Introduction: How to Hack a Crockpot!
Just in time for Christmas, I'm sharing my most recent work of art, the Crockpot hack! It is simple, and with a couple of basic tools and spare parts (well, they were spare for me anyway). I slapped this together in a few minutes after one too many burned dips and cord fights. I hope it helps someone out there!
Here is what you will need to get started:
1 extension cord you don't mind chopping up
1 dimmer switch for light fixture
solder, soldering iron, soldering skills
heat shrink tubing
1 single gang construction box (optional)
Step 1: The Set Up....
I have a similiar model crock pot to the one in the picture (no, I don't have the dip recipe from the picture, don't ask). What I do have is an extreme annoyance for a heating device that offers no temperature control, and whose only off switch is by unplugging said unit. Who needs that? I'm tired of my burned dips, and frankly, my regular crock's settings of Warm/Low/High just won't cut it for me either. Time to take matters into my own hands....
Step 2: The Execution
Ok, this is so easy, I didn't even bother taking pictures of the process...ok, truth is, I finished it and made sure it wouldn't blow up before deciding to share, ok? Sheesh. So, I had this sliding dimmer switch hanging around from my conversion to CFL lightbulbs (by the way, CFL bulbs do NOT work with dimmer switches, makes an annoying whine and they don't dim at all. There's a freebie tip for ya!).
I also had an extension cord that was chewed up by a wild...errr...lawnmower, and didn't work too well. I used a spare ac cable I snipped off a junked appliance for the male plug and the tail of the extension cord for the female plug. I soldered the whites together and shrink wrapped them for protection. Then, one leg of the dimmer switch went to each cord's black, and got the solder/shrink wrap treatment. My male plug was ungrounded (as is my crockpot), so I just snipped the unnecessary ground off. However, if you have a ground on both ends, by ALL MEANS, solder them together like the whites.
If wish to hide the magic of your work (ahem...get rid of the cluttered mess), you could opt to buy a single gang box (new or old, doesn't matter), remove attaching devices (nails or flip screws), and run your cables through the inputs PRIOR to completing above steps. Then, when you're done wiring, the switch would simply screw into the box and you'd have a nice, safe, protective container you could spray paint (preferable before all this begins) to help camoflauge it. But I didn't, and it's a good thing, cause I wouldn't undo 2 screws just to give you an instructable, so I'd have to resort to MSPaint, and it would be ugly. Trust me.
Step 3: Yes, You're Actually Done!
Now, simply plug one end of your creation into an outlet, the crock pot (or other heating device you are trying this with) into the other end, and away you go! I filled my crock pot with water and cranked the switch all the way up and let it sit for 30-60 min. I tested with a digital thermometer, and got 150 degrees F. Then, I dropped the switch all the way down, left it for another hour, and retested it to get 125 degrees F. If I wanted, I could have marked the switch plate with the achieved temperatures, and even gone so far as to find 5 degree increments and mark those too. But I didn't, so use your imagination. What I DID do, however, was NOT burn my sausage dip (you can't have that recipe either) for Thanksgiving over an 8 hour period.
Ok, 1 more crockpot hacking related tip: if I want to cook a dish for an unusual time, like, 5 hours, and be ready when I get home, I use a cheap wall plug christmas light timer, and plug my crock pot into it. Set it to trigger at the appropriate time, and no more dried up roasts or burned dinners!!! Happy Holidays everyone!