Slow cookers, Crock Pots and why you should use them
Its many advantages far outweigh its one disadvantage. Yet, often the crock pot stays out of sight and out of mind. Such is the culinary fate of many slow cookers - also known by the trade name Crock Pot.
"Even its disadvantage can be a good thing. Yes, you have to think ahead, so food has time to cook. But that also means your dinner will be ready to eat as soon as you walk in from work," said Kathy Walsten, nutrition educator with Kansas State University's Family Nutrition Program.
Walsten listed these additional pluses of slow cooker use:
- A slow cooker (or Crock Pot) keeps the kitchen cool in summer. It has hot meals waiting in winter.
- Soup, beans and stew don't require stirring if cooked on low and kept covered in a slow cooker.
- Brisket, chuck roast and other inexpensive cuts of meat become tasty tender when cooked in a Crock Pot.
- The slow cooker does not have a flame, so can be safer for children learning to cook.
- Slow cooking is the best way to blend flavors. It is today's substitute for Grandma's keeping a pot of sauce or soup simmering on a back burner all day.
"If you don't want to add dinner preparation to your morning routine, you usually can prepare the ingredients the night before," Walsten said. "Store them, covered, in the refrigerator. Then all you'll have to do is dump them in the slow cooker, plug it in and walk away."
Slow cookers typically have two temperature settings - low (200 degrees) and high (300 degrees).
"Most books tell you that one hour on high equals two hours on low. The fact is, however, cooking on low makes meat juicier and more tender. And I can't imagine cooking tomato-based Italian dishes on anything other than low," Walsten said.