Low and slow is not just for sex
January 19, 2012 1:35 PM   Subscribe

Need to buy a slowcooker crockpot. What brands and models?

It is way cold and I am way lazy. I will be a first time purchaser of crockpot slowcooker. What brands and models do you use? I am confused by all the reviews on Amazon trying to separate out valid reviews from less honest or discerning ones.

I want accuracy, longevity and reliability. What are the options in the US?
posted by jadepearl to Food & Drink (24 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
I have had this Hamilton Beach 3-in-1 Slow Cooker for several years. I love it because it's simple, interchangeable, and easy to clean.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 1:44 PM on January 19, 2012

I have this (albit in black) and it's way two big for two people.. even if I'm trying to make enough to have leftovers. I'm always having to watch it and tend it to make sure I'm not burning things.

Outside of it being too big though, it's been an excellent little cooker. I recently bought a smaller 2 quart one for smaller meals, but all I've made in it is oatmeal. Which was awesome. (Although never ever use milk as your only liquid. Even at low temps, milk burns and combined with starchy oatmeal.. Never. Comes. Off.)
posted by royalsong at 1:45 PM on January 19, 2012

and wow. Looking at those reviews.. maybe it's not too big. Maybe it's just a sucky crock pot! So don't buy that one!
posted by royalsong at 1:47 PM on January 19, 2012

I'm overall happy with this Rival model (or the 8-year-old equivalent). My one problem with it is that it's consistently too hot, in my opinion, even on the "low" setting. But you'll find that this is universally true of crockpots manufactured in, say, the last 15 years. This is because of food-safety alarmism -- they make them so that they get to a real boil, even if your meat started out frozen. It isn't too big a deal for me, since I'm home during the day and can turn the thing off after 4-5 hours (instead of the 7-8 claimed), but if you were planning to turn it on in the morning and go to work, you might want to look for a vintage crockpot.
posted by palliser at 1:48 PM on January 19, 2012 [4 favorites]

I have the Hamilton Beach 6 quart "stay n go" slow cooker. It has three settings: off, low, and high.

I have heard too many friends complain that their fancy slow cookers with dozens of settings and programmable options and digital probes break too easily, so I went with the simplest one I could find. Also, I like that it comes with clips to hold the lid in place so you can travel with it.
posted by joan_holloway at 1:49 PM on January 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you want reliability and ease of operation spend less. not more.

Forget models with timers and digital controls and all that jazz. A good slowcooker should have a manual control knob and 2-3 settings, that's all. Plug it in to a $10 outlight timer for timed cooking.

Fewer parts = fewer parts to break.

I got this tip from Alton Brown and, as usual, he's on the money.
posted by Cosine at 1:50 PM on January 19, 2012 [4 favorites]

My model seems to have been discontinued, but I like that is has 3 settings- High, Low and Warm; I think it's worth finding a model that can keep stuff warm.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 1:52 PM on January 19, 2012

I was overwhelmed by choice when I looked for a slow cooker. Then I went to Salvation Army, found the old fashioned '70s Hamilton Beach with three settings and the '70s brown/orange mushroom design print that screams "I AM A SLOW COOKER." It's been absolutely fantastic. Also, $6.50.
posted by Gucky at 2:00 PM on January 19, 2012 [3 favorites]

+1 to joan_holloway's suggestion of the Hamilton Beach "stay n go" crock pot. We've had one for a few weeks, and so far it's been great. The locking lid is a really nice feature.
posted by deansfurniture5 at 2:04 PM on January 19, 2012

Cook's Illustrated August 2010 reviews had as their top "Highly Recommended" model the Crock-Pot Touchscreen.
posted by ShooBoo at 2:07 PM on January 19, 2012

I have the same issue as Palliser with my Rival crockpot; meals usually take me about two hours less than the time in the recipe.

I made sure I got one with a dishwasher-safe crock.
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:09 PM on January 19, 2012

We bought the Crock Pot brand on my mom's recommendation, who has had hers forever. Warm/Low/High are the only temperature settings on our model. So far I recommend it.

We had a friend pick up a 6 quart Crock Potâ„¢ in the Walmart Black Friday deal for us and haven't regretted it. It helps that we only paid like $10 for it. So far I've cooked a 7 bone chuck roast and a Boston Butt (halved for fit & cooking time) with no complaints. Food has turned out great, it's easy to clean, functions very well. Lots of recipes out there for this particular size.

One thing I've already found useful is having a programmable temperature probe (similar to this one). For the Boston Butt I had to cook it on high for an hour and then switch it to low for several more hours. The temperature probe took out the guesswork - I set the alarm on the probe to 195F degrees and checked the meat when it went off. I ended up letting it cook until about 200F. It's nice to have.
posted by empyrean at 2:09 PM on January 19, 2012

I just retired my "small" slow cooker -- a 3.5 quart WestBend slow cooker -- because only one of the settings worked anymore (MrR took it apart, and one of the heater wires was broken). It was fairly new, as these things go, probably only seven or eight years old. I got a 4 qt oval CrockPot to replace it. It was $18 new, and comes with three settings (warm/low/high). I also have a 5.5 qt Rival CrockPot that I use for larger items.

I would stay away from West Bend (this is the second one I've had to replace in 20 years), and go with either Rival or CrockPot brand. Get one with two or three settings, and skip anything fancier. The only quibble I'd have with getting one at a resale shop is that the older ones don't have a removeable crock, and they're harder to clean.
posted by jlkr at 2:13 PM on January 19, 2012

when i'm trying to sort through the reviews for small appliances, i like to look at consumer search. it helps cut through all the noise at all the different review sites.
posted by nadawi at 2:13 PM on January 19, 2012

I have a Rival from Target. I think it cost about $15 and is awesome, but I can't find it on their website anymore. Anyway my big suggestion for you is to get one where the cooking bowl thingy is removeable. I used to have one of those old ones where the heating element is attached to the cooking bowl, and they are absolute beasts to clean.
posted by jabes at 2:25 PM on January 19, 2012

There's always a ton of slow cookers at thrift stores.
posted by beepbeepboopboop at 2:32 PM on January 19, 2012

I have this Fagor slow cooker and recommend it to someone at least one a week. It's kind of obnoxious, probably, but I just want to spread the good word. The thing that I love most is the browning setting (no separate pan! so convenient!). I use the pressure cooker function pretty often to speed things up, which is really nice if potatoes or meat aren't as tender as I'd like, but it's not a make-or-break feature. I just love the browning setting and the evenness of the heat. I cook steel-cut oats at least once a week and I've never burned them with this crockpot, but with previous ceramic crockpots I had to rig a double-boiler set up to avoid a scorched crust on the bottom. It's super durable and seems high quality and pretty indestructible. I'm going on 3 years of twice weekly use and it's still great.
posted by k96sc01 at 2:49 PM on January 19, 2012

I've never seen, owned, or heard of an unacceptable slow cooker. I'd go to the thrift store and get one for $3. My only criteria would be that the pot part of the crock pot come out for cleaning.
posted by cmoj at 3:40 PM on January 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

I have the Hamilton Beach 3-in-1 as well and I like it quite a bit.
posted by Currer Belfry at 4:03 PM on January 19, 2012

I had a Hamilton Beach that I bought for a few bucks at a garage sale almost ten years ago and only don't have it now because my husband dropped and broke the crock. I have a Rival now, the cheapest model they had at Target, we've had it about a year. It has three settings, high, low, warm, and the crock is removable. It's a 4-quart and it's the perfect size for a family of three. I use it a lot. I even use it during the summer, it's nice to cook a meal without heating up the kitchen so much.
posted by upatree at 8:17 PM on January 19, 2012

My chef friend swears by this one, because of its metal insert that you can take out and brown meat directly on the stove top before transferring into the crockpot. Saves a lot of hassle and mess.
posted by egeanin at 9:56 PM on January 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Seconding the thrift store. I bought an old Hamilton-Beach for $10 (and overpaid, I'm sure). I'm saving up for one of the fancy All-Clad ones that egeanin linked to, though.
posted by rossination at 10:36 AM on January 20, 2012

If you are super lazy, you might want to consider getting one of the models where the insert is stovetop-friendly so you can do whatever searing you need to in it and then not have to switch from pan to crock and have an extra pan to wash. That's one of my current crock-jealousies. And I'd steer clear of any with plastic parts on the lid--the last one I had with a plastic handle on the top of the lid, from a supposedly decent brand (Rival), every time I used it the plastic would leach out (!) and eventually the whole knob on top just disintegrated and fell off, making it hard to lift the lid without oven mitts and something to wedge between it and the crock. Not so great.

And palliser is spot on about the temperature safety-->overcooking issue--diehards have rigged dimmer switches to their crockpot cords to keep the temperature more like vintage crocks. If you're geeky you could do that maybe.
posted by ifjuly at 12:18 PM on January 20, 2012

Also, yes, size matters. For me it's the opposite problem though as the one mentioned above--if I'm going to bother crocking something aaaaall day it's likely going to be a Big Huge Honkin' Cheap Roast, as in, large. There is nothing more frustrating than getting out some big frozen turkey breast you got on clearance after Thanksgiving at 6am and realizing it's too big to fit in your crock by only two inches, ugh. So I would argue bigger is better, and it will make it easier to go by the directions for more crock recipes assuming a standard bigger crock, but ymmv.
posted by ifjuly at 12:21 PM on January 20, 2012

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