Chances are you have a slow cooker stored away beneath the shelf in your pantry because you’ve never figured out how to make the most of it? You’ve used it once or twice, but then you go back to your old ways of cooking. I just may change your thinking about your slow cooker after this.
A slow-cooker could be your most-loved kitchen gadget, rather than the most avoided one. This is especially true during the fall and winter months, the time of year that I call "soup season". With a basic understanding of how it works and a limitless supply of recipes available online, it can be used every day to make your life easier and healthier.
Your slow cooker can save you a lot of things, like:
While you can create complex recipes with a slow cooker, this handy kitchen gadget was designed to save you time, and many of the recipes you find will reflect this. Most recipes allow you to simply throw the bulk of ingredients into the slow cooker at the same time, cutting down on prep time and your efforts.
Depending on what your recipe calls for, it’s common to layer your vegetables, meat and broth or sauce in that order for even cooking. Some ingredients, like pasta, rice and soft vegetables may need to be added toward the end of the cooking time to avoid turning to mush.
Ingredients can often be chopped or combined ahead of time, like the night before, and popped in the fridge for quick assembly in the morning.
Your slow cooker can also cut down on your cleanup time, as it cancels out the need for a lot of other fancy pots and dishes.
Slow cookers make it easy to save money on healthy meals. Cheaper (and often tougher) cuts of meat, like brisket, pork and lamb shoulder, and chicken thighs, can be cooked to tender in your slow cooker.
You will often find that you need less meat with your slow-cooked meals as well. It can be combined with so many other great fresh foods and legumes, and slow cooking it will bring out the flavor, making the meal seem rich no matter how economical it actually is.
Once you are comfortable with starting your slow cooker in the morning and leaving it to do its job, you will find that you are less inclined to default to ordering expensive take-out after a busy day. A home-cooked meal can be waiting when you walk in the door.
Slow cookers also use less electricity than ovens. They make preparing a warm meal for a winter evening easy and won’t overheat your house in the summer.
A few basic tips will make using your slow cooker a breeze. First, as mentioned above, go for less complicated recipes.
This won’t mean you’ll need to give up variety. Did you know that breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert can be cooked in your slow cooker? Anything from breakfast oats and casseroles to bone broth and stews. I use it to cook garbanzo beans for my amazing hummus recipe. Slow cookers just have a way of making simple combinations shine and deleting the need for any extra steps.
If you prepare a recipe ahead of time, you can store it directly in the bowl of your slow cooker, putting the whole thing in the refrigerator. Just remember to set it out about 20 minutes before you start heating it, so that the dish will be room temperature to avoid cracking.
Once you have started your slow cooker cooking, you can leave it on low for hours. No stirring or checking. It does its work leaving you free to do yours.
This will give you an idea of how long your slow cooker will need to do its job. If a meal usually takes you:
15 to 30 minutes, your slow cooker will need 1 to 2 hours on high, 4-6 on low.
30 minutes to an hour; give your slow cooker 2 to 3 hours on high, or 5 to 7 on low.
1 to 2 hours will need 4 to 6 (high) or 8 to 12 (low) in your slow cooker.
Slow cooker makes your Life healthier
Along with saving you time, money and energy, your slow cooker has a lot to give in the way of healthier meals.
Cut down on the pasta and meat, instead fill your main dish with vegetables. Slow cookers make preparing savory vegetables simple and give you the benefit of their huge fiber and vitamin content.
Because they seal in the moisture of whatever you are cooking, you will find that you need less meat, salt and spices to give your main dish a full-bodied flavor and can bulk up instead on the veggies.
Your slow cooker can take the “I can’t” out of home cooking, whether your reason is lack of time, energy, or knack. And enjoying home cooking has been shown to have enormous health benefits.
When you prepare your own food, you become more knowledgeable about the nutritional benefits and are able to incorporate whatever you feel is best for you and your family into your diet. You avoid the high salt/sugar content of restaurant fare and generally get a more well-rounded meal.
Even if the health benefits of home cooking are familiar to you, you may have often felt that you simply don’t have time to do it. Your slow cooker can eliminate this problem for you. Master the habit of putting it to work ahead of time, and a delicious, nutritious meal can be waiting for you at the end of the day with little effort at all.
So, pull that slow cooker out of its cubby under the shelf and get to know it. It won’t be long before you’ll learn to love it.