Slow cookers are my favourite kitchen gadgets. They are lifesavers during busy spells, but they also produce fantastic results which in some cases cannot be recreated with other cooking methods. I have two appliances, both 3.5 lt capacity, which I use frequently. Ever since I got my first slow cooker back in January 2011, I’ve ready hundreds of recipes and comments by users in the US and the UK, and have found that they all work pretty much in the same way. The following answers are based on my personal experience, relevant content I’ve found online, and in some cases the manufacturer’s manual.
Cooperation with Morphy Richards and Disclaimer:
In March 2014 I started cooperating with the UK company Morphy Richards, and it is now possible to order a slow cooker on the blog, specifically on the Goodie Corner page (only available in Greece). The recipes I share in the Slow Cooker category of this blog are shared by me as a user, not as an official representative of the company. In some cases my suggestions can contradict certain manufacturers’ instruction manuals, and have been created based on my experience to date and research I have conducted online. The responsibility for use of the appliance in ways suggested on this blog lies solely with the user.
What is a slow cooker and how does it work?
A slow cooker is an electrical appliance that cooks food on low temperatures, for long periods of time. This creates beautifully cooked meals, with minimal preparation and effort. It is very simple to use, with the basic models usually having just three operating levels (low-high-warm or low-med-high). You prep your ingredients and place them in the stoneware (sometimes sautéing some of them first, other times just plopping it all in), turn it on, go about your daily business, and find a lovely home cooked meal waiting for you at dinner time.
Just how long does it need to cook the food?
Your average meat dish will take about 8 hours on low, or 5-6 hours on high. There are a lot of variables such as quantity and type of ingredients, your specific slow cooker model, even altitude in extreme circumstances; so if you are new to slow cooking I suggest you follow specially created recipes, at least till you get to know your appliance and how your food behaves in it. It may sound like a contradiction in terms, but slow cookers mean quickly prepared food. They don’t require you to stand around watching them, and you can even leave the house while they do their thing. So they are ideal for the modern day family, for which time is limited.
Can I check on the food during cooking time?
Yes, you can look through the glass lid, and you can also open it to stir etc. However, refrain from opening it too much, as the appliance loses valuable heat each time and may add to your total cooking time. They say each time adds 20 minutes but to me that sounds a bit exaggerated. Just remember not to keep peeking, especially during the first couple of hours.
Note: In some cases, a recipe might call for cooking with the lid off, or propped open, during the final hour or so. This is so that some of the liquid can be reduced and it happens after the food is cooked through.
Liquid you say? Can I expect much of that?
Yes you certainly can. Quite an incredible amount of liquid can be produced, since the slow cooker works by trapping the vapours inside and using them to cook. There is no evaporation, and sometimes you can end up with more liquid than when you started. Especially with meat that has some fat and bone in it, and certain vegetables with high water content. There are various tricks to using the liquid for sauce, or you can just throw it away, or use it for stock.
I’ve heard that I can cook from frozen, is that true?
Yes again! Amazing isn’t it? I don’t know the scientific reason behind this, maybe it’s due to the fact that the food is cooked slowly so it defrosts evenly… I can’t really say. What I can say is that it is super convenient.
Note 1: Be careful of sudden changes in temperature. As with all stoneware and pyrex, you don’t put a hot pot in cold water etc. as it may crack. So when using frozen items make sure they are in small quantities and balance the temperature out by using other ingredients at warm or room temperature (e.g. frozen chicken breast with warm stock, or room temp tinned tomatoes – don’t put a whole frozen chicken in there).
Note 2: Some instruction manuals clearly state you can cook from frozen, others suggest you defrost first. From what I’ve seen online lots of people do it and haven’t ever had a problem. But it’s up to you to decide.
What about capacities?
There are all sorts of capacities. The most common are 3.5 litres (3-4 people) and 6.5 litres (8-10 people). I have found that many Greek people prefer the large one even if cooking for a family of 4. Generally we cook larger quantities in Greece. If you are having trouble deciding you can always email me and I’d be glad to make a suggestion depending on your circumstances.
Is it dishwasher safe?
Usually the stoneware is dishwasher safe (depends on the manufacturer). However, I prefer to wash mine by hand because sometimes in might need a bit of a soak and scrub. To clean the base you just wipe it with a clean damp cloth once in a while.
Do I really need another appliance to take up space on my counter?
Well, with this one I think yes. But since I’m biased, I thought I’d summarise the pros.
* It’s ideal for busy people. There are recipes where you literally throw in a couple of ingredients and let it do its thing. You just come home to a ready cooked meal.
* It’s inexpensive. It doesn’t cost much and it doesn’t use a lot of electricity.
* It’s easy to use. With one knob and three choices, you don’t need to be a brain surgeon to use it (unlike other appliances!). It forgives a multitude of mistakes and is fantastic for inexperienced cooks. It’s virtually impossible to burn your food (although I once managed to turn a couple of green beans black) and even if it happens it is highly unlikely that it will cause any damage to anything other than the food itself. Even if you forget it on for an hour or two longer than necessary, dinner will be fine.
* It’s great for tender meat. Chicken just melts away from the bone, and you can use cheaper cuts of beef and pork as they will become tender with the slow cooking process.
* It’s great for light and healthy meals. No oil is necessary, and the low temperatures mean that the ingredients retain more of their nutrients.
The cons? It takes up a bit of space. And that’s all!
Ok, I’m convinced. How do I buy one?
If you live in Greece just go to the main menu and click on “goodies”. This will take you to the Goodie Corner, where you can order either a 3.5 lt or a 6.5 lt Morphy Richards slow cooker.
I’ve still got questions…
Email me! I can go on for hours about slow cookers!