Slow Cooker
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A Slow Cooker or “crock-pot” is an electric cooking appliance with a ceramic “crock” inside a metal pot that is designed to evenly cook foods “Low & Slow” as with a Moist Heat Method. Crock-Pot ® is a trademarked, brand name type of Slow Cooker that has done so well in the marketplace that it has almost become synonymous with the category.

Foods coming out of the Slow Cooker, after 8 hours or more, are similar in consistency to foods cooked in an oven a very long time and on very low heat.  In fact, an easy way to think of the Slow Cooker is as a smaller electric oven that is designed to cook foods unattended for hours. Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines and use common sense if leaving it cooking unattended.

Culinary Uses

RoastsStewsSoups, and one-pot meals are perfect items to cook all day in a Slow Cooker. Because of the long cook times, being Organized, the First Lever of Smart Kitchen’s Four Levers of Cooking™, helps greatly when using a Slow Cooker because of the 8 to 12 hours long lead time required to cook the food. Many home cooks fill a slow cooker in the morning as they leave for work and enjoy the results upon their return.

Slow Cookers can cook foods, as with a Moist Heat Method, using their own internal juices or work well with added liquids like fruit juices, broth, wines, soda, etc. Slow Cookers do an admirable job of breaking down the tougher cuts of Beef like those from the ChuckRoundFlank or Plate where time, low temperature and moisture does the hard work.

The major drawback of a Slow Cooker is the inability to Brown or Caramelize meats or vegetables for more complex flavor. Of course, meats or vegetables can be Seared and browned prior to their introduction to a Slow Cooker, with the disadvantage of an extra pot or pan to clean.

Substitutes

The Slow Cooker is sometimes confused with a Dutch Oven or a Pressure Cooker though all three are distinctly different pieces of cooking equipment.  An abbreviated version of the differences between them are that a Dutch oven is essentially a large, often Cast Iron or Enameled pot while a pressure cooker is also essentially a pot but with a major difference: a tight, locking lid and possibly a steam release valve. Pressure Cookers can be electric or stove top vessels. A Slow Cooker, as mentioned above, is an electric, plug-in appliance with a “crock” inside a pot. To learn more about either a Dutch oven or a pressure cooker follow the links above to Smart Kitchen’s resource on those items.

Many foods can be cooked similarly in a Dutch oven or pressure cooker as they are in a Slow Cooker but the opposite is not true. A Slow Cooker is much Less versatile than the other two, though the Slow Cooker is designed to be left unattended and with its removable ceramic “Crock,” it is easier to clean. A Slow Cooker is also very energy efficient as compared to an oven because there is less space to heat.