Most helpful positive review
216 of 219 people found the following review helpful
Excellent, but a couple of nits
on April 19, 2011
I've been slow-cooking since the first CrockPots (in the 1950's? -- time flies). I've used a couple of dozen or more during that time. Settings were all Low-High-Off, later adding Warm. No bells and whistles. Most of these cookers were very unreliable on temperature control. Except for programming capability, little else has changed in 50 years.
The West Bend Versatility series is a quantum leap forward: non-stick metal pot that can be used to brown meat (any experienced slow-cooker knows what a convenience that is!); converts to a griddle if you don't have one handy; and has an infinite heating control from barely warm to just-short-of-boiling.
Because I'm a gadget geek, I made some tests. (First, please be aware that most slow-cookers typically peak at around the same point --somewhere between 180-210 degrees F, regardless of the heat setting. The main difference between Low, Medium, and High is how quickly the peak temperature is reached. Some of the more sophisticated cookers (the Versatility is one) have lower or higher peaks related to the setting. For the serious cook, these types are preferable).
My tests started with the pot 2/3 full of room-temperature water. I used a calibrated thermometer probe in the center of the pot. I put the cover on, but it wasn't seated where the probe wire exited.
TEMPERATURE SETTING #3 (LOW) HOURS MEASURED TEMPERATURE
7:00 188 (Flatlined)
TEMPERATURE SETTING #4 (MEDIUM)
3:00 194 (Flatlined)
TEMPERATURE SETTING #5 (HIGH)
2:45 209 (Flatlined)
I didn't do a time series on the #1 and #2 settings, but they topped out at 149 and 160 degrees respectively.
Remember that the Versatility setting is infinitely variable, so in-between heating speeds can be used. Also, bear in mind that these temperatures were measuring water only -- cooking food may be different.
These ranges were relatively the same on both the 5-quart and 6-quart cookers.
Speaking of quarts, be aware that the "5-quart" has an actual maximum capacity of 4.3 quarts at overflowing. West Bend Customer Service still maintains that it's 5 quarts. The "6-quart" model is an actual 6-quart capacity. Practical capacity for cooking is, of course, less.
As other reviews have noted, there's no "off" setting, so you havee to unplug. However, the cooker end of the cored is unpluggable, so no big deal.
Other reviews have complained about the non-stick coating deteriorating. I refer them to the instructions in the manual, under the heading "Using Your Slow Cooker--First Use" wherein it describes how to avoid damage to the coating. I won't repeat it here -- it's in the book. Also, note that while the coating is dishwasher-safe, it will last longer with hand-washing --a breeze due to the non-stick finish. Because so few users actually read directions, West Bend does not cover the non-stick under warranty.
All this said, the Versatiltiy is an incredible value for its price. It's a good example of how excellent design, engineering, and production can result in a quality product at very low cost. It's far and above any cooker I've used before.
4 stars only because it lacks an "off" switch, and the "5-quart" capacity is inaccurate and misleading.
Outstanding product and value!