About slow cooking
We all have times when we just need to SLOW down. Life is busy and a slow cooker can make it easy for you to make quick, healthy meals for you and your family. Slow cookers let you start a meal in the morning and have dinner ready when you get home.
A basic slow-cooker has the settings of “low” and “high” and often a “keep warm” setting.
The size of a slow cooker you need depends on how much food you want to cook and how many people you are feeding. Fill the cooker between 1/2 to 2/3 full for the best results.
- A 3.5-4-quart size slow cooker is best if you’ll be cooking for four or fewer people.
- a 5-7-quart size or larger slower cooker is best if you’ll be cooking for five or more people or you want leftovers.
Slow cooking tips
- Cut most vegetables into small to medium size and place in the bottom and around the sides of the slow cooker.
- Very soft vegetables like tomatoes, mushrooms, and zucchini should be added during the last 45 minutes of cooking time.
- Spray the inside of the slow cooker with cooking spray to make cleanup easier.
- It is important to keep the ingredients refrigerated before you use them in a slow cooker recipe. Bacteria can multiply on food quickly at room temperature. Perishable foods should remain refrigerated until you need them.
- Allow enough cooking time on the ‘low’ setting. Most uncooked meat and vegetable combinations will require at least 8 hours on low. (One hour on high is about equal to two hours on low). Use a thermometer to test meat (beef steaks and roast 145º F; pork 160º F; chicken 165º F.)
Benefits of slow cooking
- Saves money: Makes cheap, tough cuts of meat tender and delicious.
- Saves time: Most slow cooker recipes are quickly prepared and left to cook for long hours. Your food is ready right when you get home from work.
- Saves energy: Slow cookers use less energy than using an oven or cooking range. They also keep your house cool in the summer.
- Brings out the flavor in foods.
Best foods for slow cooking
Here are some foods that generally do well in a slow cooker:
- Meat: Beef, chicken, pork, and wild game. The low heat helps less expensive, leaner cuts of meat become tender and shrink less.
- Fish and Shellfish
- Dried beans and lentils
- Beverages, dips, and fondues, soups and stews, vegetable dishes, main dishes, one-dish meals, desserts.
- Baked Goods: You can make cakes, cobblers, and quick-breads in a slow cooker. Some come with a baking unit rack for this purpose. If your slow cooker did not come with these extras you can improvise with things from your own kitchen.