October 6, 2016

What you should know about slow cookers

We’ve heard the term “slow cooker” many times in our lifetime, and unless we’re really into cooking, I bet there’s so little that we know about this fairly obscure kitchen appliance.

First, do not confuse a slow cooker with a pressure cooker because they are chalk and cheese.

As the term slow cooker implies, the appliance cooks food very slowly, which could take around 8 hours or so. In contrast, a pressure cooker cooks food exceedingly fast, taking only a matter of a few minutes.

The slow cooker, otherwise known as the ‘Crock-pot,’ was first used in the 1950’s? Yes, slow cooker has been around for at least 66 years. However, it was only in the 1970’s when the use of slow cooker became more popular as women began to work outside the home. Juggling household chores and work could be difficult, so women back then would start cooking dinner in the morning before going to work and finish preparing the meal in the evening when they came home.

How did they do this? Let’s first dissect a slow cooker’s parts to know.

A slow cooker is a countertop electrical cooking appliance. It has three main parts: the outer casing, the inner casing, and the lid. The inner casing is a covered round or oval pot that is made of glazed ceramic or porcelain, and this functions as the cooking container and a heat reservoir. The outer casing is a metal housing that contains the electric heating element, usually metal coils, encasing the inner pot. Its lid is often made of glass.

By using the slow cooker, all you need to do is place the ingredients in the slow cooker, cover it with the lid then leave it to cook. The outer casing produces low heat and transfers it to the inner casing. This is where slow cooker displays its capabilities. The contents are left to soften and simmer as their flavors combine. For dishes that require liquids or wet ingredients, the slow cooker also acts as baster as it keeps all the moisture in.

These days, the basic slow cookers have heat settings, such as low, medium, high, and sometimes a “Keep Warm” setting that is perfect for when you want to bring your slow cooker outdoors. The best part is you don’t need to reheat the food! On the other hand, some slow cookers can automatically switch from cooking to warming after a fixed time, which enables hassle-free dove tailing. The most advanced slow cookers have computerized timing devices, and these allow the slow cooker to be programmed to perform multiple operations, such as two hours high, followed by an hour low, then warm.

Currently, there are many brands of slow cookers in the market, but the best of them are the Cuisinart 7-Quart Multicooker (AED 740) from the high-end range, Hamilton Beach 6-Quart Programmable Stovetop Slow Cooker (AED 257) from the mid-range, and the basic Crock-Pot 4-Quart Slow Cooker (AED 92).