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Crock Pot® Cooking for Working Families

The Crock Pot®, or slow cooker, took the world by storm when it was introduced by Rival in 1971. Soon, every family had to have one, especially the families where Mom went off to work – a relatively new phenomenon in the early 70s – and cooking dinner became quite a chore at the end of the long day.

The slow cooker gave Mom an enticing new way to approach the evening meal – stick all the ingredients in one pot in the morning before leaving for work, turn it on, and come home to a hot meal that’s ready to serve to hungry family members. And the possibilities were endless. Everything from a beef roast to chicken to a pot of hearty stew could be made in the slow cooker and, with some adapting, long-time favorite recipes could even be accomplished in the crock pot.

Today, most families and busy individuals still make occasional use of a crock pot, though they aren’t quite the phenomenon they were in the 1970s. However, they can prove quite useful for busy families on a tight schedule and having one around can definitely be a plus.

Choosing a Slow Cooker

Slow cookers come in a variety of sizes. Most are round or oval in shape and how much each one holds varies from model to model. They are made from glazed ceramic or porcelain. Most modern crock pots include an inside vessel that can be removed from the outer metal housing and used as a serving bowl, eliminating the need to scoop out the contents and put them in another bowl when it’s time to eat. 

Generally, crock pots have three or four settings – high, medium, low, and warming. Cooks choose the setting according to how long the food needs to cook or when they would like the meal to be ready to serve. For example, if you leave at 7 am in the morning but want dinner to be ready at 5 pm, you would probably set the cooker on “low”, which would allow it to cook for about 10 hours. Most crock pots have sensors that will allow the device to automatically switch over to the warming mode when the food is fully cooked so the food won’t be ruined from overcooking.

Choose a model that best fits your needs. If you’re a single, opt for the smaller variety. If you’re feeding an entire family, a large oval model is appropriate. Remember, however, that slow cookers are great for parties and potluck suppers, so you might want to go for the larger model, even if your regular meals aren’t huge.

Advantages of Slow Cooking

Aside from the obvious convenience of being able to cook a meal while away from home, there are other advantages to using a slow cooker.

For families or individuals on a budget, crock pots allow the use of less expensive cuts of meat because this method of cooking allows for the tenderization of meats that have lots of connective tissue and might otherwise be tough or gristly. Slow cooking dissolves or softens the tissue but doesn’t toughen the muscle, so cuts of beef like chuck or round roasts often come out fork-tender.

Most busy cooks also cite the fact that clean up is a breeze at the end of a crock pot meal. There’s only one pot to clean and leftovers can even be stored in the interior ceramic vessel if desired.

Disadvantages of Slow Cooking

Some experts note that slow cooking causes certain foods to lose some of the nutrients they might maintain if cooked more rapidly, especially vegetables. In addition, some foods, like kidney beans, simply should not be cooked at a slow pace due to the presence of toxins that are only killed by rapid boiling.

The other disadvantage some cooks cite is the need to be organized when using a slow cooker and the preparation it takes to have everything ready to place in the pot before leaving for work. This might involve some evening preparation such as thawing meat or cutting vegetables so meals need to be planning in advance.

Recipes

Crock pot recipes aren’t difficult to find. There are a wealth of cookbooks available that are specific to slow cooker recipes and most slow cookers also come with small cookbooks of their own. The internet is also a good source for finding crock pot recipes of all kinds. here are some examples found at Ufoodz.com that will get you going :

 

http://ufoodz.com/recipes/bacon-clam-chowder

http://ufoodz.com/recipes/bbq-spareribs-slow-cooker-syle

http://ufoodz.com/recipes/bbq-turkey-drumsticks

http://ufoodz.com/recipes/beef-burgundy-0

http://ufoodz.com/recipes/beef-goulash

 

If you have tried-and-true recipes you love, some of them may be able to be adapted for slow cooking. The ones that will work best are those that call for braising or stewing, which are slow cooking methods, but other recipes may be adapted as well. You may need to cut down the amount of liquid used and it’s necessary to remember not to add dairy items like milk and sour cream until near the end of the cycle as they break down during slow cooking. (You can, however, replace them with creamed soups.)  Herbs and spices should also be added during the last hour or so, if possible. Veggies and potatoes should be no more than an inch thick and should always be placed at the bottom of the pot (they’ll cook best there) and serve as a sort of platform for the meat. 


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