Pros: Timed cooking; keep warm setting; large capacity; adaptatioin instructions; holds heat well
Cons: Designed primarily for large amounts of food; gets hot on the outside
Rating: 4 out of 5
First posted 1/7/2003
Once before I owned a crock pot, but it was a second-hand thing bought for $10, and it didn’t heat very well any more. I threw it out some time ago, and kept telling myself I’d get another one. Finally I made good on that promise. I love gadgets, so I ended up with the Rival “programmable” crock pot (or “Smart-Pot”). And I liked the idea of being able to cook lots of food at once, so I got the 6 quart (model 3860). Were either of these choices the right ones to make? Well, mostly.
The idea of a programmable crock pot appealed to me. I don’t have the world’s best memory, and if I’m in a different part of the house I might not hear a timer going off. Having a crock pot that would turn itself down at the end of the cooking cycle sounded pretty good to me.
Of course, “programmable” might be a bit of an overstatement. There’s a smooth-touch button pad on the front. You can choose high heat for either 4 hours or 6 hours, or low heat for either 8 hours or 10 hours. Once the cycle is over the crock pot will switch to a “keep warm” setting.
There isn’t much variation possible there, unfortunately. If your experience with a recipe says it’ll be done in 5 hours, well, you’ll just have to set it for 6 and be around to turn it off at the right time. However, the settings work well for most dishes, so you can still “set it and forget it” in most cases.
I can, in fact, cook lots of food in this crock pot just like I wanted to. However, what I didn’t realize is that this means it can be difficult to cook small amounts of food in it. If I had it to do over again, I would probably get the 5 quart. Make sure that if you’re cooking in your 6 quart, you have plenty of people to feed, or at least you’re making something that will freeze well.
What I also didn’t realize is that most slow cooker recipes aren’t designed for a six quart crock pot; you may have to adapt them. Luckily the manual provides adaptation instructions which more-or-less work, although you’ll have to muck with individual recipes a bit. The manual also provides instructions for adapting normal everyday recipes to the crock pot, which is very handy.
The only other issue is that the outside of the crock pot gets fairly hot, so you won’t want to leave it where unsuspecting people might touch it.
The crock pot heats very evenly and cooks things quite well. We’ve made everything in it from a roast with vegetables (which came out SO tender!) to pumpkin bread pudding and stuffing at Thanksgiving. The lid fits well and is heavy glass, so it keeps the heat in well. (The lid on that used crock pot I once had was plastic, and didn’t do much good.)
The removable stoneware pot is dishwasher-safe, but it doesn’t fit in our dishwasher. Luckily it’s pretty easy to clean, so this isn’t a big deal, although the white pot has discolored slightly over time. The smooth-touch controls are easy to wipe up.
If you’re looking for a large crock pot that can turn itself down when it’s done, this is a wonderful crock pot to pick up! If you prefer to cook smaller amounts of food or were looking for a more flexible definition of “programmable,” then this probably isn’t the right model for you. We love our “Smart-Pot,” but it isn’t the ideal solution for everyone.