on August 26, 2009
I spent a year looking for a good slow cooker that (1) When set on low did not boil food too hot (2) Could hold enough for large batch cooking (3) Did not have a hinged lid (hard to clean and breaks easily) (4) Is programmable for a set amount of time, then switches to warm (5) Was reasonably priced. I tried cheapo store brand round slow cookers which nuked my food - no need to explain since most people have had one at one point or another. Last fall I purchased the top of the line All Clad slow cooker with non-stick insert from Williams Sonoma. After sales tax it cost me a little over $300 which made me nervous. The first meal I made in it was braised short ribs. I browned the ribs in the slow cooker insert on the stove and set it on low for several hours. The food was delish and it kept a gentle simmer but I was horrified to find light scratch marks on the inside of the insert as I was washing the dishes. I used the All Clad for several days and then finally returned it because I couldn't bear the thought of having paid that much money for something that wasn't going to last. Besides, I felt a bit weird about simmering food for many hours in that non-stick coating that may one day start coming off. I then decided to look for a traditional crock pot with a timer - if I need to saute or brown I now do it in a cast iron pan the night before, deglaze, then dump all of the contents into a container that goes into the fridge if I am going to start the crock in the morning. When I get up I fill up the crock pot with the prepped food from the night before, hit the buttons, then leave for work. So far this ELume version has been great.
Pros: The low setting is actually a low simmer. I've made Indian lentil/dahl curries, bbq pulled pork, baked beans, Chinese jook/congee, Beef stew, Chili verde,red chili, soups, stock, the list goes on. I typically program it to cook for 10 hours on low and it works like a charm. Food is really slow cooked, and there are no hot spots, burned, stuck on food like previous appliances I've owned. The polished stainless finish looks beautiful - although not it does not have as high of quality finish as the All Clad.
Cons: The programmable button/pad area can be improved - the numbers are difficult to read unless you are looking at it directly at eye level, meaning you have to bend down to see what you're pressing. Mine came with a burned-out area on the keypad but I didn't bother returning it since it didn't affect the function - you can still see that it's the "on" button, it just doesn't light up. The black keypad part feels a tad cheap and you can almost pry it off if you wanted to (esp. when it gets hot) because it's glued on (!) albeit very sturdily - hopefully this lasts for a while. The crock pot itself gets a bit hot when cooking but not excessively hot like ones I've had before.
Bottom Line: I paid about $75 for this including tax. Purchased at Linens N Things with a coupon. I'm giving this a four star rating - good quality for that price but I would pay no more. Compared to my week of owning a $300 slow cooker, this is a bargain.
on February 19, 2010
Let's have a rundown of slowcookers I've owned over the last 10 years:
The All Clad slowcooker was great; however, the computerized panel stopped working altogether AFTER the warranty ran out. The Kitchen Aid slow cooker was way too hot, even on the warm cycle. The Hamilton Beach Set n' Forget Programmable slow cooker cooked everything great; however, it would randomly shut off or stay on cook, making it unreliable.
The new Crockpot SCVT650 is awesome. The touchpad is very 21st Century. It's so easy to program that I'm still astonished with it. It cooks great. Like most programmable slow cooker it goes from low or hot to warm once the meal is completed. You can set the time as low as 30 minutes and as high as 20 hours. The stainless steel exterior is something you can proudly put on your countertop.
The hole in the lid is no big deal. It's purpose is to keep the handle in its proper place. To clean the hole, if it gets gunked up with food, you just use a phillips-head screwdriver to remove the screw. That's it. Just make sure that you don't tighten it too much or you might break the glass lid. It's an easy procedure, even for the mechanically challenged.
on December 7, 2010
I had a cheaper, larger crockpot and wanted to downsize a bit because you cant make medium size portions in the monster size pots. I saw the cooks illustrated review and decided on this unit.
The unit is really smart looking, I love the black insert, it goes to the table very nicely. I found the cooking to be more true to settings (the low is truly a low simmer) and I love the electronic panel. That it will keep food warm for 6 hours is a real plus for me.
Against instruction recommendations I made a beef stew and filled it to the top, no overflow happened and it cooked beautifully.
Unlike other reviewers, I did not find the panel difficult to read and I love the way the keep warm light flashes so you know where you are in the cooking cycle.
My only complaint is after washing the insert...twice, the inside shows a ring where my liquid line was...not enough of an issue to downgrade it to 4 stars.
My favorite use for this crockpot is to make mashed potatoes for family dinners...I have made them up to 6 hours in advance of dinner and put on the warm setting and they taste like they were just made! At most I have only had to stir them as the condensation can pool inside. What a great thing to get that huge pot off the stove and cleaned before the mad rush of preparing sides for the dinner begins. I just put the entire unit on the buffet table plugged in and no longer have to battle with space in the kitchen for big holiday dinners!
All in all a smart looking, well made, well functioning unit...highly recommended.
Addendum: I have been looking for cookbooks for slow cookers that have something besides beef stew and short rib recipes...tried "Not your mothers slow cooker cookbook" and was not impressed...have a few others that just don't cut it. I recently got "Jewish Slow Cooker Recipes" by Laura Frankel and WOW what a great cookbook. I will qualify it by saying that these recipes are not easy and use many ingredients that you may have to order online, unless you live in a major metropolis with countless resources. Many of the recipes require several steps before getting to the slow cooker, but the flavors were like nothing I had ever tried. Try the creamy risotto with italian sausage, peppers and onions or the Moroccan spiced duck with sweet tart orange sauce and forbidden rice...OMG. It's obvious this woman is a talented restaurant chef, but she explains ingredients and techniques and doesn't assume you know about them. One of my favorite tricks of hers is taking porcini mushrooms and processing them in a blender for "Porcini dust" she uses it to dredge beef cubes in before browning in place of flour...the taste is amazing.
Best part of her book is that she will let you know what parts of the prep can be done days in advance which can help with the fussiness of many of the recipes.
Although I would say this book is geared toward the accomplished cook, it's not beyond a beginners grasp if they have patience.
For those of you, like me, looking for something amazingly different to come out of your slow cooker....there ya go!
Second addendum: Okay it's been two years and the unit is going strong! I use the unit at least once a week. No issues with the electronics...temp has stayed true. I have found it does amazing things with a turkey breast with lots of juice for gravy. Brisket is now a favorite, just rub with your favorite rub and place over a bed of carrots and onions or similar and you end up with a firm but tender meat that slices like a london broil without falling apart...the family loves it.
Over the past two years I have forgotten to hit the start button once I programed the hours a couple of times...thank goodness for pressure cookers...and I would really have loved a delay start function. The flip side of that is with 6 hours of keep warm after the meal is finished, I have never run into a problem.
The ring is still there but I'm over it. I have put it in the dishwasher a few times when it wasn't that dirty and it cleaned fine, but not with heavy soil. I put the lid in the dishwasher all the time and have not had the issue with build up around that hole that others have.
Frankel is still my go to book for impressive meals, but I'm getting the most enjoyment using the crockpot for non traditional uses like the brisket, turkey, custards, cakes, quick breads and of course, my mashed potatoes.
I find it an extremely cost effective appliance...I cook more at home now, freeze more leftovers and throw out less food. It paid for itself within the first year.
I still highly recommend it and find the price compared to food cost savings to be a bargain.
THIRD ADDENDUM: It's been over six years now and I still love this unit. Not one issue to complain about. If it crapped out tomorrow I would not shed a tear as it has paid for itself many times over with make ahead meal savings. I would purchase this unit again in a heartbeat.
on September 16, 2012
Like many others, I ordered the Crock-Pot Touchscreen slow cooker based on the review in Cook's Illustrated magazine. However, when I got the unit, I was surprised to find the lid did not sit in the lip of the ceramic insert (the "pot") correctly. The lid was too long lengthwise, which made the lid rock back and forth with a big gap on one side (at least 1/4"). As I was replacing an old slow cooker, I know the lid must fit well or the food will not be cooked properly. Unfortunately, the manufacturer's customer service was an even bigger problem. Now I know where the "crock" in their name comes from!
I saw that a number of purchasers from Amazon have complained about the same lid fitting issue over the course of many months. I checked the manufacturer's website and saw a replacement lid for sale. I wrote to ask if the replacement lid was correctly sized for this unit. I was told the following in an email reply:
"Please note it is normal for the lid to have at least a 1/4 inch gap to allow for ventilation as the new slow cookers cook warmer than did older units. Because of this, if they were not allowed to vent, they would essentially become pressure cookers and there would also be a risk of the lid breaking."
To assert that a correctly fitting lid in the lip of the ceramic insert would become a pressure cooking is absurd. Equally ridiculous is the claim that they designed this slow cooker to have a gap that large between the lid and the pot - that would prevent the food from getting cooked properly. Clearly the rep knows nothing about cooking or was insulting my intelligence. They didn't even address whether the replacement lid was a better fit. So I did the only thing I could do - I set up a return with Amazon as the unit is clearly defective.
I then went to a local retail store to see if the All-Clad slow cooker, the next-best-ranked unit in the Cook's Illustrated review, had a better fitting lid. Lo and behold, the store had a Crock-Pot Touchscreen unit on display, and that lid fit correctly! Given the performance issues identified with the All-Clad (not to mention the exorbitant price!), I bought a second Crock-Pot Touchscreen. The new unit's lid fits perfectly. In fact, the first unit's lid also fits the new unit's ceramic pot. It's the first unit's pot that has a defective inner lip design that renders the lid to be too long so it won't fit!
I am returning the Amazon-purchased unit unused as it clearly has a manufacturer's defect with the pot. I used the new unit overnight on low heat to cook a pork shoulder and it did a fine job - just as I expected.
If you get a Touchscreen unit whose lid appears to be too long, rocking back and forth on the sides, leaving a ridiculously large gap, don't accept this. Return it. Unfortunately, the model numbers of both units I bought were the same, so it's a gamble. Crock-Pot didn't acknowledge the defect when they communicated with me, but the fact that I could buy another of the exact same model whose lid fit correctly means either the customer service rep is incompetent in his product knowledge or intentionally tried to deceive me with his absurd response. Either way, I am hesitant to recommend the company, but the unit itself (as long as you have a correctly fitting lid) works well - so far.
on January 17, 2010
My mother used to make slow cooker dinners for us back in the early 70s. They were awful. I don't know if she had a beta model of the slow cooker, or that no one had yet figured out the science of cooking with crocks, but I was a bit traumatized by the dinners that didn't taste like anything but all tasted the same (sorry mom!). 40 years later, I thought a Crockpot might help me prepare food for my family because chaos always breaks out when dinner preparation starts (i.e. client calls, etc). A friend of mine is an expert cook and she swears by her crock. I decided to give it a shot. I researched models, and decided that this large size, easy to program model was a good fit. I was right. The first dish I made was chili, the second stuffed peppers, the third was navy been, beef brisket, chicken & sausage gumbo, then I moved on to steel cut oatmeal, unstuffed cabbage, and am cooking up a sausage chicken dish as I write this. Each dish has turned out better than the last. Here's the surprising thing: I NEVER COOK, ever. My husband does all the cooking. No one is more surprised than I am that I am cooking and the food is amazing. The unstuffed cabbage is a family specialty- and the crockpot made the dish better than anyone has so far.
For non-cooks, I completely recommend this Crockpot! If someone actually knows how to cook, I only imagine that the flavor is even better.
The controls- simple to use. Cooks evenly. The size is perfect for our family (4 people) with plenty of leftovers. Easy to clean. The best part is that I am able to make a meal for my family before the unexpected craziness of the day starts. This Crockpot has changed they way I think about slow cookers, and changed the way I think of myself as a cook.
on April 8, 2010
I am not what you call a typical impromptu buyer. After having bought my new house, I wanted to have some home cooked meals rather than the pre-prepared frozen or canned foods that I had been buying in the past, and I knew the easiest way for juicy, tender meals would be a slow cooker.
I read many review and cooking websites trying to find what was recommended as a good brand or model, and then afterward coming to read all of the previous customers' reviews here on Amazon. It took me quite some time, and a large amount of nervousness to finally come to a decision. Many people complained about burning or boiling too quickly even on the low setting - this was the most concerning factor for me and my purchase.
I eventually bought this model. There were few reviews, but none of them had mentioned burning, and the star ratings were so good, along with the automatic warming feature, I thought this was the perfect buy. I believe I was right.
The first meal I made with this slow cooker was a Wild Mushroom Beef Stew. The beef I bought was already a prime choice meat, but the slow cooker really brought out the flavor and made it more tender than I could have hoped for. This recipe called for a 12 hour (max) cook time on the low setting. There was never any burning, and although it did come to a very low boil (tiny bubbles; to be expected in order to reach necessary heating of meat), this was not an issue and it did take its time to get there. I couldn't have asked for a better cooking product.
Out of curiosity, I let the timer expire while cooking to see how it would go to the automatic warm (plus I was on the phone with my sister raving about this thing and the wonderful smells coming from it at the time). When it completes its cooking time, it automatically switches to the warming mode (showing as such from a back-lit display), and emitting about 15 high pitched electronic beeps to alert that the cooking has been completed.
The unit was extremely easy to clean, and although there is that odd hole directly under the lid's handle, it's not really an issue (design defect or not). If food does get stuck under there, the lid's handle can be removed with a screwdriver quite easily, but since this doesn't boil over, unless it's over-filled, I don't foresee that being a problem from cooking alone. The stoneware is heavy, as it should be, but it removes very easily from the base. Since it overlaps the edges of the base, spills and drips (for me) haven't yet touched the outer base, so other than wiping the metallic base with a damp cloth, no further cleaning of that was necessary (just the stoneware and the lid).
I've already recommended this product to friends and family alike.
on June 18, 2009
For years I resisted getting a crock pot because I thought they were a silly fad or that I wouldn't use it. I was wrong. I finally decided to take the plunge and after looking at a gazillion of them, I finally decided to order the e-Lume and I am glad I did. I can put the ingredients into it before I got to bed and when I get up all I have to do is put the food into containers, put a container in my lunch bag and off to work I go with a delicious homemade meal. And the white meat chicken comes out so tender and moist it almost falls apart. I am thrilled that the crock is dishwasher safe. And even though I am quite computer literate, sometimes programming an appliance can be confusing. But this is so intuitive that I didn't even have to read the user manual to figure it out. I would definitely recommend this to anyone who is looking for a new crockpot or looking to jump into crock pot cooking. The only negative is that the crock is very heavy and could easily be dropped. To the person who said it took two hours to warm up, my soup was boiling in 45 minutes on the high setting. To the person who was concerned about the hole in the lid, it is kind of odd, but the moisture seems to drain out very quickly when I turn the lid sideways and it doesn't seem to have a negative effect.
on August 17, 2011
I ordered this b/c of the Cook's Illustrated recommendation after breaking a smaller Crock Pot (3Q that I bought at Wal-mart for $10 BTW). I was so excited to use it, I washed it and filled it up the day it arrived. Nightmare. The outside of the Crockpot was hotter than the inside and the silicone "heat resistant" handles were piping hot. I literally put it on trivets to stop it from burning my counter top. Actually my whole kitchen was hot b/c of this thing while operating it on low. I hope I got a defective machine because I would hate to believe this was how it was supposed to work. I returned it and give Amazon five stars for a great return process.
on December 19, 2014
I bought this crock pot from Amazon Jan 2013. Have only used it twice. Yesterday I was making an awesome Italian sauce in it with loin of pork, Italian sausage, and pancetta. It was cooking on low about 3 hours when all of a sudden the lid shattered!!! Glass in the food!!!! Waiting to hear what if anything crock pot will do. I do not want a new lid. Want my money back.
on October 12, 2010
This is the second time I am returning this crockpot. The first didn't heat at all - ruining a meal that I placed in the crockpot in the morning and when I came home from work - everything was stone cold.
I returned and ordered a replacement. Only half of the crockpot heats up on the replacement. Very disappointed.