Thursday, July 19, 2012

Breaking Out the Slow Cooker

 NOTE: Updated post with recipe photos from The Southern Slow Cooker cookbook!
Slow cooker navy beans and turkey from The Southern Slow Cooker.
 And, so it begins.... I've got the slow cookers a cookin', all three of them, and I've officially upgraded from the archaic (vintage?) Rival I bought at an estate sale several years ago. Don't get me wrong, I totally dig my Rival, and let's face it, those cookers just won't die. Just when you think you've cooked your last pot 'o beans, that SOB rises from the ashes all Phoenix-like to take one more chuck roast. Fact: take care of your slow cooker and it'll probably outlive you.
Slow cooker pork loin with vanilla fig jam from the book.
I decided to get more than one slow cooker for recipe testing for The Southern Slow Cooker so I could experience various brands (both pricey and budget) as well as different sizes and shapes, since one of the challenges in writing a slow cooker cookbook for the general public is that my readers will own different types of slow cookers, and not only does size matter, but so does shape (think round pots versus oval). Also, many newer slow cookers will run hotter than the retro-fabulous, old school ones our mothers have and that can greatly affect overall cooking time as well as cause incidental burning issues.
Country ham breakfast bread pudding. Yup, from the book
and you can make this in your crockpot and have it ready by brunch!
So, the three cookers I have going so far are as follows:

1. Hamilton Beach Stay or Go 5-Quart Slow Cooker: I dig this little number, not only because it's portable (and apparently spill-proof once you lock it in) but because it has a nice price point at under $40. It's also super easy to use with a simple manual high, low and warm setting and it's a basic oval. I'm figuring lots of folks will have slow cookers like this one with these functions.

2. KitchenAid 6-Quart Programmable Slow Cooker with Easy Serve Lid: KitchenAid seems to only make two slow cookers and both are 6-quart programmables. What struck me about this one, in addition to the side by side pop-up lid (so when you gotta stir you can retain at least half of that valuable heat), is that it has a warm, low, hot and a medium setting. I've never seen a slow cooker with a medium setting, and to be honest, I'm not entirely sure how I will use it yet, but it does open the opportunity for more experimentation. Just digging into this one, so I shall report more later.

3. All-Clad 6.5-Quart Programmable Slow Cooker: So, this one is my fancy pants slow cooker. All-Clad only makes two slow cookers-- the 6.5 quart and a 7 quart, and they are both gorgeous and expensive. These cookers are the Rolls Royce's of slow cooking, and I figure while many regular folks may not invest in such high dollar machinery, there are home cooks out there who will (or will at least put it on their bridal registry). Plus, let's face it, I really wanted one of these because I freaking love All-Clad anything. This slow cooker will serve as my large order one for roasts, entertaining recipes, and the like. Heck, it's so pretty I just might put it over the fireplace on display.

P.S. My vintage round Rival slow cooker will be making appearances in the kitchen as well many people still cook with older models.

Have a favorite tried and true slow cooker? Please share. I would love learn more about the features, sizes and shapes you prefer to cook with at home.

Thanks, and there's more to come!
Crockpot pasta sauce with meatballs, sausages and cubed steak. You guessed it, from The Southern Slow Cooker cookbook!

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  1. Hi Kendra, I've got the Hamilton Beach 6qt, I think--love it. So affordable, and after all a slow cooker doesn't have to do very much other than hold a steady temperature...Now, if it could do the pre-browning step for me and clean itself up!

  2. Susie,

    I'm with ya on the browning step. Apparently, All-Clad makes a slow cooker (a deluxe version) where the insert can be used on the stove top for browning, so your meal is truly one-pot. I don't have that one, but it's on my short list!

    Thanks for chiming in.

  3. Ours is a Crock Pot brand 5.5 qt slow cooker, and I couldn't tell you how much it was because my mom got it for us a few years back, but it doesn't seem overly fancy. It's our second slow cooker because my husband broke our first one, a Hamilton Beach. It wasn't really his fault though — one of the recipes in the book that it came with said to use the insert on the stove top (like you described above), but it shouldn't have because the stupid thing burned on the bottom and shattered. Now the new one goes nowhere near the stove top!

  4. Yikes! That stinks. I chose not to get one of the pots that go on the stove for this very reason. So paranoid it will shatter. Glad you finally settled on a pot you like though :)


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