I've had the Hamilton Beach 3 in 1 Slow Cooker for several months now. I never used a slow cooker or "crock-pot" before, but I heard they were very convenient to have, so I splurged and made the investment to buy one.
Recommend this product?
My husband does not have fond memories of what he calls the "crotch-pot" from when he was a kid. His mother cooked everything to death in her crock-pot, feeding her kids "nasty stew." So he was very displeased with the prospect of being presented with nasty stews again from the evil machine. I promised him I would never cook string beans or anything resembling his mother's stews with my new toy and so far I've only partially kept that promise.
The wonderful thing about this product, and the entire reason I chose it over other models, is the fact that it has 3 different sized crocks. This means I can make 2, 4 or 6 quarts of nasty stew to torture my beloved. (I later found out that all thise crocks are a mixed blessing) I got the model that comes with black crocks, but I understand you can get white crocks too. The crocks are like very large, heavy bowls and make an acceptable presentation at the dinner table. There is a stainless steel base with 3 heat setting: high, low, and warm. It also has 3 buttons to press to let the base know if you are using the 2, 4 or 6 quart crock (COOL!). It also comes with a glass lid, with a little vent in it, and instruction book with a few recipes that I haven't made. The crocks and the lid are dishwasher safe, but there are several warnings not to immerse the base, which simply plugs into an outlet and sits on your counter cooking for you. There are handles attached to the base, which gets hot, so you can move it without any trouble.
I love the fact that I can take a bunch of ingredients, toss them together in one of the crocks, cook on low for 8 hours, and end up with a meal. Honestly, cooking with a slow cooker is that simple. Slow cooker recipes tell you what setting to use and how long to cook things. I don't know what happens if you cook something for hours longer than the recipe calls for, but I assume nothing too horrible happens. I would not take that chance when cooking on the high setting, because it is hot enough to bring liquids to a full boil. The warm setting is not supposed to cook anything; it just keeps your food warm for you.
I have made dishes using the 2 and 4 quart crocks, but I haven't used the enormous 6 quart crock. The quality of the cooking depends entirely upon the quality of the recipe. I discovered that a recipe for crock-pot baked chicken, (using no liquids, but a bunch of veggies and had the chicken literally elevated from the crock on "stilts" of wadded up aluminum foil) resulted in a chicken soup/stew, in which the chicken was so well done it fell apart inside the crock. This was a lesson in the reality of nasty stew, when you cook some things slowly, for a long time, a lot of liquid is produced and you end up with a stew. I had much better results with a barbecue style chicken breast recipe, which still produced more liquid than I expected, but was vastly improved by shredding up the chicken, mixing it into the sauce, and serving it like pulled pork.
Clean up is very easy. The two smaller crocks and the lid fit into the bottom rack of my dishwasher, but I don’t think I can fit the largest one in at all, which is a disappointment. There is no timer, which means you have to find a timer, or use an alarm clock, to track recipes that require several hours of cook time, another negative.
My biggest problem with this product is storage. This unit is HUGE! Hamilton Beach brags that it is compact because you stack the crocks in the base and cover them with the lid. The base is at least 18 inches from handle to handle (and I think that is a conservative estimate) and when you stack everything inside it, it is heavy and over 12 inches tall. I am having a hard time storing this product because it takes up a lot of space anywhere I put it. I don’t use it enough to warrant rearranging my kitchen to accommodate it, so I keep it stored in my basement and make hubby drag it up when I want to use it. Also keep in mind that while you are using it to cook, you have two big, heavy crocks lying about, not in use.
I recommend this slow cooker for someone who needs a cooker that is flexible in size, uses it often, and has space for storage. It performs exactly the way it says it will perform, with the larger crock doing as well as the small one. If I were buying a new slow cooker in the future, I would probably go with a less expensive, smaller, simpler model, with a timer because I just don’t cook with it often enough to make it worthwhile.
Here is what the Amazon.com had to say:
*Versatile 3-in-1 slow cooker with white-decorator electric base (please note the base is not white, it is stainless – ed.)
*3, colored, stoneware vessels in 2-quart, 4-quart, and 6-quart sizes
*Glass lid fits all 3 vessels; dishwasher-safe crockery and lid
*3 heat settings; cooking vessels nest into base for compact storage
*Measures approximately 15 by 9 by 15 inches; 1-year warranty
I seriously question those measurements. I think they did not include the handles when they measured this unit. Trust me, it is bigger.
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Amount Paid (US$): 55