Unfortunately, you get what you pay for. The first to go was one of the rubber feet, so it sat at an odd angle on the counter. Then, I lost the plastic knob on the cover. That got replaced by a "ghetto fabulous" doorknob.
The last straw was when the carrying handles broke. Now, it couldn't be moved when hot, so traveling to potlucks was out of the question.
So I started to do some research. I knew I didn't want another Rival. They're made cheaply. I also knew I wanted a built-in timer with a keep-warm setting that kicked-in after the cooking time expired. I was willing to upgrade to a better model, even if it meant paying upwards of $150. However, most of the nicer name brands (Cuisinart, etc.) had fancy multi-cookers that were so huge and boxy, they wouldn't be good for travel. Also, I was concerned that a model made to sauté (for pre-browning) wouldn't regulate correctly on the slow-cooker setting. Most had teflon-coated metal inserts, which scratch easily, and the heavy ceramic crock is part of what makes a slow-cooker heat so evenly and efficiently.
I kept coming back to the Hamilton Beach Set 'n Forget 6-Quart Slow Cooker, which before Christmas was selling for under $50. It had generally good reviews and a great feature set, including:
- A timer that lets you set in half-hour increments. Some have presets of 2, 4, 6, 8.
- A built-in silicone gasket on the lid to keep moisture in while cooking and liquid in while traveling.
- Built-in locks for traveling to keep the lid secure. No Velcro strap or rubber band nonsense like my old one.
- A probe thermometer that fits through a hole in the lid and will stop cooking a hunk of meat at a certain temperature.
There were a few complaints in the Amazon reviews:
- Some people reported a defect where the timer would crap-out and they'd come home to cold food. This seemed to not happen recently and there was a newer model number available, so I opted for that and hoped for the best. Either way, I'd expect them to honor warranty service.
- People complained that power outages (other than a flicker) caused the pot to not come back on with the power. This is, quite frankly, a limitation of any computerized unit that I was willing to accept.
- People reported the locks getting in the way because they don't fold-down all the way. Again, I decided this was nit-picking and now that I have it, I agree...it's not a deal-breaker.
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