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“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.

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Comments

Ponzi Oct. 10, 2009 @ 9:47 p.m.

Depending on the size of your family or your meal portions, a 4 quart is probably good enough. I would never spend more than $35 on a slow cooker. You can find them all day long for $5 on craigslist, thrift shops or swap meets. Nothing is wrong with them used, its an enamel or ceramic insert.

The best kind to get is at least 3 temps, low, med and hi. Be careful with just throwing mixes in.. like Lipton Onion Soup mix that a lot of recipes use for pot roast. This is a good way to have way too much salt in everything you cook.

There is a point of making good ingredients easier to work with or being just plain lazy. You can make great meals by using cheaper cuts of meat, including all fresh veggies and just putting in some garlic and onion or spices.

The fact is, if they were that easy and that versatile, more people would use them. The benefit is you can do the prep the night before or in the morning and not have to deal with cooking at night. For a wholesome meal a slow cooker still requires work; cleaning, cutting, chopping veggies and maybe pan searing meats. You just do it beforehand instead of when you get home.

The lazy meals like a can of Campbell’s soup or mix with some meat are not healthy.

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