“You are Crocktastic!”
“Well, they don’t call me Crockalicious for nothing.” This back-and-forth at our family reunion happened between hubby Pat and sis Meg, aka Crock-Pot Queen. The Kelly home doesn’t even own a Crock-Pot. Dinner prep here is at a more traditional hour, six o’clock, stomachs growling while Eve searches the fridge for meal options. That has to change. The Kelly kitchen needs a slow cooker.
Of course, I started my info quest with Mrs. Crockalicious herself. “I own a Hamilton Beach Deluxe Stay or Go,” offered Meg (Target: $41.29 for the six-quart cooker). “It latches; that’s the ‘stay or go’ part, so when I travel with it, it doesn’t spill anywhere. It seals nicely so it cooks better — it’s not letting out any warmth on the sides like other pots. It comes with a plastic serving spoon that can snap into the lid handle; it has high, low, and warm settings; and there’s a stoneware bowl that you can take out and wash so you don’t have an electrical wire issue in your sink.”
Meg’s hubby likes “the dried Italian soup mix: Tuscan bean soup. I whip that up in the Crock-Pot. I also make beef stew. Throw in some raw meat, potatoes, a package of beef-stew seasoning, and call it a day. It’s nine a.m., and I couldn’t be happier.”
Friend Katie was certain about what she didn’t like — the Rival Six-Quart Crock-Pot with a Little Dipper ($39.99 from Costco). “It’s stainless steel with the black inside, oval shaped, and it comes with a side Crock-Pot. It’s really hot, cooks too fast, and overcooks everything. I’d put frozen meat in, and it would be done within just a couple of hours. And it would burn stuff — like the chili, it would burn it on the bottom. That defeats the purpose of slow cooking.”
Another dilemma with the Costco Crock-Pot — it sits up too high. “It’s very prone to tipping over,” continued Katie. “If you scoot it on the counter to try to move it a little bit, it kind of wobbles because it is so top-heavy. It is a bad design.”
Katie’s hubby bought her a six-quart Cooks Slow Cooker ($49.99 at JCPenney). “It has a stoneware bowl that comes out, and it’s just off, low, and high, really simple. But it works well. I do a lot of soups in it, and chicken dishes. I put in frozen bone-in chicken breasts and then a little bit of juice, and it makes its own broth. All the leftovers I shred up and put them in the freezer for casserole-type dishes.”
Bernice loves her Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Cookbook ($15.16 at barnesandnoble.com). “The recipes are updated for the modern time. The book does say that you really need a certain size Crock-Pot, depending on what you are making. If you put a medium-sized recipe in a large Crock-Pot, it changes it a little bit. So, if you have a bigger Crock-Pot than the recipe calls for, you might need to add more liquid.”
Bernice’s pot — a stainless steel GE six- to seven-quart slow cooker ($39.88 at Walmart.com) gets a bit in the way in the kitchen. “It takes up a lot of surface space on the counter. Ideally, I would have my Crock-Pot stored up high for when I do roasts and whole chickens and keep a round four- to five-quart pot for the chilis, soups, and stews on the counter.”
Bernice likes to make shredded pork in the Crock. “I put a pork shoulder or a Boston butt in there, and I usually add a little bit of broth and maybe some onions. When it’s all done, I shred it up and I add my favorite barbecue sauce. The leftovers make great sandwiches throughout the week on buns.”
“If money were no object,” said sis Nancy, “I’d own a Williams-Sonoma All-Clad Deluxe Slow Cooker [$299.95 at williams-sonoma.com]. You can put the insert right on the stovetop to sauté and then move it to the Crock-Pot. It cuts down on pots to wash.”
The following day, while at Target checking prices, I was taken by the barn-red Rival Stoneware Slowcooker Crock-Pot ($19.99 for the four-quart pot). The color will match the cabinets, I thought. But it only holds a four-pound roast, I read. Not big enough for dinner and next-day sandwiches.
Further down the aisle I noticed a definite item for the Christmas wish-list: the Trio Cook & Serve Slow Cooker ($99.99 for the three 2.5-quart-capacity stoneware bowls by Crock-Pot). Great for some holiday parties, I ruminated. It could keep the meatballs, chili, and nacho cheese warm all at once for Patrick’s football parties.