If you ever thought that slow cookers were only for winter warmers or too expensive and complicated to use, it might be time to think again. My slow cooker is one of my favourite kitchen gadgets and I absolutely love cooking with it. So, what do I like about the slow cooker? Well, there are many reasons why I worship my time served piece of kit but let me share a few of the main ones with you.
Top of the list for me is that food tastes so much better slow cooked. Cooking the food over a longer period of time helps the meat juices, spices and herbs distribute their flavours better. Cheaper cuts of meat can be used as they will tenderize nicely. The goodness of the vegetables will be left in the pot and not drained away.
Picture the scene. You've been at work all day and you arrive home to the great smell of home cooked food filling the house, knowing that you will have very little to do before you are sitting down enjoying a delicious homecooked dinner.
It saves me money
“How can a slow cooker do that?", I hear you ask. Well, it cooks at a lower temperature and it doesn’t need to heat a large space, using much less energy than an oven. And because it cooks at a lower temperature, you stand less chance of burning your food too. This alone will pay for itself by the end of its first year if regularly used .You can also use up your leftover vegetables in your fridge and any off cuts of meat, so nothing needs to go to waste.
Having the oven on in summer can make the kitchen unbearably hot. Another great reason to use a slow cooker all year round.
If you’re entertaining in the evening, try making your main dish in the slow cooker during the day. This will give you more time to prep, help reduce any last-minute stress and give you more time to spend with your guests.
What can I cook in my slow cooker?
Great stews and casseroles are at the top of my list closely followed by a good curry. These two kinds of dishes cooked in a slow cooker really bring out extra flavours. Let’s go a step further and make great stock using bones or veg. The slow cooking process will again pull out the flavours that will beat any shop bought stock cube. Many of your usual favourites can be cooked in the slow cooker (I’ve linked some recipe ideas here) – you will just need to adapt the liquid levels but there is plenty of advice online as to how best to do this. Alternatively, invest in a good slow cooker cookbook (we're big fans of the Ultimate Slow Cooker book by Sara Lewis) and you’ll see that your list of options is long, from soups to stews to puddings!
What would I recommend?
Buy a slow cooker that suits you & your family. By this I mean in size. Too small and there is not enough food to go around. Too big and you will never fill it. Unless you make more than you need and freeze it. Which I do on a regular basis.
Obviously shop with your budget in mind but a good slow cooker doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Mine cost about £25 a few years back and it was one of the best £25 I’ve ever spent for the kitchen. The only thing I don’t have is a timer though. I think they are a great bonus and so next time I will be buying a slow cooker with one!
So, to slow cook or not to slow cook? For me, that question simply doesn’t exist. There is only one delicious- tasting answer 😊
Photo credit: Ruth Hartnup (via Flikr)