Pros: Reliable, inexpensive, oval shape is practical
Cons: Hotter than many cookers, requiring reduction in cook time. Included cookbook needs editing.
I first discovered slow cooker cooking two years ago. I was tempted by the concept of coming home from work with a hot meal all cooked and ready to eat. I have gradually become obsessed with my Rival SCVC651 6.5 Quart Slow Cooker, and would like to share my experience. I purchased my Rival 6.5 Quart "SmartPot" Slow Cooker at my local warehouse club. I've since used it dozens of times. I've used it for numerous soups, stews, chili and chicken dishes. Even an insanely easy, and delicious cheese lasagna. I've made everything from lowfat, healthy dishes to decadent "retro" meals loaded with Velveeta cheese and Cream of Mushroom soup.
What are the details?
This is an oval slow cooker with a removable, dishwasher safe stoneware insert. With a 6.5 quart capacity, it is great for cooking up entrees that will provide two dinners for our family. The stainless steel exterior is attractive. The clear lid with stay-cool handle is dishwasher safe. I love the oval shape. It makes it easier to stir items and to add a whole chicken. Some recipes even call for placing smaller pans (such as a loaf pan) inside the slow cooker, and the oval shape makes this possible.
The stoneware insert is fairly heavy and can be a chore to scrub. However, it can be placed in the dishwasher. I personally always use Slow Cooker Liner Bags, so I never have any clean up to do at all! Hooray!
Rival calls this a SmartPot and describes this unit as "programmable". All this really means is that you can program the slow cooker to cook either on "High" or "Low" for up to 20 hours, in 30 minute increments and then it will automatically switch to the "Keep Warm" setting and keep your meal warm for hours. You cannot program multiple steps, such as going from the "High" to the "Low" setting. The red, LCD clearly displays the remaining cook time.
Simply plug in the slow cooker, and then push the clearly marked buttons (with a pleasant, audible tone) to move from "Low" to "High" to "Keep warm" settings. Then push the Timer Button to set the desired cook time.
The appliance has worked flawlessly over the past two years. Some reviewers have claimed that this slow cooker is too hot and tends to overcook foods. However, from what I've read, new slow cookers, in general, are hotter than older units. Most cookbooks today give a range of cook times, so I will generally choose the lower end of the range. For example, if a recipe says to cook the ingredients for "6 to 8 hours", I will typically choose 6 hours. Or sometimes even 5 hours. I also usually choose to cook foods on the "Low" setting (except for potatoes which apparently keep their color better when cooked on the "High" setting). Using the shorter cooking times, I have not had problems with recipes burning or overcooking.
The "Keep Warm" setting does a fine job at keeping foods at the proper temperature for serving.
I love how easy this slow cooker is to use, its attractive, modern appearance, and the automatic "Keep Warm" function. It has worked reliably.
As mentioned above, this is a rather hot slow cooker, and cooking instructions often need a little tweaking, to avoid overcooking chicken, for example.
The stainless steel exterior gets pretty hot, so use caution around children and pets. On the other hand, the stoneware and lid handles stay cool to the touch.
What about the included cookbook?
The included, softcover, palm sized Slow Cooker cookbook has dozens of recipes, to get you started. I've made a wonderful Chicken Chow Mein and Vegetable Chili, from the cookbook. However, the cookbook could use a bit of editing. I once started cooking an "Apple Crumble". However, midway through preparing the recipe, the instructions called for "adding the butter". However, the ingredient list hadn't mentioned anything about butter, and I was completely out of butter! Not only that, but the ingredient list DID call for both cinnamon and flour, neither of which were mentioned in the recipe instructions! So, use the included cook book cautiously. It does seem surprising that the manufacturer of the world-famous Rival Crock-Pot slow cooker would have so many mistakes in their cookbook!
What if I could design the slow cooker of my dreams?
I would love to have the option to not only cook-then-keep-warm, but also cook-then-turn-off. For example, I might want to cook a meal the day before I plan to eat it. It would be nice to program the slow cooker to "Cook for 6 hours, then turn off", so that I could come home to a somewhat cooled meal (instead of a piping hot one), ready to refrigerate. I don't even know if there are slow cookers with a "Turn Off" feature like that, but it seems like a good idea. Of course, if I am home, I can just simply hit the "Off" button.
Overall, my Rival SmartPot Slow Cooker has been a joy to use. And, there really is nothing better than coming home from work and immediately savoring the aroma of a hot meal waiting to be enjoyed. Easy lasagna without having to boil water, turn on the oven, or wash any pots? Who would have imagined? Enjoy!