If you are curious about what a slow cooker is, hopefully, this guide will clear everything up.
This guide 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 of cooking food in a slow cooker and anything else that you need to know.
Basics of a Slow Cooker
A slow cooker is a cooking pot typically made from ceramic, metal, or even porcelain. It is usually entirely surrounded by an electrical unit that contains a heating element.
The heating element can be on all sides of the pot or just the bottom. A common variation is a simple metal heating plate with 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 are many different kitchen appliances that can be used for slow cooking food. For example, modern programmable rice cookers usually have a slow cook function. An all in one device that can deep fry, sear and stew can also slow cook.
Despite needing to be left on for hours, the average slow cooker tends to use less power than an oven. This is because of how a slow cooker operates. Depending on the brand, a slow cooker may switch on and off to maintain heat or 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 gentle heat to cook the food slowly. The unit is sealed so that moisture evaporation is incredibly low. This means your dishes will be wetter than usual, 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 is recommended that you cook most recipes on the low temperature. This allows the flavors 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 are converting a recipe that uses a different cooking method, you will need to adjust both the times and liquids. Due to the very little evaporation, you will not 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 low heat, there is a surprising number of recipes that you are able to do in the slow cooker that is not your traditional stews and soups. Below are just a few good examples of dishes that you are able to cook.
- Chocolate Brownies – These come out just like normal brownies but tend to be soft and incredibly gooey.
- Lasagna – Surprisingly is not much different from the oven version apart from the top does not crisp up.
- Chicken Jambalaya – The texture is more on the mushy side, but the flavors 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 do not get that amazing crisp texture that you would normally get when baking this dish. However, it still tastes amazing.
If there are any dishes that you have tried that are not the traditional soup, stew, or sauce and you would love to share it, then be sure to leave a comment at the bottom of this page.
Different Slow Cooker Designs
There is a huge range of different types of slow cookers that you are 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 can buy a slow cooker that has three heat settings; keep warm, low, and high. However, some have a fourth heat setting called medium but it is not really used in most slow cooker recipes.
Slow cookers can vary a ton from brand to brand with each having its own different pros and cons. You will find some that use metal pots while others use ceramic. Some use glass lids, while 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 if you are not home all day to keep an eye on the food cooking.
There are also slow cookers with inbuilt Wi-Fi, more heat settings, and so much more. Most of these features are not exactly needed but might come in handy, depending on your circumstances.
I recommend to check out the reviews of the product to make sure you are getting a slow cooker that can do what it is designed to do properly. A crock pot is a branded slow cooker and will usually guarantee you a level of quality and features.
Slow Cooker Pros and Cons
To summarize the point of what is a slow cooker, I have gone through the pros and cons of using one instead of the 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 are cooking from frozen
- Long power outages can spoil the food without you knowing.
There are more pros and cons that I have missed, so if you have any feedback that you would like to add, then be sure to leave a comment at the bottom of this page.
Where to Buy a Slow Cooker
It is pretty hard not to find a slow cooker for sale. You can usually find them in any good supermarket or you can 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, Wi-Fi 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.
I hope you have found this guide handy and now know what a slow cooker is. If you think I got something wrong or have something to add, please leave a comment below.