Slow Cookers

Electric slow cookers may be relatively new devices, but the history of slow cooking goes back hundreds of years and a crockpot is a convenience, but not a necessity for slow cooking.

If you have the time, a closed casserole or clay baking pot can still be used in your oven, but heating the whole oven to cook one dish is not very economical.

Are Slow Cookers Economical?

Yes, they are both cheap to buy and to run. A basic crockpot can be bought for the price of a meal in a restaurant, but the benefits will last much much longer.

A modern electric crockpot will consume about 150 watts an hour on the low setting. Cooking for eight hours on the low setting will use 150 multiplied by 8 which comes to 1.2 Kw. If you apply your local electricity tariff to that, you will see how cheap they are to run.

Of course, cooking on higher power with crock pots will use more electricity, but the device will only be on for half the time so the total power consumption for one meal will be the same as on low.

To find out how much power your crockpot uses, take the pot and lid out, turn it upside down, and the power consumption figures should be on the bottom.

For more information about cheap recipes and frugal living in general, go to Frugalminded.com

GrocerySavings.com has great tips for reducing your grocery bills.

Are Slow Cookers Efficient?

Yes, they are designed with sufficient insulation to retain their heat very effectively. The lid of a crockpot is an important part of the design. When the crockpot is in use, water vapour will condense on the lid and run back down to the edges where the water forms a seal. when you lift the lid, the water forming the seal runs back into the pot.

Lifting the lid unnecessarily allows heat to escape, it takes time for a new seal to form and cooking time will be extended.

Modern home appliance kitchen aids can save you a lot of time and money when cooking, storing and preparing food.

Controls

Basic crock pots have three settings, - Off, Low and High, with an indicator to tell you the device is on. Most also have a setting to keep food warm once it's cooked.

As you go up through the ranges, you will find timers to switch the cooker to warm when cooking's finished.
Delayed start timers to start cooking at a certain time. (These should never be used with meat as bacteria can start to grow at room temperature, - but they are good for vegetables and desserts).
Automatic temperature sensors which use a probe in the food to keep it at a pre-set temperature.
Sophisticated digital timers which let you set the cooker for specific times on high or low heat.

If you have a basic model, you can use a plug in timer to switch it on and off.

Cooking Pots

It is still possible to buy a basic crockpot with the crock built in. For ease of cleaning, it is much better to get one with a removable cooking pot.

Some slow cookers today are being made with non-stick metal cooking pots which can be used on the stove top to sear meat and then placed in the crock pot without having to transfer the ingredients - one less pot to wash.

A glass lid allows you to see what's going on without opening the cooker. Some crockpots have clips on the lid to make it easy to carry the cooker without risking a spill or dropping the lid.

Slow Cooker Tips

Fill cooker to at least half full, but not more than two thirds

Almost cover the ingredients with liquid for good transfer of heat

Lifting the lid during cooking will lose heat, increasing cooking time, and causing moisture loss

If using sugary ingredients, either use a liner or non-stick spray to make cleaning easier

Defrost ingredients before cooking

Place ingredients that are slower to cook, such as root vegetables, at the bottom of the cooker

Cooking on 'high' takes half as long as cooking on 'low'

If you had a power cut, there is no way of knowing if food is cooked properly. Throw it out

Don't re-heat food in a slow cooker

Cheaper, tougher cuts of meat will be tenderised in a slow cooker

Soak dried beans for twelve hours and boil for ten minutes before adding to the cooker to remove toxins

Adding a little liquid and pre-heating the cooker gives food a fast start

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