Thursday, February 25, 2010

Seriously, a Slow Cooker?

I know, I know, a serious chef would scoff at the use of a slow cooker.  And yes, my first product review on a technology based blog is for a slow cooker.  However, the Hamilton Beach Set 'n Forget® 6 Qt. Programmable Slow Cooker is no ordinary slow cooker.  If Iron Man were a kitchen device, he would be this one.

Let me give a short back story at why we purchased this device.  My wife and I both work, but we both love to eat.  Very early in our marriage we instituted Slow Cooker Mondays due to the fact that my wife goes into work late on that day and can prepare the meal before she goes in.  We had a joke for a while that on any given Monday, either the Slow Cooker or my wife would "win", depending how the meal turned out.  There were some gruesome brownish meals that came out of our first slow cooker and my wife seemed to be loosing the Monday Night Throwdowns more than she was winning.  Well, a couple of months ago, our marriage slow cooker met an unfortunate demise in a freak washing incident.  After that, everything changed.

I did my homework, as I often do, before purchasing the Hamilton Beach Set 'n Forget Slow Cooker.  For about $60 on, it seemed like a very good deal.  The biggest draw for me was the fact that it came with a built in meat probe.  More on the probe later.  Standard options also include a rubber gasket on the lid, a spoon with a built in spoon holder on the lid and latches that lock the lid and stoneware onto the unit.  This was an impressive set of accessories for a unit in this price range.

Once I received the unit, there was even more to be happy about than I originally expected.  The unit will remember and resume its programming if it looses power.  This is nice due to the fact that your dinner will not be ruined if you have a power flicker.  The overall styling of the unit is very modern and appealing to my inner geek.  It is fairly large, but for a 6 quart cooker, it does not seem excessively so.  The spoon, is...well.. a plastic spoon.  It was a nice extra, but really does not make or break the deal. The spoon holder on the lid is not  very good as the spoon can drip on the unit itself.  Again, this is not a deal breaker.  It might be nice to hold the spoon if you are transporting the unit in a car.

Lets talk about cooking.  Like most modern slow cookers, it has high, low and keep warm settings.  It can be programmed to cook for a certain length and then keep the food warm until you are ready to eat.  Nothing special here, but it is very easy to program.  What is special, is the meat probe.  With the probe, you can cook any hunk of meet you like to its optimum temperature and then have it keep your meal warm until you come home.  The advantage of this is that you can strike the perfect balance of your food not turning to mush, yet still being cooked through to its optimal temperature.  Simply put everything in the pot, put the probe into the thickest part of the meat and set your done temperature.  When you get home, you will have a perfectly cooked dinner.

How does the food taste?  Since getting the new slow cooker, my wife has not lost.  We started out with doing a whole chicken with an orange marmalade glaze.  Why not give it a real test for its first run?  The chicken was tender and juicy throughout, but did not burn or turn to mush.  We have done soups, roasts, and many other dishes.   The rubber gasket and the locking lid help hold the moisture in.  This keeps the food from drying out, which was in issue with our first slow cooker.  Everything has been tender, juicy and delicious.  Both program and probe cooking produce excellent results.

What doesn't it do?  Well, a lot of things.  It is still a slow cooker.  You get out what you put into it.  Always use quality ingredients and good recipes.  Limit your use of packaged mixes and canned foods.  We have a couple of slow cooker cookbooks that make all of the difference in the world.  Large tough cuts of meats are good when seasoned and combined with other complimentary flavors.  However, the meat probe does open up other options, such as the whole chicken, as cooking can be slowed down when a specific temperature is reached.  Soups almost always turn out great.  Avoid thin cuts of meat and vegetables that tend to wilt when cooked for a long time.  As long as you plan accordingly, the Set 'n Forget® 6 Qt. Programmable Slow Cooker is a kitchen gadget that every working Geek should have.


  1. I didn't know anyone made one with a thermometer to control cooking!?! What a good idea! I like the idea of the latching lid too. What slowcooker cookbooks do you have? My favorite slowcooker recipe is Salsa Chicken for chicken tacos or burritos. Dump in chicken breasts, dump in a jar of salsa, add cumin, liquid smoke, and chili powder (if desired,)cook all day, pull chicken apart with fork, eat. Sooooo easy, really good.

  2. I will have to check on the books for you.

  3. We have two slow cooker books but I really only use one. It is the Better Homes and Gardens slow cooker cookbook. It has hundreds of recipes and so far most of them are delicious. The other cookbook is a rival one and it does not have a lot to offer! We will try your chicken tacos on Mondays!