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***** Brief amendment - I have found that some places, including AWt's online shop, are calling this a meal maker as well as a slow cooker, so if searching on the web, you might try searching for 'meal maker' aswell.*****
For years I toyed with the idea of getting a slow cooker but it kind of brought back bad memories of my childhood when something strange came out of it. (My Mother said it was stew. She lied.)
However, with a business to run, a small son, too many animals and a cold winter ahead, I decided to give it a whirl.
I settled on the AWT version as it looked good, it felt sturdy, it was reasonably priced, it had a large capacity and I like Antony Worrall Thompson. (I have quite disturbing feelings towards him.)
I paid £29.99 for this from Argos.
The slow cooker came in a nice sturdy box and the cooker itself was well packed. The box is in the the AWT signature colours of silver and black with a rather fetching pic of AWT on it, so makes a nice gift.
The exterior of the cooker is a silver coloured plastic with sturdy handles either side which make carrying it very safe and easy. The plastic is stay cool and it really does stay cool even after 8 hours of cooking. This contains the heating element which is a 'wrap around' ie it wraps itself round the base to ensure even cooking.
On the front, near the controls you have AWT's signature in black and the black breville logo.
It looks very smart indeed.
The removable ceramic bowl that slots into the casing is black and has a capacity of 4.5 litres. I find this is more than enough for 6 people.
The lid is clear glass with a chunky black stay cool handle.
The ceramic bowl and the lid are dishwasher proof and very easy to clean as i found out after a porridge nightmare. (I'll tell you about that in a bit.) The silver housing is wipe clean.
You have 3 settings via a sturdy rotating knob on the front. Low, Auto and High.
I use the auto for cooking overnight or all day. I use the Low for cooking from say 11am - 6pm and the high if I only have about 4 hours for it to cook. You can also pop the cooker on high for half an hour or so to reduce the liquid, however it does come with full instructions and a recipe book.
The instructions are clear and concise and the recipes look good but I haven't actually tried them.
I have only had one disaster which was when I rather stupidly thought that I could put only enough porridge in for a small child and then leave it overnight. Cue one big lump of burnt on gunk! But, it did come out completely clean after a shot in the dishwasher!
I bought this last year, October time and through the cold months it proves invaluable as you can prepare your meat/veg etc the night before, pop the ceramic bowl in the fridge and then before you leave for work the next day, you pop the bowl into the housing, set the controls and leave it to cook, leaving you to come home to a hot meal.
I have tried browning the meat before hand and also cooking the meat from raw and I have to say I think its better pre browning, but if you are really trying to cut time down, it certainly didn't taste bad from raw.
I don't tend to use it much through the summer as it is more suited to slow cooked meals such as stew, curry etc that we tend to eat in the Autumn/winter, so realistically, it tends to stay in the cupboard for 7 or 8 months unused, however, it makes my life so much easier for the remaining couple of months that I think it was well worth the money.
In fact - I even bought my Mother one! Let my little sister suffer like I had to...........