Slow cookers, also known as crock pots, became very popular in the 1970’s because they allowed women who went to work a way of preparing hot meals for the family without spending a lot of time on them. The low temperatures of the slow cooker enable the user to place everything in the pot and leave it cooking for hours without supervision or tending. The convenience of this handy electric appliance resulted in a host of meals perfectly suited to its use.
1. Soups and Stews
Probably the most popular group of slow cooker meals is the soup and stew category. This is due in large part to the fact that the food can simmer covered at a low temperature all day long without fear of burning or sticking. Vegetables can cook thoroughly and the stock never boils away.
It is important to remember to cook any meat before combining it with the other ingredients in the slow cooker. Noodles or pasta should be added towards the end of cooking.
2. Dried Beans
Dried beans take a long time to cook on top of the stove and need constant stirring and attention to prevent sticking. Cooking dried beans in a slow cooker is the most convenient method for preparing this meal.
Beans also have a hard time absorbing seasoning from spices, meats and other ingredients. Allowing them to safely cook undisturbed for hours gives the flavors ample time to mingle and produces a superior dish.
It is also best to boil the beans once before placing in the slow cooker. Many beans contain toxins that can only be eliminated by boiling. Slow cookers do not boil, only simmer.
Rarely do people have time enough for meal preparation to allow sauces for pasta to simmer for the optimal length of time. The only way we can achieve the taste of family recipes is by dedicating a day to cooking or using a slow cooker.
Recipes for sauces, especially tomato-based ones, usually call for a large amount of dried or fresh herbs. It takes time for the flavor of the herbs to permeate through the sauce. A slow cooker allows the ingredients to slowly cook and the herbs to impart their desired traits to the sauce.
Slow cookers are not limited to use when the chef is away from home or even during the day. Meal preparation can begin the night before and the slow cooker can work through the night to produce a prompt meal when desired.