Slow Cooker

Choosing a Slow Cooker

 

There are many different kinds of slow cookers, which you can buy used or new, borrow or share. If you don't have a slow cooker yet, here are somethings you might consider when choosing one:

 

  • Where can you borrow or buy a slow cooker near you?

  • What kinds of things do you want to cook in your slow cooker?

  • How small or big should your slow cooker be? Will you make small or big batches of food? How much space will the slow cooker take up in your kitchen?

  • How often do you want to use your slow cooker?

  • What features are available in slow cookers? What features do you want?

  • What will you nickname your slow cooker? One of ours is called The Cauldron!

 

 

Equipment Care

 

Crazing

Crazing is something that can happen to slow cookers whether they're old or new. It refers to cracks in the glaze. Common wisdom, gleaned from many online forums, seems to say that crazing is nothing to worry about unless the glaze is peeling.

 

Mould

In Vancouver, mould is something we're all faced with from time to time. The solution to preventing mould from growing in your slow cooker is to allow all parts to dry thoroughly before assembling and storing it.

 

Check out this helpful resource we've found that answers all manner of slow cooker equipment questions.

 

 

Slow Cooker Safety

 

There's no need for alarm when thinking about food safety. Most of the time, everything works out fine and no one gets sick or injured. But with all the time you'll save preparing meals with a slow cooker, you might want to learn some things that could be handy in the future...

 

Cooking & Cooling Temperatures

 

Have you heard of the danger zone? This is the warm temperature range between refrigeration and cooking -- specifically, 4 degrees Celsius (40 Fahrenheit) or warmer, up to 140 degrees Fahrenheit (60 Celsius). At these temperatures, harmful bacteria or toxins can grow, transmitting food-borne illness (food poisoning). 

 

Within 2 hours, food should be:

  • cooled to or heated to 4 degrees Celsius or colder (40 Fahrenheit)

  • heated to between 145 degrees Fahrenheit or 165 Fahrenheit (63 Celsius or 74 Celsius), depending on the food you're cooking

 

Here are some important things to consider when preparing food with a slow cooker. HealthLink BC has many tips.

 

  • How can you heat food in a slowcooker to make sure it gets hot enough within 2 hours?

  • How can you cool down your hot slowcooked food to a safe temperature within 2 hours?

  • Putting hot food in the fridge or freezer can heat up the food around it, causing spoilage. What are some ways to stop this from happening?

  • Did you know your cooking utensils can spread food poisoning when you're slowcooking? Why do you think that is? How can you prevent it?

  • How can you defrost frozen food so it reaches a safe temperature within 2 hours?

  • How can you reheat frozen food so it reaches a safe temperature within 2 hours?

 

Preventing & Treating Burns

 

When we talk about food safety it's important to talk about first aid too. Accidents happen, as we discovered when sharing our slow cooker disaster stories. When in doubt, always call 911 for medical emergencies. For non-emergencies, you can always call 811 within the province of BC to speak to a Registered Nurse.

 

Once again, HealthLink BC has great information:

 

 

Slow Cooker recipes for all tastes & occasions!

 

There's no shortage of recipes for slow cooker meals online. All you have to do is search!

If you need more inspiration for tried-and-true dishes, AllRecipes.com has a great selection, organized by most popular meals, different courses, and type of cuisine. You can also try Slow Cooker Adventures and Chow Hound.

 

Here are the recipes we tested or created for our workshop:

Slow Cooker Braised Beef

 

Braising is a process that turns even the toughest cuts of meat into tender, juicy morsels. It relies on liquid, fat, and cooking with low heat for many hours to break down the physical and chemical structure of the meat -- a process called denaturing. Find more on that meat science here.

 

  • 2 pounds of beef brisket (or another inexpensive, tough and fatty cut of meat)

  • 4 cups of flavourful liquid for cooking

(You can simply use beef stock, or get creative and flavour it with beer or wine, soy sauce, spices -- the sky is the limit! We used leftover liquid from our slow cooker vegan chili)

  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar (to help tenderize the meat)

  • 2 tablespoons honey

  • salt and pepper

 

 

Let's go:

 

1. Add liquid to the slow cooker.

2. Put the meat in the pot, fatty side down. You may need to cut the meat into several pieces in order to fit into the slowcooker.

3. Add apple cider vinegar.

4. Cook on low for 8-10 hours. In the final 2 hours of cooking, test the tenderness of a meat with a fork. When it’s ready, it will fall apart easily. Add honey, salt and pepper to taste.

 

Optional:

 

Before placing the meat in the slow cooker, melt the fat and brown the meat for better flavour. Place meat fatty-side downin a skillet, over medium heat, allowing the the fat to melt without burning. Brown the meat on all sides. Add some cooking liquid to the pan to help remove any bits that are stuck to the pan, then put the meat, fat, and liquid into the slow cooker.

Vegan Rice Pudding

 

Makes 6-8 servings

 

  • 2 cups rice (arborio, white, brown)

  • 1 can coconut milk

  • 3 1/2 cups rice milk

  • 1/2 cup water

  • 1 vanilla pod, split length-wise

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • unsalted butter or coconut oil

  • nutmeg, cinnamon

  • maple syrup

  • Optional: raisins soaked in rum or bourbon, nuts

 

 

Let's go:

 

1. Grease your slow cooking pot with butter or coconut oil.

2. Wash rice to remove excess starch.

3. Place rice in slow cooker with milks, water, vanilla, salt and spices. Give everything a stir and cover. 

4. Cook for 2 hours on high slow cooker setting, or 4-6 hours on low, or when rice is cooked and creamy. Add water if needed.

5. When it's ready, remove vanilla pod. Add a knob of butter or coconut oil, along with raisins and as much maple syrup as you prefer. Give it another stir and taste to adjust. Serve any temperature you like!

 

 

Pro Tips:

 

  • Ratio: about 1 cup of rice to 4-5 cups of liquid (vs. 2.5 cups liquid for stovetop recipes)

  • Most slow cooker recipes don't include eggs, which they do in stovetop versions

  • Play around with different types of rice, milk, spices, sweeteners, garnish -- the whole recipe really!

  • We highly recommend sweetening the pudding after cooking, especially if you don't like it too sweet

Brown Rice & Red Lentil Curry

 

This basic recipe can be adapted to make a bigger batch, or a one-pot meal. Use brown rice and red lentils, or swap for your favourite legumes, or the ones you have on hand. Just be sure to adjust the cooking times!

 

  • 1 onion, sliced

  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped

  • salt & pepper

  • 1 tablespoon garam masala (curry spice blend)

  • 1 tablespoon powdered turmeric

  • 1/4 cup brown basmati rice, rinsed

  • 1/4 cup red lentils, rinsed

 

Optional:

  • Fresh seasonal veggies

  • Veggie stock in place of water

     

     

Let's go:

 

Follow these steps to develop layers of flavour, or if you’re pressed for time, toss all ingredients into the slow cooker and leave it to cook on its own. Rice will be very soft, but very delicious.

 

1. Drizzle olive oil into the slow cooker pot. Turn slow cooker on high. Leave the lid off for 10 minutes.

2. Add sliced onions and chopped garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Stir, then put the lid on the slow cooker for about 10 minutes. Turn down to low.

3. Add spices and stir into onions and garlic. Stir and add enough water to cover the onions. Cook for one hour for flavour.

4. Add red lentils to the pot, and cover them with water. Cook for 2 hours.

5. Add brown basmati rice, and enough liquid to cover everything in the pot. Salt to taste. Cook for 3 hours. Stir and serve!

Vegan Slow Cooker Chili

 

  • 3 cups dry kidney beans (once soaked, they will expand to about 6 cups)

  • 4 onions, sliced

  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped

  • 2 yams, diced

  • 2-3 tablespoons chili powder (storebought, or home-made)

  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

  • salt to taste

 

 

Let's go:

 

Again, follow these steps to develop layers of flavour, or if you’re pressed for time, toss all ingredients into the slow cooker and leave it to cook on its own.

 

1. Soak kidney beans for at least 8 hours, using at least 9 cups of water. Leave at room temperature, and do not refrigerate.

2. When you’re ready to start cooking, drizzle olive oil into the slow cooker pot. Turn on high. Leave uncovered for 10 minutes.

3. Add onions, garlic, and yams. Stir, then put the lid on the slow cooker for about 10 minutes. Turn down to low.

4. Add chili powder. Stir, and add enough water to cover the onions, garlic, yams. Cook for one hour to develop flavour.

5. Drain and rinse the kidney beans, discarding the water used for soaking.

6. Add kidney beans to the pot, and just barely cover with water. Stir. Cook for 8 hours.

7. In the last hour of cooking: If the beans aren’t tender enough, turn up to high. Season with apple cider vinegar and salt (doing so earlier could make the skins of the beans tough). Stir in more chili powder or other dry spices (such as powdered garlic), to taste. If you want a thicker stew, remove the lid to allow some of the liquid to evaporate.

Optional: Once the chili is ready, save some of the cooking liquid to add well-developed flavour to other slow cooker recipes.

Easy Pulled Pork

 

  • A big hunk of pork (1.5-2 lbs makes about 4-5 meals)

  • chicken stock

  • taco seasoning

  • 1-2 onions, roughly chopped

  • salt and pepper

 

 

Let's go:

 

1. Line the bottom of slow cooker pot with chopped onions.

2. Add pork and coat with seasoning, salt and pepper.

3. Pour in chicken stock until it reaches halfway up pork.

4. Cook on low for about 8 hours.

5. Pull meat apart with fork one hour before eating so juices soak up.

6. Serve however you like (ie. with coleslaw and bun, or rice and beans, or just eat it by itself!)