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I bought this late 2010. My son is now getting into everything and often follows me into the kitchen when I'm cooking, and being 2 rarely listens to me when I tell him to go into the livingroom and play with daddy, wanting to be around mummy and see what she's doing. I was struggling to get meals done and it was taking double the time it normally did. I was at my wits end and someone suggested getting a slow cooker.
So I looked on isme.com (was Marshallward) as I couldn't afford to buy one, so needed a buy now pay later deal. It took me about a week to make a decision as they all looked good but this one is the one that caught my eye most, as it has a 4 in 1 function. You can fry, steam, slow cook, and cook rice all in one pot, which was a major plus for me as it means less washing up!!
It big and bulky, but fits on my worktop nicely. It has two dials. One to choose how you want to cook and the other to choose the temperature you cook at. It also has 2 lights. One to let you know it's switched on and the other to let you know when it's keeping warm. It has a 4.5L capacity which for a family of 3 is fantastic and means there is still room to cook for more people if we have guests. The lid is clear too with 2 vent holes either side which means you can check on dinner without having to take the lid off.
Also apart from the base, you can take it all out. It comes with a measuring cup and a serving spoon, and you can take the non stick bowl out if you wish and put it on the table for everyone to help themselves.
Now for the vitals!
It's much healthier. It doesn't require you to add any oil for frying/browning the meat, which makes the meat much juicier and tastier I have found and again makes it easier to get clean.
I can cook spaghetti bolognese in this in a minimum of 4 hours, and it tastes delicious. The mince breaks apart easily and as it's done in a slow cooker there's more suce which is great if you put some garlic bread with it. I think the maximum time I've had for a dish so far is about 6 hours. I find this setting invaluable as it means when my son is having his breakfast I can get dinner ready and just leave it for the day. The only problem is after about half an hour you can already smell the meal which then leaves you hungry, no matter what you eat, waiting for dinner to be done. I've known my partner to countdown until dinnertime because it smells so good!
Every sunday lunch we have I use this setting. My old steam cooker has become redundant. Although the colander part is abit small, it's the perfect size for us. You have to put about 1 litre of water in the non stick bowl, which takes about 15 - 20 minutes to heat up. It then takes about 20 minutes to steam cook the vegetables, so in all about 40 minutes maximum. Compared to my old steamer this is really good as it used to take an hour and a half so the cooking time has been cut in half!
This feature has yet to be used, but when it is used I will update my review.
This is a great slow cooker, the performance is really good, it doesn't take long to cook meals despite being a slow cooker and the taste of the food when it's done is second to none.
Ease of use:
Very easy to use and clean. Each part can be cleaned individually and for the main part that can't be you can just wipe it over with a cloth and water. Very simple!
It is very sturdy, when it hasn't been cooking my toddler has managed to hit it a couple of times, and it seems to be toddler proof as it hasn't been damaged in any way, though of course I'd rather he didn't do it to begin with!
The manual to this is A5 size and slightly thick. The instructions are easy to understand. It comes with a 1 year guarantee. The page you open is on product safety before operating the slow cooker, which I think is really good. It shows you in a diagram how the appliance fits together and has instructions on what to do before you first use it, which is pretty standard as far as I know. It has 3 different cooking guides with timings for rice cooking, steaming, slow cooking which also covers browning the meat.
For the rice cooking the times are different for white and brown rice and different quantities are given. It also states how long it can be kept warm for and even gives you a few tips underneath.
The steaming guide covers most vegetables and gives a separate guide for the vegetables and fish. It also tells you how to prepare them so they can cook in as little time as possible.
The slow cooking guide is fairly in depth (to me anyway as it is the first one I've had). It tells you how to adapt the recipes you use for the slow cooker, and gives you base times for how long they will take based on the normal cooking time for them. The slow cooker time usually has a time frame of upto 2 hours difference. For example a 15 - 30 minute recipe cooking normally will take 4 - 6 hours in the slow cooker. It also tells you what the best cuts of meat to use in it and what types work best for each type of meat.
Although it doesn't give strict instructions on how to brown the meat it does tell you the benefits of browning the meat first, and I have to say it has been pretty accurate.
The other great thing about the manual is - it also tells you how to do a roast in the slow cooker! While I have yet to use this feature I have found the instructions really clear and again it tells you which cuts of meat are the best for this. It also gives clear instructions on how to do the roast if you're adding vegetables, which although is common sense is really good for verifying, especially if it's you're first time doing it in a slow cooker. It also has smaller sections on how to cook pasta etc for dishes that require it and noodles too. How to add herbs and spices and the amounts generally needed and when to add milk or cream to your dish.
Last but not least for the manual - It also has a few recipes thrown in too. If you're a complete novice like I am, these come in really handy and as they have already been adapted for the slow cooker it's much easier than looking it up on the internet as I prefer to have recipes to hand. It also has cleaning instructions. Although it doesn't recommend washing them in a dishwasher I haven't found this to be an issue as I never wash them with any other objects than could ruin the non stick of them. The last few pages contain the address to get in contact with the after sales team, instructions for connection to the main supply and emphasises that it needs to be earthed and tells you how to do it safely.
This couldn't be easier, for the outer part just give it a quick wipe over with a damp cloth and maybe abit of washing up liquid (although microfibre cloths are great for this!). For the non stick bowl etc just do it along with your normal washing up, and use a non scratch sponge.
This product is pretty safe, of course for little hands I put it as far back as I can as it does get hot on the outside. But it doesn't damage the worktop, you don't need anything underneath it as it is designed not to need to, and I feel perfectly safe not keeping an eye on it when I have other things to do.
In all this is good value for money and at £55 it doesn't exactly break the bank. the colour of it will match most kitchen designs and not look out of place.
~Also posted on ciao under the same name~
The Breville VTP053 4-in-1 Multi Cooker gives the flexibility to plan ahead and is ideal for preparing whiolesome and tasty meals for your family. The multi cooker has four cooking functions Steam fry and brown cook rice and slow cook which saves time and space as you need not purchase multiple products for your kitchen. It is easy to operate and is designed with variable temperature control to fry and brown. It has an easy-to-remove ceramic bowl can be taken straight to the table and then to the dishwasher. It also has a tempered glass lid so you get see the dishes getting cooked and cool touch handles.Slow and even cookingRemovable ceramic bowl can be taken straight to the tableCool touch handlesTempered glass lid4 Cooking Functions in one pot - Steam Cook Rice Fry and Slow CookAutomatic rice cook keep-warm functionVariable Temperature Control to fry and brown