Lifestyles today can be very hectic, with lots of people working long and irregular hours, which is why slow cooking has become increasingly more popular. For those with active lifestyles, or perhaps less money, slow cooker recipes are the perfect choice for them. Slow cookers are not complicated or expensive, but make the most delicious meals. Not only can you slow cook meat, fish and vegetables, you can also use your slow cooker to roast joints, with very soft and tender results – yum! But with so many crock pots on the market, just how do you go about finding the right one?
1) Look at the lid
There are two types of lid you can get on a slow cooker – glass, which you can see through to check on your food, or earthware, which has a more traditional look as it matches the pot. The lid should fit loosely and rock from side to side gently.
2) Check the pot
Most slow cooker pots are made form earthware, as they are a good conductor of heat. Some can be shallow, some deep, some oval and some round. It really is up to personal opinion as which one to purchase. A pot can hold anything from 2 pints to 6 pints. Consider what foods you eat and cook with the most. Meats such as a leg of lamb or chicken would sit better in an oval pot. If you are cooking for a family, a bigger pot would be more practical. Some cookers come with removable pots, so you can serve straightaway from the table and wash it up afterwards. Fixed slow cookers are cheaper to run, as they use less electricity.
3) Consider your lifestyle
Slow cookers do just that – cook foods slowly. But you can control just how long it takes by adjusting the heat settings.
i) Low is ideal for all day or all night cooking at a low temperature. Perfect if you know you’ve got a long day at the office. You can put your food on in the morning and look forward to it all day!
ii) High is used when needing to speed up cooking. It is also great when cooking joints of meat.
iii) Auto starts cooking on high and then when the thermostat reaches a certain temperature, it automatically switches to low. This is great if you’re adding cold ingredients to the dish, or you didn’t have time to preheat before cooking.
4) Look for the lights
Most slow cookers have indicator lights, which turn on when the cooker is in use. Handy to know, as you could end up heading off to work thinking you’ve turned the cooker on, only to discover you pushed the plug in, but didn’t turn on the switch! With an indicator light, it would have shown up.
5) In summary
* Decide how big you want your pot to be.
* Choose between a removable or fixed pot.
* Think about the type of food you’ll be cooking – will the pot need to be deep, shallow, oval or round?
For lots of slow cooker recipes, read Slow Cooking Properly Explained: Over 100 Favourite Recipes (£5.99, Robinson) by Dianne Page.
Dianne Page's collection of over 100 traditional family recipes for the slow cooker has been a bestseller for many years and is perfect for those who are buying (or thinking of buying) their first slow cooker, as well as for the expert.
Now updated to cover the latest developments in slow cooking, her recipes prove that slow cookers not only produce tasty soups, stews and casseroles, but are also ideal for cooking fish, fruit and vegetables.
Slow cooking enables the food's flavours to blend and develop. It tenderizes even the toughest, cheapest meats, offers flexible meal times for busy families and produces no cooking smells and steam in the kitchen.