Copyright 2001, Amanda Formaro
cookers, commonly referred to as a *Crock-Pot®, are great time savers for
anyone who enjoys a hot meal at the end of a busy day. Simply assemble
your meal in the morning, or the night before, and forget about it until
dinner time. The fabulous aroma of home cooking fills your house and all
you have to put together is a side dish, salad, or maybe some warm bread.
Choosing & Purchasing
When you head out to the store to get your slow cooker, be
sure to get one that is large enough to suit your needs. If you live alone
or there are only two or three people to feed, the small to medium size
will work just fine. If it's family meals you'll be preparing, you will
want to purchase a larger slow cooker. Be sure to choose one with a
removable ceramic crock. Not only are they easier to clean, but you can
assemble your meals the night before, and then simply pop it into the
cooker and turn it on. While you can find slow cookers at thrift stores
and garage sales, you can also purchase one quite inexpensively at any
discount department store.
Using Your Slow Cooker
Slow cookers are wonderful for things you would normally
prepare on the stove top, such as soups and stews, sauces, chili, etc. By
preparing these types of things in the slow cooker, you free up your time
to make other dishes or sides.
Always put vegetables in first. Vegetables take longer to
cook than meat does, so for layering purposes, start with vegetables, then
meat, and finally seasonings and small amounts of liquid. Pastas or
instant rice should only be added during the last 30 minutes of cooking
time, or as your recipe directs.
Avoid "peeking". While the urge to sneek a peek
at the meal that is tempting your tastebuds, you will add 20-30 minutes to
your cooking time. Lifting the lid during cooking allows valuable heat to
Slow cookers are designed to do just what you would
expect, cook slowly. Most recipes will call for cooking times of 8-10
hours on the low setting. If you simply do not have that much time, you
can adjust your cooking time down by 2-3 hours and increase the
temperature to high.
Slow cookers can be used at night to make awesome hot
breakfasts. Simply fill your cooker before you go to bed and your
breakfast will be ready when you rise in the morning. Here are some great
slow cooker breakfast ideas: CLICK
Benefits of Slow Cooking
These days, people have schedules to keep track of their
schedules! People are busy and finding time to fix a hot meal can be quite
challenging. This is especially true for those who work outside of the
home. The slow cooker allows you to prepare a piping hot supper to serve
to your family any time of the year.
Other benefits include less clean up because you only have
one pot to wash, and no excessive heat in the kitchen due to the oven and
stove working overtime.
Slow cookers are wonderful for potlucks, church or social
gatherings, parties, and travel. After cooking all day, it's easy to
unplug your slow cooker and transport the entire meal to another location
to be plugged back in. This is ideal for holidays at a relative's house
where you have agreed to bring a portion of the meal.
Safe Slow Cooking
To be considered safe, a slow cooker must be able to cook
food slow enough so that it can be left unattended, yet it must be fast
enough to keep food at a safe temperature.
How can you tell if your slow cooker will heat to a safe
temperature? Follow these steps to ensure slow cooker safety:
1) Fill your slow cooker with 2 quarts of tepid water.
2) Heat on low for 8 hours.
3) Using a thermometer, check the temperature of the water
quickly as the temperature can drop dramatically when the lid is removed.
4) The temperature of the water should be 185 degrees F.
If the temperature is higher than 185 degrees, this would indicate that a
meal cooked for 8 hours without stirring would be overdone. If the
temperature is below 185 degrees, this could mean that your slow cooker
does not heat food to an adequate temperature in order avoid potential
food safety problems.
Smart Guidelines to Follow