Monday, September 14, 2009 Slow Cooker Review*

Cuisinart PSC 3.5 Quart Slow Cooker-Available at

If you're like me, you may still have your first slow cooker. I received mine back in 1986, at my bridal shower. I used my slow cooker on occasion however with fall fast approaching, I thought I might consider using it a bit more. Recently, I found a new recipe for a Chicken and Vegetable Soup from Heart Healthy Online. I am very salt sensitive (I don't have any heart disease.) so I began looking for a soup recipe that wasn't loaded with sodium. After making the soup on the stovetop, I thought it might be nice to re-create this soup using my old slow cooker however it didn't have a timer or a "keep warm" setting. I thought it would be great to put the ingredients in the slow cooker in the morning and then have it be ready for dinner when I got home. I am also very picky about what I eat. I prefer fresh, wholesome foods whenever possible and rarely eat processed foods. It was then that I began my search for a new slow cooker.
One of the things that is important to me is finding appliances that are smaller since I only cook for myself and possibly one other person. I don't have a lot of kitchen space so smaller size appliances are not only functional but a necessity. I have spent the last few years downsizing recipes and purchasing smaller appliances. In addition to a smaller size, I wanted additional settings and possibly a timer. I know a few people who have the Rival Slow Cooker that switches to the warm setting when it's done however the chicken is really dry. Still I wanted one that would keep the food warm, long after it's done.

Around this time, I was also reading a book called, "Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker: Recipes for Two" by Beth Hensperger. It was a great book and not only did she include some taste tested recipes for two but she made them in smaller slow cookers and made a few recommendations on what to look for. Beth states that one of the main reasons to purchase a new slow cooker, versus the old slow cookers from ten or twenty years ago, is the multiple heat settings. Old machines, often had an off button and high and low settings. Newer machines have an on/off button, multiple heat settings and preferably a "keep warm" setting. She recommends that for 1-2 people, the 1-1/2 to 3 quart or 3-1/2 quart machines are best. While they come in round and oval shapes, she recommends the oval shape so you can put in various cuts of meat that may not fit in the round slow cooker machines. In addition to her recommendations, I also wanted a slow cooker with an insert that was dishwasher safe. I am always happy if I can wash anything in the dishwasher, versus hand washing pots and pans.

With this information, I set out to find a new slow cooker. I was looking for a slow cooker that included the following:
  • Small size-up to 3.5 quarts. This was for recipes for 1 to 2 people.
  • Multiple heat settings, including an on/off switch and a "keep warm" setting.
  • Oval shape preferred.
  • Insert that was dishwasher safe.
  • Timer-I wanted to be able to set the timer on low or high and have it switch to warm.
  • Clean, modern design taking up minimal cabinet space.

I reviewed many of the slow cookers for all different brands and chose the Cuisinart 3.5 Quart Slow Cooker available at This slow cooker met all of my requirements: clean, modern stainless steel design with a removable dishwasher safe insert. It was a 3.5 quart machine with an oval insert. It had multiple heat settings including low, high and simmer, an on/off switch, a "keep warm" setting and a 24 hour timer. Best of all was the price, at only $58.95.

I have had this slower cooker for around two weeks or so. I made three recipes in it so far and they all turned out great. One of the best features of this particular slow cooker was that when I made the Chicken and Vegetable Soup, the chicken did not dry out. I know several people who have the Rival Slow Cooker, the one that automatically switches to the warm setting, and the biggest complaint is that the chicken is terribly dry. Now I should mention that slow cookers are best used for shall we say, less tender cuts of meats and the moist cooking method or braising method of the slow cooker is perfect for that type. Slow cookers are traditionally not used for leaner cuts of meat or poultry. I rarely eat meat and cook chicken and turkey in a rotisserie so I am used to very moist poultry.

For the Chicken and Vegetable Soup, I had pre-cooked the vegetables and had them frozen in zip lock bags. When I pre-cook my vegetables, I like to dice them in a food chopper so they are all the exact same size and look perfect. I place them in 1/2 cup bags in the freezer so that whenever I need some vegetables, I simply grab a bag and defrost it in the microwave. I microwaved them for a minute and put them in the slow cooker when I started the soup. I took two frozen chicken breasts and thawed them in the microwave. I cut them up and put them in the slow cooker when I started the soup. I cooked the soup on the "high" setting for three hours. In three hours, the soup was finished and the chicken was not only cooked tender but moist. The machine automatically switched to the "keep warm" setting. This was not the case with the Rival Slow Cooker.
I should mention that I didn't add the Barilla Whole Wheat Pasta until the last hour of cooking. They recommend that you add the pasta in the last hour or half hour so it's not overcooked. My chicken and veggie soup not only tasted wonderful, but looked absolutely beautiful too, far better than the picture in the link above! I used different vegetables than the one in the link above; I used carrots, broccoli, zucchini, onion and celery in mine. I diced all of them except for the broccoli. The contrast of the colorful diced vegetables next to the whole wheat rotini was quite lovely. You may have guessed by now, that I like my food to look as beautiful as my tablescapes. I would have taken a photo of this soup, but my camera is broken and I haven't made a decision on a new one yet.

Other things I liked about this slow cooker was the stainless steel design. The glass top was nice and the handle felt really good, not flimsy or cheap. It actually had a solid feel to it, much like a nicer hardware knob. The timer worked great and the recipes I made all turned out fantastic.

If there was one complaint, it was that the item description stated that it came with a retractable cord. I was pretty excited about this feature and it was actually the one feature that "sealed the deal" so to speak when I looked at the slow cookers. The cord was not retractable nor was there a spot to hold the cord. In the end, it didn't matter but it would have been nice.

If I could change one other thing, it might be the color of the insert. The insert is black and while a black stainless steel slow cooker look great on the counter or in the photo, I always prefer a white or light interior so I can see that things are clean, especially in the kitchen.

Overall, I'd give this slow cooker five stars out of five. It looks great and more important, all of the recipes I have made so far turned out great. If you are looking for a smaller slow cooker, I'd highly recommend it. If you have a larger family, you might want to try the larger 6.5 quart Cuisinart Slow Cooker. If you haven't purchased a new slow cooker in a while, it's definitely worth it.

I hope you enjoyed my review of the Cuisinart Slow Cooker.
*Note: has compensated me for an honest review of this product on my blog. I could choose any product to review and I chose the Cuisinart 3.5 Slow Cooker in brushed stainless. While I normally do not do any product reviews, I made an exception for this company.


Kristin@Bouelvard Interior Design said...

I want the recipe. I'm always looking for slow cooker recipes. It is getting to that time of year and I rely on them for getting our family fed. The problem is, I can't find enough great recipes for it.

Dream Mom said...

Kristin-The recipe link is in the post-click on, "Chicken and Vegetable Soup". For the pasta, I used Barilla Whole Wheat Rotini. The corkscrew pasta looked really pretty.

Off to your blog-we need to talk about Design Star.

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