Customer Reviews: Crock-Pot 38601-C 6-Quart Oval Smart-Pot Slow Cooker, Chrome
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on October 11, 2004
I purchased this unit (#38601-W) as a replacement for an older slow cooker (Nesco 6qt. Roaster Oven), and based on the reviews of others decided to take a "scientific" approach to reviewing this product. Also, I wanted to make sure it would work without burning my house down! :)

For starters, I wanted to make everyone aware that there have been some recalls issued recently (10/04) for Rival Crock Pots. According to several websites, "The recall involves models 3040, 3735, 5025, 5070, and 5445, made before May 2002." If you own one of these, please contact Rival for information regarding return/replacement of defective components.

Now, on with the review!

Condition: No obvious signs of defects, chips, or cracks when box was opened and product removed. Inspected lid and crock again while washing, and there were no blemishes noted. Base had no dings or scratches, and there were no "rattles" when the unit was moved around/turned over.

Fit/Finish: Cooking base is light but solid. Handles well attached (unlike my Nesco, on which the handles are "pop-riveted" and one has a rivet that has pulled out of the base, resulting in a handle that twists) and are mounted snugly to the base unit. The crock was heavier than I had expected (used to the Nesco which has an aluminum non-stick "crock"), however it appears to be quite durable. The lid fits the crock well, however there is some "play" when the lid is sitting on the unit - this may be due to the crock being slightly "out of round" (or as in this case, "out of oval") when produced, or it could be the manufacturer's way of allowing the unit to vent (my Nesco has 2 holes in the lid to allow steam to escape {aluminum lid}). Control panel is straight-forward and easy to use - one button to select desired time/temperature, and one button to turn the unit off (a nice feature!). Very good overall fit/finish.

Temperature: I wanted to specifically look at this, as quite a few reviewers had problems with the unit cooking too fast and/or burning food. On reading reviews of this and similar products here at Amazon and other websites, the general consensus is that because this is a large unit, it needs to be at least 1/2 full (3 quarts of food and/or liquid) to cook properly. Less than that can (and from what I have read, usually does) result in the food cooking too fast or burning. Filling more than 3/4 full can result in "overflow" (remember - heat causes most things to expand (i.e. meat, vegetables) pushing liquids out of the way).

Several people also noted that the base unit gets quite hot - this is very typical of "wrap around" heat units, and I cannot stress enough to be sure the unit and cord are out of the reach of children/pets both while in use and until the unit cools down.

I took a "scientific approach" to this potential problem, and this is what I found:

- Filled crock with 3 quarts of cool water (70 degrees).
- Set time/temp to 8 hrs., LOW

At 30 min., water temp was 96 degrees.
*After about 15 minutes, I did notice an "odor" due to the heating element being used for the first time. This is completely normal (based on past experience and confirmed in the owner's manual) and should no longer occur after a couple of uses. The odor lasted about 5 minutes, then disapated.
At 60 min., water temp was 128 degrees.
At 90 min., water temp was 146 degrees.

According to information I found on several websites (did a Google search), LOW on a crock pot/slow cooker should be around 200 degrees and HIGH should be around 300 degrees. Based on the results I achieved with my crock pot, I believe the unit I have is OK and should work fine (your mileage may vary). If you have just purchased one of these, this is a good way to test it before risking food in it.

Some reviewers also complained about not being able to access the "warm" setting without allowing the unit to complete a cooking cycle. While I cannot confirm this, I believe that Rival has corrected this problem as my unit does allow me to access the "warm" setting by using the time/temp button (pushing it 5 times).

One very nice feature of this crock pot, that in my opinion makes it more desireable than those of some other manufacturers, is that it has an "off" button. My older unit, while it has more heat settings (being a roaster oven) does not have an "off" position, which means that the heating element is turned on as soon as it's plugged in.

Overall, I'm quite pleased with my new "toy"! I haven't cooked in it yet, but I'm sure based on my test that it will do just fine. I will update my review should I find otherwise.

UPDATE - 10/13!

I have now cooked in my new crock pot, and firmly stand behind my 4 star rating!

I cooked a 4-1/2 lb. roast with vegetables. After being on LOW for 10 hrs. and WARM on about 2 hrs., the roast checked in at 160 degrees. I have to admit that I was a little dubious at first, as the exterior of the roast appeared darker than what I would have liked. However, it was so tender I almost didn't need a knife to slice it! And the taste was AWESOME!!! The vegetables were delicious, and the juices in the bottom of the crock were out of this world!!

Because the size of this crock, and the fact that it needs to be at least 1/2 full to cook properly, I would recommend this model for anyone who is feeding at least 3 - 4 people on a regular basis or for those who enjoy leftovers. If this doesn't describe you, then you may want to consider a smaller size.

Overall, I am VERY pleased with this crock pot!!
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on May 30, 2003
Very good fit & finish -- no problem with the fit of the lid on mine, which is something others have criticized on similar models.
The crock is very easy to clean.
Good shape & capacity.
Programming is easy but too limiting: some recipes tend to overcook, especially with recipes made for smaller slow cookers, and you do not have the option on this model to cook on low for less than 8 hours. So the programmable feature really isn't as useful as it sounds, or as it could be.
To avoid overcooking on some recipes, you must either make a bigger batch or come home and unplug the machine to interrupt cooking (you can't manually switch it to "warm").
Lid should have a stay-cool handle.
I wonder if a "delayed start" feature is possible?
All in all, a good product that is seeing use in our household. I think I will hold onto our smaller, old crock pot as well, though.
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on May 7, 2003
The first time I used this crock pot it over cooked. On low and set for 8 hours. The lid does not fit also there is no way to set the unit to warm. It has to run through the program period before it will set to warm. This unit is not user friendly.
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on August 11, 2003
This cooker does get very hot on the outside when cooking. It also seems to cook everything in half the amount of time and it leaves crusty burnt food around the edges. I really can't tell the difference between the low and the high temps, don't know if there is one. I like that the handles stay real cool, and I wish you could put this thing on warm temp yourself. It will only do it if it's set on the timer and automatically goes there. If you really want it after reading this, I'll make you a really good deal on mine. I'll buy a differnt one.
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on April 16, 2003
There are way too many problems with this crock pot. First of all, the lid doesn't fit right even though it might appear to. The first time I used it I came home to a huge puddle of water all over my kitchen counter. The condensation that is supposed to stay inside the pot was bubbling out the sides! Once it gets hot enough to condensate you can fiddle with it to adjust the fit. I have made 3 meals with it so far and it was burned each one in about half the reccomended cook time. This was on the low setting, so I'd hate to see what high does.....
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VINE VOICEon July 7, 2004
Rival's "Smart Pot" is a pretty good crock pot that offers an oval shape for easy handling of longer pieces of meat and an hourly time control that automatically switches to warm at the end of the heating cycle. This crock pot is a little fancier than others and it offers a more modern look and appeal.
However, there are some flaws with this product- flaws that I didn't really notice or even think about until I started to use the pot. First of all, there is no way to set the crock pot directly on warm. The pot will switch to warm only after a timed cycle has ended. This is bad for those situations when all you need is to keep something warm. Second, there are only four timed settings to choose from: 4 hours, 6 hours, 8 hours, and 10 hours. Third, the crock pot can get very hot and doesn't have an opening at the top to let steam escape. Be careful when you lift the lid- if it's really hot, the steam can burn and cause you to react quickly by dropping the lid.
Another problem that occurs some of the time is burning. If you have a small amount of food and the liquid doesn't fill to the top, you could end up with burnt marks on the side of the ceramic container. As long as the pot is full, this isn't a problem. But it's something to watch out for if you plan to cook smaller meals.
I like the large capacity of this crock pot (six quarts) and I like the neutral color. It's also nice to be able to remove the interior pot for cleaning. It's bulky, but it's better than other crock pots (those that do not have a removable pot) that have to be cleaned by scrubbing directly.
Taken as a whole, this is an acceptable crock pot that has its good points and bad points. With a few more improvements, it could be much better. As it is, it's only average- suitable for those of us to don't do much cooking but inadequate for the more serious chefs among us.
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on December 19, 2003
The cooker seems to run very hot when on high. The first time I used it for a dinner party, my chili was at a full rolling boil at that setting, and my guests were commenting that the food was too hot. (By the way, in response to a previous review, it was a full pot...insufficient quantity was not the issue). There is no way to reduce the heat to low without having to reset it to a minimum of eight hours, and the "warm" setting cannot be accessed manually. I ended up having to use the low-tech solution and pulled the plug. I found myself wishing for my old crock pot with the knob on the front.
Also, the handle on the glass lid is held in place by a single screw. The handle is loose and an attempt to tighten the screw resulted in immediate stripping of the slot in the screw head. I guess Rival must have cheaped out on this component and used a very inferior screw. So now, when I pick up the lid by the handle, it wiggles all over the place.
I only spent 30 bucks on this and look forward to replacing it with a better product. Hopefully some of these design flaws will be worked out in the future.
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on December 30, 2003
DO NOT BUY THIS PRODUCT!!! I didn't listen to the negative reviews. I was swayed by the pretty chrome and the "programmability". What a mistake! First of all, the programming is rudimentary and locks you in to how you can use the pot. It would be great to really be able to program and customize your cooking, but this isn't it. It's ridiculous, really, because there's no reason this couldn't have been done right with low-level technology. Secondly, my pot also burned everything to a crisp even on low within a couple of hours! I contacted customer service and Andrew Sanders from the Holmes group (the parent company) responded. I could send the pot to them (at my cost) plus $10 for their shipping and they would repair or replace. I did this although at $20 my cost for shipping plus their 10, I about paid what I did for the pot originally. After a long wait I finally got a new a different color! I emailed back to Mr Sanders that I wanted the right color and I didn't want to spend more money returning the wrong pot. He told me I could keep the wrong one and they'd send the right one. Good news, eh? WRONG! They never sent the right one, and an email I sent to him was responded to by giving me the tracking # of the WRONG pot that was sent. I have repeatedly emailed him about this and I have been ignored. Zero response. This all started in August and I still haven't heard as of New Year's. I finally returned the wrong pot to a local store and at least got some of my investment back. BAD CROCKPOT, BAD COMPANY!!!
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on December 2, 2003
After years of owning an original slow cooker, I decided on a new and improved one. I should have read the reviews first! This pot ruined a meal in 4 hours that was to cook for 8 - 10 hours. I must agree with others in that if low is this hot, what must high be. Also the control features are way too limiting. Although the keep warm feature is a good one, it only activates when it has completed the selected 4,6,8 or 10 hours. It just isn't very smart. I immediately returned this pot and replaced it with a Faberware slow cooker which did a beautiful job and was accurate to the time listed in my recipe.
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on February 17, 2005
I bought this crock pot as a Christmas gift for my wife. She wanted the timer feature so the meals would be warm, but not too hot when we get home from work. Unfortunately, everything we have cooked burns in this crock pot including macaroni & cheese, chili, roast, etc. Tonight, the chili burned and we ordered out for pizza while trying to ignore the charred smell in the house. The crock pot was about 2/3 full, so it was not a small dish. Looking over the other reviews here I suspect the cooking temperature varies significantly from unit to unit. There is no way we could leave anything cooking for 8 hours (as some claim to have done successfully) without burning it. You're gambling with this one. I would choose a more reliable model.
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