Have you ever thought about slow cooking before? You’d be forgiven for thinking that cooking anything slowly is a bad thing – but it’s really not! In fact, slow cooked recipes have seen a massive renaissance in the past few years, meaning that it’s now very chic to set up slow cookers or crock pot systems to boil and braise all kinds of dishes.
However, there are more recipes you can bring to fruition through a slow cooker than you might think. From pork shoulder to beef stew, you might want to look into slow cookers and slow cooker recipes if you’re tired of slaving over a hot stove!
In this guide, we will not only look at why slow cookers might be solid investments for you in the long run, but also what you can consider cooking in a crock pot over the months and years to come.
Without further ado, let’s dive into our slow cooker guide to welcome you into this marvellous, flexible and much-loved cooking process.
How Do You Slow Cook?
Slow cooking means that you simply prepare a meal from scratch and cast it into a slow cooker for several hours.
It gets its name because the process can many hours, for example, a whole chicken can take over 5 hours – but there are plenty of benefits to this! To many, slow cookers offer the ultimate in convenience. If you know what you’re going to eat later in the day, you can do all the prep early your meal to cook while you do something else.
You can use your slow cooker for cooking cakes and deserts in your slow cooker too! This Chocolate and Mint Bubble Cake was amazing!
Does Meat Need To Be Submerged in a Slow Cooker?
This will depend on what you are cooking, for stews, chilli’s and bolognese sauce, you will need to cover the meat with liquid, i.e. stock or a tomato-based sauce in your slow cooker to ensure it cooks evenly and doesn’t dry out, also because very little evaporation occurs using this method of cooking you don’t want to overdo the liquid – always follow the recipe guidelines.
However, some slow cooker recipes don’t use a lot of liquid, for example, you can roast a whole chicken in your slow cooker and only need 100ml of water.
I’ve recently started using my slow cooker for our Sunday roast and don’t think I will go back to cooking it in the traditional way in the oven. The finished result is amazing, tender white meat that just falls off the bone and that is so beautifully moist. Plus I love how it frees my oven up to cook my Yorkshire puddings (I know, not traditional with roast chicken, but a must for my boys) and roast potatoes – neither have been better since. Probably because I don’t need to keep opening the door to check on thinks.
If you would like to try, this is the recipe that I use: Slow-Cooker Roast Chicken from BBC Goodfood.
Slow Cooking Pros
- A huge time saver
- Affordable for all
- A healthy way to feed family and friends
- It’s not just for meat you can cook many vegetarian dishes too!
Slow Cooking Cons
- It is possible to overcook meats
- In the unlikely event of a power cut you may have a problem!
What Oven Temperature is Equal to Low on a Slow Cooker?
Generally, to cook ‘low’ on slow cookers means you are working with around 200 degrees F, or 90 to 100 degrees C and ‘high’ 150 degrees C.
In some cases, slow cooker guides will help you to work out equivalent temperatures. Of course, it stands to reason that cooking on low is going to take more time.
Personally for most of the recipes that I use I am cooking on ‘low’. I have two slow cookers one is very small and has just an on-off button so – ‘low’, my bigger and newer model has three settings, low, medium and high.
Can You Slow Cook Too Long?
It’s entirely possible to slow cook for too long depending on your recipe, for example, if you leave your settings up too high for too long, you can seriously overcook a dish.
That’s why it is so important to look carefully at your slow cooker settings. Do also carefully read recipes for slow cooker systems, too, as it never pays to deviate from a guide. That is, of course, unless you are feeling particularly brave, or really know what you are doing!
I recently cooked Macaroni Cheese for the first time. Oh, was it good, but I had to do a bit of resurrecting by adding more milk as I left it for too long!
Can You Overcook Meat in a Slow Cooker?
It is possible to overcook meat if you don’t follow recipe instructions properly, or if you don’t use the correct settings. (I’ve made this mistake, and it really isn’t pleasant).
Many slow cooker models will have three heat settings to help make things simple. However, some food will need to be gently cooked over a few hours. Some slow cookers lean towards longer cooking at lower temperatures, too.
Be sure to read up on what’s likely to work best for your chosen dish – a low heat for a long time, or a high setting on your slow cooker for a short time?
Is Slow Cooking Healthy?
Slow cookers help to retain all the best nutrients that would normally fuse together in dissipate in other types of cooking.
Slow cooker standards help to lock in nutrients as well as flavour, meaning that you’re generally getting a healthier meal than you might through shallow frying or even grilling.
Does Slow Cooking Kill Nutrients?
Slow cooking doesn’t kill nutrients – if anything, it helps to bring out the best in plenty of food.
As mentioned, some styles and forms of cooking can help to make food unhealthier than it has potential for being! Check out a few recipes and see what other people have to say about slow cookers, too.
What is the Advantage of Slow Cooking?
There are plenty of great reasons to set up a slow cooker, and one of these is that you won’t have to spend hours at a time constantly keeping an eye on your pot, grill or pan.
I tend to use mine at the weekend more than the week. Which is probably unusual as most use it to ensure that they have a healthy tasty meal waiting for them when they return from work. But for me the weekends seem to be packed with running clubs, shift work and general jobs that I’ve not got done around the house during the week and, I find having a teenager and a partner on shifts everyone can help themselves when ready.
What’s more, a crockpot cooker is always likely to lock in the heat, as well as cooking liquid. Many people prefer slow cookers to pans and grills simply because the food tastes better, too. I’ll let you be the judge of that one!
The above image is slow cooked mac n cheese. I adapted this recipe by cooking some chorizo off in a pan first and adding to the dish…divine!
Do You Need to Flip Meat in a Slow Cooker?
The jury is out on whether it is really worthwhile flipping anything while it is in a slow cooker, as your crockpot will do all of the hard work for you.
I will add all my ingredients and leave for an hour then give everything a stir, if I am around. But to be honest, in my opinion, you shouldn’t need too. The whole point is to bung everything in and leave it. Which is why so many choose this cooking method mid-week (pop it in and leave it, many choose to use a timer to program their food to come on if they don’t have a model with a built-in timer).
However, some people prefer to open up their slow cookers to flip food occasionally to make sure that they get an even cook. However, when even you open a slow cooker, you are at risk of letting out the heat, and then your meal may take longer to cook while the temperature rises back up.
So, if you can, I’d suggest leaving your slow cooker alone – let it do its business!
Does Meat Get More Tender the Longer it Cooks in a Slow Cooker?
The process of slow cooking is all about ‘Low and Slow’ the method tenderises the meat by breaking down the connective tissues and fat.
It is perfectly possible to overcook or blast beef, pork or chicken in a slow cooker and to therefore render it dry and tough to chew.
On the whole, providing you cook your food at the right temperature and for the right amount of time, you shouldn’t have too much to worry about on the toughness front.
What is a Good Temperature for Slow Cooking?
There is no ‘good’ temperature for slow cooking, as some meals will do better on a high temperature for a short time, while others will taste great when cooked slowly for a longer time.
However, don’t always assume that you can skip slow preparation simply by putting your pot on blast. The guides and meal ideas you’ll find online have been tried and tested multiple times, meaning that they really can be trusted!
Can I Slow Cook Without a Slow Cooker?
You can easily slow cook food without having a slow cooker to hand – you’ll need a dutch oven or pot, which you can fill and put in the oven to cook through evenly.
In fact, this is perhaps a more traditional way of preparing slow cooked food! However, some people may find that this process is a little more involved or drawn-out, which preparing a slow cooker generally easier and more efficient.
That’s not to say you can’t use the oven instead of a slow cooker. In some cases, it’s probably going to be more cost-effective for you in the long run. However, it’s probably going to mean you need to be a little more precise in what you do.
Does Slow Cooking Kill Bacteria?
Slow cooking is one of the best ways to kill bacteria, in the sense that you are giving it a prolonged amount of time under intense heat.
Therefore, you really won’t have anything to worry about when it comes to killing off nastiness in the slow cooker. The key point to remember is that bacteria will generally die off at average oven temperatures, meaning that there’s next to no chance of anything nasty like salmonella or listeria making it past the slow cooker lid.
Is Slow Cooking Worth It?
I wanted to set up the ultimate guide to slow cooking to help show you that yes, slow cooker meals are absolutely worth the time and effort!
Slow cookers are in vogue again now as they are incredibly convenient. They are a bit like the polar opposites to microwaves in that they cook meals very slowly, but tend to bring the best out of anything you place in it.
Therefore, I’d would highly recommend the slow cooker approach if you really want to get the most nutrients and the most flavour out of your dishes. It’s perfectly fine to continue using ovens and grills, but if you really don’t have much time to spend actively cooking each part of your meal, why not cast it all into a crockpot?
Modern slow cooker models are really easy to use and simple to clean, too. You’ll find that there are plenty of different options on the market, and many from brands and manufacturers you already know and trust.
Why not take a closer look online at some of the leading models, as well as guides on how to make some seriously delicious dinners?
A Few of My Favourite Slow Cooker Recipes
Slow Cooker Butternut Squash Dal
If you haven’t already noticed, I’m a huge fan of slow cooked food and an owner of two slow cookers. I personally feel that they are a great investment and very safe to use.
Your cooker will last you for years and I hope, will give you much pleasure. If you don’t already own one, you can read our reviews on The 10 Best Slow Cookers.
But, if you don’t have the money to buy a slow cooker now, and it’s too far from a birthday or Christmas, you can still enjoy the pleasure of slow cooking in a Dutch Cooker. One of my favourite recipe books for slow cooking using your oven is Slow Cooking: Mouthwartering Recipes with Minimum Effort, by James Martin
Happy Slow Cooking!