Performance and usability
Clearly, the Frigidaire Professional leaves much to be desired in terms of features -- but the real question is, how does it cook?
The answer is that it cooks about as well as most other slow cookers with ceramic crocks. When heated, ceramic crocks will slowly and gently bring food up to peak temperature and then do a good job of retaining that heat over time, and the Frigidaire Professional is no different. Not surprisingly, we saw fairly similar results between the three ceramic crocks that we tested: the Frigidaire, the Hamilton Beach, and the Crock-Pot. We also saw similarities between the way the Breville and Ninja slow cookers performed -- both of those use thin metal pans, which conduct heat faster and tend to cook a bit more aggressively.
We started off simply by heating water, which is about as exciting as it sounds, but still useful for comparing the relative performance of each slow cooker at each setting. On Low, the Frigidaire was predictably slow to get up to a max temperature -- much slower than the two metal pans and slightly slower than the other two ceramic crocks, as well. Once it did, though, it simmered a bit warmer than those other two. In the four-hour High test, we saw every slow cooker reach the boiling point by the end of the test -- except for the Frigidaire Professional, which didn't make it above 200 degrees Fahrenheit.
This led us to believe that the Frigidaire might be prone to overcooking on Low and undercooking on High, and to an extent, our food tests seem to back this up.
We started with roast chicken, using a recipe that had us cooking them for four hours on High. They came out overcooked across the board in the first run, though the Frigidaire's was the least well-done. We tweaked the recipe down to three hours, and again, the Frigidaire was the least done. In fairness, the chicken tasted fine -- certainly better than the Breville's chicken, which, even after just three hours, was still overcooked.
Next, we tried a slow-cooked spin on macaroni and cheese that had us cooking for six hours on Low. In hindsight, we should have picked a recipe that wasn't quite so egg-centric, because each dish came out tasting more like quiche. Still, the results were telling -- especially the "heat mapping" provided by the burnt cheese on top of each batch. Ideally, we'd get something evenly cooked to a nice golden brown.
The Breville skipped the golden part and went straight to brown, producing some grossly overcooked macaroni, while the Crock-Pot was a bit undercooked. As for the Frigidaire's mac 'n' cheese, it was decent enough but also a bit overdone, and not as evenly cooked as the batches we made in the Hamilton Beach and the Ninja.
We also tried cooking pot roast on the Low setting for six hours. The Frigidaire's meat was the least well-done, with a texture closer to roast beef than it was to pot roast. Some of our taste testers enjoyed this, while others preferred the more well-done, fall-apart pot roasts produced by the Ninja and Breville slow cookers. Another test saw us cooking cannellini beans. We tried the recipe on Low for six hours, then on High for three. The Frigidaire's beans were perfectly al dente and a unanimous favorite after the six-hour Low test -- but they came out far too underdone after three hours on High.
In addition to the cooking tests, we made sure to test each slow cooker's ability to keep food warm and ready to serve. After cooking those cannellini beans on High for three hours, we let each batch sit for two hours at the Warm setting, then checked how far the temperature had fallen (a dish has to be above 135 degrees Fahrenheit to be considered food safe, per the FDA).
All five slow cookers passed the test, but it's worth noting that the Frigidaire's temperature decreased by the smallest margin: just 14.5 degrees, from 186 to 171.5 degrees Fahrenheit. However, this speaks more to the fact that it has the High setting that's easily the coolest of the bunch.
Another interesting point: the Breville slow cooker doesn't have a Warm setting at all (a fairly remarkable omission for a slow cooker, in my opinion). We left it sitting covered and unpowered for the full two hours, and while the temperature fell significantly lower than the other four, at 147 degrees Fahrenheit, it still passed.
We repeated this unpowered heat retention test with all of the slow cookers to see how they compared. The Frigidaire fell to 144 degrees and earned a passing grade, as did the Crock-Pot and the Hamilton Beach. The Ninja, however, saw its temperature fall to 131 degrees after two hours without power, barely failing the test. All of them are close enough to the line that we'd suggest using a thermometer to ensure food safety.
The Frigidaire Professional isn't a bad slow cooker, but it isn't a good one, either -- and it certainly isn't worth $99. Despite its appealing look, it lacks the kind of thoughtful features that you'd actually use time in and time out, the ones that help justify the higher price tag.