Slow Cooker frustration
I am very frustrated with my slow cooker. I have a West Bend "Versatility", which was a gift several years ago and I think was well reviewed on Cooks' Illustrated. This is the second time I've used it and AGAIN after an entire night of cooking my meat is raw in the middle! Last night I put 6 lbs of pork shoulder in the thing and set it on "low". 10 hours later, totally raw in the middle. This happened once before when I tried to make a chili with ground beef, so I don't think it's just the mass of the meat. Do I have a lemon? What's a better brand? I'd love to use this but I don't have time to then re-cook everything from it!
Thank you all for your input! I love this community. The meat was thawed when I put it in. I have the dial-type device, and it was indeed on the "LO" setting. I think acgold is correct that the major problem with this thing was the fact that the heat comes only from below.
I decided my life is too short for a bum appliance, and will go get a proper slow cooker so that I can actually take advantage of this sort of cooking. It would be great to not have the "I have 30 minutes to get something on the table" feeling when I get home at night!
I must admit to not being comfortable leaving food cooking for any length of time without being watched and with 6 lbs.!!! of meat it sounds like me you have a petri dish for bacteria that needs to be chucked out. I for one have not found a slow cooker to be very useful.
So I just looked up the manual for this model out of curiosity and noted it is not like a conventional crockpot in that it has a flat heater base, not a wrap-around one, which may affect how it heats. I don't know if the one you have is like the current one and is digital and programmable, but are you sure you are following the instructions by preheating the cooking vessel itself, making sure the setting is on LOW and not WARM, setting the time for 10 hours, and pushing COOK? I know these are stupid questions but you never know.
You definitely should not have raw meat after ten hours on Low. Sounds like it never heated up much beyond WARM. The manual says it *should* default to 9 hours on low, start to cook automatically and then shift to WARM by itself without you doing anything but I'm not sure that's the model you have; or you may be right and you could have a lemon. But after all this time you are no doubt out of warranty no matter how few times you've used it.
Edit: Just found the manual for the dial-type, not digital, model, which notes:
"Slow cooker base offers heat settings of “Keep Warm,” “LO,” “Med” and “HI,” or
will be numbered 1-5. Heat setting #1 should only be used to warm dinner rolls,
muffins, etc. Heat setting Keep Warm, “WM” (#2) should only be used to keep
cooked foods warm for serving, whereas “LO” (#3), “Med” (#4) and “HI” (#5) are
to be used for actual cooking of foods. Set dial directly at setting or anywhere
between for complete temperature control. NOTE: DO NOT USE A HEAT
SETTING BELOW “LO” (#3) FOR ACTUAL COOKING OF RAW FOODS AS
THE SLOW COOKER WILL NOT GET HOT ENOUGH TO COOK FOODS."
So if you have this type, are you sure you are on setting #3 or higher?
Costco always has special packages of Rival Crockpots on sale and I have a few of them and use them constantly.
New "cheap" ones are a waste of money, even if "free" due to the food they waste.
My mother has one she got 30 years ago that works extremely well. Apparently similar ones are a total waste of time and money today. I eventually paid up and got a "Hamilton Beach Stay'n'go" that works extremely well.
In summary, avoid the cheap slow cookers and "crock pots". Be prepared to pay ~$60 to ~$100 and get one with a proven track record.
Do I have a lemon?
Anyone can get a bad one. It's easy to find out. The chart below is from West Bend's FAQ. Fill the cooking vessel with water and starting with the low setting check the temperature with a thermometer. Since you've only used it a couple of times I assume it is still under warranty. Also, if is a bum one most stores will let you exchange it, some even well after the "official exchange" period. (BBB and WallyWorld come to mind.)
Let us know how you make out.
Below is a general guideline as to the temperature at each setting. Temperatures are measured with cooking pot being filled with liquid.
Setting 1 - 140 degrees Fahrenheit
Setting 2 - 165 to 170 degrees Fahrenheit
Setting 3 - 180 degrees Fahrenheit
Setting 4 - 200 degrees Fahrenheit
Setting 5 - 212 degrees Fahrenheit