* Prices may differ from that shown
About a year ago I decided to donate my ASDA Value Slow cooker for a charity food sale. We had prepared curries and stews using other friends' slow cookers including mine which had the smallest capacity and wasn't used for the largest grub on offer. I realised there and then that with an impending winter coming, I would require a larger slow cooker than what I have. It seems that buyers are also now tapping into the idea of slow cooking with low energy running costs - and as a result the cost prices of a larger "canister" slow cooker seems to be too expensive at what I required. Although there are quite a few on the market, I shopped around for the best deal, nearly considering a £28 Morphy Richards 3.5 litre capacity slow cooker with Argos vouchers, and instead waiting for a few months later in the September 2012 sales to see what I could find. I eventually found the Wahl ZX710 at quite a reduced price and seemed to offer exactly the same spec I had found with a Morphy Richards product.
Nar2's Quick Skip Product Spec
* Model: Wahl Slow Cooker ZX710 large Slow Cooker.
* 3.5 litre capacity with 3 settings.
* Black finish and clear glass lid with black heat insulated top.
* 200 watts total running power.
* Dishwasher safe inner container & lid. (claimed!)
* General size: 35cm by 25.5cm by 20cm & approximate weight of 4kg.
* 2-year guarantee.
* My price £11-00 at Amazon UK; now £19-99 (B002HRE06E) to £29-99 elsewhere.
General Design & Quality
When I think of the brand name "Wahl," I think immediately of their hair care ranges such as hair dryers, tongs, shavers, beard trimmers and such like. I'd never consider the 90 year old company to produce a slow cooker and I've often had friends whose own experiences of Wahl hair products have been less than favourable. Yet I like a bargain, just like I did when I first feasted my eyes on my own ASDA Value slow cooker at £6; a price that's largely unheard of these days for a 2.5 litre capacity bowl.
Yet, the design of my round ASDA Value slow cooker is pretty similar to what the Wahl offers, with a thick and heavy ceramic made inner pot where the cooking prep goes into, cradled by an outer light metallic shell, even though close up and from a distance the Wahl ZX710 looks like an oval cauldron due to its shiny black finish and oval looped grab handles at the sides! For the cost price here there is no timer, but three heat settings comprising of "low," "hot" and "auto," where the slow cooker determines the highest heat setting from previous continuous cooking and decreases and increases the temperature depending on the actual food that is being cooked. There is a large red LED light that stays on whenever the slow cooker is switched on. Since purchase though, the Wahl has remained shiny and black - a perfect storer for Halloween treats on display without the slow cooker being switched on.
Closer inspection of the Wahl ZX710 reveals a few surprises though. Online at Amazon, some models from a few reviewers have a tendency to have a brittle control dial that either snaps off or disintegrates, and though I haven't experienced the same, the dial does reverberate through the metal panel somewhat too easily and can be quite stiff to change from one setting to the next. No wonder some owners have reported failing control dials! I can see how this could be possible as the Wahl ZX710 definitely needs a gentle hand to operate the dial slowly and its general twist shape isn't really comfortable anyway!
That said, I am generally impressed with the heat insulated glass lid (to a point) and stable design helped by the four permanent feet on the base of the cooker. What is less impressive is the fact that the inner black ceramic bowl seems to be a ceramic-coated bowl with terracotta underneath. This is more apparent if you place the bowl continuously in a dishwasher after use, where part of the finish starts to rub off all too easily. The power cord is also quite short requiring the owner to place the slow cooker near a plug socket.
Since purchase, I have used the Wahl ZX710 a couple of more times in October recently than my smaller ASDA Value slow cooker with 1 litre less capacity. In terms of the use, it is fairly easy to make a delicious hot pot, stew, soup, casserole or even a curry whenever the slow cooker heats up on the low program and it only takes a few minutes for the Wahl ZX710 to heat up. Just make sure you have plenty of plastic airtight food boxes if you are going to batch bake, as I realised early on that despite the larger 3.5 litre capacity, my home made soup required six large boxes to cram all the soup in for freezing compared to the usual three I have with the ASDA slow cooker! However, like my smaller slow cooker, the Wahl ZX710 isn't heat insulated from the metal body and though the ceramic grab handles above the main carry handles on the body do allow them to be touched, they grow worryingly hot through the cooking process.
What the Wahl ZX710 does for me though is exactly what my ASDA Value slow cooker does. It cooks food slowly and won't generally burn food prep unless you forget to add in some water to the meal you are preparing. From chunky cut vegetables to thinly sliced or cut, it won't matter when it is being cooked in a slow cooker as the intention here is to release natural juices as slowly as possible, affecting other foods that have also been placed at the time of cooking. It is the slow way of cooking that heightens the taste experience and very much the idea that I love using, where I don't have to stand around a cooker and wait for things to cook whilst I keep a watchful eye over it!
The instant advantage of the Wahl ZX710 mirrors a lot of slow cookers these days on usage promise. It is quite possible to cut your energy bills because of its constant low energy release via its low energy built in element. The Wahl ZX710 is able to be left on for a constant 24 hour period without burning out the element since the Wahl (by UK law) has a thermal cut out protection device fitted should the slow cooker be left on inadvertently. The cooker also works silently and it is easy to change the temperature control should your food prep require it.
The Wahl ZX710 does have 50 watts more than my ASDA Value slow cooker, so cooking times can take a bit shorter such as soup or stew preparations where the Wahl can easily cope being left on for 7 to 10 hours to get the best tasty meat with mouth watering juices cooked to a high temperature safely and effectively. A slow cooker is definitely a must for anyone who works 9 to 5 and just wants a hot meal to come home to. Unlike normal cooking, the Wahl Slow cooker disperses steam out from the sides of its glass lid and fills my kitchen with the scent of prepared food.
There are other ways of using this slow cooker though; you don't always have to leave the lid on every time you use the cooker, but it depends on the prep or recipe you are cooking. When it comes to cooking a shared meal, i.e. bolognese and meat sauce, I brown off the mince first before adding it to the cooker, chuck in the vegetables and through the cooking process, add in herbs so that the meat becomes saturated with the fresh scent of herbs and additional spices if required. In all cases I would recommend that if you are doing soups or stews to add a knob of butter, or a squirt of "One Cal" oil spray to get the meat softer.
Do not add meat tenderiser powder as I find this just doesn't do much to any meat cooked in a slow cooker! The basics of convection cooking is all that is required to get succulent juices from meats flowing, and you don't need premium meat to get the best taste when cooking with a slow cooker - another great budget and cost saving aspect!
Similarly, spoiled vegetables, scraps such as "what to do with the rest of the pumpkin?" should be thrown in to make a hearty Halloween inspired Pumpkin soup. Perfect before taking the children out guising! Throw in chocolate sauce and marshmallow with added cream to give guisers a treat on marshmallow sticks as a fondue when they come to the door. The ideas are endless with a slow cooker - it just so happens that the Wahl is fit for Halloween fun, even if safety has to be guarded at all times for its non-heat insulated exterior body.
Maintenance & Other Downsides
Instead of being dishwasher safe, which I don't think is quite true, I find washing out the inner ceramic bowl & lid to be fairly easy but a very heavy experience where the inner bowl is concerned. This is what happens if you buy a much larger slow cooker than what you are used to. The bowl weighs 3kg by its own, so you'll need extra muscled hands to lift the ceramic bowl out of the metal carrier to wash it out, thus inferring that if you're going to serve food out of it, best leave the whole appliance on the work top and work around the Wahl. Hot soapy water and a good scrubbing brush (preferably not steel wool but of the dishwashing nylon type) brings the pot up to its shiny standard, also emulated by the wipe clean exterior of the main carrier. However, the entire pot doesn't have grippy parts to it, with the grab handles at the side also being slippy due to the all over ceramic paint.
There are however a few other downsides. Compared to my ASDA slow cooker lid, there is no steam dispersal hole in the glass lid that allows steam to escape through the lid when food is being cooked. Although I personally haven't burnt myself yet, it is a small but necessary aspect that I feel warrants a mention as I find the glass lid gets too hot compared to my ASDA slow cooker. As mentioned before, steam will rise eventually through the sides of the lid, but it makes for a very hot lid when it requires to be lifted off.
The glass lid itself has a black stubby plastic top that matches the black cauldron look, but in the two months I've owned and used the Wahl ZX710, the top is beginning to come away from the glass, requiring a standard flat head screw driver to screw the top back in safely and securely. The main exterior body is also less well made than previously thought, able to dent easily by the slightest knock if the ceramic pot has been taken out.
Another downside is that at this price, this isn't the kind of slow cooker where its feet or a secondary frame can be used to carry the pot straight to the table. It isn't anything new from my smaller slow cooker, but the more important downside to the Wahl is that it is quite bulky due to its oval shape, thus requiring kitchen surface with enough space for the Wahl ZX710 to be accommodated. Physically, I find the Wahl ZX710 takes up as much length as our Kenwood Chef! This is where my ASDA slow cooker fights back because of its taller, narrower round shape.
If only a brand could come up with a round slow cooker with a large capacity! It would be the most perfect accompaniment on the dinner table to serve straight off rather than serving onto plates and then carrying to the dinner table!
I am very surprised by the Wahl ZX710 slow cooker. It has cooked some very succulent dishes so far such as chicken and beef casserole to steak and kidney filing, chicken broth soup, curries and more recently was also used to prepare hot continuous porridge to keep me warm throughout the day. Easy to clean if only by hand wash only, this is a price competitive slow cooker that does what it promises by its performance. The build quality however could be a lot better and for all that it offers a larger capacity, its general shape could be made far more compact with more heat insulated parts than just the lid and grab sides. Thanks for reading! ©Nar2 2012.
I love to cook and in particular I love to cook hearty meals that need to simmer for a long time. Favourites in this family include various stews, casseroles and bolognaise all of which benefit from being cooked for a long time on a low heat. For years I've been preparing these meals on a conventional cooker, simmering the meals in a saucepan and spending hours over a hot stove. But having a young baby has severely reduced the amount of time I have available for preparing this sort of meal, so I decided to get a slow cooker, and the Wahl ZX710 in particular.
I chose the Wahl ZX710 for a few reasons, firstly it looked pretty good in the picture on Amazon. The second reason was the Wahl's capacity, at 3.5 litres it sounded as if it would be big enough for me to prepare meals that would not only feed my partner and myself but would leave some for freezing. The final point that swung me to the Wahl was the price, £24.99 with free delivery from Amazon.
The Wahl ZX710 is quite a large piece of equipment and weighing in at 4.5kg it's not one that you would want to be lifting in and out of cupboards. So if you're considering purchasing this you might want to check that you have a large enough space (25cm x 35cm) for it to live permanently on your work surface. Luckily enough, I have a huge amount worktops in my kitchen, so I had no trouble finding it a home, and the power lead is a good length meaning that it doesn't need to be placed too close to the plug sockets.
Looks-wise, the ZX710, while not spectacular, is quite sleek and stylish. The oval shaped body is formed from a glossy black enamel-like material, which features two moulded handles and a simple dial control along with a red LED power indicator. The toughened glass lid is capped by an easy grip handle which means that it can be removed without needing to touch any hot surfaces. On lifting the lid, there is a heavyweight, enamel 'crock pot', that can be removed for easy cleaning, either in the sink or dishwasher. Although, disappointingly there are no handles on the crock-pot, meaning that it is not easily transferred to the table for serving.
Although the ZX710 came with a small instruction booklet giving a few sample recipes, I can't really say that I've taken much notice of it, having perfected my own recipes over the years. Preparing meals using the ZX710 really isn't difficult, it's simply a case of placing your ingredients in the crock-pot, plugging in and then choosing whether you want to cook on high, low or auto. How long you leave the cooker on for then depends on which heat setting you've used and what ingredients you are cooking, but generally I'll cook a meal for about 8 hours on the low setting.
One of my favourite meals to cook in this is a good hearty beef stew, where I will prepare the ingredients just before bed and then allow it to cook overnight (when electricity is at it's cheapest). I love that I can just chuck all the ingredients in, switch on and then forget about it until the morning, when I all I do is simply turn the cooker off and then allow the flavours to further develop before reheating (on high) in the evening. Previously I would cook a stew all day on the gas hob, to get the same sort of flavour, meaning I would have to be spending a large part of the day checking and stirring.
That's not to say that I don't have to do a little preparation and it's taken me a little while to get the absolute best from the cooker. Potatoes definitely need to be cut a lot smaller than if I was cooking them on the hob, otherwise they simply do not go as soft as they should. The instruction booklet also suggests browning meat before adding it to the pan, but to be honest I've never bothered with this and nobody has complained at the results. Talking of results, meat cooked in this method is incredibly tender, I can take a cheap cut of meat, such as stewing or braising steak and the end result will be chunks of meat that literally melt in the mouth. I've never tasted such tender, tasty meat as I've got from cooking it in this. I also use the ZX710 to cook some of the best tasting chilli I ever had. I do find that it's with the meals where the flavour develops and intensifies over time that I get the very best results.
I've also used the slow cooker to produce some very tasty stock, which if you've ever made stock, you'll know is a process that normally involves simmering bones and vegetables in water for a couple of hours. When I use the ZX710 to make stock, I simply roast the bones off for half an hour before adding them to the crock-pot along with an onion, carrot, bay leaf, herbs and water. I then switch the cooker to high, leave the lid off and let it cook for a couple of hours. This leaves a delicious stock that I can use as the base for soups, gravy or even a stew.
Talking of soups, I also use the ZX710 to cook soups in, the long, slow cooking process is perfect for preparing a really tasty onion soup, the onions almost melt into the stock and it tastes absolutely delicious. The same goes for chicken soup and almost any vegetable based soup you can think of. Not everything works as well though, I tried to make pea and ham soup, but because the water doesn't boil, the split peas didn't quite cook to perfection, so if you're planning to try and cook with dried beans, lentils or peas then I would suggest par-boiling them first.
Although the instruction book does state that it's not a good idea to use the ZX710 to cook dishes containing rice, cream or milk there is one more dish that I prepare in this that is simply scrummy. My partner, my son, myself and all visitors to the flat absolutely love this dish and it puts the tinned varieties to shame. And the dish is, creamed rice pudding, which is incredibly easy to make using the slow cooker. I simply take a pot of cream and then add enough milk to make it up to two pints (the more cream the richer the pudding), pour this mix into the crock-pot, add 100g of pudding rice, 50g of sugar and lots of nutmeg, then switch the slow cooker to high. After an hour with the lid on, I remove the lid and cook for another hour and the result is the creamiest, fluffiest rice you could imagine, with very little actual work and no worrying about milk boiling over or rice sticking to the pan.
There's also the auto setting, which apparently will keep food warm, but I really can't say that I've ever bothered with it. If I want to heat food back up, then I'll simply set the cooker to high for half an hour. As well as cooking meals overnight there have been a couple of occasions when I plonked all the ingredients for a stew in this and then gone out for the day. The first couple of times I did this I was worried that everything would go horribly wrong. But I needn't have worried, the meals turned out fine, even when I left it on for nearly twelve hours. That's the lovely thing about this cooker, you really don't need to worry about your food boiling dry or burning if you're not quite on the ball.
Cleaning the crock-pot after cooking is far easier than when I've used saucepans, it's simply a case of lifting it out of the main body and then soaking for a short time before washing. Because the food doesn't reach such high temperatures as it would on the hob, it doesn't burn and stick to the sides leading to easier cleaning.
I've tried to find out how many Watts of electricity this uses, but it's not documented on either the manufacturer's or Amazon's website. What I can say that, if used overnight this literally uses a few pence worth of electricity. Which is a lot less than if I had cooked the same meal on my gas hob.
I don't know how I ever lived without the ZX710 (although I obviously did), it simply takes all the standing over a hot stove out of cooking. Every meal I produced using this has been delicious (although that of course still has a lot to do with my stock recipes) and even cheap cuts of meat come out so tender I barely need to chew. I also like the fact that it looks pretty good on my work surface, reduces the washing up that needs doing and uses far less energy than preparing the equivalent meal on the hob. I'm therefore giving the Wahl ZX710 a very healthy five stars out of five and recommending it to anyone who enjoys eating stews (and don't forget the rice pudding) and has the space on their kitchen work surface.
Short name: Wahl ZX710