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

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. 

Activism Healthy Living Kids & Family Real Food

Why an Idaho Girl Supports CA Raw Milk – Organic Pastures Dairy

For nearly five years, my family has drank raw milk. It’s one of the most important staples in our kitchen for sustenance and health.  Not once has it made any of us sick.  It should be the right of everyone to be able to to choose what foods he or she will and won’t consume. In a country where food recalls are frequent and the companies that sell those products are continued to allow to sell those products despite little to no change in their growing and production habits, I will continue to stand up for our rights as citizens in this country to consume the foods we choose.

Last week, some children in the state of CA became sickened and three were admitted to the hospital. On Tuesday, Novmember 15th, the State of CA issued a recall on all products from Organic Pastures Dairy in Fresno, CA.  The California Department of Public Health reported that no E. Coli 0157:H7 was found in any of the products taken from the homes of these five children who became ill.

By law, Organic Pastures performs weekly tests on their milk before sale, and continue to receive clean test results. However, because all these children reported drinking raw milk, the State of California maintains that the culprit must be from the milk and that Organic Pastures may not sell dairy products until further notice.  According to Mercury News, “California State Veterinarian Annette Whiteford ordered all Organic Pastures’ raw dairy products, except for cheese aged at least 60 days, to be pulled immediately from retail shelves. She strongly urged consumers to dispose of any such products in their refrigerators.”

On the heels of this incident, just two days later, Ready Pac Foods Inc., based in Irwindale, CA was asked to recall 5,379 cases of their bagged salad products due to possible E. coli bacteria contamination.  Just last month, another recall of bagged lettuce was issued from Taylor Farms of CA (same state).  These are not isolated incidents nor coincidences.  The reality is, recalls from bagged produce and other products happen all the time.

Where is the E. coli coming from? Answer: runoff water from factory farms, where E. coli and other pathogenic bacteria like Salmonella are rampant due to unsanitary and unhealthful practices. This is why I don’t buy any bagged lettuce. I buy local, whole heads of lettuce when they are in season, and whole lettuce heads at the health food store, organic when I can.

During the time when my family first started drinking raw milk, for nearly two years we had no raw milk access here in Boise, ID. So I ordered packages of raw dairy products to be shipped to our home every 6-7 weeks. We consumed milk, butter, cheese, and colostrum and it was a delicious and nutritious part of our family meals. Then, the State of CA decided that raw dairy foods could no longer be shipped beyond the borders of their state, so we had to start finding raw dairy sources here in ID.

What’s all the fuss about raw milk, anyway?

Raw milk receives a great deal of criticism by mainstream health communities and the media. But raw milk from healthy cows on pasture is a safe and natural food, no different than farm-fresh produce from sustainable farmers using healthy practices. It’s important to note that thousands upon thousands of food products are recalled in our food system regularly – including many types of fruits and vegetables which have been found to contain the E. coli bacteria. And yet you won’t hear medical and health authorities telling the consumer public to stop buying and eating these foods.

When milk is pasteurized, the heating process destroys healthy bacteria which prevents the pathogenic from becoming a problem. The beneficial bacteria, found in raw milk, are largely unavailable in the food supply due to processing, irradiation, and pasteurization. We need these bacteria to keep our digestive and immune systems, and health in optimal condition.  Dr. Joseph Mercola, M.D., a leading authority in health, discusses the importance of probiotics in maintaining our health. Pasteurization also destroys necessary enzymes which allow us to absorb the nutrients found in milk.

Raw milk is not the same

Of course, authorities claim raw milk is different than fruits and vegetables.  They say it isn’t the same as consuming raw vegetables or other agricultural products containing pathogenic bacteria because milk is not cooked, such as vegetables, or washed and that if contamination exists there is really no method of destroying it. Public health officials contend that pasteurization was developed to kill these harmful bacteria, since before it was used milk contained harmful bacteria that regularly made people sick or killed them.

Commercial dairies use unsafe and unsanitary practices

In her book, Real Food: What to Eat and Why, Nina Planck tells us that pasteurization came along as a response to slop dairies in the 1800s, which started to spring up in urban cities in the eastern U.S.  These dairies were located next to whiskey distilleries for convenience – they used cheap feed from the distilleries in order to control costs. Some of the dairy owners even added molasses, burned sugar, starch, flour, or chalk to impart more texture and body. Some dairies added water to their milk to stretch the milk farther and save more money.

Cows also lived in the most horrific, unsanitary conditions as well, and were often found crammed together in close quarters, having open sores on their bodies, and ulcerated gums with teeth falling out. It’s no surprise that when the cows consumed this feed and lived in this manner, they became sick. Then, the milk consumed from the cows in these dairies made humans sick – causing all the diseases which have been reported by public health officials for many years and bringing the justification for pasteurization to surface – tuberculosis and brucellosis (also known as undulant fever), and many others.

Cattle are ruminants and their digestive systems are intended to process grass – not grain, corn, soy, flour, sugar, or any other substance. When you take the cow out of its natural environment of pasture and sunshine, and force feed it substances it was not meant to ingest, problems occur. In the case of slop dairies, regulations and laws for keeping cows healthy and clean were not in place; and the advent of pasteurization did not improve conditions, it only allowed them to continue.

So when public health officials made the statement about pasteurization being developed to destroy harmful bacteria – they were only partially right. The pathogens were indeed there due to the horrific conditions present in dairies, but pasteurization doesn’t always solve the problem.  Nina Planck also mentions the fact that certain bacteria such as Listeria, are not impervious to pasteurization.  Also, in large dairies, pasteurization “allows less scrupulous dairy farmers to be lax with cow health and milk handling because they count on pasteurization to destroy pathogens – at least the heat-sensitive ones – that may taint milk.”  This is as true today as it was over a hundred or more years ago.

Watch highlights from the video conference given by Mark McAfee about the recall:

Read the official press release from Organic Pastures. And, please take action and make your voice heard about this matter!


California Department of Food and Agriculture, Office of Public Affairs, Steve Lyle:

(916) 654-0462

Leave your comments on the California Department of Food and Agriculture Facebook page.

Keep up with the latest developments on this case via Organic Pastures Facebook page.

What’s the bottom line?

Raw milk from healthy cows on pasture eating grass is the obvious choice for health – it is full of important beneficial bacteria, enzymes, and brimming with nutrients that simply are difficult to obtain in most of what’s available in our food supply. Milk that is pasteurized is sure to contain harmful bacteria that will make you sick, and as we’ve reviewed, pasteurized milk is not always “safe” to consume.

Why our family chooses raw over pasteurized milk

Is cheap food really cheap? The hidden costs of industrial food

The truth about raw milk, Part I

The truth about raw milk, Part II

This post is part of Sarah The Healthy Home Economist’s Monday Mania