Hands On: Belkin Crock-Pot Smart Slow Cooker with WeMo

We get cooking with the WeMo-enhanced kitchen gadget.

I love to cook. And even though I love to cover the kitchen with gadgets and ingredients, I also love slow cooking — meaning that I love the convenience of a Crock-Pot. There’s nothing like the “set it and forget it” approach to cooking, especially after a long day.

However, the Belkin Crock-Pot Smart Slow Cooker with WeMo is something that you won’t want to forget. This is the latest addition to Belkin’s WeMo line, so that means it has magical home automation capabilities. Why would you want those in a slow cooker? Read on to find out.

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Unboxing the Crock
Before unboxing the Crock-Pot, you’ll want to make sure that you have the most recent version of the Belkin WeMo app, which is available for iOS and Android devices. You are also going to need a working Wi-Fi network.

Out of the box, the Belkin Crock-Pot looks like every other Crock-Pot. That basically means that it’s large, heavy, and not something that you want to slide out of the box and onto your toe. The Belkin Crock-Pot is a 6-quart machine. The box includes the typical heating base, the stoneware insert, and a removable lid. A few other neat perks include the cord storage around the back and the cool touch handles, so you don’t burn yourself when trying to move the cooker from one end of the counter to the other.

Of course, the Belkin Crock-Pot is different from every other slow cooker out there, because it has a Wi-Fi indicator and a restore button.

Before you can tap into those, you’ll need to get the Crock-Pot on your Wi-Fi network. Start by downloading the aforementioned app. For this review, I put the app on my iPad and an iPhone. Next, plug the slow cooker into an electrical outlet. To actually connect the Crock-Pot to the Wi-Fi network, you’ll need to go into your iOS device’s settings and connect to the slow cooker like it’s a network. Once connected, you’ll go back to the WeMo app and follow the on-screen instructions. This took maybe three minutes.

Crocking with the Crock-Pot
After the cooker is on your network, you can use it as a basic Crock-Pot. However, if you’ve paid $130 for this thing, you probably don’t want that, right? Because the Crock-Pot is a WeMo Crock-Pot, it allows you to adjust the temperature, cooking time and even check in on the meal, all from your favorite portable device.

For my first WeMo-enhanced meal, I made lemon chicken. This was an insanely easy recipe. I put in the ingredients, set the timer on my iPad to cook the meal on low for six hours, and left the house. While out, I tried to check in on my iPhone, but got a prompt trying to walk me through the setup. Apparently, my iPhone and iPad did not have the same software version and therefore, did not link up. It should be noted that you will need iOS 6 or Android 4.0 or higher. That was quickly fixed (at home) and my iPhone instantly connected to the cooker.

Speaking of home, about 3 hours into my cooking time, I came back and it looked like my dinner was ready to be eaten — at 2:00 p.m. Since I’m not into the early-bird special, I panicked, pulled out my iPad, and set the temperature to the warm setting. Yes, I could have done it manually on the front panel of the Crock-Pot, but hey, the perk is there, so I wanted to take advantage of it as much as I could.

If you are at all familiar with Crock-Pot cooking, you know that some of them can run hot. However, I was slightly worried. If I had put the thing on high, would it have had the same speed as a microwave? (I’m exaggerating, of course.) I chalked it up to putting a small portion in a big Crock-Pot and worried what was to come at dinnertime.

Well, I can tell you this: The meal was fabulous. I’m not sure if it was the temperature change, the original recipe, or what. However, my fears of overcooked, dried out chicken were just that — fears. The chicken was moist and enjoyed by all.

The next night, I wasn’t going to make the same mistakes. This time, I stuffed the Crock-Pot with meatballs and sauce, with plenty of leftover possibilities. I checked my iOS devices, set the timer, and left my house. From a parking lot, I checked the meal and switched it over to warm — because I could. When I got home, the house smelled fantastic. Even better, the meal came out perfectly.


The WeMo app allows you to tweak cooking temperatures from anywhere.

Pros and Cons
Of course, a $130 Crock-Pot is not for everyone. First of all, you need to enjoy Crock-Pot cooking. Secondly, you need to enjoy slow cooking with a high-tech twist. This is perfect for the person who loves Crock-Pot cooking, but always seems to be running late or even early. After all, there’s nothing more depressing than prepping ingredients and cooking those ingredients all day, only to have it dry out or get mushy.

Belkin does give you that option to tweak the time remotely, which is something that no slow cooker offers. It even adds in push notifications to let you know once the cooking cycle has been completed. And if you’re running late and forget to tweak, as long as you set the timer through the app, it will flip to warm once the timer is up. (It won’t do that if you started it manually, though.)

That said, the Belkin WeMo Crock-Pot is definitely in need of a few improvements. First of all, it doesn’t integrate with any other devices — including WeMo devices. According to a spokesperson, the company is working with IFTTT and trying to get the slow cooker a channel like the other WeMo devices. There’s no timing on that, but it should be coming at some point.

Also, what the Crock-Pot does now, it could do a teeny bit better. Having that remote access is great, but it’s also very limited. Currently, you can set the timer to do one temperature for the whole duration. It would be nice to have “rules” like the other WeMo devices, so maybe you can set it for four hours on low and then have it switch over to warm for another two (or whatever temperatures and times you want). If you want to flip the temperatures, you have to do that manually. Of course, you can do it through the app.

The app does allow you to switch between High, Low and Warm modes and claims that you can “monitor” the food. Well, you can basically make sure it’s on, but throwing in the actual temperature of the food that’s cooking would be even more useful.

And while I’m griping, Belkin should consider adding other Crock-Pot sizes. I’m not expecting a WeMo “little dipper” version anytime soon, but a 6-quart cooker is pretty massive. It’s like tailgate size. A 4-quart option would be nice as well.

So What’s Cooking?
The Belkin Crock-Pot Smart Slow Cooker with WeMo is a bit on the pricey side, but it’s really not that uncommon to see a “high-end” cooker in the same price range — and without the automation features. Why you’d spend that kind of money for a regular slow cooker is beyond me. There are plenty of good ones in the $30 to $60 range.

At least this one has features to back up that price. The remote tweaking, the timers, and the notifications are all very cool. Beyond that though, the Crock-Pot has pretty limited functionality, which could make it hard to justify spending almost twice the price of a non-techie Crock-Pot. That said, Belkin delivers as advertised. The connectivity worked really well and the Crock-Pot cooks beautifully, making it a very tasty addition to any high-tech kitchen.


WeMo or no WeMo, this thing cooks up some delicious meals.

Belkin
http://www.belkin.com
MSRP: $129.99

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