Why you should be using a slow cooker for easy, delicious meals

If you like home-cooking but lack the time or know-how, a slow cooker can be your favourite kitchen helper. Here's what you need to know to get started.

Why you should be using a slow cooker for easy, delicious meals

Choosing a slow cooker

Not all cookers are equally slow. Some brands are known for running hot and, therefore, cooking the meal faster. If you already have a slow cooker, you might want to test it by cooking a meal while you're home and checking the food an hour or so before the time is up to see if it's done.

Before you go shopping, search online for reviews and pick the best model for you. Look for these features:

  • Many slow cookers, even the less expensive ones, let you set the time as well as the temperature. The appliance will shut off by itself or go into warming mode until you come home, so meals are never overcooked.
  • The ceramic pots of some cookers can be used on the stove top.
  • Certain brans offer a free app that lets users communicate with their cookers via smartphone to change the temperature or cook time.

Cooking tips

What you fill the pot with is important. Slow cookers are superb at turning out a savoury stew or pot roast, but the right liquids and flavourings must be added to the mix, so you'll need a recipe. Find cooking books and online recipes, and be sure to specify slow cooker recipes.

What meat to use:

  • Meats with lots of fat, like chuck steaks, briskets, shank and shoulder cuts are ideal for slow cookers. Slow cooking makes tough meats tender and flavourful.
  • Avoid very lean meats because slow cooking can tend to dry them out.
  • Putting large cuts of meat in the slow cooker is tricky because they may not cook through to the centre. It's best to cut the meat into pieces before cooking.

Other prep hints:

  • If you're pressed for time in the morning, cut and chop the ingredients the night before and store them in the fridge. Do not store them in the slow cooker and put that in the fridge, because the refrigerated pot will interfere with cooking times.
  • For the same reason, don't add frozen food to the slow cooker. Thaw frozen veggies first.
  • Cooking with wine? Alcohol doesn't evaporate much in a slow cooker, so go easy on it.
  • Don't fill your slow cooker more than two-thirds full.

One last tip: before you leave the kitchen, make sure the lid is on tight. Uncovered slow cookers don't cook very well.

Enjoy

You've got the basics. Now all you have to do is pick a recipe and visit the grocery store. In the evening, kick off your shoes and relax at home while you dine. If you've been used to eating restaurant food, this alternative will save you a lot of money. And you will love your new slow cooker.

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