Apparently Crock-Pots (all right, the non-brand name is ‘slow cooker,’ but who REALLY says ‘hook-and-pile’ instead of ‘Velcro’? No one, that’s who) are a regional thing. I grew up with one, but some people are as-yet uninitiated into the brilliant fellowship of Crock-Pots owners.
My Crock-Pot was on my mind today because I had to order a replacement stoneware crock (the inside part) for mine. Lesson 1: Don’t lend appliances to large groups of people you don’t know.
A while ago, my husband had a work thing that meant everyone had to stay there for a week. No going home, no leaving the area, etc. (It’s a military thing. Don’t ask.) While they were generously provided with MREs, several of the guys got together and thought, ‘Hey, we’ll make our own food that isn’t awful!’ (That was the other guys. My husband likes MREs, but would rather save his for a REAL emergency, like earthquakes or tsunamis or the collapse of civilization.) Anyway, my Crock-Pot, as well as other cooking utensils, was requisitioned to provide hot meals for the week. In addition to several things never coming back at all, the Crock-Pot came home with what appeared to be a long scratch on the inside of the crock. ‘Bummer,’ I thought. The inside is a kinda non-stick type of surface, so it sucked that it was scratched, but I figured it was still good, right?
Several months later, I noticed that the ‘scratch’ had a corresponding mark on the OUTSIDE of the crock. It didn’t line up perfectly, but was definitely enough for me to conclude that the problem was not as confined to the surface as I had previously believed. So I Googled ‘crock pot is cracked,’ and this blog post came up. ***WARNING: THIS STORY IS NOT FOR THE SQUEAMISH.***
Stoneware is a very nice material; is holds heat well for cooking and is generally pretty tough. But the same attributes that make it strong mean that when it DOES crack, those pieces are VERY sharp. Long story short, broken Crock-Pots can lead to hospitals, surgery and physical therapy. Lesson 2: Don’t use cracked stoneware.
Since I always strive to avoid those three things, I immediately ceased using my Crock-Pot. Fortunately, on the same post, there were links for replacing pretty much any part of any Crock-Pot that has broken or been lost. (For the curious and/or Google-illiterate, the link for Crock-Pot parts and support is here.)
It was a matter of minutes and about $25 (including shipping and taxes) to have a replacement crock shipped to my door. I had no problem paying for it, since I assume that the item in question was abused in a manner it was not built to withstand, and I take responsibility for that. Lesson 3: Crock-Pot has good customer service and it’s fairly simple to replace any parts as required.
The hardest part of the whole thing was deciding whether to replace the part or just replace the entire appliance. Since we got ours at Wal-Mart, there was only about a $5 difference between replacement of the crock and replacement of the whole thing. This was my first Crock-Pot as an adult, though, and my husband got it for me for Christmas, so I decided to stick with the known-to-be-reliable device and just replace the crock.
This whole things got me thinking: why is the Crock-Pot so important? What makes this cooking appliance so popular even after so many years? (In some cases, ‘so many years’ is literal: certain ones have been known to last for decades.) So I decided to list some of the reasons that I personally love my Crock-Pot.
1) In the summer, it heats up your kitchen much less than the oven. Where I live, we didn’t even turn on our heat this year, and it’ll only get warmer. In a few weeks, the last thing I’m going to want to do is heat up my entire house making roasts. Bleh. Crock-Pot keeps the heat contained in one little space. And if your oven’s not on, your a/c doesn’t have to work so hard, so you can save some on your power bill.
2) Unlike ovens and stovetops, Crock-Pot is safe to use unattended. When I was young, I remember my mom throwing dinner into the Crock-Pot first thing in the morning, then being free to run errands all day if necessary. When we got home, the smell of beef and potatoes would have permeated the entire house, without the risk of burning it down.
3) It is remarkably versatile. I usually use my Crock-Pot for the standard meat-and-veg, but there are TONS of recipes designed to be made in slow cookers, even some you’d never guess, like breads and desserts. My favorite Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day even has slow cooker variations! I used to know someone who made a hamburger soup (with evaporated milk, frozen French fries, cheese dip, sour cream…) in a slow cooker. *drool*
4) It’s easy. (Yay!) I love the days when I Crock-Pot (it’s a verb now. : ) ) Get up. Put meat in Crock-Pot. Turn on. Several hours later, put in a chopped potato, carrot and onion. Couple hours later, eat. It’s great. And virtually impossible to burn or even boil dry, since the design of the lid keeps all the liquid dripping back in. Depending on which one you get, it’ll even automatically switch to ‘warm’ once it’s done cooking, so if you’re running late it doesn’t overcook it.
5) They’re cheap! There are good-sized Crock-Pots to be had for around $25. Even the fanciest ones don’t break $100, which is unusual for a kitchen appliance. You can go as simple or as complicated as you want, from the basic high/low switch to touchscreen. There are tons of patterns and colors, including a line of NFL teams, and you can even get one personalized.
This turned out to the a really long post, so I’ll wait for another time to share some of the other cool things you can do with Crock-Pots.