Your online resource

for all things culinary


HOME Search this Site All Recipes Special Sections Articles &  Resources Kitchen Equipment Food & Health Growing Food Directories

Missing an Ingredient ? UKFoodOnline.co.uk

 

Cookware - Slow Cookers

Part I

Information and how to choose and buy slow cookers

Jump to :-   Crock Pots  |  How do they work?  |  Benefits  | Are they Safe?  |  Buying Guidelines

Go to:-   Part II - How to use Slow Cookers  |  Buy Slow Cookers  | Main Cookware Page

In today’s life full of work and social pressures, slow cookers are especially useful in cutting down the amount of time spent in the kitchen particularly in the evening when after a busy day. This guide to slow cookers will tell you everything you need to know to understand these appliances and choosing the right one for your personal needs. Detailed information about how to use slow cookers plus recipes can be found in Part II.

Back to top
 

Crock-Pots™

 

Before going into the details about slow cookers, we'd like to clear up some terminology.  The term "slow cooker" is a generic name for a countertop appliance consisting of a heating element and heat proof dish (crock) housed in an outer case (often metal) and a lid  which is designed to cook foods by slow, moist heat.  Crock-Pot™  is the brand name of a particular manufacturer and much like the name "Hoover" has become inextricably linked with vacuum cleaners, so Crock-pot™ has become synonymous with slow cookers.

 

Apart from the usual variables which can be found within any range of kitchen appliances, in effect, crock-pots and slow cookers are the same type of appliance i.e. a Crock-pot™  is a slow cooker.

 

In this article, we refer to the "crock" by which we mean the inner cooking  dish.

 

How Do Slow Cookers Work?


In general, slow cookers heat the contents of the crock to 160C/300°F with the food never reaching 100C/212F i.e. boiling point.  Because of this low temperature, food can be cooked for a long time without risk of burning. These low cooking temperatures also mean it is safe to leave the slow cooker unattended.  Furthermore  if the food is left for longer than the stated time, it generally does not overcook.

 

The inclusion of a lid also means any condensation falls back into the food, keeping it moist.

Back to top

What are the Benefits of Using a Slow Cooker?

So why would you want to use a slow cooker?  What’s the point of cooking at a lower temperature? 

  • Saves money on energy as they require very little power to operate

  • Cooler Kitchen due to the lower energy used.

  • Cheaper cuts of meat can be used as the slow and long cooking time ensures the collagen in the connective tissue is broken down resulting in tender succulent meat

  • One pot cooking -  cooking meat and vegetables together in the slow cooker saves on washing up. Also, if you have a removable crock, this can double up as a serving dish.

 

 Follow us 

Share 

 

Are Slow Cookers Safe?

 

As with other electrical appliances, provided the housing unit, heating element, inner crock and lead  are not damaged slow cookers are very safe to be left unattended for many hours. If they weren't the manufacturers would have gone out of business years ago.

 

Back to top

 

What Should I Look For in a Slow Cooker?


If you would like to have one of these useful appliances in your own kitchen, here are the top things that you should consider before making a purchase.


Slow Cooker Construction

 

Size and shape
Select a slow cooker which suit your family needs.  A stated capacity of 3.5 litres (useable volume of 2 litres) will feed two to four people  and a stated capacity of 6 litres (useable volume of 4.5 litres) will feed six to eight people. 

 

Choose a round shape if you think you will mainly be cooking recipes such as stews or curries. Pick an oval shape if you feel you may wish to cook whole joints or poultry. 

 

Outer Housing Unit 

The base should be sturdy and should allow air to flow underneath and dissipate heat.  Choosing a cool-wall unit is also advisable.


The inner Crock

A removable crock is far easier to clean and use, and allows for refrigeration of foods before and after cooking. As a full crock can be heavy, solid handles are a must. Also, bear in mind that a heavier crock will better withstand accidental bumps when moving (from fridge to housing unit), washing up and storage.

 

Lid

A glass lid is the best option.  If you think you will be cooking joints of meat or whole poultry, a higher domed lid is a good choice as it will allow more room for cooking taller foods.


Slow Cooker Settings and Functions

 

Different models will have different variables, so it is wise to check the specifications very carefully before purchasing. some of the options available include:-


Auto cook
This setting starts cooking on high and after an hour continues to cook on low. Although not all models have this function, many believe the best results are achieved using this particular setting.

Low setting
This is the best setting for cooking cheaper cuts of red meats. In general, cooking on this setting vary between 8 to 12 hours.

 

Hi (high) setting
This is recommended for cooking pale meats such as chicken. In general, cooking on this setting vary between 3 to 6 hours) at a slightly higher temperature.

 

Med (medium) setting
This setting is used when faster cooking is required but without losing all the slow cooking benefits. Once again, many models do not have this option.

Keep warm
This setting is used purely to keep finished recipes from drying out if you are delayed, but stops it getting cold.


Other Slow Cooker features


Timer
Timers can be used to turn the setting to "keep warm" at the end of the cooking time. Not all models have a timer, but it can be  useful if you are not going to be there at the end of the recommended cooking time and so need to keep the food warm.

On indicator light
An indicator light is a handy visual indicator that your slow cooker is actually on.

Cord length
Make sure your slow cooker cord will easily reach the available socket.

 

General

 

Standard Safety Marks.   Look for a slow cooker with a recognised safety mark for your particular country which is a sign that the manufacturer follows the best safety precautions.

 

Good Reviews.  Check cooking magazines and websites to read slow cooker reviews from other consumers and businesses.

 

 

 Sign up for Free E-mailings
 
 

I still haven't found what I'm looking for

 

Try our search facility. Type in your main ingredient (s) or whatever you happen to have available in your store cupboard or fridge and allow us to whisk you up a recipe in seconds!

 

 

 

For full advanced search tips visit our main search page via the red "search this site" button at the top of the page

 

About Us  |  Contact Us  |   Advertise |    Private Privacy  |   Media Resources  |  Links  |  Sitemap  |  Printing Recipes  |  

 

Abbreviations on this site  

 

 

 

This Web Site was designed and created by Recipes4us.co.uk. Copyright © 2000 to date [Recipes4us] All rights reserved.

 Some Photos © www.fotolia.co.uk