For more than a decade, I had a Rival slow cooker–a model I picked up at Target. It’s equivalent online at Amazon now will run you around $45, so it was affordable, and I knew the brand name. However, I kept having the same problem with it: after a few months, the plastic handles would crack in half–and fall right off. So for most of the useable life of the cookers, I’d be left with a pot that couldn’t really be moved safely once it had food in it.
So when I accidentally melted a Tupperware drink lid to the bottom of the pot about a month ago, I decided to replace the cooker once again. But this time, I wanted to try out a new brand–one that might not suffer from the same structural problem that seemed to be inherent with the Rival Crock Pot I had been using. After much research, I settled on a NESCO Roaster Oven.
Benefits of the NESCO Roaster Oven over the Rival Crock Pot
The Nesco’s lid features two small holes, rimmed in metal, to allow steam produced during cooking to rise right through the lid. This is a superior design to the Crock Pot models I have seen, which force the steam generated during cooking to escape from around the edges of the lid, causing a mess as the sauce starts bubbling up and dripping down the sides of the pot.
With the lower-priced Rival Crock Pot models, you basically only have two options when it comes to cooking temperature: low or high. (Some of them also have a “warm” setting.) With the NESCO Roaster Oven, you can choose a temperate range starting at 200 degrees, all the way up to 425 degrees.
Because standard manual crock pots such as the one Rival produces don’t have the ability to cook at temperatures higher than about 200-250 degrees, they’re only good for slow cooking, and nothing else. But with the Nesco Roaster Oven, you can slow-cook a meal, boil, or bake, depending on what temperature you use. This is the main reason I opted for the Nesco oven instead of just another slow cooker: I wanted a countertop appliance that would be good for lots of applications, rather than just one.
Two Different Cookwells Available: Non-stick Metal or Porcelain-Coated Ceramic
The Rival Crock Pots I’ve owned have all had the standard porcelain-coated cooking well. The Nesco Roaster Ovens are available with either a porcelain-coated cooking well OR a non-stick metal cooking well. For my recent purchase, I went with the metal non-stick cooking well, for two reasons: it received higher reviews on Amazon.com, and I thought it would be more useful (and easier to clean) when I use the NESCO oven to bake with. So far, I’ve used the NESCO to prepare a nice beef stew–and I can’t rave enough about how EASY the non-stick cookwell is to clean up!
If you prefer a traditional porcelain coated cooking well, you can always order the NESCO oven model that comes with one–or, you can order the porcelain coated cooking well after-the-fact, as an additional option. But my experience with the nonstick metal cookwell is that it’s extremely easy to clean, and I’ve very happy with it.
Sealed Heating Well
For the two Crock Pot models I’ve owned, one did not have a removable cooking well at all–you simply plugged the whole pot into the wall. The other Crock Pot I owned DID have a removable cooking well–but when it was removed, the area underneath was completely unsealed, and was just bare metal. The NESCO Roaster Oven has a heating well that’s fully sealed and coated with porcelain–which means clean-up of the heating well easier if any drops of food happen to drip down in there.
How does the NESCO Oven’s price compare to the Crock Pot?
Today, the pricing of the NESCO Roaster oven is $14 more than a comparable capacity Crock Pot. Considering the greater flexibility of the NESCO oven, I think this is well worth it–which is why I bought the NESCO, of course.
Worst Thing About the NESCO Roaster Oven
This really isn’t that big a deal, but before using the NESCO, you have to put it through a curing process that involves running the oven at its highest temperature for an hour or two. During this process, the smell is horrible–they even warn you about it in the literature–but is apparently part of the ‘normal’ curing, or sealing, process of the heating element. It seems to me that NESCO should handle this step at their factory rather than leaving it up to the customer–why put us through the inconvenience? Anyway, do it once, and you won’t have to do it again.
Also–just as with any countertop roaster oven, use caution when operating the NESCO oven–especially at higher temperatures. Make sure nothing is sitting near the oven that could be damaged by the high temperatures it produces. And of course, make sure to keep kids and pets far away, and never leave the oven unattended.
Best Thing About the NESCO Roaster Oven
I love that I can use this baby for so many different purposes–boiling, baking, and slow cooking! I expect it will be especially useful at holiday time, when I’m desperate to have an extra burner. For that matter, I could even use it to bake the sweet potatoes while my regular oven is busy with the turkey.