There is nothing like coming home after a day out to the smell of something cooking and knowing your dinner is almost ready. This is the beauty behind a crock pot. With just a few minutes of preparation, an entire meal can be cooked and served from the same pot without the mess from traditional meal preparation.
Less work and less mess always equals less stress and dinner time can be a family gathering at the end of the day instead of the time consuming chore during a busy work week.
One pot slow cooking provides a number of possibilities for cooking leaner and less expensive cuts of meat. The moist, long, slow cooking provides tender meat with very little fat that is easily removed keeping meals not only tasty but healthy too.
Which Size Is Right?
If you don't already have a slow cooker, the first thing to consider is size. The size of your family is generally the best factor in determining the best fit. Small versions are often used for appetizers, and dips. These are roughly 16 oz. and are perfect for cooking for one.
A large family would be best served with a 5 qt. or even a 7 qt. model. These are the most cost efficient as they can also be used for batch dishes such as soups and chilies for larger pot luck events.
The larger the slow cooker, the more controls available. With just low and high preset settings, the results may not be as reliable. With the larger size and additional settings, you can preset variable cooking temperatures and cooking times for a better result.
The Dos and Don'ts
There are some steadfast rules when it comes to crock pot cooking. Some meals require ingredients to be added in stages. Most stews require the meat to be cook for a few hours before firm vegetables are added.
Rule of thumb; add things like spices, herbs and seasonings at the beginning of the cooking process and the softer or frozen vegetables in the final few minutes.
Liquid is a key ingredient in keeping your meal moist. Your tried and true beef or chicken stock can be substituted with canned soups, juices or even tea for tenderizing.
Leave it be. Since ingredients are thoroughly cooked over a long period of time, stirring is not recommended or the food will break apart. Removing the lid also interferes with the consistent temperature and can impact the length of time and the tenderness of the meal.
A crock pot is an essential appliance for any home and can deliver classic menus such as pot roast and five alarm chili with very little prep work involved. But it can also keep meals warm in family gatherings and get togethers without taking up space.
Unlimited recipes and your adventurous spirit is the only thing needed to make your crock pot your favourite kitchen tool.