You can control your lights, thermostat, TV, window shades and garage door with your smartphone, so why not your kitchen appliances? That's the thinking behind the $129 Crock-Pot Smart Slow Cooker with WeMo. Powered by Belkin's WeMo technology, you can turn the temperature up or down on your roast from afar — which is great if you're stuck at the office and don't want to overcook your dinner. But is this convenience really worth spending more than twice as much as you would on a traditional slow cooker?
The chrome exterior of the Crock-Pot shone brightly in my kitchen, and its black plastic trim completed the modern look. I especially liked that the black stoneware insert could be easily removed for cleaning, and that the glass lid let me check on the progress of my food.
The front of the slow cooker has a button that lets you adjust the heat (High, Low, Warm, Off). Below that is an icon that shows the status of the unit's Wi-Fi connection.
At 17.4 x 13.9 x 9.6 inches, the Crock-Pot will take up a fair amount of space — I had a little trouble finding a place to store it in my apartment kitchen — but those with larger homes will have no problem stowing it.
After plugging in the slow cooker and downloading the WeMo app to my iPhone 5s (also available for Android and Amazon devices), I went into Settings and looked for the Crock-Pot's Wi-Fi signal. After connecting, I then configured the cooker to connect to my Wi-Fi network. In all, setup took about 5 minutes.
The Crock-Pot uses the same app used to control all WeMo devices. The home screen of the app shows which devices are connected, and a More button at the bottom brings you to a page where you can change settings, get help and set up additional devices.
As there's not many controls on the cooker, there's not many controls on the app itself. You can change the setting to High, Low, Warm or Off, and you can set a timer for cooking duration and temperature.
You can also connect the app to IFTTT. For example, you could have the Crock-Pot turn on automatically when the Eagles-Giants game starts, and switch to Warm if the game goes to overtime.
What more can you say about a Crock-Pot than it cooks your food well? The slow cooker itself holds up to 6 quarts; I was able to comfortably fit in a 5-pound roast, but a pork shoulder proved a tighter squeeze.
Friends who came over to my apartment immediately noticed the fragrant aromas coming from my kitchen, and kept asking when we would be able to eat. However, the first Crock-Pot Belkin sent me had a different aroma altogether: When I plugged it in and turned it on, there was a strong smell of melting plastic. The second Crock-Pot I received also gave off a faint odor of burning plastic but was much less noticeable, and faded after a while.
Does anyone really need a Crock-Pot you can control with your smartphone? Perhaps not, but there are a few instances when I could see it being useful. If you're detained at work and need to shut the device off from afar, or want to have it start after you've left for work, a connected Crock-Pot is just the thing for you.
At $129, however, the Crock-Pot Smart Slow Cooker is at least twice as expensive as a similarly sized slow cooker, so you really need to want this feature to justify buying it. Ultimately, this gadget is a fun amuse-bouche of where connected home technology is headed, but I'm still waiting for the main course.