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America's Test Kitchen takes various dishes, tweaks the recipes many different ways, evaluates the results, and then presents the "best" versions on their TV show and in cookbook-magazines. I've had very good results with their recipes. Their latest offering is a magazine format cookbook entitled Slow Cooker Revolution. It's pricey for a magazine at $13, but it has 60 recipes plus tips, all with glossy photos. (No, I'm not being paid to recommend it.)

The reason for this post, ATK compared and rated various slow cookers and chose their favorite. And since, "What's the best slow cooker to buy?" is a perennial question here, I thought I'd post their choice, the Crock-Pot Touchscreen Slow Cooker, a major investment at $130.

"Gone are the days of merely picking out a slow cooker based [merely] on size. We found dozens of models, varying not only in size but also in price--from $40 up to a staggering $180. We tested six slow cookers to find out which one was best (and if we really needed to shell out $180). We limited our lineup to oval slow cookers, which can fit a large roast, with capacities of 6 quarts or more, so we could feed a crowd.

"Five of the six models had programmable timers and warming modes, features we like. Clear glass lids are also helpful as they allow the cook to assess the food as it cooks. We gave extra points to inserts that can be washed in the dishwasher and to those with handles, which ease removal from the slow cooker.

"To test performance, we made pot roast, meaty tomato sauce, and French onion soup. Ideally, a slow cooker should produce perfect results on all settings. Unfortunately, few of our models did just that. In our testing, we realized some just didn't get hot enough, while others reached the boiling point. That's the reason some of the models variously gave us pot roast with dry, tough meat or juicy, sliceable meat; we also encountered extra-thick meaty tomato sauces and watery ones; moist, fork-tender ribs and beef as well as shrunken, tough meat. However, a few models did produce good food consistently.

"Our winner, the Crock-Pot Touchscreen Slow Cooker ($129.99), cooked our dinner perfectly. It also had the best control panel (with a timer that counted up to 20 hours even on high); it was simple to set and clearly indicated that the cooker was programmed." --America's Test Kitchen

Comments

( 16 comments — Leave a comment )
xtrustisyoursx
Jan. 18th, 2012 05:15 am (UTC)
Maybe IDGI, but my 5 qt crockpot has a clear lid, handles, dishwashable crock, and high/low/off settings. The high setting is a bit too hot for my tastes, but nothing that isn't manageable. It cost me 16.99 brand new. Throw in another 5 bucks for timer for the electrical socket it's plugged into.
mysid
Jan. 18th, 2012 12:36 pm (UTC)
Sounds like you found a winner!
txvoodoo
Jan. 18th, 2012 10:29 pm (UTC)
I know, right? Mine cost about $25. It has all those things as well.
blue_scarab
Jan. 18th, 2012 05:19 am (UTC)
Did they remark on any other models? Mine is relatively new - but honestly, $130 for a crockpot is probably not the price range I'd be looking in once it's time to replace.
mysid
Jan. 18th, 2012 12:48 pm (UTC)
Elsewhere in the magazine, they have a chart with the 6 models they tested and notes on each of them--what they liked, what they didn't. The Crock-Pot Touchscreen got "Highly Recommended", the All-Clad Slow Cooker with Ceramic Insert got "Recommended" but was also the one that cost $180, the Breville Slow Cooker with Easy Sear and the Kitchenaid Slow Cooker both got "Recommended with Revervations", and the Cuisinart Programmable Slow Cooker and the Elite Cuisine by Maxi-Matic bothe got "Not Recommended".

Of course, six is a VERY small sample to start with, but given how they tested several types of dishes in each one, I guess it would have gotten prohibitively expensive to use a much larger number of slow cookers.
kistha
Jan. 18th, 2012 08:16 am (UTC)
I'll pay 130.00 for all that and the insert that can also be used on a gas stove top.

Other than that, my 30.00 one works just fine.
mysid
Jan. 18th, 2012 12:37 pm (UTC)
Yay! for good and inexpensive!
mbif
Jan. 18th, 2012 09:02 am (UTC)
I'd love to see other results. My 5qt gets the job done, but low will boil very readily and high is damn near unusable.
mysid
Jan. 18th, 2012 12:39 pm (UTC)
Sounds definitely too hot for me.
kricketkris
Jan. 19th, 2012 01:37 am (UTC)
One thing you might try if you need a gentler temp: make a thick ring of wadded up tin foil and lay it in the bottom of your cooker, between the crock bit and the heating element. That or a few emptied/cleaned tuna cans. The extra space between the food and heat helps.
mbif
Jan. 19th, 2012 10:44 am (UTC)
Oooh, I'll have to give that a try. Thanks for the tip! I already have the canned tuna sitting around, so that's a much more economical solution than running out and buying a new crockpot. xD
pettitte96
Jan. 18th, 2012 04:17 pm (UTC)
This crockpot is currently $94.95 on Amazon.com. Not as bad as $130, but still pretty pricey. Average score is 4 stars (out of 5), based on 100 reviews.
jirel
Jan. 18th, 2012 05:16 pm (UTC)
I wish they had tested more crockpots but understand their reasoning. I have the book and have tried one of the recipes quite successfully. I found their comments on WHY they did things to be quite helpful. Surprisingly enough, adding about a tablespoon of soy sauce to a 4 quart chicken noodle crockpot dish actually deepens the taste without letting you know the soy sauce is in there. I look forward to using a lot more of their info.
mysid
Jan. 19th, 2012 03:50 am (UTC)
I agree--I love their "why we did this" type comments. It's very educational and makes me a better cook.
chantalzola
Jan. 19th, 2012 05:32 am (UTC)
My slow cooker is awful, but I also only have myself and my boyfriend to cook for, so something big like that doesn't make sense. I wish they made more quality, smaller slow cookers =/
slave_stasha
Jan. 23rd, 2012 05:29 am (UTC)
I got a new crock pot brand slow cooker five quart one, not that model but one that was priced at fifty, worst spent fifty bucks ever, I burned like three meals because the low setting cooked it way to hot, i called the company to complain and they wanted me to to take a temp and call them back, They also asked me fifty questions about the recepies I tried no it wasn't from the book that came with it, and I've made them a million times in my old slow cooker. That thing has just been a waste of space in my kitchen since then. The only reason I was replaced the old one is because the crock was scraped up and I was worried about bacteria, I've just been using the liners. I don't want to risk buying another new slow cooker just to have it cook way too hot. I also have my grandmas giant seven quart oval one that works wonders and is also old so it won't get too hot.
( 16 comments — Leave a comment )

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