Slow cookers are gaining in popularity and are a new rage. With the energy costs rising many are looking at slow cookers as a go-to option to increase the savings in energy bills.
The biggest advantage of a slow cooker is that they help to tenderize tough cuts of meat, and impart flavor to the dishes without destroying a lot of nutrients. Slow cookers are energy efficient. The major drawback of a slow cooker is that you can not cook quick meals in it.
In this article, we will look into what you can and cannot cook in a slow cooker, and other appliances that can test the importance of a slow cooker. We shall also see, the reasons as to why you should or shouldn’t buy a slow cooker.
The table below lists the Pros and Cons of a slow cooker:
|Easy preparation of meals
|Can’t prepare quick meals
|Easy to use
|Every meal cannot be cooked
|Helps prepare meals in advance
|You need to have a precise recipe, as you can’t make changes
|Tenderizes meat very well
|You need to know how to layer ingredients
|Add a depth of flavor
|Can’t cook recipes that include alcohol
|A healthy way of cooking
|Cannot brown or sear the meat
|Eliminate the use of unhealthy fats
|Easy to clean
What are the advantages of a slow cooker?
Slow cookers are one of the go-to options for cooking meals today. They have become more popular than other appliances used for slow cooking such as ovens, microwaves, and stovetops.
There are many advantages of having a slow cooker. Let’s look at some of them:
1. Easy preparation of meals:
They help facilitate an easy one-step preparation of meals. Only one pot is used to cook meals. It saves time and has cleanup to do while meal preps.
2. User Friendly:
They are very user-friendly and easy to use as most slow cookers have just three settings LOW, HIGH, and WARM. At the LOW setting, the temperature is set at 190 degrees, and at the HIGH setting, the temperature is set at 240 degrees F. The WARM setting allows you to keep the food warm. Generally, it is not recommended to keep the warm setting for more than 2 to 3 hours, as the temperature is really low and the food may go bad.
3. Helps prepare meals in advance:
A slow cooker helps you to prepare meals in advance, thus you can have healthy meals with some planning ahead. You can set your slow cooker in the morning and by the time you come back from the office your meal is ready. It comes in super handy when you entertain guests at home you can make meal preparations well in advance and set your slow cooker, by the time your guests arrive the food is ready. This will help you skip the takeout and enjoy healthy meals at home.
4. Tenderize tough cuts of meat:
One of the most loved advantages of slow cookers is their ability to tenderize inexpensive and tough cuts of meat. So, you don’t have to buy expensive cuts, thus saving on costs. Slow cookers cook on low heat which helps to make meat super tender, moist, and juicy.
5. Add a depth of flavor:
Slow cookers add a lot of depth and flavor to the meals as they cook the meat and vegetables slowly releasing their juices. The ingredients are cooked in their juices, which drastically increases the flavor profile of the dish. Thus, cooking soups, stews, one-pot meals, and casseroles are the best options to cook in a slow cooker.
6. Healthy way of cooking:
Slow cooking is one of the most healthy ways of cooking. Research suggests that slow-cooking meat reduces the release of AGEs by 50% less than when the meat has been grilled or charred. AGEs are one of the major contributors to heart disease, diabetes, and inflammation. Similarly, many vegetables such as tomatoes release much more lycopene when cooked. Slow cooking helps enhance the lycopene in the dish. Spinach and corn have an essential compound called lutein, this is enhanced when spinach and corn are cooked. At Low and constant heat the slow cooker, help preserve lutein better. Thus we can see how slow cooking is one of the most healthy options for cooking food.
7. Eliminate the use of unhealthy fats:
Slow cookers do not sear meat thus less or no fats are added to the recipe. Also, meat that has to be seared is in another pan, and then the meat is transferred to the slow cooker so there are fewer fats used in the recipe.
8. Save Electricity:
Slow cookers are far more energy efficient than other kitchen appliances such as stovetops and electric ovens. Slow cookers are efficient as they use very low-constant heat which reaches the desired temperature gradually.
The coil of the slow cooker is heated first and then the sides of the cooker. Since slow cookers rely on the mechanism of trapping heat, they are more energy efficient. An average slow cooker uses about 1.3 kW of energy in about 8 hours.
You can calculate the energy consumed by a slow cooker in one meal or total meals. by the following formula: Cost = Power (kilowatt) x Cost of 1 kWh x the length of time (one meal or all meals over a week or month).
Smaller slow cookers consume less electricity. Also, the energy consumption depends on the size of the meal and the setting at which it is cooked.
9. Easy to clean:
Most slow cookers have another vessel steel vessel inside them, which can be easily removed and cleaned. Also, there is no searing or grilling involved so the vessel is also pretty easy to clean.
Although slow cookers are widely used and are becoming popular today because of their various advantages. They seem to be must-haves on most people’s lists today.
What are the disadvantages of using a slow cooker?
Apart from the rising popularity as another go-to alternative for cutting down on energy bills. There are a few disadvantages that you should be aware of such as:
1. Quick meals cant be prepared:
As a slow cooker takes a minimum of 2 – 3 hours to prepare a basic meal, slow cookers can not make quick meals.
2. Every meal cannot be cooked in a slow cooker:
Pasta, eggs, dairy, etc. cannot be cooked in a slow cooker. You need to know which ingredients can and can’t be cooked in a slow cooker.
3. You need to have a precise recipe:
As you cannot open a lid and keep checking and altering ingredients as you go. You may end up with a messy outcome. Thus, you need to have a precise recipe.
4. Layering the ingredients is the most important aspect:
You need to learn how the vegetables and meat have to be layered and what are the cooking times of different vegetables. Understanding of ingredients, spices, vegetables, and cuts of meat is important. As this greatly affects the outcome of the dish.
5. You cannot cook with alcohol:
As the lid of the slow cooker is closed, it does not allow the alcohol to evaporate while cooking. Also, the temperature isn’t optimal for the evaporation of alcohol. So, you cant cook dishes that make use of alcohol to impart flavor.
What is a Slow Cooker used for?
Slow cookers have important in the kitchen, but let us first understand what is a slow cooker used for.
Slow cookers are mostly used to cook inexpensive and tough cuts of meats that take longer to cook. It helps to tenderize them and bring out the juices from the meat to make it more flavorful. Slow cookers can cook a wide array of dishes such as soups, pot roasts, stews, etc.
Following is a list of recipes that can be cooked in a slow cooker:
- Braised Beef
- Whole Roasted Chicken
- Beef Stews
- Pork Curry
- Lamb stew
- Chicken Curry
- Chicken wings,
There are even some recipes that you will find for chocolate cake, egg custards, chicken noodles, and milk fudge.
Not just curries and stews, but even a few desserts can be cooked in a slow cooker. The above recipes give us a wide idea of what can be cooked in a slow cooker. That said there are quite a few things that you shouldn’t cook in a slow cooker.
things that you shouldn’t cook in a slow cooker:
- Lean Meats. Since they are tender and far more expensive. Cooking them in a slow cooker will make them dry and tough, such cuts need high heat for shorter durations.
- Alcohol-based cooking can not be done in a slow cooker.
- Dairy such as milk and cream.
- Delicate vegetables.
- Fresh herbs.
- Frozen Foods.
Are Slow Cookers Worth It?
Slow cookers are definitely worth the money and effort that is taken to cook recipes as they are easy to handle, meals can be prepared in advance, they are energy efficient, the food is more healthy and flavorful also it minimizes the need for take-outs.
Reasons why you should buy a slow cooker:
- Easy to prepare meals and easy cleanup.
- Meals can be prepared in advance.
- Energy efficient.
- Food prepared is more nutritious and tasty.
- Less expensive cooking.
- Reduces the need for take-outs.
Suggested Reading: Why is slow cooking better? [All You Need To Know!]
Is A Slow Cooker Worth It For Vegetarians?
Slow cookers can cook vegetarian dishes as easily as meat-based ones, so vegetarians can buy a slow cooker if they are mulling over its idea. There are many vegetarian recipes such as rice dishes, lentil curry, etc. that can be done in a slow cooker. Many desserts can also be made.
Another great option for a slow cooker is an instant pot. It also works similarly to a slow cooker but cooks food much faster compared to a slow cooker. Instant pots are also called electric pressure cookers.
What’s the difference between a crockpot and a slow cooker?
All Crock pots are Slow cookers, but all slow cookers do not crock pots. Crock Pot is a registered brand name for a type of slow cooker. There are many different types of slow cookers available in the market today. The slow cooker is the name of the process that is used in cooking, low and slow.
Difference between a crock Pot and a slow cooker:
|It is a registered brand name of a slow cooker.
|All cookers that cook low and slow are called Slow cookers.
|It has a ceramic pot inside.
|It has a steel pot inside.
|It has two settings – Low and High.
|It has three settings – Low, High, and Warm. Some Slow cookers even have five heat settings.
|Once switched on they can work continuously.
|Slow cookers that are bottom heat on a coil , alternate between switching on and off.
Slow Cooker vs stovetop:
Slow cookers and stovetop cooking are both extremely popular methods of cooking but slow cookers win over stovetop cooking in the following ways:
- They do not require hands-on cooking as well as the meal preparation takes less time. Once you add in the ingredients you need not stir or monitor the process. You are free to do other things.
- Slow cookers cook for a longer duration of time. Generally from 4 – 6 hours. Stovetop cooking is faster.
- Slow cookers do not overcook your food. Stovetop cooking has a risk of overcooking food.
- Slow cooker recipes can be made in advance which is a huge advantage. Stovetop cooking cant is done in advance.
- The slow cooker gives more hearty meals, whereas stovetops usually provide a robust flavor to the meals.
pressure cooker vs stovetop: pros and cons
Pressure cookers are more versatile and handy compared to slow cookers. Various recipes can be perfectly executed in a pressure cooker than in a slow cooker. Although slow cookers are good at cooking tough parts of meat and converting the fat into flavor, pressure cookers can do the same much quicker and are better at drawing out the juices and cooking the meats. They boost the dish and load them with flavor.
Pros of a pressure cooker over a slow cooker:
- Pressure cookers are better for cooking most dishes and shorten the time taken than other conventional appliances.
- Also, they can cook a variety of ingredients such as pasta, rice, eggs, etc.
- Leaner meats that can not be cooked in a slow cooker can be cooked in a pressure cook easily.
- Pressure cookers get hot enough to brown the meat which can not be done in a slow cooker. The meat has to be browned first in a slow cooker.
- Pressure cookers allow you to steam, saute, slow cook, and pressure cook in the same pot.
Cons of a Pressure cooker over a slow cooker:
- They cant be left unattended. They require attention, unlike slow cookers.
- There is a risk of overcooking in a pressure cooker compared to a slow cooker, as, steam also cooks the food as it cools down gradually.
- Pressure cookers get vacuum locked due to the steam. They can’t be opened until the steam is released or they are turned off. Slow cookers do not get sealed and can be opened at any time, although it is not recommended to open the lid too frequently as the temperature build-up gets disturbed.
- Since pressure cookers cook at relatively higher temperatures they aren’t very good at maintaining the nutrient values of the dishes cooked.