Cooking in a Slow Cooker – It’s Not A Crock!


No time to spend hovering over a hot stove? A slow cooker will make you a hero at the dinner table!

By FamilyTime

 

The realities of our fast-paced lifestyle often leave little time for making a home-cooked meal. Between work, travel, kids, and volunteer activities, it’s hard to find the spare hour needed to cook.

This is where slow cookers come in handy. These countertop electronic appliances were designed to cook food very gently while you do other things. They demand no tending – not even the occasional stir.

How They Work
Slow cookers are generally geared for cooking food for four to 10 hours. All you do is load one up with meat, vegetables, liquid (usually water or broth), and seasonings, turn it on, and walk away. It’s that easy!

These cookers are great for stews, pot roasts, ribs, soups, stocks, beans, and long-cooking sauces. Try yours the next time you want to make chili or marinara sauce; you won’t be disappointed.

Because they cook food long and slowly, slow cookers are best suited for inexpensive cuts of meat such as short ribs, pork butt, lamb shanks, pot roasts, and briskets. This is a boon for anyone hoping to save money and still serve their families nutritious meals.

Or course, you need to be organized so that you can prepare a meal in advance. Slow cookers are not meant for last-minute shopping expeditions!

The Ins and Outs of Cooking
Typically, everything goes into the pot altogether and cooks for at least five hours. As a rule, the most successful slow cooker recipes are those that require the least amount of advance preparation.

Follow recipes designed for slow cookers. Don’t try to improvise until you have cooked a number of dishes. Check the recipe before you begin to make sure you will be available if you need to add ingredients at intervals.

Slow cookers don’t brown meat, so if that’s important for visual appeal, you will have to brown the meat or chicken on the stovetop first. Most recipes designed for these cookers are essentially for braised dishes – which do not require browning.

You may need to finish a recipe at the end of cooking. This could require stirring in cornstarch, cream, or butter to thicken a sauce. You also might have to add delicate vegetables during the final half hour of cooking, or prepare rice or pasta separately.

Cooking in a slow cooker saves time and money. The appliances are as useful for entertaining as for family suppers if you’re serving soup, stew, or chili. And they’re perfect for reheating these dishes, too.

What to Look for When Buying
These cookers typically range in size from 1 to 6 quarts and produce meals for up to eight servings. When selecting a cooker, buy one large enough for your family or for the kind of cooking you do.

The best cookers have removable cooking pots, which make filling and cleaning easier. Look for pots that have secure lids, handles that do not retain heat, and a variable heat range.

Some high-end models are equipped with timers and automatic shut-off switches. These models switch to “warm” once the food is cooked.

No slow cooker is expensive. The largest, fanciest models usually cost less than $50 and are available nearly everywhere kitchen appliances are sold.

Slow cookers are made by a number of reliable companies, although Rival, which makes Crock-Pots, produces the most. The company trademarked the name in the early 1970s. Other companies that make slow cookers include Farberware, Procter Silex, and Black & Decker.