The name seems almost synonymous with the fall and winter kitchen, but using it in the summer keeps your kitchen from getting any hotter. It is energy conscious. And it’s the best food babysitter I know.
I have two: the 7-quart behemoth that can hold a whole chicken or a whole mess of beans (pintos or reds) without breaking a sweat (well…it definitely breaks a sweat. It does have to cook the food, you know) and my 5-quart one for smaller jobs. My 7-quart is the programmable oval with the keep warm setting. This is highly key for when I make roasts and stuff and really have no clue how long it has to cook.
I use my slow cooker for soups, broths, beans (the aforementioned red and pinto), and roasts, primarily. I did have the one epic fail with the baked potatoes in the slow cooker. I wrapped them in foil, and all I could taste was metal. I recently saw a recipe in a cookbook that called for not wrapping them in foil but cooking them in the Crock Pot. I might try it again.
My mom makes a chicken in cream recipe that I love that is made in the slow cooker along with its close country cousin chicken with dried beef. Also her slow cooker ribs in barbecue sauce has been known to make angels (and me) weep from pleasure.
The reason Josh doesn’t like the slow cooker is that it tends to intensify saltiness in things. So the packet roast with the dried gravy packet and onion soup mix with a can of cream of mushroom thrown in? It does strongly resemble a salt lick in taste. Therefore, it is always a good idea to err on the side of under-seasoning your slow cooker dishes (especially in terms of salt) and then re-season at the end.
Any meat that is good for braising is intended for the slow cooker (tough, tendony pieces of meat become lip-smacking good shredded and saucy meat). Keep in mind these tough pieces of meat tend to be cheaper, so that is another way the slow cooker tends to save you money.
Also, the slow cooker is good for overnight breakfast casseroles and baked oatmeal (or just oatmeal period). Both options are very economical and stretch a long way. And the Crock Pot produces some of the best stock known to man (and does the heavy work at night while you are sleeping so you awake to the yummy aroma of stocky goodness). And, stock for all intents and purposes, is free. You use ends of vegetation that you were going to get rid of (or had started to go bad), chicken carcass (or beef bones, or ham bones, or shrimp shells), water, and seasonings. The seasonings are the only “cost” item in that list.
In the upcoming week, I am planning a couple of meals in the slow cooker, but you can bet as the mercury begins to rise in the spring and summer months, I will be utilizing it as much as possible to avoid raising the electric bill (both with oven usage and for air conditioner usage to cool down the house from the added heat in the kitchen).
If you aren’t already a slow-cooker convert, repeat after me. The slow cooker is good. The. Slow. Cooker. Is. Good.
Here’s the list (although I haven’t added in the required components for the week’s meals, other than the chicken):
mandarins 3lb bag, 3.99
Bumble Bee Tuna, BOGO (5 oz can)
Mrs. Baird’s Bread 3/$5 (or Kroger bread is cheaper)
Coke 2L $1 wyb 6
Kroger OJ 2/$3 half gallon
Sour Cream 4/$5
Kroger Frozen Potatoes 1.99 (if hashbrown)
Boneless Skinless 1.78/lb
Blackberries 99 cents/6 oz pkg
Roma Tomatoes 99 cents/lb
Hormel Natural Choice Lunchmeat 1.99 wyb 5
Reeser’s Classic Deli Salads 1.49/lb. Wyb 5
Sonya Apples 1.19/lb.
Steakhouse Fingerling Potatoes 2/$3
Red, Green, or Black Seedless Grapes 1.99/lb
Tortillas (and receive free picante sauce)
Potato Chips 2/$4