“ Brand: Russell Hobbs / Type: Family sized slow cooker / Features: Digital controls „
I was given this russell hobbs digital slow cooker for my birthday. I understand it cost about £20 in an argos sale. I have never cook with a slow cooker before so I have no base to compare this model to other slow cookers. This model has 3 settings low, high and auto. The auto setting starts at high until the pot warms up and then drops to low. Some slow cooker recipes direct you to cook on medium setting which obviously is not an option on this model. I usually use the high setting because I don't prepare the food early enough to have it stewing for 10-12 hours, but if you get up early to go to work and have the energy and time to prep your veg it is great. Food cooks in about 5-6 hours on high setting. The crockpot will keep the food warm after the cooking time so if you set it to cook for 6 hours and come in after 8 it will still be hot and ready to eat, which is a great feature.
This particular digital model is not the best thought about design. You set the timer first and then select the cooking level, then it will start heating up. If you like me forget and press the cooking level first and then select the time it does not heat up. It needs some sort of design change to make it obvious to the user that they have not turned it on. The time is another silly feature - it only has to digit windows so does not show mins but hours and the a sixth of a minute. For example 3 hours 6 mins would need to be set as 3.1 and 3 hours 12 mins as 3.2. Surely they could have put in another digit window?
Despite these little quirks that annoy me the product does what it says on the tin and slow cooks food to perfection with the most tender meat from the cheapest cuts.
Tip when using the slow cooker - always add hot liquid/stock to it and not cold as this could significantly increase the cook time. You do not have to brown or sautee anything before you put it in the pot as some recipes suggest - this just browns things to give it a better appearance. It is a lot of extra work and extra use of your electric/gas for little benefit. The taste is better if you don't sautee as all goodness goes into your pot and not some in the frying pan!!
Slow cooking is supposed to be healthy, economical and therefore environmentally friendly - I really don't know how much energy my slow cooker uses so I can't comment on whether this claims are correct or not.
The slow cooker does cook at a very low level and is perfectly safe to leave on all day when you are out unlike some other appliances
SHOULD I PURCHASE A SLOW COOKER?
For about two years or so I have been toying with the idea of buying a slow cooker. I have read reviews on this site regarding slow cookers with interest as I didn't know very much about them. Really this method of cooking would have been very useful for me a few years ago when all my children still lived at home rather than now when only two remain at home. But the reasons that I dithered were mainly these:
*Would this appliance be worth purchasing now that my household is decreasing in size?
*Would it prove worthwhile when I don't go out all day, every day?
*Would it be worth having yet another device which uses up valuable kitchen space if I didn't manage to get enough use out of it?
But I did know that slow cookers are economical to run; and also that they are good for cooking cheaper cuts of meat as the slow method used results in more tender results. My husband is quite fussy over meat. He won't eat chops that are fried or grilled as a rule, much preferring them to be cooked slowly in the oven. I thought for this reason a slow cooker would be beneficial but didn't know if this alone would justify the purchase. And another important advantage being that food cooked in a slow cooker should keep vitamins and nutrients in the food more than conventional cooking would.
Well I remained undecided until my husband and I decided to drive our son and his girlfriend back to their student home in Canterbury, Kent, in early January. Once there, we happened to visit their local Netto store with them. They needed a few basic food items until their internet shopping was delivered.
As they were both to be on a school placement the following day and didn't have much time for shopping or cooking but had mentioned that they had recently purchased a slow cooker, especially for using during their long days of placements when they would be out from about seven a.m. until seven in the evening, owing to travel. This returned my thoughts to the question of, should I buy a slow cooker too?
This Netto store was in fact closing down and had various reduced goods around the store. I noticed two different makes of slow cookers. I very naughtily opened the box and had a good look at both. My husband suggested we buy the larger slow cooker which in fact was made by Russell Hobbs. This was supposedly half price selling for £20 instead of the usual store price of £40. I didn't think this was bad at all for this particular brand and size of cooker. I considered that for the price of £20, that this particular slow cooker it would be worth the cost.
Here are the specifications of the Russell Hobbs Digitally Controlled Slow Cooker:
Model Number 13792
Large 5.8Ltr Capacity
Digitally Controlled Countdown Timer Low, High & Auto Settings
Lift & Serve Crock Pot - Dishwasher Safe Glass
Toughened glass See through Lid
Stainless Steel Body
Dimensions W-380mm x H - 200MM x D - 270mm
12 Months Russell Hobbs Warranty
I liked the fact that this was a large enough slow cooker to deal with a roast dinner. I thought this would be great if I decided to go out on a Sunday which I very often do, and have a dinner cooked and just about ready to serve on my arrival home.
I also thought that this would be an ideal size to cook a stew in and then freeze some as I usually do to defrost and consume at a later date. I don't eat meat although wouldn't call myself a particularly strict vegetarian. I don't touch eat any meat but don't have a dedicated vegetarian area in my kitchen due to still cooking the stuff for others. I'm not squeamish if my food touches the meat products, although having said that, I would be happier if my family were all vegetarians. Then I would be stricter with all products that I buy.
I didn't have a clue what to do when first using the cooker so I was very grateful for the instruction booklet. This is a small booklet which is pretty clear to understand. I t also has a few recipes which even (as in my case) if one doesn't want to use these, you can tell by finding something similar to what you intend to cook, how long your own meal should. I also wasn't sure if dumplings could be cooked in the slow cooker but found a recipe in the booklet which included instructions of when to add dumplings.
The Russell Hobbs Slow Cooker Is very simple to use. It has digital controls and a timer. There are three settings-low, high and auto. It is similar to setting a simple microwave and can be altered while on. I have found that I prefer to start off on high and then leave it on a low setting. As you get used to this method of cooking it will become very easy to judge how long things need to be set for. On initial use I think it is best to be in the home so that times can be altered if necessary. If going out to work then it isn't a bad idea to use automatic mode which will start the cooker on high and then revert to low. It really is a case of practise makes perfect!
USING THE SLOW COOKER FOR THE FIRST TIME
Because of the fact that I don't eat meat, I decided on first trying out the slow cooker that I would start off by cooking the vegetables first. I read that meat should be first browned and vegetables sautéed before being added to the slow cooker. Also, the liquids added should be first boiled.
I decided it would be best (as cooking for meat eaters and vegetarians) to begin by cooking one dish and then taking enough away enough for a vegetarian stew, after a time. Then the meat could be added.
The slow cooker has to be pre heated and this can be done while the food is being prepared.
Instead of sautéing the vegetables I decided to instead boil them in a traditional crockpot, for about ten to fifteen minutes. This included carrots, parsnips, turnips, swede and onions. I boiled water, added some vegetable stock cubes and put this into the slow cooker, along with the vegetables, lentils, split peas and pearl barley. I seasoned and added some herbs. I allowed this to cook for an hour on a high setting and then removed enough to provide enough stew for myself to eat that evening and to freeze some for a later date.
The inner crock pot of this cooker is very heavy and when full is extremely heavy. Because of this I used a ladle to remove the vegetable stew. This I put back into the previously used conventional crock pot and left in the oven on a low heat.
As I had already browned the meat I added some flour to the pan (this is recommended as the liquid won't thicken in the slow cooker) I then transferred this to the slow cooker and put it back on, this time using the low power setting. I added beef stock to the stew.
As a novice to slow cooking I was surprised at how long the food took to cook. I had used the high setting to begin with had thought that six hours would be enough time to cook the stew to perfection. It wasn't though! I had to set the cooker for another half hour on high and then, after adding some dumplings, a further thirty minutes on the low setting.
The meat stew was served with mashed potato, and was enjoyed by my husband and son. There was enough left to freeze. I think that if I hadn't cooked so much then this meal wouldn't have taken so long to be ready.
As for the meat...well I had commented to my husband that I didn't think it looked a great choice before cooking and might not be that tasty or tender, but my husband and son both said it was very tender and had a lovely taste. I think the tenderness was definitely down to the slow method of cooking.
But was it worth it...I think in my case probably not! If we all ate meat and, if I worked full time, then this might prove a very valuable small appliance. But I didn't realise about the preparation needed before the food was put into the cooker. As I am not terribly organised then even if I were out to work all day I don't think I'd find enough time in the morning to prepare everything first before leaving the house. However, for those very early risers and well organised people, a slow cooker is probably a great thing to own.
It is economical owing to the fact that you can use cheaper cuts of meat than you normally would choose. Also, it doesn't use so much power as conventional cooking methods. And, add to this the low price that I paid and then in the respect of value I believe this ticks the box.
However, in respect of storage, it IS large and storage can be a problem. If I used this often then it would be worth the space it takes up but due to the different diets in my house then perhaps it isn't so useful. Maybe I should have purchased a small slow cooker which would have taken up less space and merely use it for the carnivores in the family.
The cookpot is removable and dishwasher safe, but it IS heavy and takes up a lot of room, whether washing it in the dishwasher or in a washing up bowl. It can only be used with the slow cooker.
The exterior of the cooker can be wiped clean with a cloth.
I have since used it to cook meat Bolognese, chicken curry, vegetable curry, chilli con carne and a chicken casserole, beef and vegetable stews. I find that root vegetables cook very well in this but from what I have been told the best results are with cuts of meat and dishes using minced meat.The method of cooking this type of food seems to really bring out the flavour.
My family's response seems to be that the meat is tender. I also believe that food doesn't need to be as highly seasoned as it does seem to be tastier when cooked ultra a slowly.
IS IT A GOOD BUY?
In my case it probably is an unnecessary buy. But as to the quality of this actual slow cooker I would say that it fulfils expectations. It is a nice looking appliance fitting in well with my other stainless steel small appliances.
If working all day,or simply out all day, then this is a great small appliance. How lovely to return home, especially on cold winter evenings to the aroma of an already cooked casserole waiting to be served.
I would have liked the lead on this to be a little longer. As this slow cooker takes up a large amount of space and after all is electrical where it is positioned is important so a longer flex would have been helpful. I don't have young children around but if I had this would have to be positioned well back and out of the way in my kitchen. The outside wall can become very hot.
Frozen food should not be cooked in a slow cooker.
A nice looking slow cooker which does the job its intended to do. It is very easy to use and provides good results.
Short name: Russell Hobbs 13792