What Can I Do With My Crock Pot?

Categories: Ask the Chef

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In honor of the question, "What on earth do I do with that Costco-impulse-buy Crock Pot sitting on the kitchen counter," I present: Crock Pot Cooking: Low and Slow is the way to go! (Part I)

Ah, the formerly avocado and mustard colored cooking wonders of the Seventies have climbed back to kitchen counter popularity. 


Current models include programmable energy efficient controls, keep warm options and choices of sleek to geek designs.

One result of the economic downturn is a focus of our collective cooking attention on home cooked meals. Crock-pots, a.k.a. slow cookers, answer the question: How to get a home -made dinner on the table, while multi tasking all day long, without channeling Kelly Ripa in a Electrolux commercial!

Slow cookers are best used for recipe results that benefit from low cooking temperatures over an extended period of time. Traditionally, slow cookers have been valued for stewing and braising tough cuts of meat that tenderize and fall apart during a long simmer, as well as soup, chili, and stew.

It's also a great tool for sweating down those mounds of onion for French onion soup! 

What you can do with your slow cooker is almost anything, even chocolate chip "cookies".

Tips:
Always check the size of your crock-pot and manufacturers recommendations prior to choosing a recipe. Adjust the size by scaling up or down.

Almost any recipe can be adapted to a slow cooker. Adjust the amount of liquid in a recipe so that your container is ½ to 2/3 full, and make sure there is a slight gap between the contents and the lid. Slow cookers form a seal when covered; liquids will not evaporate while cooking.

If adapting a recipe that calls for rice or grains, increase the amount of water by 1 cup.

Delicate vegetables (peas, corn, mushrooms), fresh herbs and dairy products should be added during the final 30 minutes of cooking.

Avoid frozen vegetables.

Soak dry beans either over night or by the quick soak method before using in a recipe. Canned beans should be rinsed and drained and added during the last hour of cooking

Resist opening the lid and stirring contents during cooking.

Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Coobook
​Recipes and cookbooks for slow cookers flourish alongside the popularity of the appliance. My favorite title is Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook and I might have to try Gourmet Vegetarian Slow Cooker: Simple and Sophisticated Meals from Around the World. 

Tomorrow: a few simple recipes for your slow cooker.



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