The problem: No matter what they say, some foods DO overcook in a slow cooker. Spaghetti sauce loses its tangy tomato flavor. Soups can scorch. Meats become dry and stringy.
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Early slow-cooker owners tried to remedy the situation with lamp timers, meaning one had to leave uncooked ingredients at room temperature until the timer switched on, increasing the danger of bacterial contamination. Slow cookers with a keep-warm setting are useful only if someone is around to turn the knob from High or Low to Keep Warm. Other tricks included freezing the ingredients overnight in the hopes of deliberately slowing down the cooking process.
After 30 years on the market, Rival addressed the problem with the Smart-Pot programmable slow cooker, introduced in 2001. The Smart-Pot's electronic timer features 4 cooking cycles: 4 or 6 hours on High, 8 or 10 hours on Low. At the end of the cooking cycle, the Smart-Pot shifts to Keep Warm until it's switched off.
So, what about all those people who are still using their 10, 20 or even 30-year-old Crock-Pots and other brands of slow cookers? Because of the relatively low cooking temperatures, slow cookers don't burn out like toasters and coffeemakers. Unless the crock breaks, there's little reason to replace a perfectly good slow cooker. Realizing this, Rival packed the brains of the Smart-Pot into the Smart-Part Programmable Module.
The Smart-Part makes any slow cooker (up to 400 watts) a programmable slow cooker. You plug your Crock-Pot into the Smart-Part's electrical outlet, turn the knob on the cooker itself to High and plug the Smart-Part into a wall outlet. Based on the model number, you select one of 3 settings marked A, B or C. If it's a brand other than Rival, use the same setting as a model with a similar capacity and wattage, or start with the C setting and work your way back through B and A if the food seemed overcooked. Punch up the cooking time and you're free to go about your day. At the end of the cooking time, the Smart-Part stays on Keep-Warm until it's turned off.
The Smart-Part is also great for taming an overachiever slow cooker. If you have one that you never use because the Low setting is a slow boil instead of a simmer and the High setting is better suited to melting metal ingots, the Smart-Part's A setting might turn it into a useful appliance.
The Smart-Part Programmable Module is an affordable way to teach your reliable old slow cooker some new tricks.
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