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Slow cookers have been used for some decades now but with competition from newer, more multi-functional appliances such as Instant Pots, they have had to be somewhat reinvented to withstand the competition.
Modern multi-cookers come with slow cooking functionality which raises this question, is a slow cooker worth it?
What Is A Slow Cooker?
A slow cooker is a kitchen appliance with limited multifunctional cooking capabilities that can safely cook foods for long periods of time using low temperatures.
It has 3 components that make up the unit which include the vessel or pot, the base, and the lid. Handles are also typically available for easy handling and movement of the appliance.
Inside the base liner, there are heating bands that create heat for cooking the meals inside.
Depending on the model, slow cookers can be programmed to cook different types of meals using the built-in processor.
The cooking in slow cookers is perfectly calculated to provide uniform cooking without the worry of burned food. You can delay the start of the cooking process by just setting the delay button (if your model is equipped with this feature).
Other settings like “keep warm” allow you to keep the food warm. For busy people, this appliance is great to set up and do the cooking without the need to monitor the progress. They have been a staple in busy households for generations, honestly.
The base of the slow cooker and the liner have a gap that allows airflow to prevent overheating.
How Do Slow Cookers Cook Food?
As their name suggests, slow cookers cook food slowly using low temperatures. How slow to cook depends on the time settings you have chosen for it to cook (i.e. it depends on the food and therefore on the slow cooker recipe).
Food normally can take 6 to over 10 hours to cook in a slow cooker. The low or high setting used determines the time taken to cook the food evenly.
Why Would You Use A Slow Cooker?
If you come home in the evening and feel too spent to cook, a slow cooker can be a perfect solution. It’s easy to set up your food in the morning and return to a fully cooked and hot meal.
Using a slow cooker also allows you to multitask while it’s cooking, without supervision.
Cooking with slow cookers doesn’t require many skills as you can simply follow existing easy slow cooker recipes and turn on the cooker!
There are many reasons and benefits to using a slow cooker.
Facts You Need To Know About Slow Cookers
The first slow cooker was made by Irving Naxon in the 1940s which took hours to cook. In the 1970s, the company was acquired and it was rebranded to Crock-Pot.
“Crockpot” is a now a household term used to refer to slow cookers but it actually is a specific brand of slow cookers. It is one of the popular brands on the market for quality slow cookers.
Slow cookers come in many sizes to fit all types of users. They can be available from 1 to 8 quarts. The smaller sizes can be perfect for single users to cook sauces and dips.
3 to 5 quarts are ideal for cooking meals for around four people. For larger meal cooking, slow cookers from 5 and above quarts are the best option.
It’s even easy to travel with your slow cooker these days, with portable slow cookers (many feature snap lock lids and similar features to keep your food contained despite travel bumping).
Slow cookers with the browning feature are great for cooking meals involving meat. Many recipes require to brown meat before putting it inside the cooker, so this great feature saves you a separate dish to clean and condenses the steps to make the cooking easier and faster.
The cool thing about this feature is it allows you to brown the meat by removing the pot and placing it on the stovetop to brown. After browning, you can return the entire pot to the base and continue to cook your recipe with the slow cooker.
You can cook almost anything in a slow cooker. From desserts, dips, meat, soups, potatoes and an endless list of meals.
To determine if the slow cooker is worth it, knowing the advantages and disadvantages will help you decide.
Advantages of Slow Cookers
Easy To Learn & Cook With
The skills required are basic to follow the recipes for delicious meals cooking. The setting and features are easy to read and control for different temperatures, time and programs.
Convenience & Time-Saving
The fact that you can put ingredients and turn on the appliance and return to a cooked meal is appealing. Instead of cooking while tired at work, setting the slow cooker in the morning before you leave is a better option.
Health & Nutrition
Most of the recipes include vegetables and fresh produce which are very healthy. Vegetable contains vitamins and minerals which are essential to the body.
Slow cookers provide tender meals even meat cooked in a slow cooker comes out tenderized. Tender food is easy to digest.
Excellent Food Safety
Slow cookers cook between 170 degrees to 300 degrees which kills pathogens in food. For instance, meat requires over 140 degrees to eliminate the pathogens.
The presence of keep warm function enables the food to maintain temperatures and prevent bacteria formation which thrives in cold food.
The construction materials are BPA free and approved by the FDA as safe for cooking. Your health is safe using slow cookers with no risk of PFOA materials.
Good Cooking Results
Using slow cookers is that burning of food due to overcooking or extra temperatures is unlikely. The liquid can dry but the point of burning is very rare.
First, slow cookers are very energy efficient and consume a low amount of electricity.
You can also save money on your grocery bill by buying cheaper cuts of meat instead of expensive cuts of meat. Also, the ingredients used in slow cooker recipes are inexpensive.
Modern slow cookers can function as multicookers combining several appliance functions into one, therefore, saving you money to buy multiple single appliances.
Food Rich In Flavor
The flavor is retained in the pot because there is no evaporation during the cooking process. All the flavors during the hours are trapped resulting in a delicious meal and tasteful flavor.
No Smells of Cooking Food
Just like the flavor is trapped inside the pot, the cooking odor is contained in the pot. Some food releases pungent smells while cooking and this might be the solution. The odor can only come out once the vessel is opened.
Uses Less Oil/Fat
You can reduce the amount of cooking oil or fat used when using a slow cooker. These appliances are well-designed to retain moisture while cooking, so you’ll need fewer additional moisture sources (like coating the pot with oil) to avoid sticking foods.
Cutting the fat content on your meals can prevent cholesterol and promote a healthier body.
Slow cookers use a little amount of electricity without wasting energy. If you are conscious about energy saving, a slow cooker saves energy.
If the slow cooker is multifunctional, it saves power because you only use one appliance instead of multiple ones.
Easy To Clean
If you are not a fan of cleaning appliances due to complexity, slow cookers are easy to clean. The inner pot is removable and often nonstick which makes cleaning simpler.
In addition, you can buy plastic, disposable liners for your slow cooker, which makes cleanup as easy as just removing the liner and tossing it in the garbage! A quick rinse or wipe of the pot and lid is all you’ll need!
Cooks Almost Everything
A slow cooker can cook most of the meals and recipes commonly used. All fresh produce ingredients can be cooked in a slow cooker.
Some ingredients may be challenging in a slow cooker but it offers a variety of options.
Disadvantages of Slow cookers
There is no perfect appliance as slow cookers have some cons to be aware of.
Requires Some Planning
Nothing doesn’t involve planning but in a slow cooker, once the cooking has started, you can interrupt it to add more ingredients. Before starting the cooker, all the ingredients should be ready.
If you need to brown meat, you should do it first and then combine with other ingredients for slow cooking.
You’ll also want to budget cook time accordingly and set up your slow cooker with enough time to cook, but if you’re meal planning and meal prepping each week, you’ll have no trouble with this!
Works Better With Fresh Produce
Best results can be achieved using fresh produce because they come out with more like a steamed produce result. Frozen produce may be stuck together and not cook as evenly, or have too much ice build up from the freezer and water down the entire dish.
Check your recipes carefully to know if frozen or fresh produce is recommended, and to verify if subsituting one for the other will produce the same results.
The slow cooker is designed to cook slowly, so if you are in a hurry then you need an instant pot or other multicookers which cook faster.
Uneven Results Can Occur
Some foods take longer than others to cook which can lead to unevenly cooked food. I this is the case, cooking the hard ingredients before to match other ingredients can help evenly cooked food. An example of this is that it’s sometimes tricky to cook pasta in a slow cooker, as it often needs to be added at a certain point in the recipe or cooked in advance.
It’s great to ensure to follow the recipe for perfectly cooked meals.
The nature of slow cookers cooking with the lid tightly locked, it causes condensation as a steam cant escape. The condensed steam falls back to the meals which can dilute the flavors or spices.
Choose a slow cooker with condensate capacity to collect the steam, or a small steam vent, and prevent it from dripping back to the food.
This can be caused by a long period of simmering. Fresh spices like cinnamon can overpower the flavor of the meal. Balancing the spices can help prevent this issue, so check your recipe instructions carefully.
Tips On How To Choose A Slow Cooker
- Make sure the slow cookers have replaceable bowls.
- Quality and reputable brand like Crockpot for the best performing slow cooker.
- Slow cookers with condensate capacity to collect the steam preventing drip back is much better
- The programs in the slow cooker is an important feature to look for as well as cooking time and temperature controls.
- Slow cooker with pressure cooker function and other multifunctions will be more convenient and practical.
- The removable cover of the slow cooker should be easier to clean.
- Handles provide convenient handling and movement of the appliance.
- A powerful device offers better performance (700 to 800 watts). Also, the size should be enough for cooking enough food for the family, 5 to 8 quarts.
Final Thoughts (Is A Slow Cooker Worth It?)
In my opinion, the slow cooker is worth it if you like tasty foods. It offers great benefits while the cost of buying one is fair.
To utilize the space in the kitchen and energy, its better to choose a slow cooker with multifunctions like pressure cooking, rice cooking, steamer and more.
This can save you space by owning one appliance with several functions of different appliances.
As long as you can prepare ingredients in advance and let the slow cooker to cook, you will find the appliance to be reliable.