I once did a demo and as a thank you present I received an insanely expensive slow cooker from a top manufacturer. It looked slick but really, how much better is a $150 slow cooker than a $39 version? One seemed to look as if it were made of steel (it wasn’t) and was much more attractive but that’s a lot of money for what seemed essentially the same machine. I used it for awhile and then it broke down making me think it was a very silly thing and I was happy not to have paid for it.
I’ve gotten by without a slow cooker for several months but there have been a few instances when one would have been very handy so I went I bought a basic version and looked forward to making beans while I was at work.
With every single slow cooker I’ve had, I’ve been able to put unsoaked Rancho Gordo beans, water, onion, garlic and a spoonful of oil in the pot in the morning and come home to cooked beans. This new pot never seemed to get hot enough, even at high, and the beans never softened.
I took the machine back and bought another brand and lo, the beans were perfect. I then took a pork picnic roast and used the slow cooker to make it with rosemary, garlic and about a cup of bean broth. It also worked.
I think you have to be picky and precise when you get a new slow cooker. Also, keep the box handy and be prepared to return it if it isn’t working the way it should. I’m really surprised how different they cook and that’s part of the problem when giving instructions for making beans and other good things in a slow cooker.
As an aside, and I’ve mentioned this before, but I think it’s smart to let the beans “breathe” without the lid on after they’re tender, for about an hour. For me, as soon as I enter the door home from work I take the lid off until I’m ready to serve them. This allows for some air and life to enter the pot after being closed for so many hours.