When my husband and I were married, we received three slow cookers as wedding gifts. The gifts were much appreciated; however, we were fully stocked with the appliances already.
My husband had a four-quart slow cooker and a one-quart slow cooker from his bachelor days. I brought a five-quart slow cooker into the marriage. With six slow cookers in our possession, we were set to start a catering business or have a very large family.
We decided to trade in the new ones for some other useful kitchen items. Many years later, our three original slow cookers still work and are used regularly. (We didn’t start a catering business, nor did we have a large number of children.)
Our family grew to include three children, and we all appreciate homemade soup, stew, spaghetti sauce and pulled pork made in one of our slow cookers. Having food ready at the end of a busy day makes family mealtimes easier. Eating together as a family is well worth the effort, and studies have shown that children who eat regularly with their families eat more healthfully, do better in school and are less likely to participate in risky behaviour, such as smoking, drinking alcohol or taking drugs.
Slow cookers were introduced in the early 1970s and many sizes, shapes and brands are available. The capacities vary from two cups to more than seven quarts and many have several heat settings.
How much do you know about slow cookers and their use? Try this True or False quiz. T or F:Using a slow cooker uses less electricity than an oven.
T or F:The low cooking temperature allows less-expensive cuts of meat to tenderize.
T or F:You should fill the slow cooker no less than half full and no more than two-thirds full because cooking too little or too much food in the slow cooker can affect cooking time and quality.
T or F:Always thaw meat and poultry in the refrigerator before cooking in the slow cooker to help ensure complete cooking.
T or F:Keep the lid in place at all times because removing the lid slows cooking time.
T or F:If you are not home during the entire slow-cooking process and the power goes out for an undetermined length of time, throw away the food even if it looks done.
All of these statements are true. While we may think of slow cookers more often during fall and winter months, they are handy all year long, allowing one-step preparation. You can place all the ingredients in the slow cooker and let them cook all day. Most operate at temperatures between 77 C (170 F) and 138 C (280 F). The long, slow cooking time tenderizes the meat and allows for less shrinkage.
Be sure to thaw meat or poultry before placing it in the slow cooker because they may take several hours to reach bacteria-killing temperatures. Cut large chunks of meat into smaller pieces to ensure thorough cooking.
If you have an extra-busy day away from home coming up, get out the slow cooker and you and your family can arrive home at the end of the day and have a relaxing meal together.
– Julie Garden-Robinson, PhD,
L. R. D., is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food
and nutrition specialist and associate professor in the department of health,
nutrition and exercise sciences.