I needed to replace a slow cooker that was damaged in a kitchen remodel,
and we initially decided to go the cheap route witha $40 GE model from
Wal Mart. Unfortunately, the unit was garbage as it never reached the
correct temperature. The first attempt making a pot of charro beans
resulted in beans that never became fully soft; I needed to transfer the
beans to my slow cooker and simmer them for an hour. I then did a pot
roast and was horrified when the liquid measure only 170 degrees after
almost 8 hours on low! The dutch oven came to the rescue again.
finally broke down and bought this model based on the recommendation of
America's Test Kitchen. Before using it for the first time, I actually
did their water temperature test over 6 hours on both low and high. I
measured the water temperature every 30 minutes and came up with an informative graph:
"high" setting is something I wouldn't use for more than 5 hours as it
clearly hits a simmer very quickly. Some recipes may benefit from the
high setting, but low looks to be the better option for most things. The
"Keep Warm" setting drops the temperature to about 160 degrees from
what I remember. The crock also retained heat in the water until the
next morning after I shut the unit off around 10pm.
As I'm typing
this, I'm actually using the unit for the first time for its intended
purpose. I was surprised to see the back edge of the liquid simmering after only 3 hours or so.
My trusty Thermocouple thermometer showed a temperature of 209 degrees
along the back wall of the slow cooker while the temperature elsewhere
was as low as 125 degrees. Two things are obvious:
1) The heating element for this unit is in the back (no surprise)
2) Food doesn't transmit heat as evenly as water. It makes sense, but I didn't even think about it.
you can expect the food to heat up uneven the thicker the ingredients
are. A pot roast with liquid will cook more evenly than the lazy
bolognese sauce I'm making which is very thick. It also explains the use
of a heat shield along the back wall of the slow cooker as suggested by America's Test Kitchen (basically you fold up some heavy-duty aluminum foil and place it inside the crock against the back wall).
comments about what others have mentioned: The lid does indeed fit
somewhat sloppy, but it fits better one way than the other and it wasn't
enough to make me want to return the unit. The body of the slow cooker
does indeed get VERY hot - make sure you set it away from the counter's
edge if you have kids in the house.
All in all I learned some
interesting things while playing around with this unit. I am happy with
its performance, and the timer works as expected. I am a little worried
that the electronics won't last very long, but hopefully it's unfounded.