Monday, October 24, 2011

Fresh reviews - Kenwood slow cooker

A few years ago someone sold me on the idea of slow cookers. I got the impression you just throw ingredients in, head off to work for the day and then come home to a meltingly tender meal.

Without doing any research, I went out and bought what looked like a good slow cooker.

It wasn't.

I cooked a few nice meals in it, but more often than not the meat dried out and burnt around the edges. You see, the slow cooker had been designed with ridges that lifted the lid off the base, so moisture escaped instead of being retained in the vessel. I tried sealing the gap with tin foil and that improved meals somewhat, but not enough to warrant keeping it. Tin-foil is, after all, a non-renewable resource.

Last year I gave that slow cooker away.

Fast forward to September this year when Random House sent me a copy of  Joan Bishop's NZ Crockpot and Slow Cooker Cookbook to review. I was super excited to test the recipes in this book, but in an awkward position without a slow cooker.

My lovely neighbour, Kerryn, lent me her slow cooker a few times, but I felt bad taking it away from her family. What I needed was one I could use continuously for a few weeks, to really do justice to Joan Bishop's book.

Not wanting to get another dud, I put the call out on Facebook - asking friends and family members with memberships to Consumer Magazine to tell me which is the best slow cooker on the market.

Turns out the Kenwood Slow Cooker CP657 is rated best.

So I wrote to Kenwood, telling them about the bind I was in and asking if they would provide the necessary slow cooker for me to review Joan Bishop's NZ Crockpot and Slow Cooker Cookbook

I was beyond thrilled when they said, "Yes" and couriered one out to me.

I was also a little nervous. After my first experience with a slow cooker, I was worried this new one would let me down too.

Suffice it to say, I have not been disappointed with my Kenwood.

What I like about the Kenwood Slow Cooker
  • Instead of preparing dinner the hour before Paul gets home from work, when both girls are awake and needing my attention, I can make it during their lunch-time nap (in peace!). It's so wonderful heading into the busy evening hour knowing that dinner is already made.
  • The slow cooker has really freed up our afternoons and evenings. If we want to, we can head out to the park or to a friend's house - and dinner will keep right on simmering away for us at home. 
  • It's energy efficient. I used to cook a lot of meals in the oven or on the stove - and our power bill was pretty ridiculous. 
  • It's attractive, with easy-to-clean stainless steel on the outside and a ceramic vessel on the inside. The ceramic vessel has handles, so it can be lifted out of the stainless steel casing and brought directly to the table - or even wrapped in a carry bag and taken to a potluck dinner.
  • With a 6.5 Litre capacity, it can fit a whole chicken inside.
Whole chicken roasting in the slow cooker .
  • Slow cooker meals tend to be healthier - lots of vegetables, meat, herbs, spices and real stock. Not much processed rubbish finds its way in. (I've even been substituting almond flour for white flour, to achieve 100% real food meals.)
  • Lots of meals can be prepared entirely in the slow cooker, saving on dishes and stress.
  • I can use cheaper cuts of meat and get good results.
  • It's easy to clean, especially if you leave it to soak overnight.
  • It's well made. My last model started to come apart after a few uses, but the Kenwood seems much more solidly constructed.
  • All the external handles (on the lid and stainless steel casing) stay cool so the slow cooker can be easily moved around without oven gloves. 
  • It has a glass lid which lets me see how things are progressing in the slow cooker without needing to touch anything.
  • As well as the usual Low and High settings, the Kenwood slow cooker also has an Auto function, which is ideal if you're not going to be around to check on it often.

What I don't like about the Kenwood Slow Cooker
  • It doesn't have a perfect seal between lid and vessel, so some liquid is lost to evaporation. This means that meat and vegetables around the edges of the slow cooker crisp up and brown a lot faster than those on the inside, and it also means I have to occasionally check my meals to make sure they aren't drying out too much.
My question is, do any modern slow cookers have a perfect seal between lid and vessel? I've looked at a few different brands now and none of them have had one. Are they intentionally designed to allow for some evaporation? Is it necessary for some reason that I can't fathom? Let me know your thoughts.

My slow cooking tips
  • Slow cookers work best when half to three quarters full.
  • Modern slow cookers work a lot faster than older generation ones so, if you've got a newer model, you might need to revise the cooking times given in older cookbooks. 
  • Most cookbooks advise against taking the lid off and stirring slow cooker meals while cooking, because it lets too much heat out. However, I find that food cooks more evenly if it's stirred at least once. With the modern slow cookers working so fast, I think it's OK to lose a bit of heat in the interest of achieving tender food all over.
  • Make chicken stock in the slow cooker, and then use it instead of water in all your slow cooker meals for added flavour and nutrition.
  • Thaw everything before adding it to the slow cooker. (I learned this the hard way when I added frozen pumpkin to mine. It still wasn't cooked come dinner time.)
Note: My review of Joan Bishop's NZ Crockpot and Slow Cooker Cookbook is still to come.

In summary
I highly recommend Kenwood's slow cooker. It is a great model - and 1000 times better than the last model I owned. If you're looking for a slow cooker, I can recommend this one. It's everything you would expect from a quality brand.

In fact, I love my new Kenwood slow cooker so much that my husband, Paul, has started questioning whether we'll ever eat a conventionally cooked meal again.

It's a good question.

Linked to Monday Mania and Patchwork Living Blogging Bee


  1. yay for slow cookers! We got one after our last steer was unbelievably tough, we couldn't have eaten all that meat without slow cooking it, so it is definitely good for using cheaper cuts of meat. The steer we're eating at the moment is nice and tender, but still tastes great in the slow cooker. I do find that the time saving is a bit of a fallacy if you work as it just means that we have to rush around BEFORE work (ie getting up early, yuck!) to get the meal on instead of after work, however the quality of the meal is worth it and it is nice to come home and know that dinner is cooked already. I can see how it would really help you to be flexible with the timing of your meal prep though. Looking forward to the cookbook review (+ impressed that you get all this free stuff, good work!).

    1. ít thời gian, đồng thời, cũng miễn đi không ít phiền toái.

      Nhạc Thành bây giờ không cần lo lắng Yêu thú, cũng chỉ có lo lắng gặp phải trận pháp ở trong này, chỉ cần không gặp trận pháp, Nhạc Thành sẽ không lo lắng có cái gì. Về phần Nhạc Dao nói về ảo cảnh, Nhạc Thành nghĩ đó là trận pháp mê trận, mặc dù uy lực không phải rất mạnh, nhưng bát tinh Đấu tôn như rất mạnh này như thế nào rồi.

      Bên trong cổ nham, Nhạc Thành mặc dù có hứng thú, nhưng bây giờ Nhạc Thành cho rằng việc trọng yếu nhất là thu thập đầy đủ Linh châu Thượng cổ, nếu ở bên trong cổ nham thu thập được tất cả linh châu, tháp Hạo Thiên đạt được uy lực tuyệt đối khủng bố.

      Lúc này ở một chỗ trong sơn động, hai hắc y Thanh niên đang ngồi, quanh thân hai người hắc mang nồng đậm, một lát sau, hai người thu hồi khí tức lại, lập tức mở ra hai mắt, trong mắt hai người ánh sánh chợt lóe lên.
      mu moi ra hom nay
      tim phong tro
      nhạc sàn
      tổng đài tư vấn luật
      văn phòng luật hà nội
      tổng đài tư vấn luật
      thành lập công ty trọn gói
      chém gió
      trung tâm tiếng anh
      - Lần này không nghĩ tới Nhạc Thành tiểu tử kia nhặt được tiện nghi như vậy, đám người của Toan Nghê tộc, viễn cổ Hổ tộc, thần Phượng tộc quả thực là một lũ phế vật.

      Trong sơn động, Đoan Mộc Xuyên vẻ mặt tràn đầy hàn ý lạnh lùng nói.

      - Không nghĩ tới tiểu tử kia lấy trữ vật giới chỉ của Phượng Lâm, Long Huy, còn trữ vật giới chỉ

  2. I love that you can get the cheapest cuts of meat available and they turn out so nice and tender! Buying a slow cooker is one of the best things Ben and I have ever done.

    I get my meals ready the night before, put the ceramic insert in the fridge, and put it on when I get up for work, so I don't have to get up early & prepare things :)

  3. You sound so organised Gwen! I get my meat out of the freezer the night before to thaw, but that's as organised as I am.

  4. I have cooked frozen chicken straight from the freezer in my slow cooker with added potatoes, carrots and celery with no ill effects. Cook on high for 1 hour and then on low for another 4-6 hours. I saw on America's Test Kitchen once that most slow cookers don't get up to temperature fast enough so the meat is sitting in unsafe temperature territory for bacteria. Hence the 1 hour on high to pump the heat up quickly.

    The frozen chicken provides all liquid so I don't even have to add any water/broth to keep it from drying out.

  5. Thanks for the tip Danielle! I wonder if that's when the auto function would come into its own - heating on high until the desired cooking temperature is reached, and then dropping to low to carry on.

  6. any thoughts on the need for browning the meat first? That's the only reason I do the prep in the morning, I like to brown everything first so it has a nice colour, but I don't know if it makes any difference to the taste. I'm getting the idea that other people don't bother with that step....which would be good as I end up with an extra fry pan to was as well!

  7. One of the things I like about Joan Bishop's recipes is that none of them require browning the meat first. It makes life so much easier! I don't notice a difference at the end so maybe you could drop that step Liz and get a bit more sleep in the morning.


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