The Crock Pot, AKA slow cooker, is an appliance that some senior ladies use all the time but most of them use the range for cooking, The senior men preferred microwaves for cooking or warming up leftovers. My research statistics came from 1 visit to a Senior Center and is not very scientific, but it got my attention. Seniors who prefer not to cook, rely upon the microwave and those who cook, like the range. So, why would we want to introduce slow cooking?
In a heated discussion many seniors extolled the virtues of cooking with the microwave. Some swore by the slow cooker as an easy substitute for a stove. After hearing the slow cooker proponents, we were encouraged to introduce slow cooked meals at the senior center because it was shown to be an easy way to prepare nutritious meals. They also would save money by cooking one pot for several meals.
The plan is to distribute ingredients to seniors twice a month, fill their slow cookers, and send them home with pots in hand. For the first class, we thought it appropriate to come up with some guidelines: the 5 Do’s.
1. When using slow cookers it’s important to get food through the danger zone as quickly as possible. Meatloaf and frozen chicken is not a good choice because they carry a lot of bacteria and take a long time to reach 165° degrees. When cooking chicken in the slow cooker we cut it apart and brown the pieces before putting it in. For meatloaf most health organizations recommend using an actual oven for cooking.
2. Keep the crockpot filled a third to two thirds full. An empty crockpot scorches food and one that is too full fails to heat the top layer adequately.
3. Slow cookers with digital timers are fairly inexpensive now so it makes sense to buy one rather than the old-style. We seldom use one without a digital timer because when food reaches its preset time it reverts to warm and keeps food above 135° until we’re ready to eat. Also food has less chance of overcooking when it resets itself to warm.
4. When you buy a new crockpot test it several times with a digital meat thermometer. The manuals for my Cuisinart slow cookers say: High = 212 F, Low = 200 F, Simmer = 185 F, Keep Warm = 165 F. Some slow cookers seem to run hot and others cold making it difficult to follow slow cooker recipes. And when you lift the lid to check the temperature just slide the lid slightly to allow the thermometer to be inserted. When you lift the lid entirely off the pot we recommend you add 10 more minutes to your cooking time because heat escapes.
5. Enjoy your crockpot. It will save you a lot of time, electricity, and it smells so good to come home to food that’s already prepared in the slow cooker. Try lots of different vegetables in a soup base. Plus, you’ll save money because one session with the crockpot should give you enough food for several meals.