Compare to Similar Products
Cuisinart 6-Quart 3-in-1 Cook Central
$159.95 at Amazon
$99.99 at Amazon
$74.99 at Amazon
$69.99 at Amazon
|Check Price at Amazon|
|Bottom Line||Many different features and a consistent, dependable performance make this slow cooker perfect for one-pot meals||The features and options in this product make it much more than a slow cooker||Convenient and dependable, this slow-cooker can be left all day on the counter or easily taken with you||Excellent, reliable performance and a reasonable price will make many home cooks happy with this programmable slow cooker||This simple, easy-to-use classic Crock-Pot has all the performance and capacity you want|
|Rating Categories||Cuisinart 6-Quart 3...||Instant Pot Duo||Hamilton Beach Temp...||Hamilton Beach 6-Qu...||Crock-Pot 6-Quart C...|
|User Friendliness (35%)|
|Cooking Performance (30%)|
|Cooking Features (25%)|
|Ease of Cleaning (10%)|
|Specs||Cuisinart 6-Quart 3...||Instant Pot Duo||Hamilton Beach Temp...||Hamilton Beach 6-Qu...||Crock-Pot 6-Quart C...|
|Pot Material||Stainless Steel||Stoneware||Nonstick Aluminum||Stoneware||Stoneware|
|Capacity||5.3 qt||6.5 qt||6 qt||6 qt||6 qt|
|Lid with Gasket?||No||No||No||No||Yes|
|Steam Release Valve in Lid?||No||Yes||No||No||Yes|
|Features||Removable cooking pot can be used on the stovetop or in oven.||Programmable time (30min increments) and temp (high/med/low); manual mode; probe mode; auto warm; auto shut off after 6 hours; beeps to indicate on/off/start||4 manual heat settings; cooking vessel can be used in the oven, on the stovetop, and in the fridge and freezer; cooking base can be used as a griddle; comes with a travel (nonlocking) lid and a thermal carrying case||Programmable time (30min increments) and temp (high/med/low/keep warm); auto warm setting for 4 hrs||Programmable time (30min increments) and temp (high/low); auto warm setting|
Our Analysis and Test Results
The 3-in-1 Cook Central brings many wonderful options to your table. We like that the nonstick aluminum pot can be used with different cooking methods, so there is no need to use your cast iron skillet to sear your meat or saute your food before combining it into the slow cooker. The Cook Central even includes a steaming rack with the option to steam your food — this unit seemingly can do it all! With three heat settings plus Warm — Low, High, Simmer, Warm — and program options available, you can make far more than the standard pot roast and vegetables in this slow cooker. This cooker also crushed the competition in being able to cook and carry, with the handles far enough away from the sides to avoid getting burned — though it is heavy.
The Cook Central really stood out from the rest of our test group. The temperature settings included a Simmer mode, and each program has a button for slow cook, brown/saute, and steam. We found the steaming option to be the most unique (who knew you could steam in a slow cooker?), but that wasn't the only unique option for this unit. Besides being able to use the pot on the stovetop or oven, this cooker also has the ability to set your temperature in 50°F increments and has a timer with 30-minute increments.
The Cook Central has a locking lid with a gasket and steam release holes so that it's easy to transport or even just to help keep curious little helping hands safe. And we really like the large handle on top as well as the larger plastic handles on the sides. In fact, the plastic handles were a big hit because trying to get a heavy pot out of the slow-cooker base — with or without food in it — can be tricky. So all the handles are very welcome. Another big hit is the fact that the cooker sides do not get hot while in use; warm, yes, but not hot.
The programming on the Cook Central is pretty simple. Each program has a button (slow cook, brown/saute, steam) and +/- buttons for choosing your temperature. All the buttons are clear and easy to read and are lit so you can see what you have going on even in a dim area.
Other slow cookers scored close to the Cook Central for this metric, but what we like about it more than others is the ease with which you can program the cooker. And if you run into trouble, the user manual is very useful and even comes with recipes on the back. This slow cooker is advertised as being for "one-pot meals," and it really lives up to its name.
This is the metric that the entire staff most looks forward to, as it involves lots of tasty meals. We cooked many things, but the three dishes we used to rate all the slow cookers were a meat dish, a bean/rice dish, and a vegetable dish. We looked for the food's uniform doneness, tenderness, flavor, and juiciness, as dried-out or underdone food is pretty yucky. We were very pleased with how beautifully the Cook Central Multi-Cooker prepared our food.
The meat we cooked was consistently fork-tender and juicy, the potatoes were soft without being mushy, and carrots were the ideal texture as well. Onions, another hit-or-miss addition to one-pot meals, were soft and a little squishy but retained their flavor nicely.
The next meal was beans and rice, two more that can be difficult in a slow cooker. Many slow cookers can have heat spots where the food doesn't always cook correctly, especially with beans, other legumes, rice, or other grains — this is why we use those two in our testing. The Cook Central presented us with beans and rice with noticeably differing textures, but both were cooked well without being too soft.
Finally, we get to the vegetable-only meal. This is where we really look for distinct texture and flavor between the different ingredients. We found that the potatoes were soft and borderline overcooked, as were the celery, onion, and zucchini. But the carrots were great, with good flavor and consistent texture throughout the pot. You may want to adjust the time you cook veggies or check them for doneness at intervals.
We mentioned above how the pot for this cooker can go on the stovetop and in the oven. We love this concept and wish more slow cookers were designed this way, as it allows for so many more options. Another great feature is the steaming rack, something we found ourselves using often. It allows you to steam your veggies without having to use the stove, a great way to keep the house cooler in the summer while you grill outside.
Aside from those features, the Cook Central has multiple cooking temperature options — including the Simmer mode and the usual High/Low/Warm settings — and a noise indicator to alert you to when the cooker is beginning and ending its cycle. Overall, this is an appliance you might want to keep on the counter all the time, as it's useful for many different kinds of foods and meals.
Ease of Cleaning
And this is where the rubber meets the road, so to speak. Every single person who sits down to a dinner knows what's coming after: the dreaded clean-up. We wish we could say that the Cook Central can clean itself, but that feature hasn't been invented yet.
Keep in mind that the Cuisinart Cook Central has a nonstick aluminum pot. This is easy to clean, but you'll want to be mindful of what you use to scrub so as not to damage the coating. The pot is dishwasher-safe.
Should You Buy the Cuisinart 6-Quart 3-In-1 Cook Central?
If you believe that a slow cooker should do more than cook slowly, then this might be the one for you. We were blown away by the many interesting features, like the ability to steam and go from the stovetop and oven into the base. We would definitely recommend the Cuisinart Cook Central if you have the money and want to explore new cooking options.
What Other Slow Cookers Should You Consider?
Did this review get you thinking about having a slow cooker, but the cost of the Cuisinart Cook Central makes you pause? Check out the Instant Pot Duo for another feature-loaded but less expensive slow cooker. The Hamilton Beach Temp Tracker 6-Quart is also an excellent basic but dependable slow cooker that we enjoyed.