What A Crock!
May 18, 2000 (Updated Jun 15, 2000)
Review by Helen Pogomom
Rated a Very Helpful Review
Pros:Solid Construction; Inexpensive; Compact
Cons:Slow Cooking Times; Small Grill Surface
Every so often, I become obsessed with ownership. An item catches my eye and it is all I can think about until I wield my trusty credit card and wrestle some enormous carton home with the superhuman strength only a seasoned shopper possesses. The Crock Grill Smokeless Indoor Electric Grill (Model 5750 B) became the object of my desire several years ago. The shiny black crockery remained foremost in my consciousness until I loaded it into the trunk of my car and unpacked it with my grubby little hands.
Recommend this product?
A large number of discount stores offered the Crock Grill for sale. Availability was not the issue, nor was price keeping me from making what amounted to a minor purchasing decision. Our local Wal-Mart offered the item for the whopping sum of $21.95. We designed our kitchen with usually large amounts of storage space so counter-top and cabinet real estate were of no concern. The target of my desire, for several months, was simply something I absolutely did not need. That logic usually escapes me when I acquire tunnel vision concerning a particular gadget. The fact that this grill serves a single purpose and falls under the “cute” category was more of the reason for my seesawing between ‘must have’ and ‘this is a silly purchase – forget about it.’
The deal breaker happened one rainy day in Atlanta. My Equal Half was on his way to the airport to pick up my in-laws. We had recently returned from three years in the Seattle area only to discover our lovely home (rented to friends during our absence) served as a day care center for the neighborhood toddlers. Reclaiming our house and attempting to return it to the previous pristine condition was exhausting, aggravating and seemed never-ending. One week into this unexpected project from hell, my husband announced the impending arrival of his parents.
I adored my in-laws and felt the utmost respect for the job they did in raising four competent and responsible human beings. I simply felt the visit was too soon. Every room was in turmoil. Our furniture had just arrived via moving van and cartons of our possessions remained sealed until the repairs were complete. I felt overwhelmed and completely unappreciated. I did what I always do in such cases; I hit the stores!
That excursion served as a release. My cart quickly filled up with various appliances. I worked my way through Cumberland Mall with amazing speed and determination. My final stop, avoiding the inevitable homecoming, was the Wal-Mart store in our neighborhood. Lady Blue’s trunk (my car – okay, I name my cars, I admit it) was filled to capacity with the new blender, food processor, toaster, toaster oven and multi-purpose crock pot-fryer-steamer purchased during my blaze through the mall. The stop at Wal-Mart served to delay the ill-timed visit from our relations.
Then, before my eyes appeared a display reaching its way to the ceiling of the behemoth discount department store. Stacks of boxes filled with Rival® Crock Grill Smokeless Indoor Electric Grills beckoned me. A printed sign screamed the words, “We Will Not Be Undersold,” and below, a smaller sign bearing the name of the item and the large black figures, “$15.95.”
Oh! My! Gosh!
I filled my plastic wobbly-wheeled shopping cart with as many boxes as it would hold. This was a deal! This was a give-away! This would become the Christmas present, housewarming gift, birthday present of the decade! Everyone in the forty-eight continuous continental United States would sing my praises for this amazingly creative and generous gift! Then, reality set in with a resounding thud. Considering the fact that Wal-Mart serves the masses in the forty-eight continuous continental states, anyone who wanted one of these nifty items would grab one for the pittance of $15.95 plus tax. I scurried to the cash register with one paltry grill and loaded up the back seat with my singular bounty.
I made it home before the traveling trio arrived en masse from Hartsfield Airport. Trudging the stairs too many times to count with my purchases, all that remained was the unpacking and hiding of the ridiculous number of cartons. For once, my procrastinating nature and the fact that I refused to unpack the moving concern’s boxes paid off. I hid the new and possibly offending empties among those labeled: Kitchen - This End Up!
Rows of shiny new appliances rested comfortably on my counter. The Rival® Crock Grill was the last unveiled and it appeared I saved the best for last. Sure, the Cuisinart blender and food processor were utilitarian and exactly what I wanted. The other appliances were of high quality and matched my décor to boot; but, the gleaming chrome of the grill surface and the glossy finish of the ceramic crock made this grill the most attractive of all my purchases. That and the fact that I wanted it for so long and finally owned it made the least expensive of that day’s acquisitions the most valued.
The Out of Box Experience:
• Black (Round) Crock – 12½” Diameter x 5½ High
• Chrome Plated Grill – 11” Diameter
• Removable Double Ring Heating Element
• Aluminum Drip Tray – 10¼” Diameter
• Element Support Rod - 8½” Aluminum
• Power Cord – 28” Length
• Use and Care Booklet
• Recipe Booklet
• One Year Limited Manufacturer’s Warranty
Seconds from Set-up to Steak:
Setting up this little beauty for its virgin voyage required washing all components with the exception of the cord (a no brainer) and the heating element. Although simple instructions for turning the various components into a single utilitarian unit are provided, the set up requires nothing more than two hands and an equal number of eyes. Here is the drill:
1. Place the crock on a counter with no cabinets above
2. Align the cut-out in the drip tray with the hole on the side of the crock
3. Slip the element support bar ends in the only available slots
4. Rest the element on the support bar
5. Slide the element’s receptacle end through the hole in the crock
6. Place the chrome grill surface on top
7. Plug the cord into the element receptacle and the wall when ready to cook
That is it! You are now ready to cook those pesky hamburgers, steaks, chicken breasts, tuna steaks, salmon fillets, hot dogs or any other creature that happens through the door.
The Use and Care booklet suggest a fine mist of Pam® or other non-stick cooking spray be applied to both the drip pan and the chromed steel cooking grate before each use for easy clean-up. Rival® also suggests filling the bottom of the drip pan with a quarter cup of water to keep the dripping juices and fats from splattering. I use either wine or water with chopped herbs to give the food added flavor. The aroma of tarragon or a combination of fresh or dried herbs makes the slow cooking process bearable.
The Good, The Bad and The Ugly Clean Up
• Rival® touts this grill as “smoke free” and it truly lives up to that promise. No matter how long the grill is in use, it does not create a cloud of smoke or set off smoke detectors. With the small grilling surface, cooking for more than two hungry people requires grilling food in shifts. If foods seem to drip more juices than usual, I refill the reservoir with water to keep the drips from becoming projectile flaming globules of fat sputtering and spattering the kitchen walls, counter and most of all, me.
• The crock base of the grill never seems to get hot. I feel confident when placing it on a counter or table top that the surface is amply protected from burns.
• All parts of the grill are dishwasher safe, (again, with the obvious exception of the heating element and the cord – please readers, work with me here!)
• The appliance looks good. It belies its extremely reasonable price tag with a decent finish on all surfaces, inside and out.
• It stores compactly within itself. The entire unit and all its components fit together and store in the space that only the crockery portion takes up in the cabinet.
• Did I say “slow cooking process?” Yes, I did! Thought that might grab your attention. The preheating time suggested in the printed material accompanying this appliance is only ten minutes. I find preheating the grill for at least twenty minutes makes the food cook in a faster amount of time. Still, the grill takes at least ten minutes to cook a medium sized hamburger to an edible medium-rare and twice that time to achieve a fully cooked well-done burger.
• Searing the meat at high heat is not going to happen. The model I own does not have variable heat levels or a temperature control. I really did not expect those pluses for the price. The element appears to heat up to somewhere in the range of 425º to 450º and then shut down if it gets any hotter. This is a safety feature that should prevent flare-ups but it retards the entire procedure. This constant shutting down and heating up slows down the cooking process. From our calculations, it takes twice as long to grill a steak on the crock grill as it does using the broiler in our oven. This appliance works best with small portions or thinner (half inch) cuts of meat or vegetables.
The Ugly Clean Up:
• Okay, I might be exaggerating a bit. If I take the time to spray the drip pan and grill surface with non-stick cooking spray and use water in the base of the drip tray, clean up is not a horrendous experience. Still, with the dull aluminum surface of the drip tray, I find soaking or using steel wool pads the best way to get at those little particles that seem to stick to the surface.
• As Rival® attests, most of the components are dishwasher safe. I contend that this is only possible if you happen to own a commercial dishwasher of enormous proportions or are doing a load consisting of little more than the crock grill components and a few assorted utensils. I did attempt this feat when using the grill earlier this week as a refresher course for this review. Even on my Kenmore’s pot scrubber setting, the aluminum drip pan and the grilling surface refused to release the last vestiges of our dinner.
• The crock does live up to its “simple clean up” attribute as quoted from the Use and Care Booklet. The wise engineers who designed the grill made certain that nothing could drip into the crockery base while cooking thanks to the excellent fit of all components.
Would You? Should You? I did!
I admit this is not a necessary item for any kitchen. George Foreman, Farberware, T-Fal and others have since come out with some truly innovative appliances that do the job faster and probably better. I happen to like the heavy look of the Rival® Crock Grill Smokeless Indoor Electric Grill (Model 5750 B) and use it so rarely that the negatives truly do not bother me enough to consider upgrading to something current or high tech. Does this grill replace an outdoor barbecue and mimic the true grilled flavors I enjoy from my Weber Summit? Heck no! - each appliance has its own use and cannot be compared. For an inexpensive appliance that does exactly what the manufacturer intended the Rival® Crock Grill definitely wins a thumbs up. Add the longevity of this grill (seven years of barely moderate use) and you can throw in one more thumb.
While you ponder the fact that I just managed to write 2023 words about a $15.95 grill, consider that the next review will be on a truly up-to-date technical innovation. Competition may be steep but I may win the wordy award yet! In the meantime, get those burger and wienie orders in now. It may take a while but I intend to feed every one of you from my handy dandy crock grill. Bon Appetite!
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