is a crock pot a crock pot a crock pot?

vacuumfreakJanuary 21, 2007

Hello. After moving to my first apartment five months ago, I am still discovering things I need. I have an ice cream maker, a food dehydrater, and a vacuum sealer. None of which I have used since the day I moved in! However, I do not have a crock pot and am wondering if I should get one. And what models are best? Are they all the same? I'm pretty sure that they all nowadays have a removable crock so I don't think that is an issue. I remember my grandmother doing beans, ham, and roast in hers at times. I'm just one person, so I am wondering how big a model to get. I know some have timers, and they pretty much all have "warm, lo, and hi" settings. Do I need one with a glass lid or a plastic lid? I know "Rival" is the old stand by brand that almost EVERYONE has... is that a safe bet or should I consider someting else? Do YOU have one, or do you happily do without one? I want to have one in case I need it, but don't know how much I would use it. Let me know what you think!

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In my experince, slow cookers (Crock Pot is, technically, a registered trademark, even though we all use it generically) are the kind of thing you either love, and use all the time, or else they just sit stored away in a closet, and never, or hardly ever, get taken out.

If you haven't needed one until now, chances are you can happily live without one.

Caveat: I'm one of the people who think they're the next best thing to worthless. So keep that in mind as you consider my response.

I also think, were I you, that I'd slow down buying appliances you think you may need. Soon enough you'll discover you own style of cooking and meal prep, and you can start filling in those things you really need to make your kitchen work more efficient.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2007 at 3:26PM
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I realized that I should have titled it "slow cookers" instead of Crock pot after I posted... Crock pot is the Rival brand. Maybe I should "Hoover" my rugs after a while :o) I was just telling a friend that when you WANT something you can think of 1000 reasons why you NEED it. Then 3 months later it's still in the box! I also "need" a rice cooker and pressure cooker... perhaps I should apply the brakes a bit. I'm a gadget guru, but I don't have a ton of storage space so I really do need things that I am going to use!

    Bookmark   January 21, 2007 at 4:34PM
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If you're a plan ahead type of person a slow cooker might work for you. And if you're gone most of the day, with little time to cook, it would be nice to come home to a warm meal. I am or was a last minute cook, so a pressure cooker worked better for me. Notice I said was, I don't cook that much anymore.

I have a slow cooker, but don't use it often because of the planning ahead part. I think my girlfriend has used it for church dinners more than I have used it.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2007 at 11:15PM
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I would recommend a rice cooker instead of a crock pot to leave something in there all day. We had a crock pot once but are no fans of it now. The idea of long cooked meat doesn't appeal to me at all.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2007 at 12:52AM
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I don't have a problem with long cooked meat. That's what braising and stewing is all about. And you'd have to go pretty far to beat a properly cooked tagine.

The problem is that I never met a slow cooker that does the job properly. Those I'm familiar with all operate at too high a temperature (even at the low setting). And if you follow most published recipes you have merely boiled away the goodness. Five or six hours in a slow cooker might produce a decent meal. Eleven just gives you meat mush.

So, if I were starting fresh in a new kitchen, the very last item I would consider getting is a slow cooker.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2007 at 7:02AM
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I use my slow cooker several times a month for pot roast, chili and occasional corned beef and cabage. Mine is about 10 years old so I'm not sure the new ones work as well.

If I were buying one today, I would get a small roaster with temperature control.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2007 at 8:48AM
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Putting together a stew or pot roast in the evening and setting it in the fridge overnite. Moving the pan to the slow cooker base in the morning before rushing off to work. Coming home to the mouth watering aroma...mmmmm. Is that your style of cooking? You could make that into a habit if it appeals to you.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2007 at 9:36AM
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Personal preference, of course, but I heartily second gardenlad's opinion of slow cookers. I've tried to like them, but to no avail.

I don't really like most of the recipes I see that would take advantage of such an appliance -- you know, the throw-everything-in-a-pot recipes that often depend upon ingredients, like canned soups, that I prefer to avoid.

The recipes I did find appealing usually involved extra steps, like browning, that really diminished the convenience aspect that people tout about slow cookers.

If you have a heavy workload, I'd say stew or braise on your days off and enjoy the leftovers the rest of the time.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2007 at 12:11PM
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Different opinion here. I have always (as far back as I can remember) had slow cookers. At the present time I have two, one 4 quart round, and one 6.5 quart oval. I have made some of the best Osso Bucco in a slow cooker, not to mention chili, stew, pot roast, Texas barbecue, and applesauce. I even use it on the weekends when we're running around during the day but will be home in the evening for dinner. I encourage folks who are skeptical to at least give it a try. If you decide it's not for you, you can either pass it on to a friend or sell it at a tag sale ;o) Since it's only you, a 4 quart would be fine. Most smaller ones are round, which is fine when you're not cooking for a crowd. May I suggest "Googleing" slow-cooker recipes to see if there are dishes that appeal to you? You could also take a trip to your local bookstore and peruse the slow-cooker cookbooks. I don't believe in purchasing items that you don't need/won't use, especially when space is at a premium or money doesn't flow like water, but the cost of most slow-cookers is negligible. Maybe a friend has one they'd be willing to "loan" you for a week to see if it's something you like before purchasing it.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2007 at 3:01PM
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The point made about planning ahead is relevant. If that's your style then you might get decent use out of one. I have a couple of crock pots but don't use them that much. I have a pressure cooker that I use at least ten times as much as I use the crock pot. If I only had the budget for one of those two, I'd definitely go with the pressure cooker. If you want to pursue that, check out for advice, or search this forum; the topic gets covered frequently.

Still, crock pots excel at 'unfussy' foods; beans, stews, etc. But a heavy enamel cast iron pot can do much of what a crock pot can do.

Don't necessarily go for a small unit if you do get one. You could use it to make a big pot of beans or chili then freeze the food in one-meal quantities to be microwaved in the future. I was on a vegetarian kick a while back and found it useful for cooking huge quantities of beans which I then froze in smaller quantities for later consumption.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2007 at 1:27PM
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I've had a "large" vintage Rival one for years, purchased second hand. I used it only very sporadically until lately when moved into a more accessable cupboard. I use it most often to make soup stock... love being able to just plunk in the bones from meat or chicken after cooking (or even purchased soup bones), adding the seasonings and a few veggies (some that may have been collected ahead in baggies in the freezer) and just letting it cook away without having to tend to it at a certain time or watch the stove.

It may not be the best way, but if I have too much else going on or am feeling lazy, I can just leave the cooker on overnight and finish straining at leisure whenever the next day. Some liquid will evaporate out, and the edges may get dark/overcooked but I'll sometimes just add more water if I really need to.

As a treat we sometimes buy the whole chickens from the deli, and we've been cutting the meat away before eating so to be able to likewise use that carcass. It's so nice and easy to have homemade stock on hand for soup or cooking, but I doubt I'd bother if I didn't have the flexibility with the slow cooker. I suppose if I had a pressure cooker (besides the old one that I'm now "scared" of using but used to a couple of decades ago) that might work well too with not too much time at the stove.

I came across a smaller vintage one with the same pattern as my big one, so got that and do use it also, either at the same time or if I'm making a smaller quantity. They do take up significant cupboard space however.

These have only the off, low & high settings and have plastic see-through lids which seem fine. And the removable "crockpot" part washes up quite easily, especially with a bit of soaking and/or using a toothbrush if needed. I've had variable results making other dishes, some perhaps ending up overcooked (dry or tough-ish chicken or meat), but haven't tried a lot. Am planning to try more from cookbooks eventually.

I've also taken pot luck dishes/soups in it a couple of times... some care needed in transporting to avoid spilling (& the outside gets hot) but it can be handy if the host house has a convenient plug in spot but limited stove/oven space.

Apparently "newer" Rival slow cookers have a problem of heating too high; you might like to search for other discussion threads - I've included one link:

I seem to remember reading somewhere that some people have had burning problems on countertops through the feet somehow (unless I'm remembering the wrong appliance)... anyway I now put it on an aluminum baking sheet just in case.

Good luck with your decision and have fun setting up your new place!

Here is a link that might be useful: thread discussing concerns of some slow cookers

    Bookmark   January 25, 2007 at 4:38AM
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You should have titled your query "is a crock pot a crock"....which I think it is!...Save your money and buy a nice enameled castiron Dutch oven. It will sit in a slow oven all day if that's your style...or you can brown in it on the stove top and move it to the oven later....or turn down the heat and leave it on the stove top.
Oh....and by the also cooks rice very well.
Linda C

    Bookmark   January 25, 2007 at 10:59AM
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> also cooks rice very well. ....and just about anything else you want to cook in it. A cast iron Dutch oven, enameled or not, is about the most versatile piece of cookware you can have in your kitchen.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2007 at 11:23AM
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I agree about the enameled cast-iron Dutch oven. If I only had to have one piece of cookware, that would definitely be it. I have 2 of those, a 4 1/2 qt. round one and a 7 1/2 qt. oval. The only problem is that when you're out and about or at work all day, you can't leave it unattended. That's when a slow cooker fits the bill.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2007 at 7:44AM
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I'm fairly new to the joys of cooking with enameled cast ironware (thanks to periodic browsing of this forum!!), and am sold on it too. But in our small kitchen I do find it handy to have the slow cooker (likewise rice cooker) available while using the stove for other things or as mentioned, for issues re attentiveness.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2007 at 5:26PM
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I have newer slow cookers and in deed they cook too fast which is fine if you are home to monitor it.

Several months ago I went to the Salvation Army and purchased on of the older Rival Crock Pots (the three legged ones) for $2. Then I found the larger older Rival Crock Pot for $5 at the Goodwill Store. These are like the ones I gave away many years ago because I had to "upgrade". I have been using both more than the newer models.

So, as suggested before, buy one and test drive it to see if it meets your cooking style. I went to the community stores specifically looking for the old crock pots and as you read, I was successful.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2007 at 1:27AM
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Why can't you leave your cast iron Dutch oven unattended? Do you turn off your furnace and hot water heater when you leave for the day?
Those Le Cruset pots have such good lids that at a low temperature they won't built up enough pressure to allow steam to escape....Many Many times I have put a browned roast or a stew into the oven and left it for 8 hours.
I think the notion that we can't leave something in the oven unattended stems from the days when we had wood burning stoves, or a gas oven that didn't shut off if the flame went out.
Back in those dark dismal days when I was cooking on an electric stove, I could turn that burner to it's lowest and leave....
Once you get a cast iron pot takes very little to keep it there.
Linda C

    Bookmark   January 29, 2007 at 10:45AM
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It has to be more energy efficient to run a crock pot for 10 hours than to keep an oven running for 10 hours.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2007 at 11:19AM
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I don't know if that's true, Canvir.

I cook on bottled gas. Costs me, currently, 70 bucks for a 100 pound bottle, and I cook between 6 & 7 months on that---which includes a lot of oven time and an awful lot of boiling water for canning.

So, let's call it ten bucks a month. I don't think I could buy the electricity to run the crockpot for as little money.

More to the point: The only time I've had crockpot-made food that was any good was because I was there to monitor it. And if I have to do that, my cast-iron does a better job.

And I agree with Linda. There is no reason to not leave an oven untended. Certainly it's not particularly unsafe.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2007 at 12:15PM
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"There is no reason to not leave an oven untended. Certainly it's not particularly unsafe."

I can vouch for that! I forget to turn my oven off quite frequently and my house still stands - but the oven is empty at that point. I would not deliberately leave something to bake/braise in the oven unattended all day. I have several sizes of Le Creuset Dutch ovens and I love the alchemy they produce. But I turn to my crockpot for slow, unattended cooking.

My Dutch landlady doesn't have an oven at all! Apparently many older Dutch homes have no ovens - hence the "Dutch oven". The townhouse we are renting has a newly rennovated kitchen so we have an oven, a dishwasher and a freezer with our refrigerator - all included in the rent.

But I digress...


    Bookmark   January 31, 2007 at 8:28AM
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Seagrass, there are many homes in Europe that lack ovens. In stead there are central ovens that the whole town uses, or they just let the town baker take care of those needs.

However, the source of "Dutch oven" is different. In the 1600s the Dutch dominated the cast-iron trade, particularly with the new world. Thousands and thousands of those hearth ovens (i.e., 3-legged with a deep, recessed lid) were shipped to North America, and came to be called Dutch ovens.

Now, as a marketing ploy, LC is trying to change the name to French oven (playing on the erroneous idea that anything worthwhile in the culinary world just has to be French). But it doesn't seem to be sticking.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2007 at 12:39PM
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But back to slow cookers, I hate that it takes up so much valuable cabinet real estate however I love to buy a bunch of bone-in chicken breasts on sale, throw them in the slow cooker overnight, and pull tender chicken off the bone in the morning to use or freeze for later. Also, a Boston Butt, cooked all day, will yield a ton of delicious pulled pork barbeque- also to eat or freeze. I don't use my slow cooker for much else but won't get rid of it either. They're cheap, so if you have room to store it, get one.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2007 at 4:04PM
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I thought a Dutch Oven was named because the Dutch were frugal and thrifty and it was an efficient use of energy...
My great grandmother, nee Vander Hoof called a stew pot.
Another great grandmother, nee Konklin called a chicken frier...
As Old Will said..."a rose by any other name....."
We know what we are talking my mother said..." a pot you can trust".
Linda C

    Bookmark   February 1, 2007 at 8:38PM
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Stew pot is actually closer, Linda.

The style we currently call "Dutch oven" is a flat-bottomed kettle with a lid added. And is, of course, with its heavy, heat-holding design, ideal for stewing.

Kettles originally were round bottomed (and some had legs), designed primarily to be hung over an open fire; either from a tripod or a crane. They did not have lids. There was a point, measured in gallons, where a kettle became a cauldren, but I misremember it right now. Thirteen comes to mind, but don't take that to the bank.

Dutch ovens, of course, had three legs and a deeply recessed lid so you could put coals both under and on top, to provide even, dry heat. They were used on the hearth, not in the firebox.

In the first quarter of the 19th century, "portable" cast iron stoves became popular. Initially kettles were still used by removing an eye and setting the pot right in the hole, over the open fire. Eventually they began modifying the pieces, flattening the bottom and adding a domed lid.

A chicken fryer has a somewhat different configuration; being relatively wide for it's height (for stability), and with sidewalls that slope more sharply than those of a skillet. Chicken fryers, too, have domed lids; many of which are of the self-basting type.

Now, if you really want to know about hearth trivia, ask me nicely and I'll tell you were the term "hob nobbing" comes from.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2007 at 9:06PM
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I love my slow cooker. There are plenty of recipes you can make in it that don't require "canned soups" (I never use that stuff). I like to cook squashes in my slow cooker: butternut or spaghetti squash. Rinse the squash, remove the sticker, pop it in the crock pot, & it's done when I come home from work. I've also used it to cook frozen manicotti & sauce while doing errands for a couple of hours. It makes great applesauce. Red beans & rice is another favorite recipe.
I have a pressure cooker, but those meals turn out a little watery for my tastes, and the vegetables are limp & tasteless. I prefer the crockpot. You can search on the web about operating costs: slow cookers are much cheaper than ovens.
re the original question: it's probably more a matter of knowing your appliance.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2007 at 8:50PM
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The kitchen stove is the #1 cause of house fires. (Mostly from grease fires but oven fires also.) Faulty wiring either within the house or in an appliance is another frequent cause. Since a house fire would be totally devastating, I never leave anything cooking unattended and I unplug all my applinaces except the fridge and tv when not in use. That's just my own personal phobia.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2007 at 9:34AM
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Beancounter, can I ask where you got the figures on house fires? Just out of curiousity, as my impression had always been that faulty wiring was number 1, followed by improper use of space heaters, followed by smoking in bed. Kitchen fires were hardly in the running.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2007 at 9:48AM
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Bean counter's right: cooking is the leading cause of house fires.

Here is a link that might be useful: Causes of residential fires

    Bookmark   February 13, 2007 at 6:07PM
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Take the Fire Prevention Week Quiz for some surprises.

Here is a link that might be useful: Fire Prevention Week Quiz

    Bookmark   February 15, 2007 at 3:32PM
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Oh yeah - about slow cookers. I have an old, round Rival that's probably 25 years old and a newer oval Rival that's about 8 years old. I had another old, round Rival that I gave away and probably should have kept, since it didn't get too hot.

I use both, using the smaller one when it's just our family and the larger for a crowd. Lots of homemade soup, chili and stew. I love the convenience and coming home to the smell of dinner. A coworker makes chicken taco filling by just throwing in frozen chicken breasts and seasonings, etc. Never tried it, but she swears by it.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2007 at 3:37PM
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I have an old Rival Crock Pot that I have had for over 25 years. I don't use it as much as I use to when I worked. I could put everything in it in the morning and have a meal ready when I came home late at night. I still do Corned Beef and veggies every St. Pat's Day and also at Christmas use it to make Sauerbraten, and the occasional stews all year long. We use to use it to make old fashion Irish Oatmeal where we would cook it all night so it would be ready in the morning.

I second what someone else said and suggest you buy one from a garage sale or thrift store to try it out and see if you like it. And I think the older models were better then the newer ones. Just my 2 cents.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2007 at 8:04PM
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I find it interesting that so many people suggest the older ones were better than the new ones. That's not been my experience.

We had one of the original Crock Pots, with the removable ceremic liner. It overheated just like the new ones do.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2007 at 6:17AM
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I use my crock pot about once a week. It's just so darned easy and frees up my time around dinner time when things are hectic around here. It does wonderful things to a $1.99 lb (on sale) roast. It's also the only way I'll do corned beef. Another popular dish around here is chicken in coconut milk, peanut sauce and curry. And it's great for making chili. Mine is a Rival with the removable liner.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2007 at 12:41PM
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