Slow cooker has become quite popular now-a-days as they make the cooking much easier and simple.
As they have less human intervention, they are a perfect option for people who have busy work schedules.
If you want to know more about slow cookers to check if they are a perfect investment or not, then we recommend reading this article.
Here, we have provided all the information necessary on what is slow cooker, its benefits, cooking tips using it and others.
What Is A Slow Cooker?
What is a slow cooker, after all? Well, here is the answer. As the name says, it is an electric cooking appliance to cook your food. But the only difference is that it takes more time than usual to cook.
As opposed to the regular pressure cookers, these appliances work very slow and may take from about one to 10 hours or more, depending on the recipe. However, they use less electricity than an oven and allow just one-step preparation.
Slow cookers contain three essential components, and they are – ceramic croc (cooking pot), heating element, and lid. The cooking pot is the vessel where you place the food. It is basically ceramic material. The heating element is responsible for cooking the food in the ceramic croc, which is usually present at the bottom for most of the appliances. However, some may have them all over the sides. The glass lid is the covering to close the cooker.
Let us try to understand the working mechanism of the slow cooker and how it helps.
How Does Slow Cooker Work?
The moment you switch on the slow cooker, the electrical unit surrounding the appliance activates the heating element. This further creates heat inside the ceramic croc, transferring it to the sides of the vessel to heat the food within.
A slow cooker generally has three settings – low, medium, and high. The low-temperature setting allows the heating element to pull out less heat. The high-temperature setting allows to put out more heat.
Since the lid remains closed while cooking, the steam generated from the heat within, creates a vacuum seal. This allows the food to retain the moisture and does not let the liquid evaporate. As a result, the food stays tender, moist, and juicy, providing a perfect treat to your taste buds.
Let us understand how to use a slow cooker and what are the tips to follow when using it.
How To Use A Slow Cooker?
Like every other appliance, even a slow cooker comes with a user manual for instructions. Refer to the guide before using a slow cooker. If you have been using your device for a long time and became familiar with it, then you can put away the manual. You can use the cooker directly without referring to it.
Here is a step-by-step process to use the slow cooker:
As mentioned earlier, slow cookers require a one-step preparation. When said that, you do not have to spend long hours preparing for the recipe. All you got to do is chop your required ingredients like the meat or vegetables and preheat the appliance. If you want to add some flavour to your dishes, you can caramelize onions and even sauté garlic before adding them to the ceramic croc.
After the preparation part, time to toss all the ingredients into the pot. Place all the root vegetables at the bottom of the vessel because they take more time to cook. Now, place the meat on top of them followed by the liquid. Most recipes in the slow cooker require some form of liquids for cooking the food without drying. Most commonly used liquids for this process may include broths, sauces, boiling water, etc.
Make sure you do not overfill the cooker with the cooker, but only up to one-third level of it. If you are cooking a dairy products-related dish, make sure you add the products only in the last 30-45 minutes of the recipe. This prevents dairy products from curdling. It applies the same to seafood and other quick-cook vegetables.
The next step in the process is cooking by selecting the temperature setting. After you finish adding all the required ingredients to the vessel, set the temperature to low, medium, or high, accordingly. Some cookers come with built-in temperatures that make the job easier.
There is no thumb rule to the timings when cooking in a slow cooker. You can reduce the heat and leave the food always to cook in simmer until you eat.
The next step is to check for the food. Once the time is up, open the lid to see if the food is properly cooked or not. You may even take a piece of meat and cut it in half to inspect. If you feel that the food is thoroughly cooked, that means your meal is ready, and it is time to serve. Use the same pot or a serving platter to serve the food.
Now that you finished cooking in the slow cooker, it is time to clean the appliance. The best part is that it does not require thorough and extensive cleaning, unlike others. Here are the steps:
- Simply remove the cooking pot from the cooker.
- Fill it with hot soapy water and allow it to soak for some time.
- Use a non-abrasive sponge to wipe it and then clean it with water.
- Dry the appliance completely before storing it.
How to Prepare Foods For Slow Cooking?
Here are the ways for cooking some foods in the slow cooker:
Vegetables: As mentioned earlier, place all the root vegetables like potatoes and carrots at the bottom of the vessel because they take more time to cook. You can cut them into small and even-sized pieces before placing them. Now, add meat pieces on top of them. As the upper layer, you can add the delicate vegetables only during the last 15 to 60 minutes of the cooking. Add ingredients like spinach, fresh tomatoes, basil, etc., at the end to get the most from them.
Beans: When cooking beans, it is always advisable to add canned beans during the last 30 minutes of cooking. This will help in keeping the beans in shape throughout. If you are using dried beans for cooking, make sure you soak them overnight. Also, refrain from adding sugar, salt, or other acids to the dried beans during the initial stages of cooking. This will not allow them to become tender. Hence, we suggest adding those ingredients to the end.
Dairy: When cooking dairy products-related meals, add them only to the end. If the recipe requires adding milk, cheese, cream cheese, or others, ensure that you add them only in the last hour. Else, they may start cuddling and affect the recipe, altogether.
Fish and Seafood: Like dairy products, you should always add seafood or fish at the end of cooking. Since they cook very quickly, preserve them for use at the end.
Meat: When it comes to meat, you will have to be careful while cooking. Do not put it in large chunks inside the cooker, as they may not cook properly. Instead, cut the roasts (pieces) into half to ensure even cooking. If there is excess fat on the meat, trim it down. Using it as it is may cause the meat to overcook. You may slightly brown the meat before cooking to get that extra flavour and texture. However, it is optional.
Oats: While old-fashioned oats cook better in the slow cooker, you may even use instant oats.
Pasta: Yes, you can also cook pasta in your appliance. But, do not forget to cook it separately first. You can add this cooked pasta at the end of the procedure. Avoid using dry pasta, as it tends to get mushy and sticky inside the pot.
Rice: If you want to cook rice (instant), add it in the last 30 minutes of cooking. For all-day cooking, use converted rice.
Slow Cooking Tips and Tricks
Do you want to know some essential hacks for slow cooking? Read the below steps and follow them religiously for the best results.
- Always position your slow cooker on a sturdy surface. If needed, you may even place a tea towel underneath the appliance. If there are any spills of the liquid when cooking, the towel absorbs all of them, further preventing mess. Also, keep the device away from the walls or other appliances that are likely to get heated up.
- Use dried herbs instead of fresh ones. Fresh herbs are not as effective as dried herbs in releasing the flavour during the moist cooking process.
- In case of leftovers, remove them immediately from the ceramic croc and transfer them to another container. Allow it to cool before storing it in the refrigerator. Leaving the food inside the pot to cool down may lead to bacteria build-up during the cooling process.
- While it is natural to get tempted to open the lid and check the food, do not do it. Lifting the lid may result in heat loss, and extend your cooking to 20 or 30 more minutes every time you do it.
- Slow cookers come in various sizes. No matter what the size, do not fill it with ingredients to more than two-thirds of the pot. Overfilling will make it harder for the appliance to reach the target temperature for cooking. As a result, the temperature will remain too low for a longer period and produces a safety hazard.
- Never try to cook a frozen chicken or roast in a slow cooker, as it is a very bad idea. Trying to do it may result in the temperature and safety hazard issue.
What Are The Benefits of Using a Slow Cooker?
There are plenty of benefits of using a slow cooker. Let have a look at some of them:
Healthy Options: A slow cooker provides you with healthy options for cooking food at home. You can prepare low-fat recipes by poaching, braising, cooking in broths, etc.
Flavour: You do not have to compromise the flavour when preparing food in a slow cooker. This appliance guarantees more flavourful recipes than in traditional cooking with very minimal effort. Since the device allows the food to stew for hours, the meat gets more tender. It even helps you prepare richer sauces as all the flavours get released into the item. Since the food remains sealed when cooking, it will not let the flavours escape through evaporation.
Friendly on the wallet: A slow cooker is a very cost-effective option. Despite running for hours, it still consumes less electricity when compared to your oven or stovetop. Moreover, it is always safe to cook in a small vessel that does not heat up the surroundings. Not only that, but it also enables your food to taste and smell extremely good.
Convenient: Slow cooking is definitely a convenient way to prepare your favourite meals. It is also a safe procedure that helps you set and forget the meals for hours, giving you ample free time for other essential tasks. You do not have to spend your time in front of the appliance, waiting for the recipe to be cooked. Instead, you can use the time for other crucial things that are of great importance.
Slow Cookers vs. Other Appliances
Do you know how different a slow cooker is from other appliances? Here is a comparative analysis that gives you an understanding and also highlights the distinction between a slow cooker, a pressure cooker, a multi-cooker, and a Dutch oven. This will help you for sure:
|Appliance||Slow Cooker||Pressure Cooker||Multi-Cooker||Dutch Oven|
|Working Mechanism||It consists of a separate vessel where you place all the ingredients to cook food and seal it with a lid. The heating element is responsible for cooking the food in the ceramic croc.||It is a locked-lid unit that helps in building up steam pressure inside for cooking.||It combines more appliances into a single one, such as the pressure cooker, slow cooker, steamer, rice cooker, and fry pan.||It is cookware that helps you braise on the stovetop or in the oven.|
|Specialized Features||It keeps the food tender, juicy, moist, and flavourful.||It helps you cook different dishes inside.||It helps you perform multiple functions inside one appliance like slow cook, steam, warm, sauté.||It allows you to slow cook, sauté, sear, steam, boil, fry roast, braise,|
|Style of Cooking||Slow and steady cooking.||It helps you cook a delicious meal in a fraction of the time of a slow cooker.||It has the ability to slow cook and pressure cook food.||You can bake, fry, stew, roast, and even cook pasta in it.|
|Time Taken for Cooking||Very slow when compared to other appliances.||It cooks in under an hour.||It all depends on the type of cooking you prefer.||Less than a slow cooker.|
|Good For||Households or families with budget constraints.||Last-minute dinners.||Households with budget constraints and cooks with small kitchens.||For those who need the versatility of a stove and oven.|
|Cooks Best||It is best suitable for preparing sauces, stews, soups, porridge, etc.||Rice, meat, vegetables, etc.||It is the best option for cooking almost everything.||It is ideal for cooking various recipes like soups, stews, pot roast, pizza, pasta, bread, etc.|
Frequently Asked Questions
The amount of liquid you need to add to your slow cooker is entirely dependent on the recipe you are preparing. Moreover, when you overfill the cooking pot with the liquids they are likely to spill over during the cooking process. Hence, it is always advisable to go according to the recipe and not fill more than two-thirds of the pot. If you want to prepare large pots of food, better consider purchasing a large ceramic croc.
The placement of a slow cooker is very crucial, especially, when operating. Although it uses low temperatures (under 300 degrees Fahrenheit) and there are fewer chances of danger or fire, you still got to be careful about its positioning.
Avoid putting the ceramic croc on the stove as it may result in ruining the appliance when you accidentally turn on the burner. Also, be careful that you do not put it in a place where people might trip over it, or it might fall down.
It is suggestible not to use an extension cord for the device, as people might trip over it. If you can avoid using one, it is highly appreciated. Always place it somewhere where you are sure of no mess or any accidents.
I hope this ultimate guide on the slow cooker, its uses, and benefits, helped you in answering all your questions. Now that you know what all recipes you can try out in your appliance, try them now, and let us know your experiences. Become the master chef of your family and help them enjoy flavourful recipes.
If you have more questions, do write to us in the comments section below. If you need more information or have any points to add to this article, do not hesitate to let us know. We would be more than happy to hear from you.