While in Home Depot I snagged a few special deals that I wasn't really even going for but when a deal comes along, what's a person to do but take it graciously and then while walking out of the store - jump for joy at the awesome savings they've just pocketed!
I've wanted a slow cooker for awhile now but just couldn't seem to justify the cost of one that a) didn't have the room to feed my entire family in one cooking session and b) didn't have any flexibility as far as the cooking programmability went. I owned another slow cooker which was a Rival - very basic with on-low-high settings but that was about it. I used it until it died so it worked well but I wanted something this time around that was more capable of versatile timing.
I think I found the slow cooker that fits both requirements and it fits right into my kitchen's redo with its nice looking stainless steel look. This slow cooker is 6.5 quarts but is a large capacity removable crockery/serving insert with plenty of room to allow me to cook just about anything in it.
It is an EverStar slow cooker with variable programmable cooking options and can be set to cook from as little as 2 hours all the way to 12 hours. It can also be set to begin cooking on high and automatically adjust the temperature to turn to simmer once the cooking process is complete - a perfect solution to my dilemma of what to serve for dinner when I've forgotten to take something out of the freezer.
I believe that the Everstar name is a brand that might be exclusive to Home Depot as I've not see these anywhere else. If you want an inexpensive yet pretty darned functional slow cooker this one seems to be a perfect solution. It's stylish and has an LED time indicator and setting it to cook is just a quick matter of pressing the Temp button, choosing "Low" - "High" or "Auto" settings and pressing the unit to "on". The digital display then clearly lets you see just how many hours are remaining in the cooking session. You can also set the number of hours you wish to have the meal cook for.
The unit began to heat up quickly and was roomy enough for about a 4lb Sirloin tip roast (without bone) and a generous supply of celery, onions, potatoes and carrots. I cheated this time around and simply added a $1.29 package of Slow Cooker seasoning mix to the pot and can I say if this tastes nearly as great as it smells - we'll have one scrumptious dinner this evening. That's great because this is my oldest daughters birthday dinner so I really shouldn't be using something I've not tried before but that's never stopped me - so I'm relatively confident it will turn out quite well ;)
This slow cooker appears to be quite solidly made and the stainless steel finish is impeccable - the crockery insert is a nice shiny black so although it's dishwasher safe, I think I'll hand wash it to keep it looking great. It's an oval unit with a glass oval cover and the handle on the cover appears to be on nice and solid as well and is easy to grasp when lifting it off or placing it back on.
Although this isn't one of the most expensive slow cookers on the market, for the price I paid for it, I think I got a great deal and as it appears much more solidly constructed than the last Rival cooker I had, I'm not expecting any issues with it for awhile.
The one area I wish they would have been a bit more generous in however; is the instructions - very minimal and they appear to have been printed in a country whose first language isn't English. The operation of the unit doesn't require much figuring out though - I found it quite intuitive and so I'm willing to overlook the mini-instructions. The other thing is no recipes came with the unit but again, I'm not worried as I have a laptop, search skills and know how to use both ;) so don't think I'll be stuck for recipes for a good while.
...and now the best for last! We just finished our first slow cooker dinner and the vote is in and it's unanimous - this was the most awesome dinner ever! The veggies were done to perfection, the roast was melt in your mouth perfect and I even made gravy from the stock and can I say it was delectable! The full cooking cycle ran on low so I cooked it for an 8 hour period - although I could have increased the temperature and had dinner complete in 4 hours - but the slow cook was absolutely worth waiting for! Everyone had generous helpings and there is even a little left over so this particular meal fed 6 people and at least two more could eat the remaining food that is left. The pot wasn't filled so I could easily make a meal to feed 10 people generously.
While I was waiting for dinner to finish I popped out to the local Chapters and purchased a slow cooker recipe book - got a pretty good deal on it too - so I'll be reviewing that shortlly.
Tomorrow night - I think we'll try our hand at a chili or perhaps spare ribs or maybe even some kind of pork or chicken dish - who knows - whatever it is though I'm certain it will be fabulous. A great slow cooker definitely worth the purchase and one that will see a lot of use in our home!
**photos to follow - camera charging ;)**
Update On Jan 07, 2009: Jan 7/09: This slow cooker is absolutely awesome!! It's easy to use, cooks like a dream, cleans up quickly but there is one problem and it's with me. Set dinner up last eve at 3:00 and went out to do errands, when hubby came home everything was still cold! I had done everything right - except - press the ON button!!! Duh. Ok, so I'm expecting it to do that for me too I guess ;) For the price - this is an excellent investment - absolutely love it! Tonight I'm measuring the amount of kw's it uses and will report that later on but suspect it will be quite efficient.
Update On Jan 07, 2009: Jan 7/09: Over a 4 hour cook cycle on high, this slow cooker used 1 kw of power total. Very energy efficient! As for the chili? Probably the most flavorful, robust and exceptionally A+ Chili we've ever had! Awesome!
Update On Feb 26, 2010: We've been giving this slow cooker a nice little workout using it for at least 3 meals a week and this will increase more as I try to make our meal times a little less work over the next while due to our schedules becoming more demanding.
It's great to be able to put everything into one pot, set the timer to cook for the prescribed amount of time and then have a meal hot and ready when we are. Great product that has given me absolutely no trouble to date. Love it!