Top positive review
Nice looking cooker, working great for me.
November 15, 2018
I am very pleased with this purchase.
I was looking for a slow cooker, and I decided to compare ones from a specific brand that I like due to my (limited) experience with that brand. Well, in addition to more standard slow cookers, that brand (which I will politely not name) had a multi-cooker very similar in features to this one. I thought a multi-cooker would meet my needs even better than a more traditional slow cooker, but unfortunately the reviews for that brand expressed serious criticisms of the non-stick surface. So, I searched for something very similar, and this item from Crock-Pot was the only thing I found.
It is beautiful, and in my opinion more attractive than the alternative one. I like the pot and the handles. And I really like that is has "real" buttons and not just a sheet of plastic with bumps. Initially I had trouble getting some of the buttons to always work but I think that's because they had to be "worked" a bit while still brand new. After the first use, they now always work. The +/- buttons look a bit different from the picture because there is no oval drawn around mine, and I prefer the looks of mine, so this is fine. Also, another note on looks/quality is that the handles are a hard plastic, not "rubber" as one of the reviewers stated. I was glad about that because I don't like soft rubbery plastics. It seems like high-quality heat-resistant plastic handles. And the chrome covering on the handles looks very real, and may even be real chrome (did not want to scratch it to test). The cooker looks especially cool when in use and the display is lit. It was packed very well, which ensured that it arrived without any blemishes. So as far as looks and quality, I'm quite pleased.
One difference between this item and the other brand I was considering is the instruction manual is less detailed for this one (I downloaded a pdf file for the other one), and so I have less details about specs for this item. The only temperature degrees that are revealed (and settable) are for the "oven" function (and my guess is these are approximations because it is hard for me to imagine how the temperature in the air space inside could be accurately measured by this unit). I wish I knew roughly the saute temperatures (Low and High) because some oils are not good to use at higher temperatures. Plus I really like having specs for things. And on the competitor brand, the saute temperature was settable, not just Low and High. But again this might be due to difficulty in accurate measurement in devices like this, and the temperature will depend partly on what you put inside and how much you put inside. Plus if you use a stove-top range, you don't get precise temperature settings, so that kind of makes sense. The bottom of the unit (when you look inside with the pot removed) looks like a rice cooker except oval, so probably it works in a similar way to sense temperature. For the slow cooker settings (high and low) I'm not too concerned, as these should be close to 212 degrees F (just below boiling) with "Low" cycling up to that temperature less frequently than the "High" setting, at least in modern slow cookers (older ones had a lower setting, which was a problem because it could result in improperly cooked meat). But some cookers go to a slightly higher temperature on the High vs Low setting, or ramp time up to temp is slower or faster. The other brand I looked at revealed this info: 212 degrees for high setting and 200 degrees for low. That one also has a simmer setting which is 185 degrees (the very old slow cooker standard that is no longer used for slow cooking).
A key difference between this unit and the other one is that this one is designed for baking, which is a huge plus for me and is a key reason why I purchased it. It also differentiates this unit from "Instant Pot" pressure cookers. So, I think it goes up to a higher temperature than the other one, including for the saute function. On the other one, the "high" setting for saute is 400 degrees, which seems to be the highest temperature that unit is capable of. On this one, the highest setting the unit is capable of for baking is 450 degrees, so I'm guessing that is the "High" setting, or close to it, for the "High" saute/brown setting. So this makes me think my unit is designed to withstand higher temperatures and may have more sophisticated temperature sensing ability.
Some reviews said you need longer baking times than recipes call for when baking, while others said it is faster in this cooker than a more standard oven, and I think the discrepancy is whether you have the food directly on the pot surface or on a rack. As you might imagine, this makes a big difference. So it may take some experimentation to figure out how to use this optimally for a particular recipe. The recipe booklet that comes with the cooker may help give you some ideas for how to make adjustments. It is designed to introduce you to the specific functions of the pot, so lots of them make use of the saute function, for example. I'm new to slow cooking, and there were few examples to show off "pure" slow cooking, so I'm checking out some slow cooker cook books. It makes sense to design the included booklet to highlight specifically this cooker, and you can get many more slow cooker recipes from Crock-Pot's web site. I went to their site and was very impressed. Seems like they have excellent customer support.
Rather than baking, the other unit has a "steam" setting. My guess is you could achieve the same thing by using the Low setting for Saute function in this unit, but the instructions do not mention this, even though the racks for the two units look identical (with the higher legs intended for steaming). My guess is, the reason for this lack of coverage of steam function in the manual is not that the unit can't do it, but that it is not ideal for the non-stick finish, because it might leave residue from the evaporated water. That can be removed with lemon juice or vinegar but it may not be good for the surface, if you do it lots or for prolonged times. I truly cannot imagine any other reason why steaming is not mentioned for this thing. For me it really isn't all that ideal for steaming anyway, because at 6 qt, it's a bit big for that. I can steam much more quickly in a smaller device.
I was especially interested in the oven function because I try hard not to waste energy, and a full-sized oven is just too big for me most of the time, but my toaster oven is tiny (so I also contemplated purchasing a counter-top oven, but this thing is so much more versatile). And the saute function is also very likely more energy efficient than cooking over a stove top range, since it is well insulated, and the heat is contained. Plus it is less messy, and you can keep the food warm after cooking.
It is the saute and baking functions that necessitate the non-stick surface rather than the typical stone ware pot. But I did lots of research on teflon coatings and was reassured about this. Teflon used to be manufactured with a toxic substance (PFOA), but since 2013, all teflon for cooking is manufactured without that. And while heating teflon to very high temperatures can make fumes, that's only at very high temperatures that this unit (and most ovens) can't reach. There is no evidence that modern coatings are harmful, and you are not eating the coating. I'm still worried about durability but the covering on the pot of this unit looks like it is very high quality. It is fairly smooth and so it won't be damaged from friction. And at least for their other cookers, Crock-Pot has replacement pots, and probably will (or already has) for this one, too.
I got this unit only a few days ago and already used it multiple times, each time with much success and happiness. I would say the biggest drawback is not having more temperature settings for saute, and not having sufficient documentation of the saute/brown temperatures, but you will get a sense of the settings after a few uses. Saute definitely gets very hot at the High setting and most likely I will use the "Low" setting most of the time. It will take some experimentation, like with many kitchen toys, but that's part of the fun. Overall, much recommended.