The Crock-Pot iStir
Few appliances are as well-suited to winter as slow cookers: They produce hearty meals that often require little prep work or pacing around. Just place a bunch of ingredients inside, set the heat level and timer, and walk away. By the time you're home, you'll have a warm meal waiting.
The CrockPot iStir attempts to make the process even easier. The six-quart cooker features an attachable electronic mechanism that mixes the contents inside. The device snaps on to where the handle normally sits and there are two attachments – a thick plastic pronged mixer or a thin metal one – that you affix to ports inside the lid. Once the stirrer is set up, you can set it to mix occasionally or constantly. It's a surprisingly handy attachment; when we tried it, the iStir allowed our chili con carne to cook evenly and maintain consistency without us having to head back home and have at it with a wooden mixing spoon.
Special ability aside, the iStir performed admirably: The digital display features standard low, high, and warm settings as well as an easy-to-set timer. It fit an 8.5-pound pork shoulder, which it cooked to fork tender-results; not a section of the shoulder was over-dried during the 16 hours we had it cooking, or the three hours it sat warming. Rubber-tipped lid-latches kept the top secure during cooking. The one small item to note is that the metal lip of the iStir's upper wall did blister a tester's finger. So be careful. Otherwise, the slow cooker is a welcome addition to anyone's kitchen. [$70; crockpot.com]