Today I am reviewing the Hamilton Beach Set 'n Forget® 6 Qt. Programmable Slow Cooker With Spoon/Lid. I received a free slow cooker to try, and I have one to give away to a reader here, compliments of Hamilton Beach (see The Giveaway, below).
In my house the slow cooker is a 3-season tool; I like to use it from fall through spring. I pull it out on the first chilly fall day, before the heat has been turned on in the house, when it’s nice to have something warming all day in the kitchen.
I decided to give the slow cooker a test with a very simple recipe – making black beans. I use beans a lot (we’re trying to eat less meat here), and black beans lend themselves perfectly to be made in a big batch because they freeze beautifully.
But before I make the beans, let’s take a look at the slow cooker. I’ve never owned a programmable slow cooker before, and was intrigued by the concept. In the past, I would set it in the morning and come home from work to find my meal cooked, but possibly overcooked. This slow cooker’s features allow me to cook for just the right amount of time!
I was immediately struck by how solid this slow cooker is. The oval vessel is a nice heavy stoneware, that looks to be very easy to clean and dishwasher safe. It’s a very allergy-friendly vessel! The glass lid is heavy and solid, with a rubber seal that sits very nicely on top of the stoneware vessel.
The lid has a hole for the thermometer – a fantastic feature if you want to cook meat! And yes, you can program the slow cooker to turn to warm when it reaches just the right temperature.
The lid can be clamped down with clips on the sides for carrying your warmed chili to the potluck dinner. I found the clips difficult to clamp down, but I expect they will loosen up over time. There is also a slot in the handle of the lid for holding a spoon (included) to carry to the potluck dinner (how many times have you gotten there and realized you forgot a spoon?).
Ready to make some black beans? Instead of buying black beans in a can, making them yourself is a fabulous way to save money, not mention control over ingredients and avoiding cross-contamination.
Rinse 2 pounds of black beans. Remove any broken or discolored beans. Place the beans in the vessel for the slow cooker. Cover the beans liberally with water; use 14-15 cups. Luckily, this slow cooker can accommodate that! At this stage it’s not possible to use too much water, but it is possible to use too little water. The goal is to let the beans absorb as much water as possible – they will expand as they do so. Cover the vessel and let the beans soak overnight.
In the morning, skim any floaters from the top. Drain the water from the beans. Place the beans back in the slow cooker vessel and add just enough water to cover them (about 5 cups) and 1 tablespoon of salt. Cook on low for 6 hours.
I decided to program the slow cooker for 6 hours on low, and found it very easy to do so. With the program mode, the slow cooker will automatically switch to “warm” when it reaches the time limit – something I wanted to test.
At about 3 hours, skim the foam. After cooking on low for 6 hours (or whenever you come back to it after it turns to warm), check the beans to see if they are done. At this point you may choose to add up to 1 tablespoon more of salt (depending on your preference). Cook the beans for up to 2 more hours, checking them every 30 minutes, until they are done. Mine took exactly 7 hours, total.
Now, back to the slow cooker. I must tell you that I have discarded many slow cookers over the years due to running too hot on low, the outer vessel getting too hot, or just being the wrong size. Some of these were expensive/high-end slow cookers. I don’t think I’ve found another one that I like as much as the Hamilton Beach Set 'n Forget® 6 Qt. Programmable Slow Cooker .
I love the programmability, but what I like best about the machine is the size and design. The large vessel with the glass lid is well positioned so that there is no leakage and no mess inside the slow cooker where the heating elements are. The low temperature was truly low (thank you Hamilton Beach!), and I could touch the outside of the slow cooker while running without fear of burning myself. Even the cover design is such that you don’t need to use an oven mitt to open it. This is one fine machine that is replacing what I was using previously.
I could live without the clips on the side and the spoon holder in the lid, but that might be a great feature for you if you tailgate a lot. The one design change I would make is to lengthen the electrical cord. I had to rearrange the appliances on my countertop to be able to get this close enough to an outlet to plug in. (The cord is about 2 feet long, 3 feet would have been perfect.)
Now, one of you can win a Hamilton Beach slow cooker. Simply leave a comment below with what you’ll make first in your slow cooker. The slow cooker will be shipped to a randomly chosen winner from Hamilton Beach. You have until midnight on Saturday October 11th to enter. The winner will be announced on Monday, October 13th. Good luck!