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Feb 10, 2012 10:31 AM

Looking For A Slow Cooker That Does (Really) Low And Slow

My Rival "Smart Pot" has been gathering dust because it has truly never performed well on the LOW setting. The temperature gets too high to the point that liquid simmers (too much) and edges burn. I know this just can't be right.
I'm looking for another slow cooker that can go really low (for long periods) and can handle pulled pork, caramelized onions and the like without browning or getting hot spots.
I'd like a larger size-- 6 quarts- 7 quarts.
Any suggestions?

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  1. What happened to modern slow cookers is that the FDA got involved because they did not think they were getting hot enough for the food to get out of the 'danger zone' soon enough. We have a cheap slow cooker with three settings, warm, low, and high. Warm is actually low, low is high, and high is really high. If you wish to have a slow cooker that cooks low enough, either cook on warm, or find an older model and Goodwill or another thrift store. They won't have the smart features like delayed start, etc. but they will cook at a lower temperature.

    9 Replies
    1. re: John E.

      True! I have a 6 quart "cook and carry". What I found out is that High and Low will both reach about 205-208 (measured personally with a digital thermometer). High simply gets there faster, pure and simple. Warm will reach and maintain 180-181.

      As part of my recent experimentation with sous vide, I spent $11 to get one of these at home depot.

      Now I can easily control the maximum power, and thereby the maximum temperature. My ultimate short-term goal is do do a bunch of tests to see if sous vide is something that I truly might be interested in ... or not (way too early to tell). However, I can assure you that this is a very easy, economical, and safe way to get that existing slow cooker of yours to behave as you desire. Just use a thermometer to validate the settings and mark the slider accordingly.

      I hope this helps!


      1. re: jkling17

        I burned up the cheap slow cooker a long time ago using the high setting making steel cut oats. We always had an electric kettle made by Presto and I later bought a crock insert so now although there are no features like automatic starting and stopping or changing temps the cooker we use has a thermostat that goes from simmer to 475 degrees (I assume that is for when there is not crock insert). Anyway, I sous vide (sous vided? or in our part of the country Sioux Vide) some pork chops and while they were tender I was underwhelmed. I have not tried anything else. I might get bored enough to try some cut of beef.

        1. re: John E.

          It's way too soon for me to know if I'm going to like it or not. I enjoy cooking so much ... and being engaged at the cooktop. So I can possibly see sous vide being interesting to help me with a large party or very specialized applications. On a regular basis I enjoy being an active cook too much, to relegate so much of the process to any kind of very long slow passive wait.

          But ... I would be interested to see if I can use it to make "the perfect steak" or "the perfect egg", So far all I've really tried to do was a pulled pork and that was a failure. But it was before I got the slider - so my temps were WAY off from desirable.

          1. re: jkling17

            I have done pulled pork in a crockpot, after smoking the pork shoulder. Instead of leaving the meat on low and slow on the smoker for many hours, I smoke it for 2 or 3 hours before the meat is pull-apart and then either wrap in in foil and finish in a 250 oven or cut it into pieces and finish in the slow cooker.

            I made 145 degree eggs in a small saucepan on the stove, but I am sure it would be easier in a slow cooker with the rheostat to drop the power way down.

            1. re: John E.

              Yes ... isn't pulled pork wonderful? I often will do one weekly, so we can pick at it all week long. And I have used the oven but greatly prefer the crockpot for making it super easy to do and cleanup afterwards.

              We don't have a smoker but your method sounds nice. I guess that I could use my Weber as a smoker but this time of year ... tricky I think.

              I have yet to play around with eggs in the modified crockpot. I suspect that I'd love the results but when I want eggs (often enough), I'm not inclined to setup a system that will take 45-60 minutes for me to eat them ... Maybe a wall timer ... combined with the rheostat and crockpot? ... :-) LOL

              1. re: jkling17

                When I made the slow cooked eggs I did them at 145 degrees for 45 minutes. I did them on the stove while I was working in the kitchen anyway, but the crockpot with rheostat sounds easier once you get the settings down. The interesting thing about the eggs is that once they are cooked you can refrigerate them and then to reheat them and keep the yolk soft all you have to do is to put a mug of water in the microwave for 2 minutes or so to get the water boiling then put the cold egg into the hot water for 2 more minutes. I then crack them onto a slotted spoon because sometimes the whites are also a little runny.

                I often smoke meat on a Weber kettle grill by putting charcoal onto two sides with soaked wood chips on top of the charcoal.

                1. re: John E.

                  LOL. I don't need to be sold on the benefits. My conundrum is that when i want eggs I want them now ... not 45 min from now - AFTER the water is at the right temperature. Eggs ... I love eggs ...

                  1. re: jkling17

                    You missed my point. The slow cooked eggs are already cooked and waiting for you in the refrigerator. I used a small saucepan and only cooked 6 at a time. In a slow cooker you could make 3 dozen at a time if you chose to. You put them into hot water for two minutes and they're back up to temperature and perfectly cooked.

                    1. re: John E.

                      Ah ... that's interesting. Yeah I missed that. Thanks!

    2. The confusion is caused by the fact that, despite what the manufacturers claim, "low" and "high" on inexpensive slow cookers are not temperature settings at all, but power settings. On low, a slow cooker will take longer to reach the final temperature than on high, but the equilibrium temperature will be about the same. Apparently, the power settings were increased so as to get through the unsafe temperature zone more quickly. This is a good thing, in my opinion.

      If you want a better result, you should look at units which have a control unit which regulates the cooking time and final temperature. You won't find these in the many models selling for $50 or less.

      1. I like the Rival I bought at Costco, but it was a couple of years ago. It comes with a little minicrock, too. It has low, med, high and then warm, with a timer. My previous one burned everything I made.

        1 Reply
        1. re: chowser

          I'll look for it the next time I go to Costco. I'll have a rebate check burning a hole in my pocket ;-)

        2. I own a Cuisinart PSC-350 slow cooker. It has 4 settings for power/heat. The instruction booklet shows each setting on a chart. High = 212 deg; Low = 200 deg; Simmer = 185 deg; Warm = 165 deg. All temps are F. The instructions state that the Warm setting is not to be used except to keep things warm. The booklets cite the USDA recommendation that anything containing meat in a slow cooker should reach 140 deg within 2 hours.

          The booklet recommends Simmer setting for soups, stews and stocks; the Low setting for braises, roasts, stews, ribs, casseroles, shanks, chops, less tender cuts of meat, soups.

          I use recipes from Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook, and the author is very specific about temps and timing. Most everything has turned out well using her recipes.

          I would recommend the Cuisinart Slow Cooker, but I've noted that the black insert has discolored, and began doing so right from the start. Otherwise, it works very well.

          2 Replies
          1. re: sueatmo

            Here is a similar model from Cuisinart but with a 6 1/2 quart size...same 4 power settings..
            Thanks for the heads up on this model sueatmo!


            1. re: ChowFun_derek

              I think my Cuisinart does a good job. Its the best slow cooker I've ever used. If you buy, I hope you enjoy.

          2. The cooker I have has timed "low" and "high", but both reset to "keep warm" after the time is up. This suggests that the tactic would be setting for a shortish time at high , time depending on the amount of food in the cooker and its temperature, long enough to bring to cooking temperature, then let it sit on warm to low and slow it. Worth a try?

            1 Reply
            1. re: therealdoctorlew

              Really good idea! Definitely worth a try.