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Old 10-04-12, 09:20 PM   #1
bennelson
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Default Modified Crock-Pot

Hey folks, recently I modified a crock-pot, kicked down my front door, and DIDN'T burn the house down.....

Full story follows....

Bread, Locks, and Crock-Pots



And thatís how I nearly burned down the houseÖ.again.

But letís back up for a minute.

Once again, YouTube is getting me in trouble. I am foolish enough to try something new, just because some commenter asked about it on one of my web videos. A while back, I posted some information about baking no-knead bread in a cast-iron Dutch Oven. Itís a great recipe and proves how SIMPLE baking can be.

Of course, somebody had to ask Ď ďYes, but could you bake it in a Crock-Pot?Ē Hmmmm. Sounds interesting. I bet I could!

A crock-pot really doesnít get that hot. Actually, I had no idea how hot one gets, so I headed to my garage to get my non-contact instant-read thermometer. (Works well for engines AND cookingÖ) Running the crock-pot by itself didnít get me much higher than 180 degress Ė which makes sense. Thatís a temperature for well-done beef. If you cook at your maximum temperature, you can never really burn your food.

I did want to get the crock pot a bit hotter, as the regular bread recipe calls for an oven preheated to 475, AND preheating the dutch oven as well. Iíve always thought itís a shame that they donít INSULATE the crock pot. On mine, the outside is plain brushed stainless steel. Once itís going, you canít touch the outside of it. In fact, with my thermometer, I found out that ours actually gets hotter on the outside than the inside! It also heats up the counter a bit too.

So, why not ďmodifyĒ the crock-pot? I had some cardboard handy (which is GREAT insulation!) so I set the pot on a piece. I also have some radiant barrier insulation around Ė sort of construction-grade aluminum-faced bubble wrap. Hmmm. The piece I had handy was already formed into the shape of a casserole dish insulator. Oh, look! A cardboard box. Letís just use this instead.

The cardboard box I had handy was just about the right size to put the whole crock pot in. I could even throw a towel over the top for a little extra insulation. Of course I would be monitoring my experiment the entire time, so Iíd be right there in case of any overheating or other problem.

I preheated the crock-pot on high, and then dropped in the dough, just as I would have with the dutch oven. On went the lid, and cover with a towel, and then I did a few other tasks while waiting.



I checked it half an hour in. The loaf looked like it was puffing up nicely and there was a good steam effect going on in the pot. Temperature was around 300 degrees. At one hour of baking, things were looking pretty good. In the regular recipe, the bread is done at an hour. Since the crock-pot is at a lower temperature, it would take longer, but I just wasnít sure how long.

My Wife happened to be gone, and the Little Girl along with her. Which meant I was all alone when I got locked out of the houseÖ

While baking the bread, I was also doing a number of other tasks, both in my home office, and in my detached garage. One of the times coming back to the front door, it wouldnít unlock. But I HADNíT locked it! I got the spare key (hidden in the garage) and tried unlocking it, but to no good! Somehow, the latching mechanism INSIDE the knob managed to break! I didnít keep a spare key handy for the back door, and the front was broken shut!

Thatís when the Wife got back home, with a cranky two-year old, and milk getting warm and ice cream melting. Yipes. I quickly offered her a cooler from the garage for the groceries, and suggested taking the Little Girl out for a bike ride. It would calm down the Little Girl and keep them both out of my hair while I figured out how to break into my own home! At least with my wife back, I could use her phone. (Mine was locked inside!)

I called my Dad, who was the person who built the place. ďWell, what about that old basement window?Ē he offered. I had almost forgotten about that. My house doesnít have a basement. It has an 18″ crawlspace over concrete block and a poured cement floor. A basement window casing was put in as an access point for bringing in plumbing pipe when the place was rebuilt. I spent a lot of time before last winter INSULATING the plywood cover panel from the inside. But the plywood itself is screwed on from the OUTSIDE.

I went to the garage, got my cordless drill, the right bit for the screws, a knife, and a couple of pry bars. I had to cut away the caulk around the edges and pull out all the screws. With a pallet knife and pry bars, I was able to eventually yank the plywood cover. (I used the GOOD caulkÖ) On the other side was 4″ of rigid foam insulation and Great Stuff. (Sigh.) I sat on my butt and kicked full-force with both feet Ė right through all that nice insulation I did such a good job on. After pushing the pink shards away, I crawled on my belly inside.

Good thing I had left that mechanics creeper in there! I got on and crabbed my way towards the the trap-door to the laundry room. Even then, itís not a straight shot. Right near my destination (and in my way) is the sump-pump crock, and the components of my laundry graywater system. I weasled my way around them, twisted my body in ways it wasnít designed to go, and popped-up into the laundry room. Fortunately, no heavy objects were left on top of the trap door. I felt a bit like the Man in the Iron Mask making a tunneled escape.

Covered with cobwebs, dirt, and bits of foam, I made my way to the front door. Nope. Wonít open from the inside either. Oh well, I unlocked the back door, and then went to check on the bread.

The good news was that the bread looked great. The bad news was that a Crock-Pot, left unattended, modified with cardboard insulation, gets hot enough to melt the plastic handles on the sides of the pot. Ack! I unplugged the pot and let it cool.

In the mean-time, I had the front door to contend with. It had broken in such an unusual way. I took off the knob from the inside and completely disassembled the entire lock mechanism, and it STILL wouldnít open. After removing the hinge pins, and much tinkering with a bent needle-nose, I managed to eventually open it. Later that evening, I made a trip to the big-box home improvement store, bought an entire new assembly, and installed it the next day.

So, CAN you bake bread in a Crock-Pot! Yes, absolutely you can! And it turned out rather well, actually. Just DONíT GET LOCKED OUT OF YOUR HOUSE while baking in a modified pot!

And this goes to my wife. ďAnd thatís why the handles on your Crock-Pot look like that. Iím just sorry that Iím so ashamed of it that you had to find out about it on Facebook.Ē

Perhaps Iíll try baking some bread again in a Crock-Pot, this time WITHOUT modifications, and attending it the whole time.

Take care, and donít YOU go burning your house down,

-Ben


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Old 10-05-12, 07:17 AM   #2
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Haha, its always some weird quirky story with you Ben! Glad you didn't have any major issues / property damage. I take it the bread turned out good?
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Old 10-05-12, 07:40 AM   #3
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I've had two exterior door locks fail like that. I don't know what the cause was, but I will only buy high quality name brand locks from that point on.
Glad to hear some foam and the plastic handles are to only casualties. I guess you will need some nice ceramic handles instead.
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Old 10-05-12, 12:54 PM   #4
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I was thinking at WOOD handles on the crock-pot might be nice.

The bread itself turned out very nice.

The new door handle/lock that I got was $23. It was a mid-grade brand, but all the parts were metal, and had a better strike plate. On the old knob, some of the parts on the inside were plastic. (I saw one brand as cheap as $9! Hate to think about the quality of that one!)

I eventually did an autopsy, and narrowed the problem down to a tiny spec of cheap metal that simply broke off inside the latch. Cheap piece of #$@$#%%$^&**!

The new knob is much nicer, and the door actually closes better now because of it!

Note to self - get more copies of new key made!
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Old 10-05-12, 04:04 PM   #5
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I like the story. I haven't had anything like that happen but I ve had to replace exterior locksets many times from just falling apart. They were Wieser lock sets only about 5 yrs old. Although they were replaced under warranty I don't need practice replacing their SH!^. I went to a comercial suppier and dropped $150.00 for some good lever type locksets all keyed alike. They operate so nice.Don't think I'll have to replace those again.

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Old 10-05-12, 06:57 PM   #6
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Good idea, no make that great idea, Bennelson.
With the crock pot insulated you could set the temp on low and it should also perform like it was on high. I have not used my crock pot in years now i want to bring it out, insulate it and make a pot roast n veggie's or a stew..
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Old 10-06-12, 09:21 AM   #7
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Just don't insulate the handles....


For some sort of permanent insulation job, I'd watch it like a hawk the first couple times using it, just to make sure nothing weird happens; like melting off the handles.
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Old 10-06-12, 09:40 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bennelson View Post
Hey folks, recently I modified a crock-pot, kicked down my front door, and DIDN'T burn the house down.....

I did want to get the crock pot a bit hotter, as the regular bread recipe calls for an oven preheated to 475, AND preheating the dutch oven as well. Iíve always thought itís a shame that they donít INSULATE the crock pot. On mine, the outside is plain brushed stainless steel. Once itís going, you canít touch the outside of it. In fact, with my thermometer, I found out that ours actually gets hotter on the outside than the inside! It also heats up the counter a bit too.

So, why not ďmodifyĒ the crock-pot? I had some cardboard handy (which is GREAT insulation!) so I set the pot on a piece. I also have some radiant barrier insulation around Ė sort of construction-grade aluminum-faced bubble wrap. Hmmm. The piece I had handy was already formed into the shape of a casserole dish insulator. Oh, look! A cardboard box. Letís just use this instead.
So, has anyone tried insulating a crock-pot in a more permanent and less handle melting way?

We have a similar stainless steel bodied crock-pot and I've definitely noticed that it gets quite hot to the touch. I just checked ours and
1) I can easily remove the base from the sides with a philips screwdriver and a pair of pliers.
2) There is just airspace between the inner and outer walls of the crock-pot base.

What would be a suitable high-ish temp insulator to fit or fill between the inner and outer walls of the crock pot? High-temp fiberglass? Rockwool? Vermiculite?

I'm guessing that a couple of thermocouples regulate the temperature. What would be the possible side-effects of insulating the base?

Who will nobly experiment with their crock-pot first (Ben?) to see if this could work?

Tim
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Old 10-08-12, 10:13 AM   #9
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I like your vermiculite idea. I have a bag of cellulose insulation that has a fire resistance of up to 2350 F, that i plan on using around the crock pot. Still have not determined what i am going to use to encase it in, perhaps a pot of the correct size or tin foil or as bennelson did a cardboard box.
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Old 10-08-12, 12:02 PM   #10
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I think a large bowl would do nicely.

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