If you haven’t yet discovered the joys of using a slow cooker, you should really consider investing in one, particularly if you are short on money, time, or both – and these days, who isn’t? You can toss a few ingredients and seasonings into the pot in the morning, turn your cooker on a low setting, go to work, and come home to the enticing aroma of a hot, delicious, ready-cooked meal. Or if you work at home, you can go about your other business without fretting over what you’re going to do for dinner (although the tantalising cooking smells might drive you to distraction). And did we mention that slow cookers are a boon to cooks on a budget? They can help you save not only on your grocery bill but also on energy costs.
Then and now
Slow cookers first became a “thing” back in the 1970s when more women went to work outside the home and simply didn’t have hours to spend slaving over the proverbial hot stove to prepare the family’s evening meal. In 1971 the Rival Company bought out a small firm, Naxon, creator of an all-purpose electric cooker. Rival reintroduced the cooker under the Crock-Pot name, and the product took off. Three years later the company introduced removable stoneware inserts, making the device easier to clean. Women discovered that they could start the evening meal in the Crock-Pot (or other branded slow cooker – other companies soon followed Rival’s suit), and when they came home they could have a home-cooked meal on the table in no time. Responding to the growing demand, a wave of “crockery cookery” cookbooks hit the bookstore shelves, and a new era was born.
Over the past few years slow cookers have enjoyed quite a comeback in the UK, spurred in large part by the economic downturn, as well as by the fact that busy working families have even less time to spend in the kitchen preparing meals than they did forty-plus years ago. Seventy-five percent of Britons polled in a 2009 survey said they had dusted off their old slow cookers or had purchased new ones. That’s somewhat noteworthy considering that cooking trends these days are very often influenced by celebrity chef endorsements, and as a whole, those TV cooks seem to snub slow cookers.
Notwithstanding the snubs, on Amazon.co.uk, sales of the cookers are reported to be up by 55 per cent over the past couple of years. And the trend shows no sign of abating.
How a slow cooker can make life better
For the benefit of those who are new to the whole slow-cooking thing, slow cookers are self-contained electric cooking pots that can simmer meals at a low heat for as long as 10 hours. Modern models generally consist of a removable ceramic “crock,” a glass lid, and a heater housing with controls. They come in various sizes and price ranges. You can get a good one for about £20 (take a look here to get an idea of what is available). Payday Loans could offer the finances you need to allow you to purchase the model you prefer, allowing you to make savings in the kitchen for years to come.
Slow cookers offer several advantages:
1. They allow unattended cooking. As the name “slow cooker” implies, these devices are designed to cook foods such as stews or curries very slowly, generally for a minimum of six hours. However, on lower settings cooking can take as long as 10 hours. This makes the slow cooker ideal for those who want to make a delicious meal but simply don’t have time to stand over a stove for hours.
2. They are energy efficient. Slow cookers use very little power. You might think that running a device for six or eight or 10 hours would use more energy than running your electric oven for a mere hour or two. But that’s not the case. The slow cooker uses just a little more energy than a light bulb, according to the price comparison site, uSwitch. As for that conventional oven, the Centre for Sustainable Energy (www.cse.org.uk) has estimated the average electricity usage of an electric oven to be between 2-2.2kWh, while a slow cooker uses approximately 0.7kWh over eight hours. And while a microwave oven is actually the most energy-efficient way to cook food, not everything is microwaveable, particularly tough cuts of meat – or stews and many different types of curries and sauces that need to be simmered slowly to reach a state of perfection.
3. They’re a boon for cooks on a budget. So you can’t afford a prime rib roast or filet mignon? No worries. With the right seasonings and sufficient cooking time, your slow cooker can turn even the cheapest or toughest cut of meat, and the most basic and boring vegetables, into something savory, tender, and altogether lovely. As indicated above, slow cookers are perfect for making stews.
4. You’ll never run out of recipes and ideas. There are many thousands of recipes available for slow cookers; they’re all over the Internet and can also be found in magazines, newspapers, and, of course, slow-cooker cookbooks. If you’re not keen on doing recipes from scratch, the food manufacturers have your back. In the past decade or so they have come out with a dizzying array of “easy meal” kits and simmer sauces specifically for slow cookers.
So never mind what those snooty celebrity chefs say; let them turn up their noses. The reality is that many thousands of people have discovered that a slow cooker really can be their best friend in the kitchen.