Back when we owned our stick and brick home, I had a crock pot but seldom used it. Why? Not sure exactly but I guess the fact that a separate pan had to be dirtied to brown the chicken, beef, pork, veggies or whatever else I was cooking before throwing it into the crock pot was an annoyance to me. So as a result I didn’t use it much. When we sold our house and had to make a decision as to what came with us and what didn’t, I asked myself if would I use this on the motor home? Probably not, didn’t use it that much at home, so why would I use it on the coach. It would just take up valuable space. So with that decision made when we sold the house, the poor crock pot was packed away in a box and stashed in our storage unit where it has been ever since.
But once we started full timing, I would often think how nice it would be to get something ready before we went out sightseeing, running errands or walking, push a button and voilá, it would be ready several hours later without heating up the oven in the hot weather. Keeping the coach cool was definitely a reason for potentially purchasing a new slow cooker.
After much deliberation, doing some research and reading reviews, I decided that I liked the features of the Cuisinart 3-in-1 Cook Central 6 Quart Multi-cooker (MSC600). Being a multi-cooker means that it can brown, slow cook and steam all in one pot. Woo hoo! When we bought it back in December, it sold on Amazon for approximately $150.
Featuring a brushed stainless steel housing the unit has a 6-quart nonstick cooking pot that lets you brown or sauté directly in the unit. Forget using your stove top and an extra skillet, just sauté the veggies or brown meats using the three fully programmable cooking functions, add the rest of the ingredients, then simply switch to the slow cook function. Once your meal is ready, the unit automatically shifts to Keep Warm mode until you’re ready to serve it. Oh, and by the way, serving your dish is easy — just lift the pot out and take it to the table.
For foods requiring long, slow simmering, such as soups, stocks, stews, and dried beans, or for cooking tougher, less expensive cuts of meat like shoulder and pot roast, press the Slow Cook button. This function has three temperature settings — High, Low, and Simmer. For recipes that need to cook longer, use the Simmer and Low settings. If you don’t have a lot of time, use the High setting – cooking for 1 hour on High is equivalent to cooking on Low for 2 hours.
Thus far I’ve cooked a number of foods trying several recipes from the Instruction/Recipe booklet (available on their website) as well as taking existing recipes and adapting them to use with the Multi-Cooker. My personal favorite is the Lemon Chicken with Rosemary found on Cuisinart’s website and in their booklet. Slow cooked corned beef and cabbage that I made for St. Patty’s Day was easy and delicious. When there was a chill in the air, my favorite soup recipes always came out perfect. So nice not having to constantly monitor a simmering pot of soup for hours! And now because it doesn’t make as much of a mess using an extra pan to brown the beef, I make beef stew more often. I think I’ve used this multi-cooker more times in the past six months than I ever used my old crock pot over many years.
Besides main entrees, you can use it to make appetizers, breakfast casseroles or oatmeal and even desserts. Lots of creative recipes available on-line.
This is what I really like about this unit, no extra pan is required. Making a beef stew or your favorite chicken recipe? Or a soup or stew that requires the meats or veggies be sauteed first? Just add your food to the pot, press the Brown/Sauté button, then continue to cook just as you would using a skillet on the stovetop. Once everything is sauteed, add your other ingredients, then press the Slow Cook button and you’re done! By the way, another great feature is that the default temperature with this function is 350 degrees but it is also adjustable, so you can select a temp in the range of 150 to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. I never could do that with my old crock pot. This function can also be used to reheat foods as well, just stir until all ingredients are warmed through.
Steaming foods has never been easier! Very healthy, no butter or oil is required. To steam, just insert the steaming rack with no more than 2 quarts of water or other liquid in the pot, add the food, press the Steam button and cover with the lid. Easy!
I love how easy it is to steam our favorite foods. When we were in Alabama and Florida over the winter, the fresh shrimp that we bought at a local fish market and steamed with some of Zatarain’s Crab & Shrimp Boil in the water and a sprinkling of Emeril’s Essense on the shrimp, came out totally awesome! And for fresh veggies, there’s nothing better than steaming! Steamed broccoli is the best! I vowed to never eat mushy vegetables again!
Hmm, maybe we could have used this to steam lobsters when we were in Maine recently!
The features that I like most:
- The large 6 quart non-stick pot, which measures 12 x 19 x 9.5 inches, is plenty big enough for a 4 pound chicken with veggies or a large roast. Note there is a 4 quart version available, the MSC-400 which sells on Amazon for around $118. It has all the same features, just smaller, measuring 10.5 x 16.5 x 8.7 inches.
- No need to serve from a different dish, just lift the pot out and move it to the table when ready to serve.
- It can be programmed to operate for up to 24 hours on the Low or High setting and automatically switches to Keep Warm when cooking is complete.
- You can adjust time and temperature to either minutes or hours and up to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- The extra large blue back-lit LCD display – for baby boomers like myself with aging eyes, the time and temperature setting displays are so easy-to-read even in low lighting.
- It has a power saving Sleep Mode – it will turn off the lights when the cooker is not in use.
- The glass lid has a cool-touch handle and makes it easy to see your food as it is cooking. No worry about burning your fingers while lifting the lid, not that you should do that very often. Each time you remove the cover to peak, an extra 15 minutes will need to be added to the cook time. Be careful, particularly when lifting the lid when using the steam function.
- Everything, the pot, steaming rack and glass lid, is dishwasher-safe so clean-up is a snap!
- All parts that come into contact with food are BPA free.
There are a few shortcomings that I’ve read in the reviews. None of these have been an issue for me but figured that I would mention them as these could be an issue for someone else. These are:
- No delay timer or clock – the cooking times cannot be delayed to start at a preset time later.
- Not really programmable – there is no facility to start a cooking program on high for a time and then switch to low. It is just one temperature setting and one time, that’s not really programming.
- The lid doesn’t attach which might make it challenging if you wanted to transport a cooked meal to an event or function. A workaround might be to tie it down with a bungee cord or something else.
- You cannot use the cooking pot in the oven or on the stovetop.
Yes it was tough going from a huge gourmet kitchen to a very small kitchen as full timers in our motor home. But appliances such as this make meal planning and cooking a whole lot easier. Whether you live in a house, an apartment, an RV or a boat, the Cuisinart 3-in-1 Cook Central Multi-Cooker would be a great addition to your small appliance inventory.