Before moving on to other topics this month, I’d like to share some ideas about the best appliance to cook budget-friendly meals. The best answer would be “it depends.” The Asian community would certainly prefer a wok because it is so versatile. Others would choose a frying pan over gas heat or casserole dish in an oven. My preference would be to use the slow cooker, which is not commonly used in many parts of the world. So why would I want to use it? I like soup and casseroles and these can be cooked easily in a slow cooker. I can set it and forget it. But there’s more to it than that. Continue reading
Slow cookers (AKA Crock Pots) were introduced in the early seventies.
They are convenient because you can start the prepared food in the morning and it is ready to serve when you get home. If purchasing a new one, look for a removable pot, ceramic or metal, that is heated from the bottom and sides. The advantage of an aluminum insert is you can brown meat or sauté onions in the same pan. But, ceramic inserts cook evenly and keep food warmer. Most cookers have four settings: high, low, warm, and off/on If you need to leave the slow cooker unattended over 6 hours, we recommend that you get one with a timer. It will switch settings to “warm” after a preset time too prevent overcooking and keep the food warm until you are ready to eat.
Tips for slow cooking safely & effectively
- Fill pot from 1/3 to 3/4 full to cook evenly and not overflow. We recommend having two cookers of different sizes: 5-7 qt. for large families; 2 1/2—31/2 qts for small meals or sauces.
- No two pots are the same temperature but low is generally 170˚, & high, 300˚ when compared to an oven.
- Thaw meats and veggies before placing them in the slow cooker.
- Avoid cooking on “warm” because food stays at unsafe levels too long.
- Always soak and boil dry red kidney or fava beans before slow cooking to neutralize toxins.
- Insert a meat thermometer into the center of the thickest part of the meat for an accurate reading.
- Add 15 min cooking time if you lift the lid.
- Sauté onions & garlic and brown meats before slow cooking to get more flavor.
- Use dry herbs during cooking. Add fresh herbs or soft veggies at the end.
- Using noodles, dumplings or processed rice? Add it near the end of the recommended cooking time to retain firmness.
- Less water is needed for recipes because very little escapes from the pot.
- Spray the pot with oil for easier clean-up.
- Root vegetables take longer to cook so cut into smaller pieces when combining with faster cooking vegetables.
- For safety & looks, brown and partially cook any ground meats before adding it to a slow cooker.
- Cooking about an hour on high generally equals two hours on low.
- Avoid making slow cooked meatloaf due to the risk of bacterial contamination.