Are you looking for a cooking appliance that saves you time? Are you worried about crossing your budget on the off chance that you buy expensive ingredients? Do you want to eat delicious and healthy food but don’t want to put in significant efforts? Then Slow Cooker is what you need. With it, you will cook within a limited amount of time, dedicate less energy, minimize costs, and even save electricity!
Slow Cookers are a great invention by Irving Naxon. He developed a cooking method to address the problem of uneven cooking that was very common during those days. The earliest brand of slow cookers was named Crock-Pot. This is the name we use to refer to all slow cookers.
Slow cookers are large ceramic pots incorporated with electric heating coils to heat and cook food. New versions of slow cookers have added features that make cooking even easier than before. They utilize less electricity; hence they save the energy, money as well as time.
Are you wondering that how cooker slow saves you time? Well, that is its main feature: ‘the slow process.’ All you need to do is put all the ingredients in the cooking pot at once, set it at low heat and walk away without worrying about it. It does not require your constant stirring or checking. The food will cook slowly in the pot. A delicious meal will be prepared at the end of the day.
Steps for Slow Cooking
Here are some simple steps you need to follow when using a slow cooker:
Little preparation is required for slow cookers. First and foremost, the cooker needs to be pre-heated. Then, simply cut your meat and vegetables and pop them in the cooker. Depending on the recipe and the product you want, you may have to do a pre-step and braise the meat to give it a nicer color.
Now, multi-function cookers are also available. They enable you to perform any pre-cooking steps (like steaming, boiling, sautéing, browning, etc.) in the same cooker.
Here is a guide for how to load ingredients into your slow cooker:
- Root vegetables: They should be placed at the bottom of the cooker. This will allow them to get cooked faster, as they usually take a longer time to cook.
- Meat: It should be placed on top of the vegetables.
- Liquid: Liquid is to be added after the major ingredients (meat and/or vegetables). It should fill at least one-third of the cooking pot, just covering the meat and vegetables. This will avoid overcooking. Overfilling the cooker with liquid may cause it to overflow. Half to two-thirds full is ideal and certainly no more than three-quarters.
Some of the commonly used liquids in slow cooking are stocks, sauces, broths, wine, and hot water. They are added to ensure the food remains moist and tender.
- Dairy products, seafood, and quick-cook vegetables: If any of these are required in the recipe, they should be added during the last hour of cooking as they tend to break down and separate easily. Adding them initially will destroy their flavor and texture.
After putting all the ingredients in the cooker, you need to set the temperatures. If you want the food to cook for longer time periods (8-10 hours), then configure the temperature at low. If you want shorter cooking time (4-6 hours), then set it at a higher temperature.
Slow cookers have been advanced, and the new versions are digital and programmable. You just need to set the timer and the cooker will automatically switch on, off and increase or decrease the temperature whenever needed. Also, some cookers come with built-in temperature probes. So, you can always check whether the correct temperature is being maintained or not.
Cleaning was difficult in the earlier days of slow cookers. Washing was impossible due to the risks of damaging their electronic system. Now, slow cookers have removable inner pots that can be easily removed to add ingredients, taking out the dish and most importantly for washing.
The removable pot may also be in the form of large plastic bags called the disposable liners. They can be easily removed and thrown away after use. This saves you the time to wash the cookers.
With these steps, you now understand how to use a slow cooker. It’s that simple!
Finally: Tips for Slow Cooking
Now, just bear in mind these few tips that will help you easily cook a delicious meal.
- Set The Temperature Correctly
If you want the food to cook within a short time, then adjust the cooker at a higher temperature. But, be careful that cooking time on ‘high’ is just over half of that on ‘low’. If you are not in a hurry, then set the cooker at a lower temperature.
- Set The Time Correctly
Different dishes require different cooking time. You need to set it accordingly.
- If the usual cooking time for the recipe lies between 15 – 30 minutes. In a slow cooker, it will be 2 hours at high temperature, and 4 – 6 hours on low temperature
- If your recipe has a usual cooking time between 30 minutes – 1 hour; it will take 2 – 3 hours on high or 5 – 7 hours on low for slow cooking.
- If you’re slow cooking a recipe that takes about 1 – 2 hours in an ordinary pot, it will take about 3 – 4 hours at high temperature, and 6 – 8 hours at low temperature.
- For recipes having a usual cooking time between 2 – 4 hours, a slow cooker will take between 4 – 6 hours on high, and 8 – 12 hours on low.
- The Slower The Better
It is preferred, when using a slow cooker, to cook at low temperature for a longer time. This allows more flavors to be derived from the ingredients and better tenderizing of tough ingredients like meat.
- Place The Cooker On A Sturdy Surface
Place your cooker on a sturdy surface. If you think that water might spill out of the cooker, place it on a tea towel. But if you have added an adequate amount of water, this will not happen. Also, the cooker produces heat, so it should not be in contact with the walls or other appliances.
- Use Dry Herbs Instead Of Fresh Herbs
Whenever possible, select dried herbs instead of fresh ones. Fresh herbs will go brown and limp in the long, moist cooking process while whole dried herbs and spices will release their maximum flavor over time.
- Add Ingredients At The Right Time
Be careful when adding the ingredients to the cooker. Ensure you add each gradient at the right time. You do not want your soft vegetables to get overcooked and mushy!
- Do Not Lift The Lid
This is not your regular cooking appliance! You do not need to worry about what is going on inside the cooker. Do not lift the lid to peek inside. Every time you lift the lid; 20 to 30 minutes will be added to your cooking time due to the pressure losses. Cooking time will be extended due to heat loss via the open lid.
- Do Not Let The Food Cool In The Cooker
To save and store your food, do not leave it in the cooker to cool. In the slow cooker, heat is retained for longer. This provides a conducive environment for bacteria to grow during the slow cooling process. Always remove your food from the cooker to cool and then store it.
That’s it… 15 Tips for Safe Slow Cooking