At my local grocery here in Louisville, there's an aisle dedicated to small kitchen appliances, and at the end of it you'll find an entire section of budget-priced slow cookers. The most expensive one probably costs somewhere around $60, and the majority run significantly less then that. This is where I bought my slow cooker: a no-frills sale model that set me back $19.99.
The $99 Frigidaire Professional 7-Quart Programmable Slow Cooker wouldn't be caught dead in that grocery aisle. With a classy, stainless steel finish, sleek chrome accents, and an elegant, blue LCD display, the thing is designed to bring a touch of luxury to an appliance with some pretty humble origins.
But luxury is about more than aesthetics -- at least, it ought to be. In the case of the Frigidaire Professional, you won't find any thoughtful new features that save you time or make slow cooking any easier than it already is. You won't find the built-in temperature probe and spoon rest of the
Both of those cookers can do everything the Frigidaire Professional can and more, and both cost about $30 less. In fact, in terms of features, the only real difference between the Frigidaire Professional and my $20 cooker is that the Frigidaire has a built-in timer, a slightly bigger capacity, and a few extra preset cooking modes.
The bottom line is that the Frigidaire Professional is a fairly basic slow cooker housed in an attractive-looking stainless steel body. If you're willing to pay extra purely for an upgrade in aesthetics, then you'll probably be happy with it. If, on the other hand, you're expecting additional features or a better user experience -- and at $99, I think you should be -- then you'll find this slow cooker disappointing.
Design and features
The Frigidaire Professional certainly passes the eye test. It looks fancy, elegant, and expensive -- certainly more so than the common cooker. If you served beef stew out of it at a pot luck dinner party, I'm sure that you'd get some compliments.
I know that we were impressed with the way the Frigidaire looked as we set this round of slow cookers up in our test kitchen. Along with the
However, those initial charms quickly wore off as I started using the thing. As good as the design looks, it isn't terribly practical. For starters, I found that the Frigidaire Professional was more likely to burn me than any other cooker in our kitchen, thanks to the fact that there's absolutely no insulation between the metal body and those classy chrome handles. Try picking it up while it's on, and you'll find the backs of your fingers just a few precarious millimeters away from that scorching hot stainless steel surface.
It's a classic case of form over function, as well as a huge design oversight. After all, you won't be getting any compliments at that party if you burn yourself and drop the beef stew all over the sidewalk while carrying it in from the car.
Even if you make it to the party with your stew (and your dignity) intact, it won't be because of the Frigidaire's design, because this slow cooker offers no features geared towards portability. There no way to lock the lid, nowhere to wrap the cord, and no analog thermometer.
Compared to the thoughtful, feature-rich designs of the Crock-Pot and Hamilton Beach models that we tested, the Frigidaire Professional seems almost insultingly sparse. Want to cook using a meat thermometer? With the Frigidaire Professional, you'll need to lift the lid each time and let that critical heat escape, because the lid lacks a hole or a vent through which to stick the thermometer.
So what features does the Frigidaire Professional offer? First up is high capacity, with a 7-quart crock -- the same size as the pan in Breville's slow cooker. The Crock-Pot and Hamilton Beach slow cookers both feature 6-quart crocks, which is also the size of the metal pan in the
Next is what Frigidaire calls the "Pro-Select LCD Display" which lets you know how much cooking time is left. It's not a killer feature by any stretch, as LCD displays are pretty common even in mid- to low-end slow cookers.
The LCD will also display which of the Frigidaire's six cooking presets you're using, and this is where you might think Frigidaire sets itself apart, since most slow cookers traditionally only offer Low, High, and Warm presets. Frigidaire offers those, along with a Medium setting and one for Soup, as well as a Buffet option that serves as a slightly warmer variation on the Warm setting.
That's a lot of options, but ask yourself: when would you use them? Do you really need two separate settings for keeping food warm? Do you really need a dedicated 4-hour Soup setting that does essentially the exact same thing as the 4-hour High setting? The Medium setting might be helpful if, for a specific recipe, you found that High was just too high and Low was just too low -- but how often is that really going to happen? Superfluous features like these don't make a better slow cooker -- but they do make a more cluttered one, and one that compromises the appliance's inherent simplicity.