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Slow Cooker/Crock Pot: Recipes and Techniques


Wilfrid
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I have just inherited an electric stockpot, with no instructions, written or verbal.  It has two settings, low and high.  I haven't measured the capacity, but to give you some idea, you could fit a pheasant in it easily, but would struggle with a chicken.

Enterprisingly, I tried using it to cook a pot roast.  I used a piece of chuck (around a pound and a half), surrounded it with chopped onions, root vegetables, garlic, bits of salt pork and fresh bayleaves, and filled the pot with red wine and a little beef stock.  I went for the low setting first, having no idea how it would cook.  After about three hours, the food had taken on some colour, but the meat was still bloody inside and the vegetables crisp.  I went to the high setting, which kept things at an audible simmer, but not a boil.  About an hour and a half later, everything was done.  The dish was fine.

But given that the food was no better or worse than something I could have prepared using the cooker, what is the advantage of the stockpot?  All I can think of is that I was more comfortable (rightly or wrongly) wandering off and doing other stuff for several hours than I would have been leaving a naked flame in the kitchen.

So is there anything this gadget can do better than a cooker?  Am I overlooking it's true purpose?  What could one cook on the slow setting?  Or is it just aimed at people who haven't got cookers?

Any reflections would be appreciated, as always.

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It sounds like what you got is a slow cooker, aka crock pot. It is great for braised dishes like stews and pot roast, just like you intuited. Most cooks seem to start on high to get things going, then switch down to low to keep things cooking all day. Besides the slow, even, heat it offers, it also frees up a burner which is great if you occasionally do a lot of cooking that takes up all the burners on your stove.

You can start a meal in the morning, then go off to work. When you come home, dinner's done. Or vice versa, you can start something at night and in the morning it is done. This is particularly good if you are making stew or stock, because you can refridgerate the food all day and easily remove the fat before reheating. Another advantage is that most braised foods seem to benefit from the rest and reheat (my mom's brisket is always better as leftovers).

For lots of recipes check out some of the YahooGroups on the subject, for example: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/CROCKPOT-RECIPE/messages

Some features recommended by other users of crock pots (for those looking to purchase one) are a removable liner for ease of cleanup, wrap-around heat (as opposed to the heating element only being on the bottom of the pot), and a lid to keep in the moisture.

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These were very popular in the 1970s. I've actually inherited three of them in my day, and though I've made a good faith effort to use them I've always wound up throwing them away. Basically, they are electric braising devices. They braise and braise and braise all day long. This has the effect of giving you extremely tender slow-cooked stuff. But most of it to me tastes overcooked (it is possible to overcook even when braising). You can of course test periodically for doneness, and you can add different ingredients at different times, but then you lose the benefit of set-and-forget cooking. It does free up a burner, though, as Rachel says.

Also as Rachel says, it's usually best to start on high and switch to low.

I still have a couple of my (and my mother's) old crock pot cookbooks. If you believe this is going to become a tool you use regularly, let me know and I'll get you some recipes.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Thanks.  Yes, I am sure I am getting my stock and my crock confused.  A crockpot is what it must be.  Starting on high heat certainly makes sense - I only did it the other way round because I wasn't sure what it was going to do.  Looks like the main benefit is leaving it on when I'm out of the house.  I'm not yet convinced I'm going to be using it much, but thanks for the recipe offer Steven - Would they be different from regular braising recipes, though?

The other bizarre thing is that I inherited it from the Mother of my Baby who has been using it to sterilise baby bottles.  Now I have discovered that it doesn't reach a boil, I wonder how wise a use that was.  Anyway, baby's thriving.  I also have my eye on a large sealable jar in which she's been storing baby milk - it will mean I can make more confits. :)

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The recipes are different from standard braising recipes in that they are taken to their rational (and sometimes irrational) extreme. The book Crockery Cookery by Mable Hoffman actually has a pretty good technical section up front with graphs and everything explaining how a crock pot works. It then gets into some fairly quaint seventies-ish recipes (232 of them) with names like "Indonesian Pork." There's even a section on desserts.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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  • 8 months later...

The dutch oven thread got me thinking. A couple of years ago we received a crock pot for a Christmas present. I still have not opened it up and used it. I can't really figure out what I would use it for that wouldn't be just as easy to use one of my other pots for. I know there's that whole idea of putting something in there before going to work and when you come home it's ready, but it all seems a little too "house-wifish" for me. Am I crocked :wacko: not to use mine???? Please tell me something wonderful to do w/it!

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I grew up with a crockpot.

They're great for meals you just don't want to have to bother with, spending time watching over and slaving away at a stove.

Pot roast -- try it with beer as part of the braising liquid, along with your standard aromatics and spices.

New England baked beans.

SA

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Every once in a while I feel that I'm on the verge of getting organized and fantasize about throwing together the ingredients for a nutritious, hearty meal before I run out the door in the morning and that we'll all sit down to a fabulous dinner at night. And then I remember who I really am......

There are several dishes that lend themselves beautiful to crockpot cookery and I make them maybe once a year. Meatballs in a sweet-sour sauce and pot roast come to mind. If you have the time to brown meat or chicken on top of the stove and then let it braise all day in the crockpot the results will probably be good. Another popular use in the winter is hot mulled cider or grog for parties.

I was actually thinking about it in the shower this morning. Next week I'm hosting our monthly group and the members have some quirky dietary restrictions so I was thinking about making some vegetarian chili in the crockpot. I'm sure it will come out great, I won't have much last minute fussing except rice and corn bread, and it will be easy to serve (we usually do buffet style meals).

Fat Guy, if you have a chance to post some recipes, I'd be most interested.

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Advantages include very little supervision; uses less energy than heating up the whole oven; and if it's hot outside, doesn't heat up the kitchen as much as the oven.

There are lots of web sites with crock pot recipes. I generally just wing it.

Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"
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Yes, I was thinking to post some recipes but they're so well covered elsewhere it might not be worth it. Here's the basic Google search.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I seem to remember Alton Brown doing oatmeal in a crock pot on an episode of Good Eats. Just prepare it at night and the oatmeal's all set in the morning. I think he threw in dried berries and nuts, or somesuch thing...looked pretty good.

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I seem to remember Alton Brown doing oatmeal in a crock pot on an episode of Good Eats. Just prepare it at night and the oatmeal's all set in the morning.
This would be particularly useful with those oatmeals which are coarse ground rather than mashed into flakes and which normally require overnight soaking and then slow cooking. The flavors in these oatmeals are way beyond the blandness of ordinary porridge oats.

Edit: Here's a curious bit of information I picked up at the Oxford [Food] Symposium this weekend. Oats, unlike other grains, inhibit the absorption of dietary fat. At least one paper on the Scottish diet has suggested that the quantum leap in Scottish ill health related to massive fried food consumption has been caused by the fact that the Scots no longer start their day with porridge!

John Whiting, London

Whitings Writings

Top Google/MSN hit for Paris Bistros

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On Chowhound, I saw a description of making caramelized onions in the crock pot: toss in a stick of butter, load it up with sliced onions, let it cook for 24 hours. Haven't tried it (no crock), but it sounds good to me! (Store the stuff in 1-cup containers in the freezer; that I DO do.)

Then you can make pissaladière anytime! :biggrin:

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On Chowhound, I saw a description of making caramelized onions in the crock pot: toss in a stick of butter, load it up with sliced onions, let it cook for 24 hours.  Haven't tried it (no crock), but it sounds good to me!  (Store the stuff in 1-cup containers in the freezer; that I DO do.)

Then you can make pissaladière anytime!  :biggrin:

Hey, this sounds like the best use yet! Plus it'll make the house smell heavenly.

Thanks for all the suggestions--I think I might just open up the crock pot afterall.

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I have one, but don't use it that often. I don't recommend cooking overnight or while at work. Even though I use the lowest setting, things seem to get "overcooked". I think six hours is about the max for most dishes. I have used it on weekends to make beans, and it's great for parties (reheating)!!! I plan to get more use out of it this winter.

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:rolleyes: I once made bean soup in the crock pot the day our house went on the market. House sold in 2 hours! Sold another one at open house with cinnamon rolls.

Ruth Dondanville aka "ruthcooks"

“Are you making a statement, or are you making dinner?” Mario Batali

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Another popular use in the winter is hot mulled cider or grog for parties.

Every single party I host in the wintertime includes mulled cider in the crockpot, and alongside, a bottle of Tuaca and the recipe for "Hot Apple Pie."

Which is: Into a mug of mulled cider, put a jigger or so of Tuaca. Top with whipped cream and a sprinkle of nutmeg. Omg, is that good.

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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