If you’re curious about what is a slow cooker then hopefully this guide will be able to clear everything up.
In this guide, I will take you through everything you need to know about a slow cooker and what you can use one for. I also take you through some of the pros and cons when it comes to cooking food in one and anything else that you need to know.
Basics of What is a Slow Cooker
To put it simply, a slow cooker is a cooking pot that is usually made from ceramic, a metal or even porcelain. It is usually completely surrounded by an electrical unit that contains an heating element. This heating element can be on all sides of the pot or just the bottom. Some variations are a simple metal heating plate and has no sides at all, your cooking pot simply sits on top.
They all have a lid that is made from glass, metal, or ceramic. These lids are designed to create a low-pressure seal to stop moisture from escaping the pot.
There a lot of different devices that can also be used as a slow cooker. For example, modern programmable rice cookers usually have a slow cook function. All in one devices that can deep fry, sear and stew can also usually slow cook.
The average slow cooker tends to use less power than an oven despite needing to left on for hours. This is because of the way a slow cooker operates, depending on the brand, they may switch on and off to maintain a heat or they will just heat constantly at a certain temperature. This is perfect for anyone who is looking to save as much money as they can.
Cooking Method of the Slow Cooker
As you would imagine a slow cooker uses a low gentle heat to cook the food slowly. The unit is usually sealed so that moisture evaporation is incredibly low. This means your dishes will be more wet than normal, making it great for stews, soups, sauces but not so good for dryer dishes such as baked goods, roasts, and so on.
For the best results it’s recommend that you cook most recipes on the low temperature. This allows the flavours to develop and help tough cuts of meat to become deliciously tender. The higher heat settings can be used if you need the food faster or if the recipe calls for it.
If you’re converting a recipe that uses a different cooking method then you will need to adjust it in both time and in liquid. Due to the very little evaporation you won’t need as much liquid in your recipes so you will need to adjust this.
There are a ton of cooking tips that will help you get the most out of cooking in the slow cooker. It is surprising how a few slight adjustments can radically change the outcome of your dish.
Despite the cooking method involving moisture and a low heat there is a surprising number of dishes that you’re able to do in the slow cooker that aren’t your traditional stews and soups. Below are just a few good examples of dishes that you’re able to cook.
- Chocolate Brownies – These come out just like normal brownies but tend to be soft and incredibly gooey.
- Easy Lasagna – Surprisingly isn’t much different to the oven version apart from the top doesn’t crisp up.
- Chicken Jambalaya – The texture is more on the mushy side but the flavours are certainly there. Well worth trying if you want a delicious dish that you can get ready and cooking hours ahead of when you need it.
- Taco Tater Tot Casserole – You don’t get that amazing crisp texture that you would normally get when baking this dish but it’s still got all the flavours and tastes amazing.
If there are any dishes that you have tried that aren’t the traditional soup, stew or sauce and you love to share it then be sure to leave a comment at the bottom of this page.
Different Slow Cooker Designs
There are a huge range of different types of slow cooker that you’re able to get today. Technically they all do the same thing but the build quality and features can vary hugely.
Depending on the model you buy a typical slow cooker has 3 heat settings; keep warm, low, and high. However, some have a fourth heat setting called medium but isn’t really used in most slow cooker recipes.
Slow cookers can vary a ton from brand to brand with different pros and cons of each. You will find some that use metal pots whilst others use ceramic. Some use glass lids whilst others use metal or ceramic. Most of these differences are minor and really just comes down to personal preference.
Many modern slow cookers have a ton of features that come bundled. For example, almost every device will now have a programmable timer which is incredibly handy for anyone who isn’t at home all day to keep an eye on the food cooking. There are also some with inbuilt WiFi, more heat settings and so much more. Most of these features aren’t exactly needed but might come in handy depending on your circumstances.
Best thing is to do is check out the reviews of the product to make sure you’re getting a slow cooker that can do what it’s designed to properly. A crock pot is a branded slow cooker and will usually guarantee you a level of quality and features.
Slow Cooker Pros & Cons
To summarise the point of what is a slow cooker I have gone through the pros and cons of using one as opposed to a more traditional stovetop or oven method.
- Controlled heat
- Can be left unattended
- Relatively cheap to run
- Tenderizes tough cuts of meat
- Less cleaning (Even easier with Slow Cooker Liners)
- Very hard to burn food (If on low)
- Searing meat will need to be done out of the slow cooker (On most models)
- Increased Risks if you’re cooking from frozen
- Long power outages can spoil the food without you knowing.
There is probably more pros and cons that I have missed so if you have any you would like to add then be sure to leave a comment at the bottom of this page.
Where to buy
It’s pretty hard not to find a slow cooker for sale, you can usually find them in basically any good supermarket. You can also find them online at any good home retail outlet or major online shops such as Amazon.
You can find some slow cookers relatively cheap but they tend to lack some of the more advanced features such as timers, WiFi control, multiple heat settings and more. Cheaper models sometimes have bad heating elements and cooking pots which can lead to some very inconsistent cooking. To avoid picking up a dud just make sure you check out the reviews first (If shopping online).
I really hope that you have found this guide handy and you now know exactly what is a slow cooker. If you think I got something wrong or have something to add then be sure to leave a comment below.