Why is slow cooking better? [All You Need To Know!]

Slow Cooking is a new rage, although not a new concept. Thousands of years back earthen pot ovens were used to slow cook meats, soften vegetables and conserve fuel.

Slow cooking is better than most forms of cooking as it makes the food taste exquisite by extracting the juices in the meats and vegetables and boosting the flavors. It also keeps the nutrient value of the dish high as low and constant temperature makes the vitamins and minerals more stable to heat.

Slow cooking food is a great concept and has many advantages, but, not many know what and how can this process be done. This article aims at helping you understand and knows all you need to know about mastering the process of slow cooking.

What Is Slow Cooking?

Slow Cooking is a term used for a process of cooking that involves cooking meats and vegetables at a very low temperature for a longer duration of time. Maintaining a low and constant temperature allows the meat and vegetables to release their flavors slowly and cook in their juices which greatly enhances the taste of the dish.

The original process of slow cooking involved digging the earth, heating the rocks and adding the food that needed to be cooked, layering the rocks, and finally sealing the oven and letting the ingredients cook to retain their moisture and bring out the flavors.

The same process is done in modern homes today with the use of various kitchen appliances such as crock pots, electric ovens, instant pots, and slow cookers.

Slow cooking works similarly to a stovetop or a dutch oven, where the heat starts at the bottom and slowly rises to the sides and then to the ingredients. The generation of steam in the cooking process helps to create a vacuum. Slowly and constant temperature helps to retain moisture in the dish, unlike cooking in an oven, where one runs the risk of drying the dish and eventually burning it.

Slow Cooking is done for longer durations such as 4 hours to 8 hours, also it requires minimal preparation to be done in advance. All you will have to do is layer your meat and vegetables properly and set the temperature and the time that would require to cook the dish.

how is Slow Cooking done?

Slow cooking is generally done in an oven, a slow cooker, or an instant pot. But, it can be done on a stovetop or a microwave as well. All of them involve setting low temperatures and cooking for longer durations.

The easiest way to slow cook anything is in an oven, a slow cooker, or an instant pot. As you have digitized methods of maintaining temperatures. Also, you can monitor your food as most of them have glass tops.

What temperature is slow cooking?

Slow cooking is done at temperatures of 180 – 200 degrees F. In an oven, it is easy to reach these temperatures, as you have to set the temperature at this level. Cooking in a crock pot, you will have to ensure that your crock pot reaches this temperature. In a slow cooker, the Low setting maintains the temperature at 190 degrees F.

If you cook at temperatures below 180 degrees F the food might not cook at the required time also you might run the risk of cooking at unsafe temperatures.

What temperature is low and slow?

Cooking low and slow means the food is being cooked at temperatures between 170 – 220F. This is a very low setting for the food to be cooked. In general, at these temperatures it roughly takes red meat takes about 2 hours per pound and chicken takes about 40 minutes per pound.

Cooking in an oven at 180-190F degrees will cook your dish in about 8 – 10 hours. If you want your dish to be ready in about 4 – 6 hours then the temperatures that need to be maintained are 240-250F degrees.

In a slow cooker, there are two settings – LOW and HIGH. Low temperatures in a slow cooker are 190 degrees F and the high setting is 300 degrees F.

Are 4 Hours On High The Same As 8 Hours On Low?

The difference between High and Low temperatures is the time taken to reach the simmer point. The point at which the food is going to be cooked. So 4 hours on high is the same as cooking 8 hours on low. This essentially means that the food will be cooked at 240 degrees F for 4 hours or 190 degrees F for 8 hours.

a general guideline for Low and High temperatures:

Cooking time varies from the cuts of meat to the type of meat that is used in the dish. Given below is a basic guideline that helps to understand the cooking time taken for low and high temperatures.

1.5 – 2 hours on High = 4 to 8 hours on Slow

3-4 hours on High = 6 to 10 hours on Slow

4-6 hours on High = 8 – 18 hours on Slow

Given below is an outline of the cooking time taken in a slow cooker at low and high temperatures.

Low and High Setting in a slow cooker:

LOW Temperature (hours)HIGH Temperature(hours)

Is it better to slow cook on low or high?

It is recommended to slow cook at low temperatures as that will allow the meat to denature the proteins slowly and that helps to retain the moisture and flavors. This is especially great for hearty stews and soups. Cuts of meat that are low in fat and vegetables can be cooked on high to bring out their flavors and maintain their nutrient values.

However, there are quite a few ingredients such as dairy, wines with high alcohol content, soft vegetables, lean meats, meat with skin, fresh herbs, and seafood you should not put in your slow cooker, as this will make the dish super mushy and will not taste nice.

Is Slow Cooking Better Than Fast Cooking?

In general slow cooking is better than fast cooking for fatty and tougher cuts of meats and root vegetables as they have a good amount of time to absorb the moisture from the broth or water and become soft, tender, and juicy. They also allow the flavors to develop over time, thus resulting in the meat falling apart well and full of flavors.

Cuts of meats such as chuck roasts, short ribs, pork shoulders, and lamb shanks work superbly well in slow cooking, whereas cuts of meat with less fat or lean meats tend to dry out with the application of slow heat. In leaner meats such as pork tenderloins, the heat renders paralyzes proteins and makes them firm, they shrink in size and ooze out a lot of liquid thus making the meat tough and dry.

is slow cooking healthier?

Slow cooking is healthier than cooking foods at higher temperatures such as charred and grilled meats. Slow cooking preserves a lot of nutrients and macronutrients compared to food cooked at higher temperatures. Low temperatures provide the food with slow and gentle heat instead of rapid heat that gives a shock to the antioxidants, nutrients, and vitamins and destroys them.

Research has proven that vitamins and minerals are destroyed if not treated appropriately. Here are two facts that work for the slow cooker which help to preserve the nutrient value:

  1. Slow cooking does not impart too much heat which will lead to a loss in minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants.
  2. Also, another advantage, that slow cookers have over any other form of cooking is that slow cookers gradually attain the desired temperature, which also has a huge impact on the vitamins and minerals. They remain more stable than any other form of cooking.

What is it called when you slow cook meat?

Slow cooking meat is done using a method called ‘braising’. The meat is braised in a little liquid at a low temperature keeping the dish covered. Braising tenderizes the meat and dissolves the collagen and connective tissue into gelatin. This process makes the toughest parts of the meat super tender and moist and coaxes the flavor out of the meat.

What are the Benefits of Slow cooking meat?

Research suggests that by cooking meat in liquid at low heat you can successfully reduce the number of cell-damaging compounds known as AGEs (advanced glycation end products) that are produced in meat by 50 percent, compared with broiling or braising. AGEs are found in charred and grilled meats. They have been linked to diabetes, heart disease, inflammation, and cancer. Thus, slow cooking has been touted as one of the safest ways to cook meat.

There are quite a few benefits of slow-cooking meat that will make you braise meat more often than having grilled meat.

Listed below are a few reasons why you should slow cook your meat more often:

  1. Slow-cooked meat is more healthy. As it releases 50% fewer AGEs (advanced glycation end products) while braising or broiling compared to other ways of cooking meat.
  2. The cooked meat is super flavorful, moist, and tender.
  3. The meat is more nutrient-dense, rich in vitamins and minerals, and antioxidants.
  4. Easy to cook!

What are the Benefits of Slow Cooking Vegetables?

Also, there are many antioxidants such as lycopene found in tomatoes is at its best when cooked. As cooking breaks down the cell walls of the tomatoes and it releases more lycopene. Thus, lycopene found in tomatoes is best when consumed in dishes such as hot tomato pasta sauce, soups, and stews. Lycopene is linked to the prevention of heart health, cancer protection, and improved mood.

Similarly, Lutein found in corn and spinach is at its best when it has been cooked. Cooked and canned versions of corn and spinach are said to have a better content of lutein an essential compound that protects our eyes.

What are the Health Benefits of Slow Cooking?

  1. Slow cooking cooks food on low heat and therefore preserves the nutrient value of the food better, as vitamins and minerals are more stable at lower temperatures.
  2. Loss of nutrients is less compared to other forms of cooking.
  3. One of the safest ways of cooking meat. As the cell-damaging compounds released when cooking meat is the least in this way of cooking.
  4. Slow-cooking meals aren’t processed meals.
  5. More and better antioxidants. As lycopene found in tomatoes is at its best when cooked and served in hot dishes such as soups and stews.

slow cooker advantages and disadvantages:

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.

Slow cookers have a few advantages and are popular due to their ease of using the cooking appliance, adding a lot of depth and flavor to the dish, enhancing its texture, making tough cuts of meat super moist and tender, conservation of electricity, and making meals super healthy.

There are many advantages of having a slow cooker. Let’s look at some of them:

  1. 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. They are very user-friendly and easy to use.
  3. A slow cooker helps you to prepare meals in advance, thus you can have healthy meals with some planning ahead. This will help you skip the takeout and enjoy healthy meals at home.
  4. Slow cookers cook on low heat which helps to use various tough cuts of meat and make them super tender, moist, and juicy.
  5. Slow cookers add a lot of depth and flavor to the meals, thus cooking soups, stews, one-pot meals, and casseroles are the best options to cook in a slow cooker.
  6. They are one of the most healthy options for cooking food.
  7. Also, they save electricity and are much cheaper than using an oven.
  8. They are very easy to clean.

Although slow cookers are widely used and are becoming popular today because of its various advantages. They seem to be must-haves on most people’s lists today.

However, there are a few disadvantages that you should be aware of such as:

  1. Quick meals cant be prepared in a slow cooker.
  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.
  4. Layering the ingredients is the most important aspect you need to learn while slowly cooking meals. 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.

Suggested Reading: pros and cons of a slow cooker!

Does meat in the slow cooker need to be covered?

Slow cookers have a lid to keep the food warm, hot, and covered. Therefore, there is no need to cover the meat in a slow cooker.

The constant heat leads to the generation of steam and that creates a vacuum seal for the food to cook in. This process helps to retain moisture and make the food succulent. However, you will need to ensure that there is enough liquid about half to three-fourths is the maximum that can be covered.

Slow Cooking Vs Pressure Cooking Meat

Slow Cooking and Pressure Cooking both involve tenderizing meat using steam. Slow cookers take longer compared to pressure cookers to achieve the optimal temperatures to cook meat. Pressure cookers, however, heat up rapidly and at much higher temperatures compared to a slow cooker. Pressure cookers are more handy compared to slow cookers.

Unless you are using stovetop pressure cookers then you have to fill both the internal pots with food, then set your timer and wait. They may look the same and get pretty much the same result, but they differ in many ways.

Let’s look at some differences in cooking meat in a pressure cooker compared to a slow cooker:

Slow CookersPressure Cookers
Slow cookers once set can be left unattended.Pressure Cookers do pretty much everything, but they have to be attended to check the steam lest your food should overcook.
Slow cookers can be opened any number of times. However, it is not recommended to do so, as it takes a long time to achieve the desired temperature.Pressure cookers once set start building up steam and get vacuum locked due to steam. They can only be opened by releasing the steam or shutting off the machine.
Uses liquid to cook food. It is essential to assess properly the amount of liquid that will be required to cook the food. Generally, less is more.You must properly assess the amount of liquid required to cook the dish.
Slow cookers do not get hot enough to brown the meat and might not look appealing. You will have to sear the meat in a separate pan first then add It to your slow cooker.Pressure cookers get hot enough to allow the meat to become brown, you need not sear the meat before adding it to the pressure cooker.
You cannot cook pasta, sauces, alcohol, eggs, etc. in a slow cooker.You can cook pasta, rice, lentils eggs, etc. in a pressure cooker as they can cook things quickly.

Another great advantage where pressure cookers score over slow cookers is pressure cookers allow you to steam, pressure cook, saute, and slow cook in the same pot. This is not possible in slow cookers.

Slow Cooker or Pressure cooker: which is better?

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 are better at drawing out the juices and cooking the meats in them in turn boosting and loading them with flavor quickly.

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 cant is cooked in a slow cooker can be easily cooked in a pressure cooker.

However, since pressure cookers cook at relatively higher temperatures they aren’t very good at maintaining the nutrient values of the dishes cooked.

Slow Cooker Vs Pressure Cooker: Energy Use?

Pressure cookers or instant pots as they are called are more efficient than slow cookers, as they do the same job in a quicker time compared to a slow cooker therefore the energy used is less. But, in comparison to ovens and stovetops pressure cookers and slow cookers are super efficient.

Texascooppower recommends using slow cookers and pressure cookers to save energy. They also find that pressure cookers are more efficient than slow cookers in using less energy and adding less heat to the home.

According to TechRadar electric ovens consume around 8 times more electricity than instant pots. Another research done on electric pressure cookers (EPC) by mecs.co.uk found that 6-liter electric pressure cookers consume around 1 kW.

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