Slow cookers go in and out of fashion. Currently, they seem to be more popular than ever, with new cookbooks dedicated solely to this method of cooking.
Slow cooking offers a number of benefits with the two greatest of these being a way to extend your food budget as well as cooking economically, allowing you to cook using less expensive cuts of meats, dried beans and rice, or making such meals as chili, soup and stew.
Many like the convenience of tossing everything into one pot and returning to it hours later to find a completely finished dish! But, sometimes mediocre end results disappoint and can be a turn-off. Many cookbook recipes are designed without having the end result in mind — Quality, great tasting meals.
With our series on Slow Cooking, our aim is to provide you with both convenience and taste. We placed much emphasis on how to get big flavor like that found in conventional cooking. In many instances, you can’t just throw everything into one pot, walk away for six to eight hours, and then expect a great tasting meal. Chicken, for example, takes a maximum of four hours on the low setting. Other things, like desserts such as rice pudding and cobblers, are done in three to four hours on low.
If you’re following a recipe, you’ll notice there is usually a time range listed for doneness. This is because slow cookers vary in temperature just like ovens, microwaves and refrigerators do. Some slow cookers run hot and fast while others run slow and cool. Low heat is better than high for most recipes as it is more reliable and foolproof. When cooking on high, sauces can get over reduced and meat can blow apart! Low temp should run about 190 degrees. If it is less than that, your food with barely cook. The bigger problem is with the high heat setting. You can boil food to death on some slow cookers. High temp should be about 200 degrees, not 212!
Additionally, slow cookers have a hotter side and a cooler side. Get to know your slow cooker by making a few meals while you’re at home. Keep a watchful eye on the progress of what you’re making and keep notes. Learn where that hot and cool spot is located and make note of that, too.
Chunky Beef Stew is the latest meal that came out of our slow cooker. We have the KitchenAid model, shown above, and let me tell you, I l-o-v-e that “gadget”! If you’re interested in the recipe for the stew, I’ll post it here in the blog later today. But if you’re loving that KitchenAid slow cooker, too, stay tuned for your chance to win one just like it!