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Uneven heat in a slow cooker?
December 10, 2013 7:11 PM   Subscribe

I have a relatively new 6.5 quart crock-pot and on the I've been noticing that certain sections heat up much faster than others (it's especially noticeable on the high setting). Is this normal?

The back (the section farthest from the control panel) starts to bubble after 2 hours on high, then the sides start to bubble and finally the section closest to the control panel just barely starts to bubble after 4 hours. Should I be concerned that my food is not cooking evenly or completely? Should I purchase a different model? I do fill it at least halfway full of liquid. I have a Crock-Pot SCVT650-PS, if that helps. Thank you!
posted by tigeri to Food & Drink (7 answers total)
I just had to replace a crockpot because my toddler broke the ceramic insert and I could not find an exact replacement insert... Anywho....

My research revealed that you want to stay FAR away from the new fangled programmable slowcookers, all brands, and stick with primitive warm-low-high dial-type models.

I think the heat screws with the computer parts of the programmable ones. In your model, I reckon the heating element is opposite the computerized control panel, only, hence the uneven heating.

Can you return it?
posted by jbenben at 7:43 PM on December 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

Is it an oval? I've had numerous slow cookers over the years, in various shapes, and I have always found that the round ones heat more evenly over the long term, while the oval ones eventually start to heat really unevenly but are fine for the first few years of usage.

I've never had anything but the analog, non-programmable Rival Crock-pot brand. I've had my most recent oval for probably eight years and it's been worrying me for maybe the last couple and I bought it new from a big box store, and my round pot is probably from the early 80s and not remotely problematic, and I got it from a thrift store.
posted by padraigin at 7:46 PM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

My hunch is that the heating element is near the back, to keep it as far from the digital panel electronics as possible, and this forum post seems to confirm it.

You could maybe try layering in some foil around the sides and bottom to get better heat conduction to the pot? You're probably okay though, if your main worry is food safety. Safe cooking/storing temperature (140 F) is well below a boil. You could use a thermometer and check the temperature at the front of the pot if you want to be sure.
posted by kagredon at 7:48 PM on December 10, 2013

What kind of food are you cooking in the pot when you notice uneven heating? Is this a pot full of chili or something like a pork roast?

I could see a scenario where a cold roast is contacting the stoneware in some spots and not in others, and the liquid is convecting faster in the areas not thermally contacting the cold food.
posted by JoeZydeco at 8:05 PM on December 10, 2013

Thanks everyone! That makes a lot of sense that they would put the heating element far away from the electronic panel on this oval shaped crock pot. (I was concerned that I had broken it somehow!) I've noticed the issue when cooking (relatively small) roasts that are completely surrounded by liquid and not touching any of the sides.

I think I'll keep this slow cooker for vegetarian dishes and switch to a round non-programmable slow cooker for evenly heating things when I'm especially concerned about temperature (ie meat). If you have any suggestions for modern slow cookers that heat evenly, I'll gladly take them.
posted by tigeri at 8:17 PM on December 10, 2013

The roast is still touching the bottom of the pot, isn't it? =)

My crock pot is almost identical to yours and I've noticed that the stoneware doesn't really rest on the bottom of the metal fact most of the heat is getting transferred from the upper edge of the oval. This might have been a design feature to keep the bottom of the pot from scorching the food, or maybe a manufacturing defect. I can't really tell.
posted by JoeZydeco at 8:22 PM on December 10, 2013

As mentioned in the forum post that kagredon links to: America's Test Kitchen recommends putting some foil as a shield at the hottest point opposite the control panel.

(It's shown in the episode Slow Cooker Revolution -- although the website is paywalled up the wazoo so not very useful. You might be able to catch it on PBS, I saw it there recently. ISTR they recommend the exact same "touchscreen" model that you have.)
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 11:48 AM on December 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

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