Recommend multi-cooker?

I’m planning to do some fermenting and yogurt making, along with programmable meals like stews and things. Mostly I need a multi-cooker that can hold low, very precise temperatures for hours. e.g. 138°F. A high quality cooker that has good temp sensors that match manual temp checks.

Just wondering if anyone has any multi-cooker recommendations?

I should wait until later as I’m a contrarian. Multi-cookers are fundamentally flawed. Like most multi-function tools they don’t do anything particularly well. How would you feel if you took your car in for service and the mechanic whipped out a Leatherman multi-tool to work on your car?

We make a LOT of yogurt and do some fermentation - mostly pickling. The best “multi-cooker” is a pot backed up with canning jars.

Here is yogurt, adapted, as taught to my (I kid you not) by Tibetan Buddhist monks. Heat your diary to about 180F (85C). If you don’t have a thermometer that’s about where it just starts to steam but isn’t even getting bubbles around the edge. This is hot enough to kill unwanted bacteria and also causes some long-chain protein molecule changes. I’ve used whole, 2%, and 1% milk successfully both pasteurized and UHT. The monks use yak milk when they can get it. Let that cool to about 115F (45C). Stir in your yogurt starter. I use commercial product with live cultures but you can use the specialized powders if you like. This cooling ensures that the desired bacteria have the best temperature regime to replicate. I bung the whole pot into a cold oven with the light on. The monks stick a ceramic crock under the saddle blanket of a yak. Darn handy, those yaks. 10-12 hours later you have yogurt. If you like Greek-style yogurt you’ll have to strain it and will lose about half your volume. I make half a gallon at a time and store the finished product in quart Ball jars.

I responded to a timed challenge from a friend who insisted an Instant Pot was better, whatever “better” means. We timed contact time and using a pot took half the time of the IP. Double blind taste test with wives was a tie.

We’ve pickled cucumbers, beets, radishes, onions, and various odds and ends. In my experience (and USDA guidance https://nchfp.uga.edu/how/can6a_ferment.html) temperature is not particularly sensitive. Regardless, I use an immersion thermometer and an IR thermometer (why not? I have them) and have no problem keeping temperature within a degree or two on a crappy electric cooktop.

A combination of personal experience with a number of multi-cookers and reading the manuals of more just reinforces my conclusion that multi-cookers are a solution looking for a problem. Which leads to engineering.

One consistent shortfall of multi-cookers is that if the power so much as blinks they turn off. You lose the batch (you can probably save yogurt - maybe). I have yet to see one with conformally coated or otherwise protected printed circuit boards. If you drip down the front of an IP there is a good chance you’ll short out the board behind the display. If you spill something on the counter you can short out the unprotected board underneath. I’ve yet to see a multi-cooker that is as easy to clean as a pot.

If you want to buy technology, remote thermometers that notify a phone app are pretty cool. Multiple timer apps (I’m using Timeglass on iOS) so you can have a bunch of timers running with little labels are great.

Then there is counter space. I’d rather have a bigger cutting board than a bunch of devices blinking at me. YMMV.

I do believe there is a role for slow-cookers. The manual off-low-high ones just keep going in brief power outages. There really is nothing to go wrong. Very elegant piece of engineering.

Others will vigorously disagree with me.

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Glad I you didn’t hear that from me! :grin:

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Thanks but I don’t have a yak, or a consistently warm place in my basement suite. I also work during the day and don’t have time to watch a pot for 12 hours. I also have a wire shelving unit I keep all my appliances on, and there’s room for one more.

One of the things I want to do is make amazake, which requires a narrow temp range between 130°F and 140°F for 10-12 hours. Anything less and the koji doesn’t work, anything more and the enzymes in the koji are killed.

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Maybe a sous vide setup Would work for you.

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I’m going to try to answer tomorrow. Don’t expect anything mind blowing, but it might be telling that some folks who use them might not have/choose much time to respond.

Okay, so I have a Cuisinart 3 in 1 multicooker , and a 5 quart Instant Pot. I also have a traditional slow cooker, two sous vide setups ( water oven and immersion), and stove top pressure cookers.

If I had to keep only only one, it would be the immersion sous vide gadget, but the Instant Pot would be second. I use the immersion circulator the most, and it seems like its designed to do what you describe, but its certainly not a multicooker. The Cuisinart is more intuitive to me than the Instantpot, but it doesn’t have as many functions. OTOH, I don’t use a pressure cooker as much as I thought I would, largely because I don’t trust them with beans. I need to be able to test as I go to get them exactly as I like. The Cuisinart is a bit larger than my IP, which makes browning easier, but I think it has hot spots.

I do use slow cooker, 3 in 1, and Instant Pot for gatherings where i need to cook for dozens of people and keep it warm.

This is what CI said in 2017.

A quote for @Auspicious;

" Have you heard the joke about vegans? “How do you know when someone’s a vegan? Don’t worry—they’ll tell you.” These days you could replace “vegan” with “Instant Pot user” and the joke would still stand. People are downright fanatical about Instant Pot, a brand of multipurpose electric pressure cookers that’s taking the internet by storm.

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I’m going to try roasted peppers today.

Cooking on high for 3 hours doesn’t seem right, but that’s in a slow cooker.
Here’s mine on high in a 3 in 1 multi cooker at about 20 minutes. Moving from saute to slow cook.

No oven? Just turn on the light. No water heater? Put the product on top wrapped in a towel.

That is not a particularly narrow range. The real challenge is that you are at the top of the food safety danger zone so most products will be designed to be hotter than 140°F. You could maintain that with a laboratory heater and certainly with a manual (off-low-high) slow cooker and a dimmer like this https://www.amazon.com/Lutron-Credenza-Halogen-Incandescent-TT-300H-WH/dp/B0000BYEF6/ref=asc_df_B0000BYEF6/?tag=hyprod-20&linkCode=df0&hvadid=167140365824&hvpos=&hvnetw=g&hvrand=4853017820206176086&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=9007937&hvtargid=pla-274342005344&psc=1 . You’ll need a thermometer to get in your desired range but it should be stable and repeatable.

Do circulators commonly get down to 130F?

For clarity, @shrinkrap is quoting from the CI article and should not be held to account for the words. I think they are both accurate and funny. Instant Pot is a cult. Step away from the Jim Jones Kool-Aid™.

Also from the article:

Unfortunately the CI analysis did not include graphs for the standard conventional alternatives.

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The Anova says 32 to 210 f, but I can only imagine starting at room temp. That’s about 81f in my home. The lowest temps for me have been salmon confit, and eggs. I also temper chocolates, but don’t remember the temps.

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Second for sous vide setup but you can also get one of the IP models with programmable temp (even if they don’t specifically say they cook sous vide, if you can choose temp - like the Ultra - that works).

Think about what shape you need for what you make - IP is a vertical cylinder, SV stick can be placed in any (larger) rectangular plastic bin too.

But IP is useful in many ways other than low temp too.

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As @shrinkrap noted sous vide circulators do go quite low. I have am older Polyscience model and I believe the range is ~59-210F with 0.1 degree increments.

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@MsBean, will yours chill below room temp?

Yeah, I was just looking at a recipe for amazake and looks like the several models including the Ultra has a setting that will do 1 degree increments at low temps. https://amazakeco.com/blogs/how-to-make-amazake/instant-pot

The sous vide immersion stick sounds intriguing. So it’s a heating stick that you can place in liquid, plug it in to a wall socket, and leave it for hours? They seem just as expensive as a multicooker. I guess I’d have to choose one or the other.

To be honest I have no idea. I don’t have the manual and can’t seem to find out on line.

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Will you calibrate it? How?

As it happens I have a delivery starting first week of November and the boat has two IPs. Usually I pack them away. I will run some test cases on my way down the Chesapeake (flat water) and compare set temp with measured temp. I have a Fluke IR thermometer with annual factory calibration sheets. I may not have a chance to circle back with data until mid-November depending on wind, temperature, and boat breakage.

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As I said, it depends on the shape and size of what you’re going to cook. We use them interchangeably for cooking sous vide, but the IP has other uses too.

Thanks. That would be great info to have.

Obviously, the internal temp of the food will be different from the setting of the control panel. Yet they shouldn’t be drastically different. And once you determine the actual difference, you should be able to adjust the panel temp setting accordingly to obtain the desired internal food temp.

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Sure. That’s why I won’t do that. grin I’ll just fill halfway with water and let the temperature stabilize. I’ll do that as many times as I can but probably won’t reach thirty (a “magic” number for statistical significance for systems assumed to follow a normal distribution) and only have two pots. To qualify as science I should really have a few dozen pots and run a hundred trials in each. Still it will be closer to science than most “tests.”

It’s not like I’m going to actually COOK in the horrid things. grin That’s for pots and pans on the stove and trays and casseroles in the oven. I have a reputation to maintain! grin

You said your temperature range is 130-140F so I’ll set to 135F and we’ll see what happens.

“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold