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more-programmable slow cooker? Recommendations for vegetarian hardware?
December 28, 2010 8:42 AM   Subscribe

Best programmable slow cooker for a vegetarian? Do any exist which will _start_ cooking at a predefined time? Anybody care to comment on the Hamilton Beach programmable slow cooker?

We decided to get a slow cooker. I looked around and decided to get a programmable Hamilton Beach "Set and Forget" 6-qt model. However, "programmable" just means it switches to "warm" mode after a predefined period of time, or when the temperature probe reaches a certain temperature.

I was hoping to be able to soak (pre-washed) beans, then start cooking them in the same water in the middle of the night. Does anyone know of any models which will start cooking at a preset time? Obviously this wouldn't be great for cooking meat, but for me it could be quite handy.

Also - any vegetarians have experience with using a temperature probe? Is this useful at all, maybe if you wanted to cook stuff until a certain amount of liquid has evaporated?

Finally, we have a cookbook which seems to advocate buying a slow cooker which comes with more than one inner crockery part, so you can use a different-sized insert depending on the recipe. I haven't seen anything like this. Have you?

The Consumer Reports ratings (I got a web subscription) aren't very helpful, unfortunately.

Thanks for any comments!
posted by amtho to Food & Drink (15 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
You could combine a standard slow cooker with a plug in timer.
posted by squorch at 8:56 AM on December 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


You don't want to cook the beans in the soaking water, do you? I think doing so enhances the gas factor.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:02 AM on December 28, 2010


Seconding the plug-in timer, that's how my family has always started the slow cooker at the right time, though the fancier/more expensive ones do have built-in timers for that purposes.
posted by brainmouse at 9:04 AM on December 28, 2010


Cook's Illustrated recommends the Crock-Pot Touchscreen, but it doesn't seemed to have the feature you want. "Delay start" would be the term to search for, but I'm guessing that most slow cookers would not have that feature -- it's a food safety issue.
posted by amarynth at 9:06 AM on December 28, 2010


Whoops, forgot the link -- Crock-Pot Touchscreen
posted by amarynth at 9:07 AM on December 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


I have to agree with ideefixe, cooking the beans in the soaking water just helps your food to make you gassy.
posted by Medieval Maven at 9:12 AM on December 28, 2010


Hmmm... I've had good luck cooking black beans in the soaking water, and it's recommended for these heirloom Rancho Gordo beans I've got (and I've tried it before and don't remember it being a problem). I do usually skim off the foamy parts once it gets going, though. Is it possible that the cooking-in-soaking-water problem is a myth? FWIW, I know I can't handle onions unless they've been browned to a browny brown, so I'm aware of the potential for this kind of problem.

Thanks for the info so far. I'm considering using an outlet timer, but I'd be surprised if the programmable part stayed programmed once the power connection was interrupted, unfortunately.
posted by amtho at 9:30 AM on December 28, 2010


I recommend the Fagor 3-in-1 multicooker. It's a slow, pressure and rice cooker all in one - I've found the pressure cooker is great for cranking out beans when you forget to presoak. Also, you can delay cooking (any of the 3 methods) by up to 9 hours, I think, so it would fit your criteria.
posted by beyond_pink at 10:02 AM on December 28, 2010


I got all excited about the Fagor 3-in-1, but the container is nonstick-coated :( I'm not quite gentle enough for that, plus I strongly prefer ceramic (or, as a distant second, non-coated metal). I love the idea, though, and something like this _should_ exist (so I'm glad it does).
posted by amtho at 10:24 AM on December 28, 2010


Thanks for the info so far. I'm considering using an outlet timer, but I'd be surprised if the programmable part stayed programmed once the power connection was interrupted, unfortunately.

Yeah, my Cuisinart won't keep the program if you turn it off. I imagine a non-digital crockpot would, though. I also couldn't find a suitable delayed start slow cooker (I wanted a ceramic removable insert)- I think companies worry about getting sued for any sickness from bacterial growth.
posted by oneirodynia at 11:03 AM on December 28, 2010


Finally, we have a cookbook which seems to advocate buying a slow cooker which comes with more than one inner crockery part, so you can use a different-sized insert depending on the recipe. I haven't seen anything like this.

Hamilton-Beach makes them: 1, 2, 3
posted by weebil at 11:12 AM on December 28, 2010


I'm confused - if you're using an outlet timer, why would you need to have a programmable crockpot?


Also, you may just be able to cook beans on high overnight with no pre-soaking. I believe I've done that before with chickpeas, although not recently enough to feel confident in advising your purchase based on it. Maybe others can weigh in.
posted by needs more cowbell at 11:25 AM on December 28, 2010


We own that Hamilton Beach slow cooker. It works as advertised - i.e., fine. The ceramic bowl is heavy - two hands heavy - and hard to wash in a small sink. After a while we quit bothering to delay the start because having it cook for 3 or 8 hours seemed to produce identical results; it turns itself down to 'keep warm' after a specified time.

We ended up being less excited about slow cooking than we thought we'd be. Everything wound up with very similar flavors and textures.
posted by Protocols of the Elders of Sockpuppetry at 1:06 PM on December 28, 2010


Same here…and same here. I have Set and Forget slow cooker and my initial enthusiasm has waned somewhat and for the same reason. It seems no matter how much I spice it up the flavors are somewhat bland. Smells great cooking but not as flavorful as I’d thought it would be.

That said, I’m still a newbie on it and intend to keep experimenting. Others have liked the things I’ve made so far.
posted by PaulBGoode at 7:55 PM on December 28, 2010


I'm confused - if you're using an outlet timer, why would you need to have a programmable crockpot?



Because the 'programming' is setting the cooking time and temperature. You turn it on and program something like 5.5 hours on low, and it does that, and then automatically switches to warm for 8 hours. The power must be on to do this with a digital crockpot, and you cannot program a delayed start on most of them- it begins cooking right away. That's why an outlet timer won't work.

The problem is not that you need to have a programmable crockpot with an outlet timer; it's that outlet timers don't work if you have a programmable crockpot. Shutting off the power erases the program.
posted by oneirodynia at 6:09 PM on December 30, 2010


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