Why You Should Make Friends With Your Slow Cooker
If you’ve ever arrived home after a long day of work or classes, yearning for a home cooked meal but having neither the time nor the energy to prepare one…then you need to make friends with your slow cooker.
What Is A Slow Cooker?
A slow cooker is a kitchen tool that looks like a big pot you can plug into the wall. This device does exactly what the name implies: cooks food slowly throughout the day. This means that you can start your dinner in the morning before you leave, and by the time you get home, your dinner is ready to eat.
How Slow Cookers Work
Slow cookers are made with an inner stoneware, ceramic, or glass pot where the food is cooked; a wrap-around heating element that provides the heat to the entire pot component; a casing, usually made of metal, to cover the heating elements; and a tight-fitting lid.
The wrap-around heating element provides a completely even temperature throughout the whole pot, which is what allows you to cook food without needing to stir it, and eliminates hot spots that burn food in some areas or undercook in others. In effect, a crock pot is a counter-top oven.
The tight-fitting lid is essential because it keeps heat and steam inside. This means that the liquid in your food won’t escape via steam, so your dinner won’t dry out or burn. It also helps with food safety and hygiene by preventing bacteria from growing while the food is cooking.
Reasons to Love a Slow Cooker
Besides the obvious time-saving benefits of a slow cooker, there are a variety of other benefits:
- Slow cookers allow you to cook in bulk very easily. Double or even triple a recipes in a large slow cooker.
- Great for making ingredients that can be used for recipes throughout the week. Cook a whole chicken to use for soup, nachos, casserole, and sandwiches, all in the same week.
- Slow cookers are more energy efficient than an oven, and won’t heat your kitchen up in the summer.
- They let you stick to your diet and eat healthier, because you are far more likely to choose a healthy meal at the end of the day if it’s already cooked for you.
Slow Cooker Tips and Tricks
If you’ve tried slow cooking before and found that your food dried out or fell apart, you just need to make a few changes in the way you use the slow cooker.
First, be sure you are using the right size crock pot for your recipe. A too-large pot will allow liquid to leech out of your food. A too-small pot will mean that your food isn’t cooked through by the time you are ready for dinner.
A recipe specifically made for slow cookers should have a recommended size, but a good rule of thumb is that your slow cooker should be filled about two-thirds of the way full.
Don’t peek! Keeping the lid on the pot is an essential part of the cooking process. Every time you lift the lid to peek or stir the food, you allow moisture and heat to escape. If you absolutely must open it to add vegetables before the meal is ready, only do it about 30 minutes before you’re ready to serve.
If you and your slow cooker are already best friends, you can take your meals up a few notches by taking the time to brown your meat before adding it to the cooker. This helps lock in flavour and moisture, and will make your slow cooked meals that much more delicious.