Saturday, October 11, 2014

My Exploding Crock Pot

Lately I've been evaluating some freezer-slow cooker recipes so that I will start eating healthier meals, because I've been pretty fatigued for a long time.  I actually started by eating legitimate breakfasts instead of protein bars, and I began to feel better, so I thought general nutrition might be the key for me.  

I make a big batch of breakfast burritos and freeze them, then heat one up in the morning for a very tasty meal that sometimes leaves me not hungry for my 10:30 am lunchtime. No, I'm not kidding about that.  10:30. *sigh* 

Yes, I've gained weight.  Again.  Just not to the point of my heaviest weight, and truthfully, I've not been going to the gym to work anything off.  I know that's a factor.  I've also developed a horrible passion for Jif Salted Caramel Hazlenut spread, but we ain't gonna talk about that right now.  Pepsi is back in my life, and that's a huge contributor.  But so far, nobody has said anything about noticing, so I may be able to fix it yet.

That's for another post, though. Maybe several other posts.  Hee hee. 

So to introduce the situation, I was already aggrieved by financial matters, and this was the icing on the exploding cake.  I finally amended a slow-cooker beef stew recipe to my liking (tomatoey beef stew is what the original recipe tasted like -- I wanted a gravy-tasting stew) and bought all of the ingredients to make two batches, freeze one batch, and make a batch of taco soup to freeze and slow cook later.

The idea is to pull a ready-to-cook meal out of the freezer, thaw it, and then cook it on low all day, to come home to a fabulous aroma and a hot meal ready to enjoy after work, and before I ran off to painting class on Tuesday afternoons.  

First, some background information.
1.  The first time I tried the chicken teriyaki recipe, I managed to not turn the crock pot on, because my mind was thinking it was just like my older, smaller slow cooker that had two settings when plugged in - low and high.  Nope.  My less than a year old and rarely used 6 quart slow cooker had off, low, high, and keep warm settings.  Oops.  Had to throw that all out.  I was pissed at myself.
2. I had tried cooking steel cut oats overnight not long after I bought the new cooker, and despite using the instructions fron the manufacturers themselves, it was a blackened, dry mess when I woke up and checked on it.  I still don't know what went wrong, but I suspect a thermostat went haywire.

So at this point I was being pretty darned over cautious about doing things precisely right when I used it.  No frozen food in the crock.  Only thawed.  Make sure to fill the crock sufficiently, even though it means you will be eating beef stew for lunch and dinner for the next seven days.  Never latch the lid lock on, because you aren't transporting the cooker anywhere.  Make sure there is plenty of liquid in your recipe.  

The first time I'd made the stew it was perfect, though tomatoey.  The second time I'd made it, I figured out how to make it more gravy-tasting after the cooking time.  (A packet of brown gravy mix stirred into the finished stew was the secret.). The third time I made it, I was feeling confident that I wasn't a total loser with a crock-pot, and prepped that second batch for the freezer.  

The first batch went into the cooker, no colder than the refrigerated stew meat I'd bought.  I made sure everything was set up perfectly, turned it on low, and went to bed thinking how nice it would be to take beef stew for my lunch.

I didn't sleep well that night.  I kept waking up and smelling the food cooking, and wondered if the smell was keeping me from resting well.  I had nightmares, which isn't normal  for me anymore unless I'm under a lot of stress from work.  So I got up the next morning thinkg a good lunch would help make up for the fatigue.  My dog woke me up at sometime just after four am, nearly three hours early.  *sigh* Why?  WHY?? Let Mommy sleep!  (There's beef stew in it for you, fella!)

I let him out, glanced at the cooker, and saw the lid was steamy in places, and dripped clear in another.  He came back in. We went back to bed.  

* I'm pretty nearsighted, by the way, and I don't sleep in my contacts because I have abnormal blood vessel growth into my corneas. 

At 6:30 I let my dog out again and got ready to deal with spooning up the stew into various containers.  

I stepped on a small chunk of broken glass on an otherwise clean floor.  It cut my foot.  Being so nearsighted, I couldn't see it or avoid it.  While I was pulling it out I couldn't figure out where it had come from.  So I tried to lift the lid off the crock pot next and discovered a gaping hole where I thought had been a clear spot on the glass lid.  What I'd thought was steam was completely shattered glass, held together by pure physics, like a caternary arch.  The unused travel latches fell into the batch of shattered glass stew now in the crock.  Still very liquid, despite hours of cooking.  

I was in a state of disbelief and probably didn't get all the glass out of my foot.  Nearly two weeks later, my foot is healed... But still sore under the skin.  Been there before -- the glass I failed to remove eventually cut back through my foot a few years later.  Ugh.  Home exploratory surgery or patience and pain?  I dunno.  I can't decide.

Later that day I called the parent company to let them know what happened and they said they would send me a label to send "it" back to them.  It being what?  The bits of sharp glass formerly known as a lid? The whole appliance? Where would I find an appropriate shipping container and how would I avoid cutting myself worse?  Internet research said they would only replace the lid and if you sent the whole thing, you'd only get a lid in return.  

I never really got mad.  I felt like I'd already been kicked to exhaustion.  I felt defeated, which had been my default state of mind fora few weeks.

A couple of days later a customer service lady called to interview me quite thoroughly.  I suspect the major concern was a potential personal injury lawsuit, but let's face it, I haven't sued when I should have before, so a little cut wasn't going to get me all fired up this time.

She asked me if I would like a programmable model to replace it.  I said that would be fine, but I'm scared still to use a slow cooker again. That glass lid exploded outward, with glass landing on the floor.    They sent me a nicer cooker worth $80, with a metal insert to brown things on the stove before slow cooking.  It looks nice. Scary nice.  I'm still scared to use it.

And they didn't include a user manual in the box. Grr!  I hope that programmable panel is user friendly and idiot-proof, because as God is my witness, I seem to be that idiot.

As it turns out, lots of companies that make slow cookers have had explosion issues.  There have even been recalls for several years.  That might explain why my new cooker has a metal crock instead of a breakable ceramic one.  Oh sure, it has a "ceramic" coating (looks and feels like enamel to me, which is a-ok) that could get chipped but that baby is about a third the weight of the other crock.  Maybe it is idiot-proof. I'll be trying it out tomorrow... While I'm at home.

As for why my dog woke me up at the bizarre hour of 4... I think he must have heard the lid explode and woke me up to check on it.  And stupid blind Mommy didn't notice the problem.

Summary: The Crock Pot company replaced their faulty product with a better one and were very nice to me in the bargain.  I'm still scared to try it out.

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