Cookin’ Low and Slow

Hey, y’all! I’ve got a post up today at my friend Crystal’s blog, Budgeting in the Fun Stuff, in which I talk about my love for my slow cooker and my freezer as money-saving appliances.

Take a moment to click over and read it–I’ll wait. lol And while you’re there, have a look at some of Crystal’s other great posts.

When you come back, I want to talk specifically about how useful my slow cooker has been for me as a blind cook.

Back? Okay, here goes:

I’ve often seen the George Foreman grill and its countertop counterparts recommended for blind cooks, and it’s easy to see their appeal. They’re compact, simple to manage, and quick.

But for my money, you can’t beat the slow-cooker. It’s compact, easy to manage…and…slow.

I have three slow cookers–a 6-quart model, a 3- or 4-quart model, and a little 1-quart model. Each one sits neatly on the counter, so there’s no bending or reaching (except when I’m getting one out!). I can usually see the outline of the cooker, but even if I were totally without vision, it would be easy enough to approach from the side with a potholder and establish where the handles and controls are to avoid getting burned. I don’t think the outside gets as hot as my stovetop, either, even at the highest setting.

The controls are easy–a single knob on the front. My smaller cookers have Off, Low, and High settings, while the larger one adds a WARM position at the end. If I can’t tell by the angle where the dial is set, I can always zero it out by turning it off, and then count the clicks as I turn it on again.

These qualities alone make the slow cooker a great tool for visually impaired cooks. But there’s more…

You have to prep things for the slow cooker just as you would for a meal in the oven or on the stove. Items may have to be peeled and chopped. Meats come out better if they’re browned first, and vegetables frequently benefit from some pre-cooking as well.

But the nice thing about the slow cooker is that it divorces that prep time from the actual finishing-up and serving time. I can start a meal in the early afternoon, when I’m relatively fresh, and if I’m worn down by evening, dinner’s ready to serve. At most, someone might have to throw together a side dish or vegetable. Easy-peasy!

Another thing I really like about the slow cooker is that it’s really hard to overcook your food. It can certainly be done, but in general, if something has to sit an extra fifteen minutes, it’ll be just fine.

Clean-up is easy, too. The inserts slip right out of the heating unit for easy washing. One of my cookers is old enough that it’s not supposed to be immersed in water, but most modern inserts can even go through the dishwasher. If the outer element gets food splashed on it, I just wipe it off with a damp cloth.

A Remarkably Versatile Appliance

I used to think of my slow-cooker as just for soups and stews. Boy, was I wrong!

I’ve used my cooker to cook corned beef and pot roast. You’re not supposed to cook large cuts of meat in the slow cooker, because the inside could take too long to get up to temperature. But you can cut the meat into chunks and eliminate that possibility. Cut onions, carrots and potatoes into chunks and underneath the meat for an easy one-dish meal.

I love to do roasted potatoes in my slow cooker. Just prick them with a fork, rub the outsides with butter or bacon grease, and cook for several hours until they are easy to pierce with a fork. (Note that you lose a lot of heat each time you lift the cooker’s lid, so you will probably want to wait until near the end of the cooking time to test them.) I’ve thrown a beet in as well, with pretty good results, so I imagine most root vegetables would give good results.

I’ve even boiled eggs and baked bread (yes, actual yeast bread!) in the slow cooker. The eggs turned out a little softer than I’d have liked, even after four hours, but they were definitely hard-boiled eggs.

For the bread, I made a sort of trivet by folding strips of aluminum foil and bending them into zig-zags. I put the bread pan right on top of them, being careful not to let it touch the sides. It worked!

Not Quite What You’re Used To

Cooking in the slow cooker isn’t quite the same as cooking in the oven or on the stovetop, and it does require some adaptation. You may have to use less liquid than a traditional recipe calls for, and thickeners such as cornstarch or flour may not work as expected. Needless to say, things will take a lot longer than you’re used to!

If you’re not used to slow-cooking, or want to expand your repertoire, I recommend finding a cookbook specifically devoted to slow cooking. I’ve used The Fix It and Forget It Cookbook, though they rely a bit heavily on canned soups for my taste. I know there are others out there as well.

There’s always the internet, too, and I’ve had good results typing “How to cook [X] in your slow cooker” into search engines.

What about you? Do you share my love for the slow cooker? Do you agree that it can be a handy appliance for visually impaired cooks? What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever cooked in a slow cooker?

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3 thoughts on “Cookin’ Low and Slow

  1. Love the slow cooker! I also prepare meatloaf in mine, hostess hams, spaghetti and spaghetti sauce combined, etc. Great ideas!

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    1. Oh, those are good ideas, too! I’m trying something new tonight–chicken and rice. The chicken is cooking now, and in a couple hourse I’ll pull it out, put the rice in, bone and chop the chicken, and add it back. We’ll see how it goes… 🙂

      Thanks for stopping by, and for leaving a comment!

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  2. We have 3 Crock Pots, yet we generally only use them for dip. Is there a secret to making a delicious stew without the meat being dry in a slow cooker? We seem to be able to dry meat out swimmingly well sadly…

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