-end cookers work this way or not, I don't know.

                            1. KitchenAid publishes the temperature profiles of their cooker:

                              http://www.kitchenaid.com/assets/pdfs...

                              Not much difference between "low" and "high," but they also have a "simmer" setting.

                              1. Look for an older Rival Crock Pot. New ones these days cook way to hot for most standard Crock pot recipes. I recently bought a early 70's model for $5 at a thrift store brought it home and tested it filled with 2/3 full with cold water set it on low for 8 hours checked the temp and it read 190 degrees. thats safe enough to kill any bacteria. And to set it and forget without worrying about ruining your meal is a plus.

                                 
                                3 Replies
                                1. re: ironuser

                                  I recently purchased the exact same model from a thrift store. Does your unit heat up from both the sides and bottom, or just the sides. Mine only seems to heat up from the sides and I am wondering if it is malfunctioning.

                                  1. re: stewpidiot

                                    No, I believe that is what it is supposed to do. Mine has always done that. I also have a vintage one with a very ugly colour scheme.

                                  2. re: ironuser

                                    I've got the same Rival Crock but different color scheme. So ugly it is cute!

                                  3. Goodeatsgal, couldn't you cook your food overnight or on days when you aren't working outside? 10 hours is too long for many things, even at low.

                                    When I work outside my home office, the days can be VERY long, so no slow-cooking then. But I more often work at home, and the slow cooker is great for that, as it doesn't require any attention during the day.

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: lagatta

                                      I rarely work at home. And if I cooked the food overnight, there wouldn't be enough time for it to cool down before putting it in the refrigerator and leaving for the day.

                                      I have purchased a vintage slow cooker since I first posted. I really like that it cooks at a lower temperature. And because it's a manual control, we can use a timer to delay the cooking start time, if necessary. The only thing I have to keep in mind is that I may need to adjust cooking time for newer recipes.

                                      1. re: goodeatsgal

                                        Wonderful! Of course the work schedule and location varies by job and person - when I'm working outside, it is usually at conferences or other events when I have to be there as long as they need me, even if it is very late, so I wouldn't dare have anything in the slow cooker then.

                                        Perhaps the wealth of knowledge among chowhounds will help out with recipe adjustments!

                                        1. re: goodeatsgal

                                          Just a reminder, the 'warm' setting on your newer slow cooker is about the same as the 'low' setting on a vintage slow cooker.

                                          We have a new slow cooker with just the warm, low, and high settings. I think I'll get one of those timers to use with it.

                                      2. I just found a "Rival Crock-Pot with Corning Ware" at a thrift store for $13. It uses a standard (though perhaps discontinued) square 3L CW casserole dish as the insert and can presumably take the shallower 2L dish as well.

                                        I filled it with water and it's been running for many hours now. It seems to be running at 175 on low and 190 on high, though I'm not certain my IR thermometer is the best thing to use for measurements of water or white surfaces. I'll dig out my probe thermometer later and take more measurements.

                                        http://www.millscentral.com/corning_w...

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: KWagle

                                          The probe thermometer reports 190/205 or so, consistent after running for a few days at both settings. Those are pretty much exactly the temperatures I wanted.