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The $59.99 Crock-Pot Cook & Carry Digital Slow Cooker is a reasonably priced slow cooker that held up well in our performance tests. You can find cheaper models, some for as little as $20, but the Crock-Pot's ability to transport food securely and in a relatively tidy fashion makes it worth the extra investment.
It didn't necessarily wow us in any of the tests, but it's a steady, predictable cooker for which the expression "slow and steady wins the race" seems especially applicable. It excels at low, slow cooking and, while it won't surprise you with modern features, it will do everything you expect of a traditional slow cooker and then some.
Design and features
The Crock-Pot Cook & Carry slow cooker features a 6-quart stoneware crock, making it comparable with many other models in both capacity and countertop footprint. As with nearly all slow cookers, the Cook & Carry's crock sits inside of a metal shell that also contains the heating element. The shell is brushed stainless steel, giving it a modern, inoffensive look.
Modernity isn't necessarily something you think of when considering a slow cooker and Crock-Pot didn't seem to waste a lot of time on it with this model. What it lacks in high-tech gadgets or capabilities, it makes up for in convenience and creature comforts.
Typically the lid on a slow cooker is transparent, giving you the ability to check on your food while it's cooking, though models like the
The control panel is a perfect blend of form and function. Playing off of traditional slow-cooker time and temperature standards, the Cook & Carry only gives you five preset options. You can cook your food on high for either 4 or 6 hours, on low for either 8 or 10 hours, or set your food to warm. Once the set cook time expires, the Crock-Pot will automatically switch to the warming mode. Not being able to set a specific cook time outside of those four options might be frustrating for some people, but I didn't really miss it. It's easy enough to just select a cooking mode and monitor the time elsewhere.
While its controls are minimalist, I appreciate the small addition of a temperature indicator dial. This is especially useful given that the Cook & Carry is designed to be portable. The dial lets you know at a glance that the relative temperature of the contents of the crock are so you can be sure you'll arrive at your destination with hot food or, if not, you'll know to plug the appliance in before serving. The dial ranges from yellow, labeled "cool," to red, which is labeled "hot." It's not so precise that it gives you an exact temperature reading, but the dial gives you a good visual. If you need a more accurate measurement, you can always insert your own thermometer into the rubber vent.
I was surprised to find so many recipes for making a whole chicken in a slow cooker. We ultimately went with this recipe, for its simplicity and popularity. To keep each chicken out of the grease, we put six aluminum foil balls in the bottom of each crock as a makeshift roasting rack. The chickens then sat directly on top of the foil. Some models, like the Breville and Ninja, came with their own roasting racks, but in order to standardize the test as much as possible, we used the foil racks in all of the slow cookers.
We ran this test first on the high setting for 4 hours, according to our recipe. These chickens, across the board, came out overcooked. The Cook & Carry's chicken held together a little better than that of the other slow cookers, but it wasn't what we would call appetizing.
We tried this recipe again, reducing the cook time to three hours and the results were much better across the board. Of the five slow cookers we tested, the Crock-Pot's chicken came out as one of the best. It was cooked all the way through and much juicier than the Breville or Ninja's chickens, which were still a little dry.
Next, we made macaroni and cheese, using this recipe from Allrecipes.com. The recipe involved adding uncooked pasta to the crock, along with the liquid ingredients, and letting it cook on low for 5 to 6 hours. If the pasta came out al dente, we would call this test a success. Failure meant overcooked or undercooked pasta, or burning along the bottom or the sides. The Cook & Carry yielded some fairly unremarkable macaroni and cheese. It was cooked all the way, but it showed some uneven browning around the perimeter. It passed, but the results weren't exactly appetizing.
Given the slow cooker's origin as an electric bean pot, we wanted to pay homage to an early recipe as well as test a food that required a lot of liquid. For these tests, we combined 2 pounds of dried white beans, 10 cups of cold water, three cloves of garlic (minced), a sprig of rosemary, and 2 teaspoons of salt in each of the slow cookers.
For our first bean test, we set the slow cookers to run on low for 6 hours. The Crock-Pot produced beans that were a little underdone, but not so much that another half hour or so of cooking wouldn't make them just right. I can forgive a little undercooking since it's easy enough to correct. The other crock-based slow cookers had similar results, but the all-metal Ninja and Breville units overcooked the beans just a bit.
In our second test, we used the same recipe and adjusted the cook settings to high and let the beans go for 3 hours. The results were much the same, with the Cook & Carry and the other crock slow cookers producing beans that were edible, and the Ninja and Breville going slightly over. These results echoed those of our chicken test, where the all-metal slow cookers seemed to cook more aggressively than the traditional crock designs.
If the beans represent a back-to-basics test, pot roast gave us a chance to test a classic staple of slow cooking. After 6 hours on low, an ideal pot roast should be cooked to a food-safe temperature, but not overcooked and dry; tender, but not without textural integrity. The vegetables should be soft, but not mushy.
Measuring temperature is easy enough, but we found judging the quality of a pot roast extremely subjective. Some of us liked the roasts that experienced a total breakdown of the connective tissue and sort of melted, much like those the Breville or Ninja produced. Other editors appreciated a tender yet toothier version, like the roast produced by this Crock-Pot and a unit from
That brings us to an interesting, yet crucial, element to consider when using a slow cooker. The FDA states that food at a warm temperature setting like a slow cooker's warm function must maintain an internal temperature above 135 degrees Fahrenheit. We ran extra bean tests and measured the temperature immediately after the timers went off and then again after sitting for two hours on "warm." In the Crock-Pot, the beans finished cooking with an average temperature of 190 degrees. After warming 2 hours, their temperature averaged 170 degrees. None of the four slow cookers with a warm setting failed this test; they all maintained an average temperature between 170 and 181 degrees. The one unit without a warm setting, the Breville, held temperature at a food-safe 147 degrees. That's closer to the line that we'd really like, but still technically in range. I'd still keep an eye on it.
We also measured each slow cooker's ability to hold temperature after sitting unplugged for 2 hours (what if you cook chili and then drive to a friend's house but get stuck in traffic on the way?). If, in fact, your slow cooker is designed to be portable, it should be insulated well enough to travel safely. After 2 hours of being unplugged on the counter, the Crock-Pot's contents measured 148.5 degrees. It lost a lot of heat, and while it's still technically food-safe, it's close enough to the line that you'll want to use a separate thermometer to verify. It could be worse. The Ninja failed this holding test, dipping down to an out-of-range 131 degrees.
Maintenance and support
The Crock-Pot Cook & Carry comes with a one-year limited warranty, which is fairly standard for slow cookers. Slow cookers tend to be pretty low-maintenance, but you can prolong the life of your Crock-Pot by making sure that there is always liquid in the crock during cooking and that you clean it well after each use.
The stoneware and lid are both dishwasher-safe. You can also clean the electric base (once you've unplugged it) with with soap and water and then wipe it dry.
The Crock-Pot Cook & Carry is a solid choice for a lower-cost slow cooker, appropriate given that its brand is more or less the Kleenex of its category. The Ninja and Breville models have appeal as more versatile cooking tools with their ability to sear in the pot, and even bake in the case of the Ninja, but they both arguably defeat the core, low-maintenance purpose of a slow cooker by cooking so aggressively.
To some extent you must split hairs when you try to choose between sub-$100 models. The Crock-Pot and the Hamilton Beach units had similar performance, so what it comes down to is whether you prioritize the Crock-Pot's tidier storage and portability, or the Hamilton Beach's built-in temperature probe and a few extra cooking modes. Most people looking for a simple slow cooker would be happy with either unit.