The Verdict Is In | Crock Pot Express Diary, Part 4

Tuesday Revews-Day

This is an entirely unsolicited, unsubsidized review of the Crock Pot Express and a few cookbooks relating to the appliance. While there will be Amazon affiliate links, that’s as far as it goes.

If you’re starting at the end, make sure to check out the play-by-play in parts 1, 2, and 3.

Final Thoughts on the 6qt Crock Pot Express

Overall, I was surprisingly impressed by the Crock Pot Express and I look forward to trying out more of it’s functions and features in the coming weeks. Oh, hell, I named the damn thing, I adore it–let’s be honest!

From a usability standpoint, once I got accustomed to the way the appliance worked, my comfort level grew exponentially. Unlike the stove top pressure cooker I tried a few years ago, this one doesn’t rattle and only whistles the tiniest bit when it’s building pressure. Nothing alarming or concerning at all. No desire to flee to the next room and peek around the corner with a mirror to protect myself from the shrapnel.

The earlier recipe issues were, I think, just that. Incomplete instructions made for lackluster results. My concern that the cooker may not be functioning as intended was dispelled once we got into more straightforward applications.

Upkeep-wise, I’d read (in reviews on the Crock Pot site, when I was looking at replacement parts availability) that using the dishwasher for the inner pot (despite this being shown on the sales page for the pot) had damaged the finish for some people. Since I don’t want that to happen, we’ve stuck to handwashing. The good news is that so far nothing sticks and clean-up is a breeze. I’m still planning on ordering a second inner pot (and a spare gasket, just in case) to have on hand for busy nights.

Also, I need to get my hands on some smaller cooking vessels for pot-in-pot recipes. I found a 7-cup Pyrex bowl (I carried it over to the display model in Target to make sure it would fit!) that I used for the quiche, but they didn’t have a small enough springform pan or other bakeware. The steam rack that comes with the CPE is a shade over 7.5″ wide, so 6-inch diameter vessels seem the safest bed.

A Word on the Books

I used a lot of the recipes from 500 Crock Pot Express Recipes by Jamie Stewart, even after the first few tried to go pear-shaped on me. It wasn’t planned, it’s just the one I bookmarked the most out of. Would I actually recommend it? Hard to say. No, really! With 500 recipes, there’s bound to be a few duds, but at the same time it also means you’ve got a lot of options to choose from.

The Crock Pot Express Cookbook by Dave Zinman didn’t have as many recipes that I was interested in, but your mileage may vary, as with all things. There was one recipe that involved Cake Crusts as an ingredient that puzzled me to no end. Upon looking it up I did find some references to using the crust of a sponge cake for cheesecake instead of graham cracker, etc. So maybe that’s it.

The Crock Pot Express Beginner’s Guide and Cookbook (by Elizabeth Moore), however, I cooked zero recipes from–I just didn’t get to them–but really enjoyed the info at the beginning of the book. That’s where I learned things like the CPE needs at least a cup of liquid to create sufficient pressure and to thin down thicker sauces (like barbecue sauce) to prevent burning or insufficient pressure.

Of course, you also have to take some of the tips with a grain of salt as she mentions removing foods like oatmeal or pearl barley from recipes when you convert the for pressure because they foam and can clog the works. There’s a multigrain preset, so that seems a bit overly cautious, don’t you think? And then the first recipe is for Apples and Cinnamon Oatmeal. So, yeah, a little contradictory.

I think after a few weeks I’ll feel more comfortable adapting recipes for use in Exie and I won’t feel so dependent on specific recipes. We shall see!

Don’t Press That Button | Crock Pot Express Diary, Part 3

Tuesday Revews-Day

This is an entirely unsolicited, unsubsidized review of the Crock Pot Express and a few cookbooks relating to the appliance. While there will be Amazon affiliate links, that’s as far as it goes.

Just joining us? Make sure to check out part 1 and part 2.

Day 4: Smooth Sailing

I was feeling pretty good about our working relationship by Friday night, and set about to prep the Beef Medley with Blue Cheese and Cabbage (Zinman, 60) without any hesitation.

It’s so nice to be able to saute the meat and vegetables in oil in the same vessel it will pressure cook in, though being on the shorter side it is, perhaps, a touch more awkward than preparing the same dish would have been on the stove.

Truth be told, I was feeling quiet comfortable with the new kitchen toy. Perhaps a bit too comfortable.

Day 5: Our First Error

Saturday’s supper wasn’t quite a set it and forget it sort of deal, the way the last few nights had been. The Orange Marmalade-Glazed Chicken Thighs (Stewart, 57) only needed 5 minutes under pressure (again, not specified, but I figured the Poultry setting would suffice–call it a hunch) and the lowest that preset will program is 15.

In this case, I needed to watch the display count down and then press the Start/Stop button to end the process, let the pressure release, and then serve up supper.

Sidebar: I wasn’t quite brave enough to try the pot-in-pot, 2 dishes in one setup that some sources say you can (in this case setting the steaming rack on top of the chicken thighs and placing the rice and water in a bowl above it. Maybe next time…

At any rate! The rice cooker must be feeling the pressure (oh, gosh, really bad pun, totally not intended) because I did set it up to cook the rice for the meal and it worked perfectly. I can hear it now “Please don’t throw me away!!!!”

Thinking I knew what I was doing, I did the start/stop, but then figured I could manually switch it over to Keep Warm. Exie set me straight with an E4 error code that that was a no go, ghost rider. Oops!

To clear the error I needed to unplug the appliance and let it cool down. Since that was the general plan anyway, dinner was not harmed due to my hubris.

And if I was worried that 5 minutes under pressure wouldn’t be enough to cook the chicken thighs, I needn’t have been. Those suckers were registering at 200 degrees F by the time  the pressure released sufficiently to check them.

Too bad a turkey won’t fit in there!

Day 6: Six Minute Soup

I’d expected Sunday to be rainy, with a bit of a chill, so the Thai-Style Sweet Corn Soup (Stewart, 323) seemed like a really good idea. Sunday actually ended up rainy and muggy, but the soup was still tasty!

Once again, the 6 minute pressure-cook time was less than the Soup preset would allow, so I had to babysit Exie and hit Start/Stop at the appropriate time to let the pressure start to come down. Once it had, I switched it back over to Saute so I could add the final ingredients.

It was a nice and easy coast to the finish line of our first week together. I still have a lot of functions to try out, though!

Is It Really Risotto? | Crock Pot Express Diary, Part 2

Tuesday Revews-Day

This is an entirely unsolicited, unsubsidized review of the Crock Pot Express and a few cookbooks relating to the appliance. While there will be Amazon affiliate links, that’s as far as it goes.

Miss part 1? Start here.

Day 2–Is it really risotto?

The Crock Pot Express has a rice/risotto function but I am, to put it mildy, skeptical. Yes, the CPE was purchased, in part, to replace a flagging rice cooker, but risotto is another step.

Risotto is a method, a technique, that yields a very particular result when done correctly. I’ve heard of risotto-like-things being prepared in the microwave or on the stove with no stirring (blasphemy, I tell you) but I’ve yet to really be impressed by any.

So, of course, I had to give it a try in the electric pressure cooker, at least once.

Easiest Chicken Risotto (Stewart, 52) seemed like a good choice at first glance. Looking deeper, it didn’t specify the type of rice to use (strike one), said to use the Beans/Chili mode when there’s actually a button for “Rice/Risotto” (strike 2), and included no mantecarra–the finishing step of adding butter (and often Parmesan cheese) to gild the creamy texture that has been achieved through the slow incorporation of stock into the rice.

So I ignored several bits of the recipe as stated, going with what I knew to be better choices, and the result was… not bad. Was it the same as the risotto I would have gotten with 30 minutes or more at the stove? No. Was it a glorified chicken and rice? No, it was better than that. So it’s somewhere in the middle.

I will say it was nice to put everything together, set the timer, and go back to my office and send some emails while waiting for supper to cook in less than 20 minutes. That I didn’t mind one bit.

Day 3: I’m a believer!

As I was browning the pork shoulder (a step I’d routinely skip when using the slow-cooker, as dirtying another dish eliminated one of the big pros of a Crock Pot, for me) for the Perfect Moist and Tender Pulled Pork (Stewart, 128) tonight, I got a text from Todd saying he’d be home late. 

This sounded like a good time to try out the Delay timer on the Crock Pot Express, which I set for 30 minutes, allowing plenty of time for it to achieve pressure and then cook the pork shoulder for 50 minutes and have supper more or less ready right around 7:30, when Todd would get home.

While I really wondered about whether not-quite-an-hour in the pressure cooker could really replicate fall-apart-tender pulled pork to rival a day in the slow cooker, at least this was a benchmark function of pressure cooking and I wasn’t so much skeptical as I was curious.

I set up the machine, checked at 30 minutes to make sure it had switched over to “heat” to build the necessary pressure, and went and read a book in my office. And promptly fell asleep until Todd’s boots hit the hallway at 7:45ish or so. Oh hell!

But Exie (my Crock Pot Express has a name, it is one of the family now) had my back, though, because it switched right over to Warm mode after the preset time and was ready to release the pressure and, yes, fall to pieces at the merest suggestion of the two forks.

Looks like I’ll get to use those boxes for doll rooms after all!

An Inauspicious Start | Crock Pot Express Diary, Part 1

Tuesday Revews-Day

This is an entirely unsolicited, unsubsidized review of the Crock Pot Express and a few cookbooks relating to the appliance. While there will be Amazon affiliate links, that’s as far as it goes.


I know, I know, I’m a little late to the electric pressure cooker party. Mostly because my one experience with pressure cooking was mildly terrifying and I sent the thing back, even though it was well after the full refund period, because I had to hide behind a wall from all the rattling and hissing. #neveragain

Buuuuut, the week or so before Prime Day 2018, my rice cooker started showing signs of giving up the ghost. Now, sure, I’m perfectly capable of making rice on the stove, but I very much appreciate the convenience of my rice cooker and use it several times a month, so this was not good news. Add to that one of our slow cookers had definitely seen better days and we’d discussed upgrading to one of the programmable ones in the near future, and you have the final straw in my resistance to the lure of the new gadget.

Of course, ordering the damned thing wasn’t simple as Amazon could not even remotely handle the visitor volume and 15 minutes after the opening bell the site was already throwing up those lovely pups of Amazon like some consolation calendar pin-ups. I tried, over the course of several hours, to put the 6qt InstantPot that was on special into my cart only to have it disappear each time. Finally, figuring that it had already sold out and the app just wasn’t registering it, I looked around and settled on the 6qt Crock Pot Express. No, it wasn’t my first choice, but I am very comfortable with the Crock Pot brand (we own three slow cookers by them; yeah, we’re good), so it didn’t bother me too much that it wasn’t the other brand.

It did mean, however, that I needed to find some brand-specific resources to get me started, as so much of what’s out on the net it geared towards the other brand. And while the overall functions may be similar, I wanted to get my feet wet without having to do a lot of brand to brand conversions. There’ll be time enough for improv after I’m sure it’s not going to blow the Dollhouse to smithereens.

Putting my Kindle Unlimited subscription to good use, I borrowed three Crock Pot Express cookbooks to get started:

The Beginner’s Guide actually told me a lot of what I needed to know about using the Crock Pot Express and had a lot of great tips. I do recommend it, of the three, but with the usual caveats that seem to be needed with ebooks from Kindle Unlimited–a lot are self-published and, while I respect the work that goes into them (being a self-pubbed cookbook author myself), there are good ones and there are less good ones. Some information was repeated within the same section in a redundant sort of way that almost felt like it was compiled but not edited quite enough.

Says the woman who’s already written 500+ words and not gotten to the actual cooking yet. I point the finger at myself, too, folks. I get it.

At any rate, the Crock Pot Express arrived while it was still Todd’s week to cook. I unboxed it, flipped through the included guides, and let it sit until the following Tuesday, when it was finally time to face my pressure cooking fears and give this thing a whirl.

Day 1: Not Very Express After All

There’s something about having a new kitchen appliance to play with that makes me positively giddy–something I would not describe the last several months of meal preparation, so there’s that in that big ol’ box’s favor. (And speaking of the boxes, they’re the perfect size for doll rooms–provided I don’t have to return the cooker in them.)

I may have jumped into the deep end with the first two recipes I tried, tonight. First there was the Cheesy Leek & Kale Quiche (Stewart, 1).

Looks good, right? Too bad it took the stated 22 minutes in the CPE, then another 10, and then another 7.5 in the microwave before the center was finally set.

It tasted fine, once finally cooked, but the issue lies with the fact that the recipe failed to specify a cooking mode. Since we were using the steamer rack and pot-in-pot cooking method, I chose Steam for lack of a better option, and it may not have been the right one.

Unlike other cookers of this type, the Crock Pot Express does not have a full manual pressure cook mode (though three of the pre-sets–Beans/Chili, Dessert, and Soup–do allow pressure changes, and can be used as pseudo-manual modes). So I’m left to wonder if this was just poor writing or if Stewart nabbed the recipe from elsewhere and forgot to make the necessary adjustments.

The other recipe I tried was for novelty’s sake, really: a cake baked in a pressure cooker.

While not described as such, the Triple Chocolate Fudge Cake (Stewart, 485), is basically a “flourless” (it has 2.5 Tbsp of flour in it) chocolate cake. Unlike the quiche recipe, this one did at least specify a cooking mode (Beans/Chili), and a cooking time of 8 minutes.

It took three rounds of 8 minutes, and I wasn’t sure it was done even then, but I called it good enough and stuck it in the fridge to firm up. Turns out there’s a gooey-centered cake recipe in the booklet that came with the CPE and it called for 22 minutes on the Dessert setting. My first day using the machine and, yeah, I completely spaced that it even had a Dessert mode.

At any rate, by the end of the night I was seriously wondering if I’d need to send it back. Is it the recipes? Is it me? Is it the machine?

Maybe tomorrow will be better.