No human can resist the sensuous delights of a stew, barbecue or leg of lamb slow-cooked until it it is meltingly tender. No matter what the latest trends are in cooking, slow cooking is just as popular as ever. A slow cooker does a terrific job preparing hearty, fulfilling foods: thick stews with vegetables, bubbling soups, pot roasts, sauces and meats.
The slow cooker is one of the most versatile appliances one can have in their kitchen. It is great for preparing vegetarian foods, as well as meat and poultry, everyday meals or big family dinners. One can make great foods for the whole family without any cooking expertize. Only the ingredients have to be added, and the meal is ready in a couple of hours. A slow cooker is basically nothing more than an electric pot with a stoneware insert that can cook food at a consistently low and even temperature for 10 or 12 hours.
One of the biggest advantages of the slow cooker is the flavor: after the long hours of cooking, the result is a deeply flavored meal. Slow cookers are also popular because they can save a lot of time, and they are very practical: with a five quarts cooker, you will surely have leftovers.
However, to make a delicious dinner, you will have to do some planning. The slow cooker is perfect for meat that needs long, gentle cooking to become tender. Dairy products and fish do not fare as well: these will break down during the cooking. Cooking chicken can give unexpected results, so it is important to pay strict attention to the cook times given by chicken recipes.
It is good to put the vegetables first in the pot. This is because vegetables take longer to cook than meat does, so the normal procedure is to start with vegetables, then meat, seasonings and some liquid. You can add fresh dairy products, pasta or rice during the last 30 minutes of cooking time. The slow coking is an extremely safe and healthy process: the bacteria is destroyed by the direct heat from the pot, and the steam within the tightly covered container.
You can ensure a safe dinner if you handle the food carefully. It is important to cut the food in one-inch chunks or even smaller pieces: this way you can ensure thorough cooking. It is not a good idea to use the slow cooker to cook an entire chicken, because the temperature inside the chicken may not reach a safe temperature quickly enough to prevent bacteria growth.