Cooking Tips


 

Purchasing a Slow Cooker

Things to Consider when Purchasing a Slow Cooker



Confused about slow cookers? It’s no wonder with so many varieties all with different features on the market.
What you want is a cooker that offers the most convenience for the price you want to pay. To help you make a choice, here is a rundown of features offered by the slow cooker.

It’s an electric appliance. It’s heated either by coils around the sides or at the base. The electricity supplies either continuous heat or is controlled by a thermostat. Continuous-heat pots are those that have High, Low and Off settings. The thermostatically controlled cooker may allow for settings high enough for such jobs as deep-fat frying. If you want a cooker that will do more than slow-cool, you may prefer the one with the thermostatic switch. The dial is calibrated to show settings up to 500°F/ 260°C. However, the simple High and Low settings can accomplish what the slow cooker does best. That is the lengthy, no-peek variety of cooking that frees the cook for other things when the crock is turned to Low. The Low setting on continuous heat cookers maintains a temperature of around 180°F – 200°F/ 80°C - 90°C. The High setting, which keeps the food at a temperature around 300°F/ 150°C, is a convenience feature. It cooks in half the time of the Low setting and helps when you need to speed things up. But it doesn’t offer the same ‘go away and forget it’ kind of cooking. Foods with high sugar content, such as carrots, can get overly brown at this temperature if left too long.

Being electric, the slow cooker has a cord. And this becomes a feature, as some pots have detachable cords, while others have permanent ones. If you plan to use your cooker as a serving piece at the table, the permanent cord may be awkward.

The slow cooker is usually shaped like a saucepot with either a round or oval opening. The oval pot is a little more adaptable as it can hold such items as whole birds and ham slices that don’t conform to the round shape. Capacity ranges from 2 ½ - 8 quarts/ 2 ½ - 8 litres.

The cooker has a tight-fitting lid which captures the steam that tenderizes those economical cuts of meat. Some lids have a higher dome than others. Height can be an advantage if you use a makeshift cooker insert, such as a coffee can, as some recipes suggest.

The slow cooker is usually of ceramic stoneware, but some models have liners of glass or metal. Stoneware and glass hold heat better than metal and stand up under normal wear, but they are breakable. The metal ones can withstand greater changes in temperature. Some crocks are removable from the metal casings that hold the heating element. These are easier to wash and can be used as a separate serving dish.

There may be a signal light. It helps, as it prevents leaving a pot turned on inadvertently. Models with thermostatic control show a light only when the power is on, not when it cycles off. It switches on again when the temperature in the pot drops below the desired level.