Slow cooking was prevalent back in the 1970s; it became popular as women began working. They could easily prepare the dinner in the morning and finish the rest of its preparation during the evening when they came back home. It took a long time to make dinner, but it was still worth it.
Once you pick up any slow cooker recipe book, you’ll be amazed at how versatile this simple appliance can be. You can combine the ingredients for any of your favorite dishes – from stew to oatmeal to cobble and then walk away until it’s ready.
Now we have even more options than before as a result of innovation in cooking devices. You can buy a manual, programmable, digital, and portable version of the slow cooker from the market. You can also use a non-stick pot with a Teflon coating, stoneware, or ceramic pot.
Other than that, there are many options you can choose from and a variety of cookers. However, there are also drawbacks to this meal preparation method as well as various applications.
Why Should You Use a Slow Cooker?
People often use slow cookers because a recipe requires it, or other times because they want to have the meal cooked while they are away and return to a hot meal. A slow cooker can cook different ingredients in adequate quantities, be it vegetables, meat, or anything else.
It is an excellent option to cook food when you are tired and do not feel like cooking in the evening but still want to eat a healthy homemade meal rather than ordering from outside. Many slow cooking recipes involve putting raw ingredients into the vessel and letting it cook.
Disadvantages of Slow Cooker
Due to steam’s moisture on the closed lid, water drips back into your meal all day long. It can dilute the spices and flavors, leaving you with possibly bland food. It can also become soupy when you are cooking hydrated vegetables like tomatoes.
2. Overwhelming Smell and Flavors
Another issue with the slow cookers is the overwhelming flavor left by fresh spices like thyme and cinnamon after hours of simmering. If you’re someone who doesn’t like a lot of spices in their food, you should use a little less than what’s mentioned in the recipe.
3. It Cooks at a Slow Pace
A slow cooker has a very slow cooking pace, meaning that you will have to wait for hours for it to cook properly. If you’re looking to make something quickly, a slow cooker is not the right option for you. Hence a slow cooker should only be used when making something that requires it based on the recipe, which is best prepared when simmered.
4. Chances of Being Unevenly Cooked
Fresh produce gives some of the best results in a slow cooker as it results in a much better taste. On the other hand, frozen produce can get stuck together and result in being cooked unevenly, or it can build up too much ice from the freezer and water down the dish. Therefore, you have to be very careful with your ingredients.
5. Different Recipes and Their Hassle
When you combine the vegetables and meat in a slow cooker, you will find that vegetables take longer to cook than the meat. A little extra cooking won’t harm the meat, but it can get a bit too overcooked, resulting in a dry dish.
In short, it requires a lot of hassle while preparing the whole thing. Therefore, you should check your recipes carefully to see if the fresh or frozen food is recommended and if substituting one for the other yields the same results.
Moreover, you should consider whether you should slightly precook the vegetables or put them into the slow cooker before adding meat. In any case, it can take quite a while to do all of that.
6. Best For Fresh Produce, but not for Frozen
Many people are often dissatisfied with the texture of the canned food, especially canned vegetables cooked in a slow cooker. The fresh produce retains its freshness and integrity, and you can tenderize it while slow cooking instead of turning it into a mush. Frozen produce also works but keep in mind that it can make the meal watery as it defrosts.
7. Not Suitable For Every Recipe
Different recipes require different methods of preparation and making. A slow cooker is only suitable for making something with a broth or soupy in most cases.
8. Cannot Make Changes Mid-Way
One of the downsides of having a slow cooker is that if you forgot to add something to it, you probably won’t be able to make changes midway because it would ruin the whole process. Hence before preparing to cook, you have to make sure to add everything carefully beforehand to avoid the dish from being spoiled.
Safety Tips for Using the Slow Cooker
1. Safe Start
Start by cleaning the cooker, utensils, and the work surface. It would be best to wash your hands before and during preparation. Refrigerate perishable foods until they are ready to serve. If you cut the meat and vegetables in advance, keep them in a separate refrigerator.
It may take several hours for the slow cooker to reach a safe bacteria-killing temperature. Constant refrigeration ensures that bacteria that multiply quickly at room temperature do not get a “head start” in the first few hours of cooking.
2. Defrost the Ingredients
Before using the slow cooker, always make sure to defrost the ingredients you want to cook – be it vegetables or meat. Make food with content like chili soup, stew, and spaghetti sauce. If you are using a frozen slow cooker meal, follow the instructions that come with it.
3. Using the Right Amount of Ingredients
You should remember that vegetables cook slower than meat and poultry in a slow cooker; that is why you should put the vegetables first in the cooker. You can cook the significant cuts of meat and poultry in a slow cooker. But as the slow cookers come in different sizes, you should consult the instruction booklet to find out about the recommended sizes of meat and poultry that can be cooked in it.
After the vegetables are halfway through, you can add the meat and the recommended amount of liquid like broth, water, or barbecue sauce, etc.
4. Keeping the Lid on
It would be best to always keep the lid on as it can spoil the cooking process if removed unnecessarily. Therefore, be sure to keep the top on and only remove it to stir the food or to check whether it’s done or not.
5. Slow Cooker Settings
The majority of slow cookers have two or more settings. Different foods require different cooking times, depending on the setting. Food will surely cook faster at a higher temperature than at a lower setting. However, if you want all-day cooking and less tender cuts, using the low settings will be best.
Cooking on high settings should be done for a maximum of one hour, which you can then reduce to low or the settings specified in the recipe. However, if you’re going out and have limited time for preparation, it would be safe to let the food cook at the lowest setting.
6. Storing Leftovers
Keep the leftovers in the refrigerator in a covered container after cooking. If you want to reheat the leftovers, you shouldn’t do it directly in a slow cooker. You can reheat the cooked food first either on a stove, in a microwave, or in an oven until it reaches the temperature of 165ᵒ F.
You can then place the hot food in a preheated slow cooker to keep it warm until serving time. Also, make sure to keep it at least 140ᵒ F (a food thermometer would come in handy here).
Slow Cookers – Indeed they are Slow
As discussed above, slow cookers can be good depending on the recipe, but overall it is a slow cooking method and requires care and a minor hassle. Slow cookers can only work with specific recipes; not everything can be made in them.
They’re great for putting different things together and have a type of stew or brothy dish or a dish that requires longer cooking time. That said, we recommend being careful when preparing a dish with a slow cooker.