Slow cookers or “crock pots” are convenient portable electric appliances that became popular in the 1970’s. Slow cookers have several advantages. They are economical to operate and they are a great way to tenderize less expensive and tougher cuts of meat.
A slow cooker has a glazed ceramic container or crock, housed in an outer metal casing. In the metal case is an electric heating element. A tight fitting clear dome lid allows condensation to run down inside forming a water seal that aids in the retention of flavor and heat.
Today, a wide range of slow cookers are available. The one quart model is popular for singles and couples, the four to six quart for families, and the twelve quart for entertaining or large group meals.
The slow cooker is one of the best time-saving appliances in the kitchen and it is great for beginning cooks! All you have to do is add the food, put on the lid, turn on low, and cook all day. Dinner will be ready when you get home from work.
Here are a few tips to help you have successful results:
-Buy roasts or other large cuts of meat that will fit into your cooker.
-Remove skin from poultry and trim excess fat from other meats before cooking.
-Fresh root vegetables, such as potatoes, carrots onions, should be placed in the bottom of the pot, under the meat for faster cooking. They tend to cook more slowly than meat.
-Only fill the cooker one half to two thirds full. The foods will not cook properly if it is too full. If the food and liquid level is too low, the foods will cook too fast.
-Don’t lift the lid to stir, especially if you are cooking on the low setting. Each time you lift the lid, you will need to extend the cooking time by about 20 minutes.
-Seafood should be added during the last hour of cooking or it will overcook and have a rubbery texture.
-Cayenne pepper and Tabasco sauce tend to become bitter if cooked for long periods of time. Use small amounts and add them near the end of the cooking time.
-Add tender vegetables like tomatoes, mushrooms and zucchini during the last 45 minutes of cooking to prevent overcooking.
-Dairy products should be added during the last 30 minutes of cooking time, unless your recipe state otherwise.
Source: North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Cook Smart Eat Smart
Crock Pot Mushroom Chicken
6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 (10 ¾ oz.) cans fat-free soup (chicken, celery or mushroom)
1 (4 oz.) can mushrooms
Place chicken breasts in crock pot. Pour both cans of undiluted soup and mushrooms over chicken. Place lid on crock pot and cook on low for 8 – 10 hours.
Crock Pot Dried Beans
1 pound bag dried beans (pinto, black garbanzo, etc.)
1 onion, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Wash and rinse dried beans in colander. Remove any broken or discolored beans. Put beans in a large mixing bowl. Add water to cover beans and then add an additional 2 inches of water. Cover with plastic wrap and put in refrigerator overnight. Drain beans and place in slow cooker with water to cover, plus 2 inches. Add onion. Cook on low for 8 hours or until tender. Add salt and pepper to taste. Drain, if desired.