If you have an ad blocker, you won't see that Amazon image, but it's more like this in reality:
It's quite the upgrade from this:
Crockpot c. Sometime in the late 80s
Granted, the original model still works. I want to say that I got it around 86 or 87 on my first excursion to college away from home. I could be wrong, but regardless, it's been around for a long while and still works just fine. Scary but true. However, as it is taller and cylindrical, it's not really conducive to cooking massive quantities of anything other than soups or narrow pork roasts, etc.
I've wanted for years to be able to put stuff in and let it go all day and not have to worry about finding stuff to make for our meals. That day has arrived.
In the past two weeks, I have made several rounds of homemade dog food. Before you jot off to vomit, allow me to explain, somewhat briefly ... We've taken the beasts off of processed, dry, grain-filled foods, and have switched them to a grain-free dry kibble and supplement with a less than dry meal consisting of meat and vegetables, such as peas, carrots, sweet potatoes and green beans. What better way to make a good two to four days worth of meals for them than in this beast of a slow cooker? Overnight even. As Ron Popeil says: "Set it and forget it."
I've cooked overly enlarged store-bought chicken breasts, a pork roast, some chicken breast patties, and at least three roasts (one for us, two for the babies). Before you assume we're made of money, no, we're not. I used up meat that I had stored in the freezer and buy frozen peas and carrots, sweet potatoes and fresh green beans when they're on sale. I'm still sort of balking at how much we spend to feed all the assorted animals; however, after seeing the difference in their coats and their demeanor, I have to admit, it's well worth it.
Aren't they adorable? They are.
Back to the topic at hand, the Hamilton Beach 8-Quart Slow Cooker. It's a basic model, no digital bells and whistles here, which is how I like it. I don't want to have to become a computer scientist to operate my kitchen equipment. Four settings: Off, Keep Warm, Low and High. That's all I need. Different models of the 8-Quart slow cooker come in different colors, such as white and a lovely, shiny red, but this one is your basic black, and matches my black stove and black fridge splendidly.
The cooker, a large, sturdy ceramic crock lifts out of the cooking base for easier clean-up. That's one huge bonus over the pain in the arse of trying to clean a Crockpot with no way to remove the crock and trying to keep the cord and operating parts out of water. This is much better! A sturdy warning about the Hamilton Beach crock. It's HEAVY. meaning, if you have any sort of hand, wrist, shoulder or elbow injuries, either get someone else to move it around, or wear protective braces when handling it, and use both hands. Also, the bottom is unfinished (unpainted) and is rather rough, so it's advisable not to drag it across delicate surfaces like tile or glass or stainless steel that you want to keep scratch-free. I have a feeling the bottom of the crock could do some serious damage to those surfaces if handled improperly!
The lid is a lid. Seems a bit less durable than the crock, but if you don't toss thing around with reckless abandon, it should hold up. The one thing about this model that I find completely useless is the "mess-free" lid rest. Unless you've got a wide open, unencumbered countertop on which to plant the cooker, it's just nothing short of awkward. As you can see above, that comes right up to the very bottom of our cabinets and actually touches the bottom if the unit is pushed back. It's fairly useless to me. Not to mention the fact that I'm not sure how they assume it's "mess-free" when it's very awkward and difficult to finagle it ON to the rest when the lid is hot, and if you're making any sort of large batch of soup or anything that nears the top of the crock, the lid, whilst on the rest, kind of sinks down into the food below. You're better off laying the lid on a towel where you can just grab it by the handle and set it back in place.
The lid rest also doubles as a cord wrap. I can't speak to that because I haven't had it unplugged or out of use long enough to use that feature, but I'm sure it'll work fine if I ever do decide to put the unit away. Ha.
As for cooking, I have yet to use it on the High setting. I've only used the Low and Keep Warm settings. The Low setting seems really hot to me, when comparing it to the antiquated model. Hot enough that when I lifted the lid the other morning, after it had been on all night, the liquid was boiling around the edges. Nothing was burnt, however, just really, really warm.
You'll also want to keep perishables away from the outside when you're using the cooker, as the outer shell also gets very warm. Apparently, that's why they provide full-grip handles! The more you know ...
All in all, I think this is going to be my new favorite way to cook, at least until I get bored with being lazy. I'll be sure to let you know when that happens. Overall, I'd give it 4.5 out of 5 stars, if I used a star rating system. Like I mentioned, my only complaint is that odd lid rest, but since that's not a necessity for me, it's more likely to be ignored than to be a nuisance.
Here are some handy specs, which can also be found on the Amazon product page:
Meanwhile, since I received this glorious gift, I started collecting slow-cooker recipes that I'll be making over the course of forever. For your enjoyment, stop back from time and time and see my reviews of the recipes I find. If you can't wait, just go check out the recipes here on my Pinterest board:
And finally, a disclaimer, in not so tiny print:
Any link you see to items on Amazon, within Cooking Squared blog posts or on the Shopping Squared tab are affiliate links, meaning if you should decide to purchase anything from these links or from my Amazon store, I will receive a percentage of the sale. Rest assured, I am not making anything close to a killing by blogging. I think I've made a total of $7 from Amazon sales in over five years of blogging. I'm just not that dedicated, but still I wanted you to know. Any questions, just holler!