Slow Cookers: A Busy Person’s Dream

It’s no secret that my slow cooker is one of my all-time favorite kitchen toys. It’s plugged in every Sunday taking it’s time turning raw ingredients into yummy dishes, all the while making my house smell divine. A lot of people receive one as a wedding or house warming gift; they thank the gifter graciously then stick it in a cupboard. Not me! If you are lucky enough to own a slow cooker, it’s time to dust it off. If you don’t own one, it’s not a necessity but it’s definitely a worthwhile purchase when you have the cash. They come in many sizes, makes, models and price points, but even a basic one can make your life easier.

Slow cookers are often referred to by their brand name, Crock-pot. They have been around since the 1930s, and over the years they have gained and lost popularity. Many households still own them today despite the convenience of modern microwaves. The thing that slow cookers offer that microwaves don't is, well, slow cooking. The low temperature and long cooking time allows cheaper (often tough) cuts of meat to tenderize, and allows flavors to fully develop and intertwine in the most delectable way. Added to this is the convenience of being able to plug it in and walk way without worrying that your house will burn down.

If you are in the market for a slow cooker there are a few basic things that you should look for. The first is temperature settings; ideally you would like a low and a high setting. The low setting is great for when you put a dish on in the morning and want it for dinner time. The high setting is better for when you are less organized and dinner goes into the slow cooker four hours before you need it. This actually takes us to the second feature, a timer. Many cheaper models will just have heat settings and nothing else, which means that you need to be home when your food is finished or it will overcook. A timer will allow you to adjust the cooking time to what you need, then when the time is up the device will automatically either switch to keep warm or will turn off. I have had a few different slow cookers and this is a feature that I refuse to go without. I am forever running around, so it’s good to know that if I am delayed my dinner won’t turn to mush. Personally I enjoy having a keep warm setting, however this is not a necessity. The more features that your slow cooker has the more expensive it will be. The one that I have currently is an upgrade from an old mini one that I had in collage.

Crock-pots are often given as wedding gifts because they last so long. To make yours last longer (your slow cooker, not your marriage) don’t try to clean it while it is still hot. Wait for the bowl to cool down otherwise it might crack. When cleaning don’t use overly abrasive scrubbers or chemicals. Give the bowl a good soak in some warm soapy water then try to clean with baking soda and a sponge. If this doesn’t work add baking soda and water to the bowl and set your slow cooker on high for a couple hours to loosen cooked on food.

One last point before I let you go for the week. Please don’t cook frozen food in your slow cooker. I know that many people do, but this puts you at greater risk of contracting food poisoning. Make sure that all food is completely defrosted. Slow cooking frozen foods keeps ingredients in the temperature danger zone for too long making food-borne illness more likely. While being sick is just unpleasant for otherwise healthy adults, it can be deadly for the young, elderly or those with a compromised immune system.