Friday, April 12, 2013

Favorite Equipment: West Bend Slow Cooker

Not my actual slow cooker, but
a beautiful photo of the same model.
I own a West Bend 5-quart oblong slow cooker.  I bought this to replace an older model of the same style that I got at a second-hand store several years ago.  My original one was a total beauty, it was '70s goldenrod-colored and so thoroughly dated.  I picked it up because I was having a party and needed a way to to keep food warm.  I grew up with a West Bend bottom-heat slow cooker, so I knew it would be perfect.

Eventually the glass lid on my old one got a big chip in it and I thought I might be able to buy a replacement lid, but I couldn't find a similar slow cooker at the resale shops even though I swear I've seen them there tons of times.  And anything I found on eBay was prohibitively expensive because of the weight of shipping, so I ended up buying a whole new slow cooker to replace it.

The heating base is billed as a mini griddle, but it's so absurdly small that only if you were cooking the smallest amount of food, such as 1-2 eggs would it actually be useful.  Anything more than that and it's going to either fall off the sides.  I guess only if you didn't have a stove (dorm room?) would this feature be useful. 

Why It's Awesome

  • It heats from the bottom rather than the sides like a traditional slow cooker. This is awesome for small amounts of food, like smaller roasts, a 1-pound package of chicken breasts, banana bread quinoa, etc.  If I tried to make the same dishes in a larger slow cooker, it's possible the dish could either end up not cooked enough if it didn't reach at least halfway up the sides (where the heating element is in a traditional slow cooker) or possibly overcooked or even burned from being such a small amount at too high of heat.
  • Wisconsin pride.  Made in West Bend, Wisconsin. 
  • The non-stick coating ensures you don't have to scrub at it for hours. 


See those short little handles in the picture?  The handles are formed out of the body of the slow cooker and aren't a separate material screwed on.  They're useless if you've recently been heating things in your slow cooker (which is the whole point!).  Say your dish is done and you want to serve it or you want to transfer the leftovers to a container.  If the slow cooker was heating anything higher than low, those handles are HOT!  Plus they're stubby and short and slippery from the non-stick coating that it's difficult to get a grip, whether you're using a hotpad or even bare hands.  This is a serious design flaw.  It seems that the designer thought it would look cool to flare out the sides of the pan to make the handles, but it's obvious it was never tested by people who used it to actually cook anything.

The handles actually bug me so much, I keep considering contacting West Bend to tell them how disappointed I am.  I don't know if it would make me feel any better other than to get it off my chest.  I don't think I'd want them to do anything about it, other than fix the design for the future. 

Wanna Chat?

I turned off the 'leave a comment' feature, so if you want to share what you're thinking about this or anything else, drop me an email at jhk1013 (at) It's so much more cozy than a comment, plus we can have a real conversation!