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Old 08-21-2011, 12:10 PM   #1
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Are electric crock pots useful... and hygienic?

Hi,

This was one of those "gadget gifts" popular about 20 years ago, but I see they have made a resurgence.

It was also the kind of appliance people tended to leave in the cupboard and use about once a year... if.

Still, I quite like the idea of the crock pot because:

- They can be programmed and left on for hours
- They can cook cheap cuts of meat very well
- I believe that beans come out with softer skins
- Some sauces come out really rich and tasty with that kind of cooking

For these reasons, I was toying with the idea of buying one.

Does anyone here use a crock pot?
Is it easy to "drive"... and to clean?
Do they last?
Can food easily be over-cooked in it?

Or is it more of a gimmicky thing?

Would a stew, let's say a boeuf bourguignon, taste better, worse, the same in a crock pot?
Can you fry stuff in it too and, if so, does the bottom wear well?

You were probably puzzled about why I mentioned hygiene. Well, my better half wonders if the food is heated up hot enough to kill any germs or bacteria...

Thanks in advance for your advice,

Best regards,
Alex R.

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Old 08-21-2011, 12:25 PM   #2
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Slow cookers (Crockpot is a brand name) are not a gimmick and are quite useful.

It's easy to use and clean. Especially if the pot part is removable. They should last a very long time. As with any cooking method or device, food can indeed be over cooked in it. That's not the appliance's fault but the fault of the person who sets the timing.

I don't think any food tastes better or worse properly cooked in a slow cooker vs. a stove top dutch oven.

You cannot brown foods in it. Typically, when a recipe calls for browning meat, they tell you to do it in a skillet then move the browned meat to the slow cooker.

Modern slow cookers made for use in the USA are federally mandated to have certain minimum temperatures they can operate at for food safety reasons. Used properly, they are perfectly safe.
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Old 08-21-2011, 12:26 PM   #3
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You cannot fry in a crock pot.

However, the crock pot is perfect for long braising of meats and making soups and stews. I've never cooked beans in mine, only added already cooked beans later.

The new crock pots do heat your food to the levels that kill bacteria. I always use the high temp to bring it up to temperature quickly and then lower for the rest of the day.
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Old 08-21-2011, 12:27 PM   #4
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I use my electric crock pot about once a week, for making soups, stews, small braised roasts, etc. It's got a removable glazed ceramic liner that you do the actual cooking in, and that makes it very easy to clean either by hand or washing it in the automatic dishwasher.

As far as heat is concerned, mine comes up to a nice boil with the setting on high, and gentle simmer on low.

Crock pots impart no taste. That is entirely dependent upon the quality of the cook and what they add to the crock pot!

I wouldn't call it a fad or gimmick since I and many of my fellow cooks have been using crock pots for 25+ years.
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Old 08-21-2011, 12:36 PM   #5
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I have 4, and love them. You can make great stock from rotisserie chicken carcasses in addition to many other things. They are great for potlucks.

You can get liners for them at the grocery store, they really make cleanup easy.

There are a number of good cookbooks dedicated to the crock pot. I really like "Fix It and Forget It Cookbook", by Ranck and Good.
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Old 08-21-2011, 12:40 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AlexR View Post
Hi,

Does anyone here use a crock pot?
Is it easy to "drive"... and to clean?
Do they last?
Can food easily be over-cooked in it?

Or is it more of a gimmicky thing?

Would a stew, let's say a boeuf bourguignon, taste better, worse, the same in a crock pot?
Can you fry stuff in it too and, if so, does the bottom wear well?

You were probably puzzled about why I mentioned hygiene. Well, my better half wonders if the food is heated up hot enough to kill any germs or bacteria...
Hi Alex.

I love my crock-pot and I still have (and use) the first one I purchased in 1971, which was the year Rival introduced this handy little appliance to busy cooks.

Drive? Do you mean to transport from home to somewhere else, such as a potluck or gathering? If so, I've never had any challenge doing that with mine. I just put it, nestled in some bath towels in a box, on the floor of my car during transport. Some of the newer ones have strap-like devices to hold the lid in place, but that's never been an issue for me.

I've never had a problem cleaning my crock-pot, even though the "crock" part is not removable. I do have another pot that has the removable crock, which does making cleaning quite easy. Even dishwasher-safe.

Hmmmm. Do they last? Well, if mine is any indication, I suppose they do. I raised 8 children and my crock-pot got a workout on a regular basis. Then, after I moved to Kentucky, I lived in a house that didn't have air-conditioning, which meant that during the warmer months, the kitchen could get rather uncomfortable. That's where my crock-pot came to the rescue. As a matter of fact, during one especially oppressively hot summer, I cooked every evening meal for a month using the crock-pot. It was a lifesaver.

Overcooked? I've never experienced this, even when I've forgotten to turn the pot off or to "warm." Occasionally, I've arrived home significantly later than I'd anticipated and still found my meal just fine. Although, as with anything, I'm relatively certain that some foods would suffer from overextending the cooking time.

A gimmick? Don't think so. This appliance has been around for 40 years and has become "new" on a recurring basis. Sort of like, what's old becomes new again. You understand what I mean. There are now new iterations of this device, some good and some not much of an improvement, in my opinion. Because of today's "food police," as I call them, the newer crock-pots seem to cook at much higher temps and I've heard complaints about foods not being what the cook had anticipated based on experience with an older appliance.

Beef stew, etc. as you ask, would all be very good done in a crock-pot. These dishes are among our favorites cooked in this appliance. I'd recommend trying a few recipes to judge for yourself.

I'm not aware of any true crock-pot that can be used for frying, but I haven't had any reason to look into the world of crock-pots for many years. There might well be some that do have a frying capability.

Food safety? In my experience, I'd say if they are used according to the manufacturer's recommendations, there should be no danger of illness from foods cooked in them.

The only suggestion I can offer if you are considering buying a crock-pot, I'd purchase a mid-size to large one. I have a smallish one and it gets used rarely, even though I only cook for my husband and myself. I always seem to reach for my good, old big one.

Hope I've given you some "food for thought" and you enjoy your crock-pot if and when you get one.

Bon appetit!
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Old 08-21-2011, 01:25 PM   #7
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One of my c/ps came with an insulated case. Great for car trips. I also have a big Nesco combo slow cooker and roaster. I think you could fry in it. It does everything but wash your windows. It doesn't get as much use as it should as there are just the 2 of us.

I would say a slow cooker is indispensible. I would agree with Katie, bigger is better. I have a couple little ones that are good for dip, but that's about it.
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Old 08-21-2011, 01:32 PM   #8
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My large crock pot has settings for 4, 6, 8 and 10 hour cooks. I mostly use the 10 hour setting and I measured it at a very constant 300F. It varied by one degree either way, but held it there after reaching temp.

I'll have to measure the other settings with just water in the pot and see where they reach.

I also pre-heat things that are going in it. I'll bring the liquid part of the recipe up to boiling and add it to the slow cooker.

I love long cooked stews. All kinds. Haven't met a stew I didn't like.

Being a sauce fiend, if a stew has a thick, rich and creamy broth, it's a hit with me!

Crock pots? Love em. My oldest one is the kind that is a Teflon pan, (about 4 quarts), that just sits on a hot plate part that has a dial for temps that is 1-2-3-4, with 4 being the hottest. It has a nice glass lid that I've managed not to break for all these years and moves.

I bought that one when I was in my mid 20's and still use it. I'm 58 now.
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Old 08-21-2011, 01:41 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dawgluver View Post
... I have a couple little ones that are good for dip, but that's about it.
I use my small 3 qt. about 20 times more often than the large one. I find it useful for making soup, stew or chili without making too much to have to freeze. I don't always want to freeze leftovers.

It makes just enough for four servings; 2 meals for one person with second helpings, or one serving for two meals for two people.

For a single person or a couple, it's the perfect size.
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Old 08-21-2011, 01:46 PM   #10
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I use my small 3 qt. about 20 times more often than the large one. I find it useful for making soup, stew or chili without making too much to have to freeze. I don't always want to freeze leftovers.

It makes just enough for four servings; 2 meals for one person with second helpings, or one serving for two meals for two people.

For a single person or a couple, it's the perfect size.
I understand what you are saying, Selkie, but my biggest challenge with the smaller appliance is it's a bit of a challenge when I wish to cook a whole chicken or similar large piece of fowl or meat. The larger crock-pot just works better for me most of the time.
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