Slow cooker too slow?
December 26, 2012 1:25 AM   Subscribe

Just acquired a slow-cooker, it doesn't behave how I imagined it would. Are my expectations misguided or did I get a dud...?

Got a slow-cooker for christmas, very excited. Tried it out today cooking chickpeas, I cooked them for 8 hours on high and though they are cooked, they are still a bit husky - not as soft as I like them. Also I was expecting the water to be bubbling, but it didn't ever seem to come to the boil. There was steam coming off but no visible bubbling. Is this how it works? Seems like it should have gotten hotter. Did I get a dud? This is the one I got. Anyone know anything about slow cookers?
posted by beccyjoe to Food & Drink (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
It should have been bubbling.
posted by litlnemo at 1:32 AM on December 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

This slow cooker FAQ says yes, it should come to a slow simmering boil, unless you're removing the lid too often to peek at the contents.
posted by Short Attention Sp at 1:44 AM on December 26, 2012

The lid is a key thermal component. If it was on and everything was assembled correctly otherwise (there is not really much to go wrong there, but it's worth double checking), it's probably broken.
posted by feloniousmonk at 2:28 AM on December 26, 2012

Thank you. Great link, @Short Attention Sp. hm, yes I feel that it should have been bubbling. The lid is glass, so I could see in without taking it off. THough I did remove it a few times to see in more detail. A simmering boil was nowhere in sight.
posted by beccyjoe at 3:05 AM on December 26, 2012

It you remove the lid too much it can seriously affect your cooking time. You might try another test without removing the lid.

I have read online that new slow cookers tend to run hotter than older ones did, because of food safety concerns. So yours being so cool on the high setting does seem strange.
posted by litlnemo at 4:49 AM on December 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

High for 8 hours and no bubbling = get a new one.
posted by Kimberly at 4:58 AM on December 26, 2012

High on 8 hours should have given you mush! Burnt mush even! New slow cooker.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 5:52 AM on December 26, 2012 [8 favorites]

Yes. There should have been serious condensation on the lid if nothing.
Have you tried a test with something like butter (or your hand)?)
I have a similar cooker to you and I love it.

I've not cooked chickpeas alone, but I have in curries and while I can't rule out "it's you", it does seem like they should have been mush.
posted by Mezentian at 6:16 AM on December 26, 2012

Something's not right.You do need to keep the lid on the whole time and resist the urge to peek and definitely don't stir it or anything like that. I've cooked meat in our slow cooker and there always will condensation and a simmering boil. I think return it.
posted by lasamana at 6:23 AM on December 26, 2012

Try it again without taking the lid off. Just put water in for eight hours on low and then take the temperature of the water. It should be between 180-200 degrees F. Here's a PDF on how to test it.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 8:14 AM on December 26, 2012 [6 favorites]

Did you fill it too full? Overfilling the crock pot can lead to uncooked/undercooked food. Try filling only 2/3 full.
posted by crazycanuck at 8:49 AM on December 26, 2012

Were the chickpeas presoaked? If so, I would certainly have expected them to be cooked through.

However, chickpeas are the longest-cooking bean in my experience. I don't presoak, and cook them in the slow-cooker on low, sometimes the are still a little on the crunchy side even after 8 hours.

Cook's Illustrated says:
Dried-out sauces and blown-out meat correlated with slow cookers that reached 212 degrees. In contrast, machines that never topped 190 degrees yielded watery sauces and tough meat. The best results came from models that cooked between these temperatures.
Before you chuck or return it, I'd put in a quart or two of water and leave it on Hi for a couple of hours and measure the temperature of the water to see if it's above 190.
posted by BrashTech at 8:55 AM on December 26, 2012 [8 favorites]

Any possibility you turned the knob too far, like all the way to the right, by mistake, and the slow cooker was on the "Keep Warm" setting instead of high? It's a little tough to judge what the problem is for yours, with that cool touch exterior. Maybe the heating element was not completely plugged in to the cord. Mine has a cord that has to be firmly pushed in to the cooker and sometimes seems like it is but it's loose, so it heats up, but only partially.

The slow cooker absolutely should have been bubbling otherwise. I hardly ever put my slow cooker on high for as long as 8 hours because mine would be boiling before then, and most likely the stuff in the bottom would be completely overcooked.

Sunbeam is a good name, but I did get a dud stand mixer from them once, so it happens. Called them up and they were very helpful on the phone; I just returned my mixer to the store and exchanged it for another one, which still works great now, maybe 10 years later.
posted by misha at 11:44 AM on December 26, 2012

Taking the lid off a cooker "a few times" is not going to mess up an eight hour dish. If you had yours on high for eight hours, OP and it never once reached a boil, then you probably got a dud. Call customer service and see if you can return it for one that works.
posted by patheral at 1:03 PM on December 26, 2012

THANKS everyone for helpful responses. I will try it once more, without removing the lid, and see what happens. If I don't get different results, I will return it. Thanks again!
posted by beccyjoe at 1:22 PM on December 26, 2012

(and yes the chickpeas were pre-soaked, overnight. I put them on low again last night and they are still not as soft as I like them! - which is how soft they are when they come out of a can -)
posted by beccyjoe at 1:24 PM on December 26, 2012

It's difficult, but not impossible, to get dried beans cooked as soft as canned beans without using a pressure cooker. So maybe lower your expectations some. Or get a pressure cooker.
posted by 6550 at 5:56 PM on December 26, 2012

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