Most of us are familiar with the Crock-Pot® slow cooker, a staple in many household kitchens. But we may not be aware that this company who has mastered the market on cooking low and slow also offers an appliance for another type of low and slow cooking: smoking. Although the Crock-Pot® BBQ Pit won't replace old-fashioned wood or charcoal barbecues and smokers, it is a handy alternative for busy cooks needing an indoor, hands-free appliance.
The Crock-Pot® BBQ Pit looks somewhat like a large, rectangular slow cooker, or a miniature countertop grill. The unit measures about 20 by 16 by 17 inches and has a large domed lid (removable for cleaning), which allows you to cook large cuts of meat. Like a slow cooker, the BBQ Pit has both high and low settings.
Inside is a rack, with handles for lifting, that can be placed in two different positions; it can fit three racks of ribs or a 7-pound roast. The stoneware insert is removable and dishwasher-safe and can be used in a conventional oven.
There are handles attached to the stoneware insert, but the Crock-Pot® BBQ Pit does not have any handles on the base heating unit. It's best to use the included rack for barbecue-style results; cooking foods without the rack will leave you with a slightly skewed outcome. The Crock-Pot® BBQ Pit includes a cookbook with dozens of recipes as well as general cooking guidelines for various meats.
This model can also be used as a super-sized slow cooker. Just place a sheet of heavy-duty foil over the top of the stoneware before closing the lid to make a tighter seal. Additionally, the BBQ Pit can become a steamer by pouring some liquid in the bottom and placing the ingredients on the rack.
Pros and Cons
If you are interested in smoking but not ready to make the investment, or can't use your smoker in inclement weather, the Crock-Pot® BBQ Pit is a good purchase. The unit is easy to use indoors and is easy to clean, and it can fit a decent amount of food for cooking, which will be tender and juicy and fall off the bone.
However, you do need to remember that this is a slow cooker, not technically a smoker, so your food will be missing any smoke flavors you would get from cooking the food in a traditional smoker. Also, because of its size, it is too large to be left on the counter and requires extensive storage space. And the fact that there aren't handles on the bottom heating unit means you need to place it carefully before you start cooking and not move it once the smoking has begun. There is also a bit of a learning curve when it comes to using the Crock-Pot® BBQ Pit. Make sure you read through the manual before you begin.
The best method to clean the stoneware insert is in the dishwasher, as long as your appliance is large enough. Until the stoneware gets seasoned with use, cleaning by hand will most likely take considerable elbow grease to remove burned on foods; spray with cooking oil before using to reduce clean-up. Burnt on foods may be difficult to remove; a paste of baking soda and water can be used on tough spots.