The Solution to Lead-Laden Crock Pots: Hot Plates!

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I was just about to bust open waiting to write this post about my new cast iron burner/hot plate.  Some months ago, our crockpot died and I was hoping to find a good solution to all the slow-cooking I do with broths and other foods in my kitchen.

For years I’ve read how most crockpots contain lead, cadmium, or other carcinogenic materials. I really didn’t want to go down that road again. I don’t ever know what to believe since I hear so much conflicting information about them.

I was planning to buy a nice big stock pot for large batches of broth, and then my parents were kind enough to buy me a Le Crueset 6 quart pot for Christmas (pictured above). It’s the best gift I’ve received in such a long time, and I love it!

At the time, we knew we were planning to move fairly soon, but the stove I was using in our current house worked fine to cook broth in the Le Crueset and leave for days at a time. That stove was just a standard electric burner stove, and I really hadn’t thought about whether moving to a new house and new stove would have an impact I might not appreciate on that process.

As soon as we moved to our new house last month, it became evident that we’d have to find a different method for making broth and keeping it on low heat for several days. The new stove is a glass-top range, and it doesn’t cook at all the same way as our previous stove. In fact, all my broths I’ve made on it have scalded, even on low heat. Not good. I certainly don’t want burnt broth.

Enter the Cadco (BroilKing) Double Cast Iron Burner Range/Hot Plate. This was my husband’s idea (he has many good ones). I had seen these in a few places, but had never heard anyone I know of using or owning one. Since I didn’t know anything about these, I had no idea what to expect.  But now I can tell you after having ours for just a few days, I’m so thrilled about it! I can’t think of a better solution to our broth making-issue with our current stove.

Pros: There are so many good things about the hot plate. Like a crockpot, it’s great for keeping  just about any foods on low heat that you don’t have room for on your stove, and want to leave for some hours or days. And just like a stove, you can use any of your own pots or pans on it.  The one we ordered has a double-burner, but you can order single burner units as well. I highly recommend the double-unit because it allows you to cook more food at once, and is especially handy for anyone who prepares multiple dishes regularly for home use (like us since we make broth all the time) or for when you have gatherings.

I find it is especially useful when I have over-sized pots too because it’s not uncommon for me to have every burner on my stove being used at once, and things can get pretty crowded.  In fact, at least once a week I am using two of my stockpots at the same time. When I’ve had two big stockpots on the stove at once, there simply isn’t room for anything else but my smallest pots on the other burners. And I find that I still need to be able to put my medium-sized pots on the stove at the same time to cook other foods, and they just won’t fit (especially on a glass-top range where pots and pans slide around so much). The hot plate solves that problem easily, and I can leave it on for days at a time without worrying about scalding or burning, and it’s just as well-contained as the crockpot cooking I’ve done for years.

It has heat settings which go from 1 up to 12, and I find that for broth somewhere between 2 and 3 is great to keep soups, stews, casseroles, broths, and other foods warm for extended periods of time.

Setup: When you take your hot plate out of the packaging, there is no assembly, but you will need to turn the heat on each burner for 10 minutes, to allow the factory coating (some kind of oil, my husband says) to burn off to prepare it for use. This does cause some smoke to collect in your kitchen, so make sure you turn on the fan and open windows for good ventilation. You may even want to vacate the room or house while this is happening, or if possible, put it outside if you have an outdoor outlet to plug it in.

Cons: I really can’t find anything negative about this product, other than the fact that you will definitely have to spend more than you would on a crockpot. However, you also have the capability of cooking on two burners with the dual-plate model (even though one burner is smaller), so it’s like getting two crocks in one unit. In my opinion, over the years you will save money buying crockpots that might not last as well as have the potential to leach chemicals like lead and cadmium into your food – which will ultimately become another health burden and expense to deal with later.

Also, when we first ordered our unit, one of the burners on the original was defective and didn’t turn on. We called to report this, and they promised to immediately replace it with a brand new one by sending another out to us that day. It did take awhile for both of the units to be sent to our home, but the wait was so worth it!

Price: The hot plate we purchased cost about $178.89 retail, and was about $190 including shipping, which I think is a great deal considering I won’t have to worry about lead leaching into my food anymore, and I likely won’t be replacing this unit for quite awhile. Since I started cooking, I’ve gone through at least 4, maybe 5 crockpots. Unlike many products that are made in China, Taiwan, or other countries where the emphasis is on quantity and not quality, the Cadco hot plate is a German product and has a limited 2-year warranty from the date of purchase.

Conclusion: The hot plate is a great investment if you plan to do multiple cooking projects at once, especially for those who cook a lot of broth, soups, stews, casseroles, beans, rice, and other large meals. I highly recommend it to anyone who loves to cook! I’m incredibly satisfied with this purchase, and I’m wondering now how I ever did without it.

 

This post is part of Sarah The Healthy Home Economist’s Monday Mania Carnival and Fat Tuesday at Real Food Forager. 

30 Comments

  • February 6, 2012 - 10:04 AM | Permalink

    Great tip, Raine!
    This method also means that you can sear your meats in the same pot you are going to slow cook it in – something you can’t do with most slow cookers.

    • February 6, 2012 - 3:00 PM | Permalink

      Hi Lisa – nice to hear from you! Yes, that’s a great point about searing meats on the hot plate. I’ve never used a slow cooker, so I have no experience with them. So that is yet another great feature of this useful appliance! :)

  • D.
    February 6, 2012 - 10:50 AM | Permalink

    I love my hotplate! I use it outdoors on the deck in the summer (when it’s just too hot to cook indoors) right next to my Turkey Roaster (which I use as an oven). When I’m done using them and they’ve cooled off, I wrap a tarp around them for protection from the elements and they just stay outdoors all summer. Sure makes life a lot easier.

    I have a SIL who uses three hotplates at a time when she’s canning in the summer, and she uses her’s outdoors as well, and keeps the heat out of the house. I don’t have time to can (at least not right now) but if I ever decide to try it, I’ll use her method. My gramma had a summer kitchen, so back decks can be a version of that same idea. Very cool, huh?

    I also bought a small refridgerator (like a camper size) to keep extra veggies in the summer. that is outside on the deck, as well, under the table where I set my hotplate and turkey roaster. Works for me. Luckily, our back deck is on the north side of our home, so a good deal of the deck remains in the shade all day. THAT helps a lot, too, of course.

    Good on you for bringing this post to light. I thought my SIL and I were the only ones crazy enough to still use hotplates!!

    • February 6, 2012 - 3:05 PM | Permalink

      Hi Deb – thanks for sharing yours and your SIL’s experience with hot plates. I think maybe I’ve been living under a rock since I’ve never known anyone who uses these and really have had very little exposure to them. I admit that I really am still a novice when it comes to cooking, as I had almost no experience in the kitchen and very little interest in food while I was growing up and as a young adult due to my father not insisting when my mother did that I learn to cook. I really didn’t start cooking seriously until I was about 34 years old. I’m still learning and there are so many wonderful things to discover about cooking and preparing food. I also admit that this really made me happy because I’m a big fan of one-pot meals and slow cooked foods that I can just throw into a pot and leave all day to cook while I’m doing other things. That’s why the hot plate was so appealing to me. :)

      I love the idea of the small refrigerator. I had one when I was in college, and I think that’s something I just might have to invest in again someday for our outdoor area in the backyard, that just sounds like a super idea!

  • February 6, 2012 - 12:20 PM | Permalink

    Great post! We have a small hot plate (purchased for about $10 at Walgreens a couple years ago) that we use when traveling and Matt used to use it when he worked away from home to heat up lunch (and avoid that dastardly microwave!!) I never thought about using it as an alternative to a crock pot. I, too, have been concerned and confused over the years about which brand (if any) crock pot are safe and non-toxic. I know Hamilton Beach is supposed to be lead-free, but what about other issues? Plus, the lid locking version of HB crockpot has a huge issue with the lids exploding! Now that’s not safe either!! So, this is a great idea. Thanks for the post! :)

    • February 6, 2012 - 2:51 PM | Permalink

      Hi Amy – thanks for stopping by and sharing your comments! I am so happy with this appliance, I think it should be an essential in every kitchen. I bet the smaller ones are very handy for traveling, and I saw some of those on the Target site where we bought this one. My friend Tara said she found one on Amazon for $167 including shipping, a great deal!

      Yes, I have heard about the exploding problem with locking lids on crock pots. I never had that issue with ours, the bottoms just kept melting down over time, and that’s what happened to our last one that we recently had to throw out.

      I’ve heard that Hamilton Beach was lead-free, but yes, I’m also concerned about other elements like cadmium – or, often when a product is “free” of some toxic substance, that just means that either a) that substance is still in the product, but appears in “small enough amounts” that the manufacturer is allowed to omit mentioning it to customers, or they use some other substances that are equally as harmful and they just don’t mention them. The old “don’t ask, don’t tell” saying I think, is pretty applicable here. What I really love about the hot plate is that you can use the pots you already own, and so there’s no issue of leaching (unless the pots you are already using are unsafe, but I’m very careful to get safe cookware, as I’m sure you are as well).

    • D.
      February 6, 2012 - 8:48 PM | Permalink

      I have that HB Crock pot with the locking lid but I’ve never encountered the explosion news before. Eeeps! I usually don’t lock mine down unless I’m using the warm setting, but even that might not be too safe, huh? Think I’ll just leave it unlocked whenever I use it now. ;-\ I don’t like it so I don’t use it very often, except it is useful when I make broths.

      Raine, have you seen the clay refridgerators? I think they look super interesting and would save on electricity, too. I found, on a quick search, one web site with information but it’s foreign and I can’t really tell how much they would cost. Also, there are other web sites which tell you how to make your own (a bit different design, however; it looks like a small clay flower pot set inside a larger pot with a layer of sand in between the pots (which sounds very doable if you have a shady area in which to keep it. The idea is VERY intriguing to me.

      Here’s the link for the actual Mitticool Fridge: http://www.greendiary.com/entry/mitticool-indian-craftsman-creates-clay-refrigerator-that-works-without-electricity/

      Here’s the link for the handmade pots: http://www.ehow.com/how_12057456_make-clay-refrigerator.html

      The hardest part about making your own (unless you used terra cotta ready-made pots) would be having them “burned or baked”. If you have a ceramic shop wherever you live, you may be able to talk the owner into firing it for you. I just thought it sounded like a good extra storage idea for summers when there is so much produce and not always enough time to do something with it right away. I HATE having to throw out my home grown produce just because of lack of time and proper storage for a couple more days. My indoor fridge is always just packed, and our little fridge doesn’t hold quite enough sometimes.

      I actually found these little gem ideas while looking for a clay pot (unglazed) in which to filter water while we’re camping and fishing. There again, it’s a smaller clay pot inside of a glazed ceramic pot (or whatever) to catch the dripping water. The inside pot is clay mixed with coffee grounds, which make small holes in the pot and let the water slowly drain and purify while coming through the clay, thus adding natural minerals from the clay to the water, as well. In Indian culture they are called a surai or a surahi or a matka, but I was never able to find one, and haven’t had the time to try to make one yet.

      I’m always looking for inexpensive, useful ideas for things I can make myself, or with a little help from my husband. This could be either an easy project or if you want to get fancy, it could become quite complicated. Depends on whether you’re a Type A or Type B personality, I think!

      • February 7, 2012 - 7:19 AM | Permalink

        Deb – no, I have not seen the clay refrigerators, they sound really neat! I’ll check out your links, thanks for providing them. I love the idea of clay kitchen items, they seem very old-world. And I especially like the idea of them being a survivalist device. :)

  • Michelle
    February 6, 2012 - 12:44 PM | Permalink

    Thanks Raine! Great post.

    Since last year and knowing you I started making bone broth! and now I’m wondering about the slow cooker I’m using. GE

    Is the Le Crueset free of contaminants as you discussed and makes a great broth?

    If I were to use it on my electric stove top would I put it on the # 2 setting to slow cook?

    Thanks for th great info :)

    • February 6, 2012 - 2:59 PM | Permalink

      Hi Michelle – As far as I know, Le Creuset is an enameled cast-iron product (with porcelain enamel covering cast-iron), and are as free of contaminants as you can get. Yes, I love mine for making broth and use it at least once a week, sometimes more. I also use my stainless steel stock pot for broth and a lot of other big meals, and I have it on my hot plate right now with bone broth in it. We used the Le Creuset pot this weekend for chili while we were fermenting vegetables. A lot of real food bloggers use these products and seem to be very satisfied with them. I’m glad you are making bone broth regularly. Isn’t it a great, versatile and healthy food? My health has improved dramatically since using bone broths regularly. I’m on GAPS and have been since last year, I think that has helped tremendously!

      I’m not sure if I understand your last question, “If I were to use it on my electric stove top would I put it on the #2 setting to slow cook?” If you are talking about the Le Creuset pot, I’m not sure about the stove you are using as it would depend on how hot 2 gets on your individual burner. For me, all my burners seem to have different temps, and even in our last house, some of the burners were not the same in terms of heat temps, even with the same setting being used. For broth on the stove, when I am just starting to cook and I want my pot to simmer, I turn it up to about medium or a little higher, and when it starts to boil, I turn it down to “low” or “1″ and keep the lid on it. If I want to add anything else to the pot sometime later, I add it (like vegetables that haven’t been cooked yet), and then turn it up again. When it starts to boil, I then turn it down once more to “low” or “1″.

      If you are using the hot plate, anywhere between 2 and 3 on my appliance seems to be good for simmering broth for long periods of time to slow cook. The great thing about the hot plate is that you could cook on it too, it’s not just good for simmering or keeping on low heat. The heat dial starts at “1″ and goes up to “12″. I would imagine “12″ and anywhere near that is pretty hot, so you likely wouldn’t have to use it on that setting for any reason. I turned mine up to “6″ this weekend just to see how hot it got, and it started boiling pretty fast, so I turned it down.

      I hope I answered your question! :)

  • Michelle
    February 7, 2012 - 12:47 PM | Permalink

    Thank-you, answered wonderfully!

  • February 7, 2012 - 5:12 PM | Permalink

    Raine, I must have been living under the same rock, because I also do not know anyone who uses hotplates.

    Thank you so much for this very informative post. I would get these immediately, except we have so much in our kitchen already.

    Sounds so much better than a crock pot, which I have never trusted because of the issue with the materials.

    It is great that you have the Le Creuset pots, they sound terrific!

  • February 7, 2012 - 5:25 PM | Permalink

    Hi Stanley – well, I guess I’m not the only one who has never really heard of hot plates before. I think the case may be that probably I’ve seen them on television, now that I think of it, probably on cooking shows, but it just never registered. It’s a bit like a camping stove, since it’s portable, except that it’s something you can also set up full-time in your kitchen on the counter. That’s what I’ve done with ours. I keep thinking I’ve got way too much in my kitchen too as far as cookware, appliances, dishes, etc. but in the last couple of months we’ve added these 2 significant additions to our kitchen (Le Creuset and hot plates) that are in my opinion, pretty indispensable. I guess we learn new things all the time, don’t we? :)

    • February 8, 2012 - 9:35 AM | Permalink

      Raine, Thank you for the further information. I could certainly set it up on my counter, and it would be invaluable for broth, which I make at least once a week.

      I often get questions from folks who are looking for an alternative to crock pots. May I have your permission to give them a link to this post?

      • February 8, 2012 - 10:26 AM | Permalink

        Of course Stanley, you can always link to my posts for whatever reason you need. Thanks! :)

  • February 9, 2012 - 6:44 PM | Permalink

    Thank you Raine, I appreciate it!

  • Pingback: Sunday Snippets: February 12, 2012

  • February 21, 2012 - 9:15 AM | Permalink

    Raine this is EXACTLY what I need – thank you! We moved into a house with a glass top stove and I cannot even cook pancakes which is driving me crazy. We have no chance for running a gas line out here and aren’t ready to re-do the kitchen. I’ve taken to cooking with the camp stove which is better to cook on than the house stove. I’m getting one of these now!

    • February 21, 2012 - 8:39 PM | Permalink

      Annette – This is really one of the best investments I’ve ever made. I’m so glad I bought it. I highly recommend the double surface to allow for more cooking possibilities. I hope you love it! :)

  • Monica Swift
    February 21, 2012 - 11:07 AM | Permalink

    I have been thinking of getting a hot plate but I need it to be able to keep a rolling boil on a heavy pressure canner, when I bought my glass top stove, the salesman said it wasn’t a good idea to use a canner on it, and even though I was a canning person then, the shiny stainless steel stove sucked me in, so I need to know if the hot plate you have can handle the job only using a 120 volt line?

  • Sandy
    February 21, 2012 - 11:53 AM | Permalink

    I am a little confused….I have a single hot plate and a double. Is there such a difference in them that I paid $30 for my single 3 years ago and $25 for the double 6 years ago? Now they cost over $150….I am looking forward to using this as an option to my crock pot now.

  • February 21, 2012 - 8:44 PM | Permalink

    Sandy – I can’t comment about prices as I really had never really used one before or priced them until my husband suggested it about 6 months ago due to all the broth I make, and then when we moved to our new house last month it became imperative due to the problem of the stove top scalding all my broth even on the lowest setting. I’m guessing prices have changed, as with other kinds of products. But it seems strange that you would have only paid $25 for a double, even 6 years ago, which would have been 2006. I can’t imagine these have only been around since then, that can’t be possible. If so and their popularity has skyrocketed just since then, that would indeed also be very odd.

    • December 2, 2012 - 8:49 AM | Permalink

      This is a really interesting post and discussion. We also wanted a lead-free, safe, quality alternative to the cheap crock pot we’ve been using. I”m especially curious about the price question on hot plates. At http://www.cookingincastiron.com/files/20080123_slowcooker_to_dutchoven.htm is someone with a similar idea, though he only specifies use of the burner for reheating or for keeping warm. I wonder if there’s some difference between the kind of burner he mentions here for $20 as opposed to the hot plate you’re talking about. Are they two very different kinds of things, and the hot plate will work appropriately, where these less expensive burners (including the ones mentioned above by a couple of other commenters) won’t actually do the cooking for some reasons? I can’t imagine it’s got to do with anything other than heat, and since the point of slow cooking is low heat, I have to think that even these less pricey burners should be able to do the job, and that maybe you just got a particular high-end hot plate?

    • December 2, 2012 - 9:05 AM | Permalink

      Sorry, real quick addendum just because I forgot before to click to be notified by email about followups!

  • Jen
    February 27, 2012 - 10:46 AM | Permalink

    Just found your website today through Monday Mania. Great site!
    I want to chime in about crock pots. Rival brand has no lead in their crocks, nor have they ever. I had always used them, and was challenged about that very concern, so I called the company. They told me themselves that their crocks are and always have been, lead free.
    For the record, I would like a hot plate too. :-)

  • Pei
    August 11, 2012 - 6:28 PM | Permalink

    Found your posting on gnowfglins. Thank you for suggesting the hot plate option for making broth! I’ve been searching for lead free crock pot that’s big enough to make broth. The biggest one is 8 qts and it takes a long time to bring to boil & it’s too hot for simmering option.

    • August 12, 2012 - 11:56 AM | Permalink

      Hi Pei – this really is the best kitchen investment I think I’ve ever made, and I really have to stick to a tight budget most of the time. I use it almost every day and it’s so versatile for so many things I prepare. :)

  • October 22, 2012 - 12:45 AM | Permalink

    Its crazy how toxic most cookware is these days.
    If you want an impressive at home cookware test just boil 1 tbs baking soda and one cup of water 10 min then taste a drop. should taste like baking soda and water right? You will be shocked most taste like metals or chem’s

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