If your kitchen is anything like mine you have a plethora of kitchen gadgets and still have several on your list that you want or need. But one of the best investments I have ever made is my slow cooker. They come in lots of sizes, designs and are a life saver in my opinion. But you need to make sure you do your homework before you rush right out and buy one.
Because you are cooking food at low temperatures you have to make sure and have enough time to throughly cook the meal. Some meals take less time than others so make sure you are planning accordingly. The concept was developed in the 1960s inspired by an electrical bean pot that West Bend produced. By the early 1970s Rival developed a slow cooker for full meals and remains in the business until this day. It’s estimated that 8 out of 10 households own a slow cooker, if not more than one!
The basic design is simple. The pot has an outer casing that may or may not be heat proof. There’s an inner container where the food cooks and a lid. That’s it. The best slow cookers have removal inner containers for ease of washing, and they don’t cost that much more than all-in-ones. Being able to lift out the container also means you can go from cooking to the refrigerator, using the container and lid as a functional storage space.
Cookers usually have several heat settings, some configured by the number of hours and others by temperature or, more simply, low-medium-high settings. As the food cooks the moisture is trapped in the pot keeping food from drying out. The timed systems offer the advantage of turning off automatically at the end of the cycle so the food doesn’t over-cook.
If you love easy cooking, slow cookers are kitchen gems. Toss your meal components into the pot before work — eat when you come home. That’s not the only benefit, though. By using a slow cooker on cheaper cuts, you save money and end up with succulent meats with hardy flavors. And, if you’re in a hurry there’s always the option of using a high setting to speed along your meal. Note that slow cookers don’t use a lot of energy and you can use them in the hottest of summers without heating up the whole house.
Wondering about flavor? Food absorbs any spices and stocks included in your recipe while it cooks.
Tips for Success:
When loading your cooker put harder vegetables like potatoes on the bottom of your pan then layer up with more delicate items so they don’t get mushy. Also take care that you use enough liquid in your pot so it doesn’t completely dry up over several hours.
At the end of the cooking time always test your food. This is the time to adjust your seasonings to personal taste before serving.
There are other things for which you can utilize your slow cooker too. Small ones on a low setting make excellent additions to buffets, filled with finger foods like mini-meatballs. Or, use it to hold a hot cheese dip for your next party.