I'm somewhat of a Slow Cooker/Crock Pot expert, since I've had so many of them over the last few years just trying to find the perfect one. I've had slow cookers with non-removeable crocks; slow cookers that burn everything, even on low setting; slow cookers that burned the counter-top; slow cookers with plastic lids that warped, or with terribly fitting lids; too big; too small;....you name it!
Recommend this product?
So here are the features of the Hamilton Beach Stay-or-Go (yes, that is the official name for the 33956 5 quart model) slow cooker, they happened to fit my pre-requisites for a good slow cooker worth buying...I actually bought this one thinking i'd just try it, it would probably be no better than all the others I have owned, and i'd probably end up returning it to the store for a refund. I'm going to differentiate the main pieces of the unit by calling in inner pot the "crock", and the outer warmer the "base unit" - and the lid...well, you know what I mean.
The dimensions of the entire slow cooker are 10 inches tall, 19 inches wide from handle to handle, and 12 inches across. The base unit has molded plastic feet which provide a 3/4 inch clearance between the slow cooker and the counter top - no chance of heat damage to the counter top. The sealed control panel sits flush against the side of the slow cooker...with push buttons to change time and temperature, and a large, easy to read, blue LED display. The control panel, and indeed the entire base unit, is easy to clean just by wiping with a damp cloth - no chance of food or water seeping in next to buttons. The base unit comprises a white coated stainless steel body on a light grey plastic base
Removeable Crock - dishwasher safe, attractive enough for the dinner table, goes in the fridge. This Hamilton Beach Stay-or-Go crock has a nice, large, white, attractive looking, oval crock. With a nice deep lip to avoid boil overs, and nicely defined, molded handles, it is easily removeable from the base unit and easy to carry to the table.
5 quarts - a decent sized, shallow crock, just 4 inches from the bottom to the lip where the lid sits; not too big, and not too small for a family of 4 adults (our athletic kids have adult sized appetites!) I also have a 6 quart, deep, crock pot for large quantities of soups etc, but found that many of the dishes I like to cook are lost in a deep 6 quart crock pot. Roasts, casseroles and ribs cook better in a shallower crock with more surface area and therefore more area in contact with food.
Large carrying handles - the base unit has large insulated carrying handles which stand out from the unit and keep your hands far enough away from the base unit so there is no chance of burning your fingers. These handles also protect the lid clips, which I will talk about later.
Clear glass lid with gasket and insulated knob - a clear lid is of course, a must have...you have to be able to see the food clearly without lifting the lid...and losing heat. This lid has a nice, thick, black silicone gasket attached to the metal rim of the lid, which seals it well to the crock. It doesn't slide back and forth on the crock, allowing heat to escape, and more importantly, it keeps food from sloshing and spilling over the lip of the crock if the food bubbles up inside. On top of the glass lid is a white molded plastic strip that runs the length of the oval lid, forming the large, insulated knob, and the hooks for the lid clips. This strip is firmly attached to the lid with screws. The lid hooks are located at each end of the strip. The sturdy metal clips that lock the lid and crock into place are located on each end of the base unit, underneath the large carrying handles. They work by simply swinging the metal latches up, bringing the clips over to the hooks on the lid, and then pushing the latch back down to tighten the clips. These clips firmly hold the lid and crock in place, and effectively seal in the food so there is no chance of spilling during transport......you can confidently brake and take those corners faster in the car while taking your prepared dish to the pot-luck!
Temp probe - One of the 3 cooking options this slow cooker unit offers. The temperature probe has a heat resistant braided wire covered cord with a small plug on one end that plugs into the base unit, and a 5 1/2 inch long metal probs that slides through a small hold surrounded by a clear, silicone gasket on the lid. Simply choose the "probe" option on the control panel, set the temperature you need the food cooked to, plug in the probe and stick it through the hole in the lid and into the meat. When the probe registers that the correct food temperature has been reached, it automatically switches the unit to "warm" setting, to keep the food warm until it is served. When not in use, the braided wire cord can be wrapped around the plastic top of the probe and the plug pushed into a hole to keep everything neatly in place for storage.
3 settings - Apart from the "probe" setting, the two other setting are "manual", and "program". The "manual" setting can be set to cook food on high or low or to keep food warm for as long as the unit is switched on. The "program" setting enables the user to set the slow cooker to cook for a set period of time, on high or low. After the set time has elapsed, the slow cooker automatically switches to warm - to keep food warm until serving.
And, finally, a 3 ft power cord.
The manual "high" setting on the slow cooker gets my soups and rice puddings to 190 degrees within an hour. To me, this seems excessive, as the food cooks quickly. I would not feel comfortable leaving it turned on "high" all day while I work (If I worked outside the home) for fear of the food overcooking, or burning - not really "slow" cooking!. The "high" setting is probably best used only on the "program" setting if you're not going to be home to keep an eye on the food. I find the 'low' setting is adequate for cooking anything I want without fear of overcooking. I LOVE the "probe" for cooking roasts and poultry to perfection, no guessing if it is cooked through, or having to take the lid off to test the temperature - which of course extends cooking time.
After the many problems I've had with other slow cookers, even some quite expensive brands, this one comes closest to exactly what i'm looking for. I bought it at Target at a special price of $24.95 and I have no plans to return this one!
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Amount Paid (US$): 24.95