The Slow cookers have evolved through the years, from a simple device based on traditional techniques. We used to call them crock pots, which was actually the brand name of one of the first slow cookers. Food is placed in a slow cooker, and cooked at a consistent temperature for several hours. The result is delicious, moist food.
The cooker usually has a stoneware liner that holds the food, a heating unit that holds the liner and a cover. Slow cookers usually have a low setting and a high setting. The low setting is around 200 degrees, while the high setting is around 300 degrees.
Anyhow, many cooks love a Programmable slow cooker. You set the unit to cook the food for a certain amount of time and the cooker can also be programmed to keep the food warm, until it’s dinner time. Just imagine, when you come home, the meal is ready to eat.
What is a Slow Cooker?
A slow cooker is actually known as a fix it and forget it type of cooker. A slow cooker is designed to cook food slowly and a low temperature in the indirect heat of the heating elements housed in the casing. The food heats slowly until it’s the perfect temperature and ready to eat. The slow cooker comes in several ways: manual or programmable, with or without thermometer, large or small, liner in sandstone or ceramic, round and oval. The price of slow cookers varies between usually $ 20 to $ 150 depending on the size and functions of the device.
Choosing a slow cooker to suit your needs requires a little thought. The final selection should be based on the use you intend to make and the number of people to feed. Fact: Either a programmable or manual slow cooker is simple to use. In addition, cooking with a slow cooker consumes up to 80% less energy than a traditional stove. Convinced? So here are some tips to make a good buy.
Best Slow Cookers in UK 2018
How to Choose The Right Slow Cooker
Slow cookers have been around for quite some time a few years now and are gaining popularity on a regular basis. There is nothing like throwing a roast with potatoes in your Programmable slow cooker on a cold winter’s day and forgetting it until dinner time. What exactly is a slow cooker however, and what are your options for buying one? Below is some information on what they are and what they can do for you.
Security and Reliability
All of the slow cookers on the market today have pretty much the same features. Most of them have short cords attached for safety’s sake. You need to make sure that the handles are solidly in place and that the lid is easy to grip. All slow cookers have pretty much the same heating elements in the casings and cook about the same. The outside of the pot will get hot during cooking, so always make sure to keep the slower cooker well out of the reach of children. You can be pretty well assured that unless you drop the slow cooker and crack the casing, it will last you a good many years to come.
Slow cookers come in a variety of sizes from 1 quart on up to cookers that can feed an entire party of people. Individual slow cookers are capable of feeding a single person or a couple quite well ( 1 to 3 quart ). However, if you have a large family to feed, or if you like to cook and freeze meals for later, then you will want to go with a 3 to 6 quart cooker. If you live alone but cook for friends on occasion, then it might be a good idea to buy a small and a large cooker to meet your every need.
A simple rule: Calculate about 1 quart per serving knowing that slow cooker 6 quart is needed to cook a whole chicken.
Most slow cookers are made of glazed stoneware crock and can be removed for easy cleaning. The lids come in tempered glass or stoneware. The good thing about the glass lids is that you can look at your food without lifting the lid and letting heat escape.
You can get the slow cooker crock in enamel or a nonstick coating; although the nonstick isn’t recommended by the experts because it eventually scratches and has a shorter life then enamel. It is also not recommended to get lids with attachments as they break easily. Just a simple cover does just fine every time. The handles of the slow cooker should be secure and easy grip so that they won’t slip out of your hands, even if you are wearing oven mitts.
Your average slow cooker usually last from 10 to 15 years. You want one that has a 1 to 3 year warranty and a maker that you know will stand behind the product. The only real difference in slow cookers is the size of the cooker and the fact that they come in programmable and manual options. Programmable cookers can run you from around $80 to $130, making them more expensive but well-worth the price for the ease of use. You do need to know that dropping the slow cooker will null the warranty on it, because breakage is not covered.
Shape of the slow cooker you choose is important. Rounded cookers are great for making soups and stews, while oval cookers work better for large meals such as chickens or ribs.
Clean up is pretty simple, if you have the removable crock in your slow cooker. The liner cleans easily because you can just put it in the dishwasher or wash it quickly. You can also prepare the meal the night before, store the liner in the refrigerator, pull it out the next morning, program it and forget it, until it’s time for dinner.
Either manual or programmable, slow cookers should offer the minimum settings options on low (200°F/94°C) for about 6-8 hours, firing at high intensity (300°F/149°C) for 2 to 4 hours, and the stop button. Some models offer an option to “keep warm”, very useful service. If you wish to use the slow cooker overnight or during your absence, we opt for a programmable device that automatically switches from the cooking mode to the “keep warm” mode after the number of hours scheduled. Some programmable devices are also equipped with a thermometer sensor that little prick in some pieces of meat. Cooking stops when your roast or chicken is cooked…
We highly recommend to get a slow cooker with a timer. This is extremely convenient. I do not think it allows to save time, but the slow cooker will better allocate its cooking time. We do not need to be there while it cooks. And it will stay warm. Dinner will be ready in time safely.
Programmable versions can offer many other heating options in addition to the timer. For example, if you cook a big piece of meat, you can set your slow cooker to High mode for an hour to a safe temperature of 300°F/149°C, then lower the temperature to low for 4 hours until the meat is cooked, and finally select the stove mode. It is ready to eat when you arrive. A great feature!
Last but not the least, item that you must check is the price of the product. Every item of every brand has the different price so you must look at it while making the decision. At online shops you will surely find the discounted price but comparing the rates assists you to choose the item that is pocket friendly.
Art of cooking meat with the slow cooker
Meats have to be seared on the stove top first, to seal juices in. To sear the meat, add a small amount of oil to a large nonstick skillet, and heat over medium high heat. Fry small amounts of meat at a time, otherwise the meat will boil instead of frying. Spray the inside of the cooker with cooking spray before adding your ingredients. This makes clean-up easier. Vegetables should also be seared with herbs and spices before adding to the cooker.
To intensify the flavor of your dish, deglaze your skillet with wine or broth. Pour a small amount of liquid into the pan and stir. Scrap the bottom of the pan to get all the pieces of meat left behind. Bring the liquid to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for one to two minutes. Afterwards, pour the liquid into the slow cooker.
There’s no need to add a lot of liquid to your cooker. A lot of juice accumulates in the cooker, anyway. When you slow cook meat at a low temperature, the juice doesn’t evaporate like it does on the top of the stove. The steam can’t escape the slow cooker, so it builds up under the lid, and then drips back into the pot. That’s why most slow cooker recipes require less liquid than traditional recipes. If there’s too much liquid in the cooker, transfer the liquid to a sauce pan and reduce it. The juice makes a great gravy..
Switching on the slow cooker and leaving house ? Yes, but not before few recommendations:
Many people want to use their all clad slow cooker to prepare meals, and start the slow cooker before they leave for work that morning that way the food is hot and ready to serve when they get home. That is great for some foods; however, you need to realize that pork chops, chicken, and some other meats do not do well when cooked for long periods of time. Eight or nine hours for soups and stews usually make them more tender and savory, the above meats, not so much. Beans are also a dish that gets softer the longer it cooks. It’s best to use the programmable slow cookers and set the time to start at around 6am if you want the food to be hot and ready to go when you get home at 4pm. cooking for any longer in some instances can ruin the meal…even in a slow cooker.
It is best to do certain things in advance if you want your slow cooker to be ready to switch on when you walk out the door in the morning. Always cut up the fresh vegetables the night before, and take out any frozen vegetables that you wish to use, store them in the fridge to thaw overnight. Cut any meat, not a roast, before hand and always get out any other items that are nonperishable and put in a location that you can get to them quickly when you are ready to add them to your slow cooker.
You need to season a little more generously when using a slow cooker. Sheets of dried herbs, and whole ground spices are better than fresh herbs and ground spices when it comes to cooking in a slow cooker. Also, any fresh basil and other fresh spices should be added in the last hour of cooking not before. The best thing to do is taste the dish before you serve it and doctor it up as you go.
Meals cook for several hours. Most meats are cooked for seven to eight hours. The temperature should be set on high for the first hour, and then turned down until you’re ready to eat. Always cook with the lid on. Most cookers have a glass lid to trap heat, as it rises, and turn it into steam. If you remove the lid, a lot of heat will be lost. Of course, remove the cover to stir and check for doneness. If you’re cooking with root vegetables, like potatoes or turnips, you should cut them into even-sized cubes. Place them close toe the sides and bottom of the cooker.
One of the things recommended is that you check the food in the slow cooker after it has cooked for the minimum amount of time. For example, if the recipe calls for 4 to 8 hours, check the food after four. You will soon learn the way your Cuisinart slow cooker works and can adjust the time accordingly.
There are recipes however that call for the food to be cooked at one temperature, not a fluctuation. This is especially important if you are cooking appetizers and desserts, where if you cook them at the wrong temperature or to long the food could be ruined. If you are cooking stew meat or a tougher meat, it is best to cook at the lowest temperature so that the food can soften gradually as it cooks.
Advantages of a Slow Cooker
A slow cooker, being an all clad slow cooker or any other brand, is the perfect appliance for the single person who lacks the time and motivation to cook in the evening. Someone who also needs to look on his food budget, but still needs a healthy and nutritious meal. Time and budget conscious mothers facing the challenge of their starving tribes coming home will find the same advantages too. These 2 single reasons could explain why shops have reported a significant increase in sales of programmable slow cooker devices last year, some have even seen this appliance literally flying off the shelves.
Saving time seems to be an obvious feature of the slow cooker, but how does it help you save money? Slow cookers are great at helping you save money. First, they are perfect for transforming cheaper cuts of meat, such as chicken thighs, shoulders of lamb and belly of pork, into tender and tastier dishes. Second, slow cookers will really please people who try to live a low energy style of living, as they use no more energy than a light bulb. Compare it with the electric consumption of a cooking plate and an oven, slow cookers are a great way to cook delicious food and use little energy doing it.
Before you join the army of slow cooker devotees, there is one obvious question to ask yourself, are slow cookers really time saving devices, or in other words, are they that easy and simple to use ? Because if they are NOT easy to use, they will mostly end up in the kitchen graveyard next to the great, but so much time consuming bread maker, the difficult to clean juice machine, etc.
Well, of course the slow cookers are still not food replicators. One day maybe, science fiction will become reality, but for now they need ingredients to fill the gap. In other words, we cannot avoid a certain time of preparation and a bit of knowing. Vegetables still need to be washed and cut in the right proportion. Certain types of beans may need a short pre-cook. Pieces of meat need eventually being browned first for better taste. Certain type of ingredients like broccoli or spinach are much quicker to cook and therefore should be added later, like in the latter hour of cooking. This is certainly not science.
These are just basic rules, far less difficult than usual cooking. We are aiming at nutritious and healthy food, in the easiest way possible, without any attending. All you have to do is fill it in, and turn it on. A slow cooker can do just that. That is such an immense advantage for those living life in the fast lane. Lack of time is usually the biggest obstacle to healthy eating, well with a quality slow cooker, that is not the case.
What it cannot do of course is to replace the hands and mind of a skillful and attentive gourmet cook, who will add one by one the ingredients, herbs and spices in the right sequence, stirring and checking, cooking a sauce on the side, and adding his personal touch that makes such a difference.Using a slow cooker does not mean boring food. Saving cooking time can and should rhyme with delicious food, as long as you know a little bit about what you are doing. In fact, we will see that many usual recipes can stretch and be adapted for slow cookers, as a matter of fact, slow cooking allows a better distribution of flavor in many healthy slow cooker recipes.
What else should you consider before purchasing a slow cooker? Because a slow cooker does indeed cook slow, food has less of a chance to scorch and burn like what may happen in an oven or in a pan. Therefore, food doesn’t attach to the liner, and because most of the slow cookers have removable liners, the whole thing is very easy to clean. Meats get very tenderized through the long cooking process. That’s perfect for less expensive meat and venison dishes, if you are a fan of them.
In short, what is the best advantage of possessing a slow cooker? For me, the biggest advantage by far is that I get to come home after a full loaded day with all sort of activities, stressed and tired, and there it is, my warm meal is waiting for me. Only in my childhood, when mom was cooking for me can I remember this feeling of having a sure dinner on the table. This is an incomparable advantage and surely, all the busy mums in the world will know what I mean. Second, it doesn’t need to be expensive to be nutritious and delicious. And for that, my wallet gives me a big thanks each end of the month.