Friday, November 4, 2011

On Slow Cooking

Technically, the name "Crock Pot" is a registered trademark from Sunbeam. It's the name of an actual product, one of many in a line of slow cookers and tabletop roasters that developed in the early 20th century when electricity became a household concept for even those out in rural areas. In the mid-1930s, a company called NESCO teamed up with local electric companies in the Milwaukee area to offer a combination of electric services, slow roasters, and light bulbs to rural families that had been using wood stoves up until that point. The original concept of the slow cooker was very simple: somebody had the bright idea of wrapping a wire around a double-boiler and plugged it in. It got hot - and so the concept was born.

The actual Crock Pot didn't appear until the summer of 1970, when its original design showed up. The eventual redesigns of the Crock Pot significantly changed the slow cooking and roasting world, and eventually the features that the Crock Pot offered became the standard for the industry. Numerous companies, including Kalorik, and store brands, came along throughout the years. Metal inner cookpots were replaced with porcelain, and eventually stainless steel took the place of glass fixtures and lids. Colors and decorations, of course, changed according to the era, but in general, pretty much every slow cooker was the same, they just offered different options.

Meet the NESCO 6 Roast Ryte Oven.

This bad boy jumped right out of the 1970s, and was my grandfather's slow cooker/roaster. It has multiple temperature settings and is all-metal, including the inner cookpot. I believe it's called the "NESCO 6" because it's a six quart pot - but I have no idea. I have no other information with it - except for these gems:

Oh yeah. Although the recipe/instruction book doesn't offer any specific dates, guessing by the model's hairstyle I'm thinking 1978 or so. It comes complete with the cord (obviously), this lovely booklet, and a small wire rack to use for baking - that's right, BAKING. Hubby's been talking about trying to bake in a slow cooker; our's is too small to really do much with. But I think this might be his answer.

I have no idea if this bad boy still works, but there it is. I'm probably going to be testing it at some point in the future.

Here's my mom's:

This is a vintage mid-1980s K-Mart brand "Spice of Life" style "Automatic Sim-R-Pot". It has three settings - off, auto-sim-r, and auto-hi. (Oh, yeah, those are AWESOME settings!) The lid is clear glass and the inner cookpot is white porcelain; it has a small crack/defect in the cookpot but it doesn't seem to go all the way through and I doubt it seriously affected cook time and quality. I think this is a five quart; it isn't much smaller than the roaster but is decidedly round instead of being an obvious oval shape. It's honestly hard to tell.

So the K-Mart slow cooker is the one I'm using. I've slaughtered a few baby carrots, half a yellow onion, and the remainders of about two hearts of celery (I had to peel off the first layer of stalks of each of them thanks to some serious freezer burn from sitting too far back in the fridge). Yes, leaves and all! Celery leaves have FLAVOR! Add in a one-pound bag of great northern beans, and what ended up being two large ham steaks with small marrow bones in the middle of both.

(Sidenote: Lesson learned. When you soak the beans, rinse them halfway through, drain the water, then return to soaking them. Dump in the second batch of "bean water" instead of using regular water - then you get the starch from the beans and the flavor, without the dirt and potential rocks you might have missed while sorting them. Oops.)

In other news, G seems to be getting sick (again) with a weird-sounding cough and a half-missing voice. Sigh - always something, eh?


  1. Hi,

    I was given one of these Kmart pot. I'm not sure it's working like it's supposed to because it doesn't reach the optimal temperature according to the Slow Cooker Safety's test, or maybe it's not suppose to work the same as a slow cooker? I used the info. on the following website:

    Is there a place I can download a manual? Do you know if the porcelain can go in the oven?

    Hope to hear back from you, and thanks for your help. I am about to junk it in e-cycle.

    1. time4myself,
      Sorry for taking so very long to get back with you. Blogger didn't let me know I had a comment! I hope that you haven't gotten rid of your cooker but given the time lapse I'm guessing you have. Unfortunately I don't have any manual information with it but I would guess that the porcelain inner pot probably can't go into the oven. I say that because I know that most slow cookers, especially the older models, have a lower maximum temperature and I'm not honestly positive what that is, but I'm guessing it's probably between 250 and 300 degrees F. Older slow cookers don't tend to get that hot, with a typical max-out of 350 degrees. I know that I wouldn't gauge the abilities of a retro cooker on modern safety tests, only because the guidelines at the time of manufacture were different. I would say, if your slow cooker can't reach the temperatures you need it to, consider investing in a newer model with higher temp ranges or more specific controls - but consider keeping the older model (if it's still safe to use with no fraying cords) as a backup if it still functions otherwise and can capably heat food to a safe temperature over a span of 6-8 hours. This would also be a great alternative for all-day soups if the ingredients are more or less already cooked and only require reheat and simmer time, no real cooking. Thanks for reading!

  2. Is there any way you could send me the model number to the k mart sim-r-pot. my cook pot broke and I need the model number to replace it. it is just a perfect size and design for a slow cooker. I used it all the time.