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The Slow Cooker Rules

Tuesday, August 15, 2023 11:03 AM

The slow-cooker offers the home cook a way of making “fast food.” While it may cook slowly, it has a fix-it-and-forget-it feature that other cooking techniques can’t match. Once your ingredients are in the cooker, there is no stirring, no fussing, no additional attention necessary until your dish is ready for the table. This feature can be appreciated by the nine-to-five executive, busy stay-at-home mom, retiree, and college student alike—really anyone who desires to eat nutritious meals with a dash of convenience. No matter the dish—breakfast, beverage, lunch, dinner, snack, dip, or dessert—once you get friendly with your slow-cooker, it will become your most prized appliance. 

Although slow-cooking was introduced in the early 1970s, it can be considered a modern version of the time-honored traditional braising, stewing, pot-roasting and Dutch oven cooking methods. All use long cooking times, low temperatures with liquid and a tight-fitting lid to keep it all enclosed in a moist environment. These methods typically use indirect heat, such as with an oven, compared to the direct heat applied from fire or a stovetop.
As described in Slow-Cookers for Dummies, “For generations, women in small towns throughout Europe. . . have been using the town bread baker’s cooling ovens to slow-cook their family’s meals. . . . For a small price, the baker rented oven space to anyone who wanted to slowcook a joint of meat or fish. The food was left in the oven unattended and picked up in the early afternoon for dinner. Although the practice of slow-cooking in a wood-burning oven was also common practice in the United States during the 1800s, it died out with the introduction of cast iron stoves. . . 
Just as with any other food preparation technique, flops can happen with a slow-cooker. While it is an easy-to-use appliance, it does take a little more thought to use than just dumping in the ingredients and clicking the on switch.
Slow-cooker critics will argue food cooked this way turns out too wet or overcooked. However, just as with any cooking method, it is important to know how the appliance functions at its best. With a little knowledge, you will experience many more successes than mishaps. Also, the more you learn about how to operate the slow cooker, the easier it will be for you to create new or adapt old family recipes to this nourishing, time-saving method.