Last month we gave away two Crock-Pot Versaware Pro Slow Cookers. We wanted to try one out ourselves, since this slow cooker holds the promise of an all-in-one appliance that would be terrific for small kitchens. The insert in this Crock-Pot can go on the stove, in the oven, in the Crock-Pot and to the table! Was this the combo Dutch oven/slow cooker we've been waiting for?
The key thing that excited us about this slow cooker was its capacity to brown, sear, braise, and everything else. We don't like having to dirty a whole extra heavy pan before throwing our meat in the slow cooker. Would this slow cooker let us go from browning to braising?
Our hopes for this slow cooker were slightly dampened by the discovery that while yes, it can be used on the stovetop, on electric cooktops it needs to be placed on top of the included heat diffuser. We were rather taken aback by this. Also, the heat could only be turned up to medium, which we were skeptical of. We like to brown our meat well - would that heat let us do it?
We picked out a nice big piece of brisket from our local beef farm at the market, and went to work. We salted and peppered the meat and browned it in the liner over medium heat, with the diffuser, in a little olive oil.
Well, we were pleasantly surprised! The dark color of the liner actually browned the meat very well without burning it. It took about ten minutes and the meat was well-colored and evenly browned.
Encouraged, we put it in the slow cooker with a little broth, some caramelized onions and parsley. (You can see our recipe here: Friday Night Slow-Cooked Brisket and Onions.)
The slow cooker has settings for High, Low, and Warm, and a smooth dial that lets you specify cook time. After the cook time is over the slow cooker automatically switches to Warm.
We were very happy with how this brisket turned out - it was deliciously brown and flavorful, and it melted away in the Crock-Pot to tender meat and broth.
So - will we keep on browning and braising in this Crock-Pot? Yes, for sure. We still think that every small urban kitchen needs a Crock-Pot - it's the busy cook's best tool for weeknight dinners.
One more note: this looks like a black and steel crockpot. The liner and lid are actually more of a deep brown bronze chocolate color. We rather like this - it's warm and pretty. The liner is dishwasher safe, too.
• Buy 6-Quart Crock-Pot Versaware Pro Slow Cooker $69.95 at Amazon
(Images: Faith Hopler)