For me, autumn is the time for soups, stews, and everything else that warms you up from the inside out.
In fact, I love a good soup or stew all year round, so it should be no surprise that a slow cooker is high on my wishlist (second only to an almost unnecessarily high-spec rice cooker. One day…).
It makes life so much easier – bung everything into the pot in the morning, pop it on, and let the appliance do its thing. A few hours later and, hey presto, dinner is ready, and all that’s left for you to do is wash up. Amazing.
But apart from being great everyone among us, whether you’re not much a home chef or the busiest of bees, what else is there to know about a slow cooker?
A fair bit, as it turns out. And as someone who’s spent entirely too much time looking at appliances and bemoaning her lack of countertop space, I’m here to share my knowledge and help you find your ideal design.
The slow cooker basics
Sometimes also called a crock-pot, they simmer food at low temperatures over a long time. You can generally leave them alone, unlike something you’re cooking on a hob (especially if you’ve got a gas appliance).
In fact, leaving it unattended is what drove the slow cooker’s popularity – starting in the US of the 1940s, where more and more women worked outside the home. A crock-pot allowed them to have a job and still provide for their families, and thus the rise to fame began.
Your appliance will generally consist of a cooking pot made of ceramic or porcelain, set into a metal housing with a heating element. A glass lid completes the set, ensuring food won’t burn.
What are the advantages of a slow cooker?
Apart from the ease of use and the fact that you can leave them do to their thing while you work or complete other tasks, these appliances make it almost impossible to burn food. (However, a word of caution: you can still overcook vegetables and some cuts of meat.)
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They also somewhat reduce the risk of accidentally burning yourself, as they operate at lower temperatures. That said, there’s still a lot of hot liquid inside, so don’t let your guard down entirely.
Not to mention that cooking everything in one pot also reduces water waste and, more crucially, saves you a lot of time when it comes to washing up. Now, I don’t know about you, but in my dishwasher-less life, that’s a really, really big plus.
Okay, but what if I’m not a soup person?
Luckily, there are far more things you can prepare in a slow cooker. How about a really juicy bolognese? Succulent meat? You can even prepare some desserts or drinks such as hot chocolate in this type of appliance, so there really is a recipe for just about anyone.
And if, like me, you like a fresh loaf of bread, most slow cookers can do those, too. How neat is that?
In fact, you can cook just about anything in a crock-pot, but ‘normal’ recipes will need some modification, for example when it comes to how much liquid you add.
So, will you join Team Low and Slow?
In need of some dinner ideas? Here are five delicious pumpkin recipes
Updated on June 28th 2021.