How to Use a Slow Cooker to Feed a Family Easily and Cheaply

The Slow Cooker is a great invention and is perfect for busy families who want to come home to a hot, hearty meal after work without having to spend time preparing it. It's worth getting up a bit earlier to prepare some meat and vegetables to throw into your slow cooker to cook while you're at work. There are so many recipes that can be prepared in your slow cooker – casseroles and stews, soups, puddings, Mulled wine, curry and chilli. Some people even use two, and have their main meal cooking in one and their side dish or dessert cooking in the other.

Slow cookers are available in different sizes – mini for cooking for one up to large for cooking for large families or for entertaining.

If you have got one gathering dust on a shelf or in a cupboard, grab it, clean it and get searching for some recipes.

Using a slow cooker will give you many benefits: –

1.Using a slow cooker uses less electricity than cooking in a standard electric oven.

2.You can use cheaper cuts of meat because the slow cooking tenderises the meat.

3.In summer, using one will prevent your kitchen getting overly hot.

4.It saves you the time and energy of cooking a meal at the end of the day when you are tired.

5.No effort apart from initial preparation – The food does not need stirring, it can be left happily for 7-10 hours.

6.Natural juices and flavors are retained rather than boiling away.

7.Easy clean up – just one pot and your plates and cutlery.

8.A slow cooker is ideal for entertaining with minimum effort.

9.The food does not dry out but is kept nice and moist.

10.The low temperature and slow cooking makes your slow cooker ideal for cooking puddings like egg custard.

Tips for Using Your Slow Cooker

* Preheat it before adding ingredients.

* Brown meat before adding, and make sure any liquids are boiling.

* Leave it alone – lifting the lid can add 15-20 minutes onto the cooking time.

* Keep it clean – soak the pot after use to enable you to remove any burnt on bits, otherwise they will cook into your next dish!

* Chop vegetables up small so that they cook through and make sure they are covered by the liquid. You could also saute vegetables first.

* Do not use it to reheat left overs, use a microwave to get food piping hot.

* Do not overfill it.

* Read through the manufacturer's instructions and guidelines to make sure you use your slow cooker properly and that you know what the different settings are for.

* Make sure meat and poultry are thawed out properly and do not add frozen vegetables.

* Use your slow cooker overnight to cook a hot breakfast recipe.

* Be adventurous – look for slow cooker recipes online and have fun experimenting.

* Make a big casserole, curry or chilli in it, and then freeze in batches to use on days where you have not got time to prepare long meals.

* Once you have poured meat, vegetables and sauce into it, pour a bit of wine or stock into the frying pan you've used and scrape the pan. Add to the slow cooker for extra flavor.

* Do not add too much liquid – Follow recipes and do not be tempted to add extra liquid. Slow cooking creates liquid because steam hits the lid, condenses and drips back into the food.

* If the finished casserole is too watery, switch on to high, remove lid and cook like that for half a hour.

* Do not put prepared meat and vegetables in the pot of the slow cooker in the fridge overnight, you do not want to start with a chilled pot because cooking will take longer.

* Test whole chicken or large cuts of meat with a meat thermometer at the end of the cooking time.

* Most importantly, enjoy experimenting with your slow cooker.