Tag Archives: kitchen aid

Slow Cookers

Slow cookers. Crock-pots. Is there a difference? No. Does it matter which brand you buy? Probably a little, but not really.

Rival Crock-Pot with manual switch
Rival Crock-Pot with manual switch

A little more detail! Crock-Pot is a brand name given to the original slow cooker (the very original name being the “Naxon Beanery All-Purpose Cooker”) by the Rival Company when it bought Naxon in 1970. This can still be confusing, as seen by Google Shopping – it lists Crock-Pot and Rival as two different brands. Generally, you will see the little Rival logo above the Crock-Pot logo, but not always. The kicker? Rival is now owned by Sunbeam. My guess is that’s why not all of them have the Rival logo.

Ok, was that clear as mud? Simplified – slow cooker is the official term and Crock-Pot is a brand name. It’s like Kleenex and tissues. That’s the BEST kind of marketing, because it’s free! (Marketing major over here, kids.)

Alright, now that we’ve cleared that up, the next thing to discuss are the differences between all these slow cookers. Generally it will be the capacity size and how many buttons/cooking options are offered. All slow cookers will have an electric heating base, a ceramic cooking pot/crock (get it? Crock-Pot!), and a glass lid with or without a vent hole in it.

Kitchen Aid 6-qt. slow cooker
Kitchen Aid 6-qt. slow cooker

Capacity is clearly something you need to decide for yourself. How many people do you usually cook for? What types of things are you hoping to cook in your slow cooker? Remember, you can always make less in a larger vessel, but you cannot make more in a smaller one! You just need to adjust your cooking times and temps. 😛 Considering shape, there are both oval and round slow cookers. It might be easier to fit a small bird, a roast or other meat into an oval shape, but the choice is purely personal preference.

Cuisinart 3.5-qt. slow cooker
Cuisinart 3.5-qt. slow cooker

I think Cuisinart makes the smallest slow cooker at 3.5-quarts. This isn’t counting any of the smaller buffet serving warmers (key word ‘warmer’ – they don’t cook!), like the Slow Cooker “Little Dipper” 16-oz. warmer that usually only comes as a free gift with a larger slow cooker. (You can usually find them for sale alone at Goodwill, however!) Several brands make an 8-quart, which is the largest I think you can find. This is an improvement because a couple of years ago it was hard to find larger than 6- or 7-quarts.

Cooking options are generally very simple on most slow cookers, having 2-4 settings that include: Off, Warm, Low, High. Warm is not a cooking mode, it just keeps the food at temperature when cooking is done. Crock-Pot makes a lot of cool buffet serving warmers that only keep already cooked food warm – they don’t cook, but they’re great for people who entertain a lot!

Crock-Pot Hook Up series buffet servers - you can mix and match the pieces you want to hook to each other!
Crock-Pot Hook Up series buffet servers – you can mix and match the pieces you want to hook to each other!

Programmable slow cookers will automatically switch over to “Warm” mode after a certain amount of hours on a cooking mode, however, I have only come across one that will turn itself completely off. The Cuisinart programmable slow cookers all have an 8-hour “Warm” mode maximum, at which point it will beep five times and turn itself off automatically.

Ah, but alas, technology has caught up with us! I have discovered another one that you can control via an app on your cell phone! The Crock-Pot 6-quart Slow Cooker with WeMo. In searching through the manual and FAQs, it seems like this will be the first slow cooker that you could load food into and start at a later time – but beware, as the reason no one else has done this is for food safety reasons – you don’t want to leave uncooked food out for very long, so I think the idea behind this smart cooker is that if you’re running late, you can easily turn it off or down to warm until you can get home to it, not that you can dump everything in and leave it sitting out to spoil for a few hours before you turn it on.

Crock-Pot with WeMo (smart slow cooker!)
Crock-Pot with WeMo (smart slow cooker!)

Vent Hole in Lid

I can’t seem to find a reliable source of information from vendors or consumers about some slow cookers having vent holes and others not. I did find this site that claims, as many others do, that newer slow cookers run much hotter than those of the old days. So my final thought on the matter is that the manufacturers are adding these holes to prevent explosions. This isn’t a pressure cooker – you don’t want a perfectly tight seal, or else you will get a pressure build-up and potentially blow-up your dinner.

Hamilton Beach slow cooker with digital probe thermometer
Hamilton Beach slow cooker with digital probe thermometer

A lot of folks will encourage you to wrap your entire cooker and lid with aluminum foil to try and make the seal impenetrable, but the vent hole is too small to let THAT much moisture out that your food will dry out. You can always add more liquid if you notice your cooker is drying up faster than what the recipe calls for.

If you let your food cool inside of the crock pot, it can create a vacuum seal that can make removing the lid extremely challenging, so this is another reason for the vent hole. Some slow cookers come with a meat probe and the probe fits in the vent hole and rests there nicely.

Multi-Cookers

Cuisinart multi-cooker
Cuisinart multi-cooker

Everyone is coming out with multi-cookers over the last couple of years, and depending on the brand, they can usually do at least three things – slow cook, brown/saute, and steam. Some can also bake, cook rice, roast, or even pressure cook! Since all brands and models are so new to the market I can’t fully back buying any one over the other. Cuisinart, Kitchen Aid, and Oster are usually good bets – I am pretty certain that Cuisinart put out the very first one and everyone else followed suit.

I do personally own a Ninja 3-in-1 cooking system, which is considered a multi-cooker because it has a slow cooker setting, a stovetop setting (brown/saute), and an oven setting (bake/roast). There is now a 4-in-1 that also has a steam setting.

So far I really like the Ninja – I’ve had it for almost a year and have used it quite a bit. I have personally never been much into slow cooking and when I finally got a little 4-quart Crock-Pot a couple of years ago, I hardly used it. I was annoyed by recipes that claim you can make things like pulled pork in your slow cooker and have it turn out like it normally would. (Maybe this happens for other people, but not me! Haha) And don’t get me started on using another pan and starting on the stovetop, then transferring to slow cooker….and/or transferring afterwards to the oven! No! Slow cooking is supposed to be easy, one-pot cooking in my mind. And the Ninja accomplishes that because you can cook the meat on the stovetop setting and then plop everything else in and turn it over to slow cooker mode. Roast a chicken then immediately make your stock! Beautiful!

Ninja 4-in-1 cooking system
Ninja 4-in-1 cooking system

That being said, I think any multi-cooker would bring me the same satisfaction. However, the downside is that all of these have nonstick aluminum cooking pots inside of them, which of course they all claim are dishwasher safe, but the dishwasher detergent is just too harsh for nonstick and I got scratches on mine after one wash. Lesson learned – I leave it out of the dishwasher now! So I would advise the same on any of these other multi-cookers, also. The ones with glass lids, at least the lid can go in the dishwasher (the 3-in-1 doesn’t, so I have to hand wash, but the 4-in-1 comes with glass). Kitchen Aid is elusive about the material of their cooking pot, but call it the “CERAMASHIELD™nonstick cooking pot with pouring spout” and emphasize that repeated dishwashing can reduce the effectiveness of the nonstick coating, so I feel secure in saying it’s probably also an aluminum pot with nonstick coating, just this specific brand of coating.

The Ninjas are both 6-quarts, as is the Oster brand. Cuisinart’s and Kitchen Aid’s multi-cookers are only 4-quart capacity. They all come with a small roasting rack included, and some of them have other accessories you can purchase to go with them, including a ‘stir tower’ for the Kitchen Aid model!

Kitchen Aid multi-cooker with optional Stir Tower attachment
Kitchen Aid multi-cooker with optional Stir Tower attachment

 

Read The Kitchn’s tips on what mistakes to avoid when using your slow cooker.

Pasta Makers

Hand Crank Pasta Makers

Some people want to be old school and crank out their pasta by hand. I must warn you that this is a pretty daunting task, but if you’re looking for a good workout, you won’t be disappointed! It’s also helpful to have a friend, but I think the same would be true with an electric one also.

Atlas pasta maker with hand cutting tool
Atlas pasta maker with hand cutting tool

So these machines all basically look the same. The biggest difference is going to be quality, which will obviously be higher with one made in Italy. Marcato Atlas and Imperia (owned by Cucina Pro) are both brands that are made in Italy. The Atlas machine is pretty widely distributed, and you can also find different attachments for it, like a ravioli maker or a motor. 😉 Roma is a less expensive brand made in China.

Atlas ravioli attachment
Atlas ravioli attachment

Electric Pasta Makers

There are many brands of electric pasta makers on the market, none of which I have any personal experience with using or selling. The good news, however, is that you can utilize the information I do know about the Kitchen Aid pasta attachments and make an educated decision, as by looking at them you can deduce what style of pasta maker they are – a rolling/cutting system, or an extruder.

Ronco electric pasta maker

A true rolling and cutting system is more like the traditional hand crank pasta maker. A pasta extruder is figuratively pushing a ball of pasta dough through shaped holes in a disc like Play-Doh. The first method is going to be the best way to do it, but with the extruder method you can get shaped noodles like macaroni.

Kitchen Aid Attachments

Roller – This is the basic pasta roller to flatten out your dough for lasagna noodles or to cut into noodles after rolling it out.

Cutters – Kitchen Aid sells a variety of different size pasta cutters for use after rolling your pasta dough out. Please note that if you buy cutters individually you will also need to purchase a roller.

Kitchen Aid roller and cutter set (KPRA)

**I get very annoyed that they use all of their pasta terms so interchangeably. It makes it extremely difficult for both employees in stores as well as the end consumers to know exactly what they need. I have seen sets other than these available to order in retail stores, as well, so don’t believe everything you see on the Kitchen Aid website to be all there is!

  • Thin=Capellini=Spaghetti=Angel Hair
  • Thick=Lasagnette=Fettuccine=Egg Noodles

Sets – There are a few different sets you can buy, most of which include a roller and some combination of cutters. There is one set that doesn’t include the roller, so beware if you don’t already have one.

  • Pasta Excellence Set – Includes the pasta roller, ravioli maker, and capellini, lasagnette, fettuccine, and spaghetti cutters
  • Pasta Roller & Cutter Set – Includes the pasta roller, fettuccine and spaghetti cutters
  • Pasta Cutter Set – **NO ROLLER** Includes lasagnette (fettuccine & egg noodles) and capellini cutters (spaghetti & angel hair)

Food Grinder/Pasta Plates – I believe that with the advent of the Pasta Extruder that Kitchen Aid has discontinued production on the pasta plate set that you used to be able to buy to go with your Food Grinder attachment. It was a set of 5 discs with different noodle shapes for about $30.

Kitchen Aid Food Grinder and Pasta Plates
Kitchen Aid Food Grinder and Pasta Plates

Gourmet Pasta Press – This is a big step above the Pasta Plates you can get for the Food Grinder attachment. There are 6 pasta plates, and you can actually make spaghetti and bucatini pastas, along with your short noodles. It also has a conveniently attached storage piece for the plates you aren’t utilizing.

Kitchen Aid Gourmet Pasta Press
Kitchen Aid Gourmet Pasta Press

Ravioli Attachment – This is a large attachment that will really help you make a lot of ravioli at once. It seems like this would be easier to do with a friend’s assistance!

Click to read more about Kitchen Aid stand mixer attachments.

Hand Tools & Accessories for Pasta Making

Pasta Cutting Hand Tool – There are a few different pasta cutters you can find to use for hand-cutting your lasagna noodles. Typically it will look like a small pizza cutter, with either one straight blade, or else also have a second blade that is crimped.

Pasta cutter
Pasta cutter

Ravioli Trays – There are many varieties of ravioli trays for making them by hand with your freshly made noodles. Generally the base piece will be plastic and the piece that shapes and cuts them is metal.

Ravioli tray
Ravioli tray

Ravioli Cutter – A metal crimping wheel to make ‘free-form’ ravioli shapes however your heart desires!

Ravioli cutter

Ravioli Stamps – A ravioli stamp is a simpler version of a ravioli tray, and it is figuratively a circle or square with a handle so you can stamp out individual raviolis.

Ravioli stamps

Pasta Drying Racks – If you’re not eating your pasta right away, you’re probably going to want to dry it to store for later use. You can find basic wooden racks like this one from Atlas. Atlas and Kitchen Aid both make a plastic rack with rotating arms.

Kitchen Aid drying rack
Kitchen Aid drying rack

Made in the USA

made in usaEveryone wants to support local business as much as possible, and we all know how hard it is nowadays to find something actually made in our country, not just assembled here. A lot of brands will make a few items here and the rest in other countries, so it’s hard to keep track. While this list should be complete, please do let me know if you know any dirty little trickery that one of these brands might be trying to pull over on us consumers! Of course the best course of action is looking at the box, but even then it might not tell the whole story.

MADE IN THE USA!

all clad setAll-Clad** – Canonsburg, PA – The majority of All-Clad pots and pans are made in the USA. However, the lids and accessory pieces are manufactured in China. Accessory pieces include utensils, certain specialty pieces, and any of the stockpots over 16 quarts in size (because you can’t clad anything larger than a 16 quart!!). Generally these pieces come in black boxes, but not always. (Normally the boxes are white.)

*Appliances from All-Clad are made in China!!

Anchor Hocking – Lancaster, OH – Very sturdy glassware, glass bakeware, candle holders, serveware, canisters, etc. Since 1905; second-largest glass supplier in the US.

Anchor Hocking bakeware
Anchor Hocking bakeware

*Prior to 2008 some of the plastic lids were not manufactured in the USA, but now they all are.

Calphalon** – Toledo, OH – The bulk of Calphalon’s products are still made in the USA, but it’s very hard to decipher on their website. A request sent in to Calphalon let me know that their aluminum products are still made in the USA. This includes their Williams Sonoma, Target & Walmart hard-anodized products; Unison, Elite, Simply Calphalon, Kitchen Essentials, and Cooking with Calphalon.

Calphalon Unison nonstick
Calphalon Unison nonstick

Enclume – Port Hadlock, WA – French metal-forming equipment yields beautiful metal pot racks, kitchen furniture/accessories, and fireplace/hearth accessories.

Enclume pot rack
Enclume pot rack

Epicurean – Duluth, MN – Eco-friendly compressed wood cutting boards eliminate the care associated with wood surfaces. Dishwasher-safe and no oil required!

Epicurean cutting boards
Epicurean cutting boards

Fat Daddio’s – Spokane, WA – “Safe-Seal” anodized aluminum bakeware, which also happens to be one of the most highly rated brands, particularly among professionals.

Fat Daddio's bakeware
Fat Daddio’s bakeware

Fiesta Dinnerware – Newell, WV – High-fired, sturdy dinnerware and bakeware since 1936. Lead-free since 1986.

Fiesta dinnerware
Fiesta dinnerware

J.K. Adams – Dorset, VT – Quality wooden cutting boards, spice racks, wine racks, rolling pins and other entertaining products.

J.K. Adams wine rack
J.K. Adams wine rack
John Boos work table
John Boos work table

John Boos – Effingham, IL – Beautiful, thick wood cutting boards that are preferred by most professionals and found in many commercial kitchens, as well as wood and metal work carts, countertops/surfaces, shelves/racks and other kitchen furniture. High standards of sustainability in their foresting practices, as well.

Lodge – South Pittsburg, TN – Cast iron cookware since 1896.

*Enameled cast iron from Lodge uses enamel made in China. (Le Creuset & Staub, two French lines of enameled cast iron, use French-made enamel.)

Lodge fryer
Lodge fryer

Nordic Ware – Minneapolis, MN – Creator of the Bundt pan, and along with now offering many new Bundt shapes, they produce other bakeware, cookware, microwave cookware, and grill products. Highly sustainable; BPA-free, melamine-free, and nonstick coatings are water-based.

Nordic Ware bundt pan
Nordic Ware bundt pan

Pyrex – Charleroi, PA – The original strong glass bakeware and kitchen accessories.

Pyrex bakeware & storage
Pyrex bakeware & storage

Rogar – Petersburg, VA – Quality metal pot racks, wine racks, spice racks, and wine openers.

Rogar pot rack
Rogar pot rack

USA Pans – KS – High-quality metal bakeware and cookware. Cookware is 5-ply clad stainless (just like All-Clad), and the bakeware has AMERICOAT Plus silicone coating that is a clear nonstick free of PTFE’s and PFOA’s. Bakeware also has a corrugated/fluted design to prevent sticking and is used widely commercially.

USA Pans bakeware
USA Pans bakeware

Vitamix – Cleveland, OH – Uniquely patented blending products, considered to be the most powerful on the market and used commercially by many restaurants and professionals.

Vitamix
Vitamix