Slow cooker advantages disadvantages
The slow cooker is making a strong comeback this year and for very good reason. You can cook wholesome home cooked food with incredibly little effort…and little skills.
What is better than the thought of a lovely meal waiting for you at the end of the day. So let’s talk about slow cooker advantages disadvantages;
Advantages of Slow cookers
There are multiple advantages that you can get from your Slow cooker;
Benefit your health and nutrition
The type of cooking and recipes encourage you to eat more vegetables. This means you are generally getting more protein, fiber and your macro nutrients get an overall bump in the right direction.
Slow cooking also means more tender food. So, your meats will be easier to digest.
Additionally, bone broth is one of the most used recipes. The benefits of bone broth are well documented but they include a reduction in joint pain and inflammation, it helps with digestion, stops the spread of infection and it helps you develop stronger bones, hair and nails.
Slow cooking can save you money
Firstly, the ingredients. The way the slow cooker works means that you can buy cheaper cuts of meat that still produce tender results. The slow cooking process melts the collagen within the meat meaning that it is soft and tender. In other methods of cooking, you would have to buy more expensive cuts of meat to get similar results.
There is also the energy cost that we need to consider. If we used an oven for example, the comparable cost is much higher…even if we are cooking longer in a Slow cooker. No energy is wasted using a Slow cooker and it uses little of it.
It’s easy to cook and learn
Even the most basic of cook can follow simple recipes and still produce great results. The level of skill required on most recipes is quite basic. This means that it is very accessible to most people without a massive education hurdle to overcome.
You can’t beat walking in from a hard day’s work to a home cooked meal. That is essentially what you are getting here with a Slow cooker.
Simply put in the ingredients, turn on the heat and return a few hours later. Simple.
The odor of cooking is contained within the vessel. This is an advantage as it means your household does not smell of food…strong, pungent smells. It is contained within the vessel and is only released when it is opened.
It’s safe to cook food in
Slow cooking kills the pathogens in meat that can cause illness. The general cooking temperature of a Slow cooker is between 170 degrees Fahrenheit and 300 degrees. Meat must be cooked above 140 degrees to cook safely. Food can continue to be heated at slow temperatures until you are ready to eat it rather than dropping into the danger zone of bacteria formation.
Your less likely to burn food
Although it is possible to overcook food especially some meats as they can dry out, it is unlikely if they have a suitable amount of liquid in there. Burning food is highly unlikely.
The fact you have slow cooked the food means it has the time for the ingredients to infuse and burst with flavor. People swear by slow cooking for better dishes as the flavor is retained within the pot rather than evaporating.
Cut the fat
You don’t need a lot of fat to cook on a slow cooker. In fact, its better if you don’t as it doesn’t have an opportunity to drain away. You can therefore cut the fat content of your meals.
Disadvantages of Slow cookers
For all the advantages of a Slow cooker, there are some disadvantages that you should also consider;
It requires some planning
Given the nature of the cooking, you need to have all the ingredients to hand before you start cooking. Once the process starts, you cannot change your ingredients or the recipe. The process has started and you need to let it finish. This means that they can lack flexibility.
It cooks slowly
As the name suggests, it is a slow way cooking. It’s designed this way. If you need to eat in a hurry, this is not the method for you. There is a time and a place for Slow cookers, urgent meals are not one of them.
Slow cookers tend to work best with fresh produce which results in better meals. This is because the structure of the food can be broken down during cooking. However, people like the convenience of canned foods. These do not always produce the best results. Frozen foods can produce better results but you must adjust the water content to account for the thawing of the frozen foods.
You need to get your recipe right
Otherwise you can end up with uneven results. Some foods take longer to cook than others which means some will be ready…others won’t. You can compensate by cooking some of the ingredients beforehand. Ideally, your ingredients fall in the same range of your cooking time.
Toxins in foods
Some foods need to be cooked at certain temperatures to remove toxins. For example, red kidney beans contain a toxin called phytohemagglutinin. This means that the beans have to be cooked at a certain temperature for a period of time to remove the toxin. A Slow cooker will not do this so you need to be aware of the ingredients you are using.
What is a Slow cooker
It allows you to cook food over a long period of time using low cooking temperatures.
It is essentially made up of three main components, the base, vessel and the lid.
The base is the visual aspect you mainly see. It is body that has the handles and the heating controls. Within it, it contains the liner that holds the heating bands. It is these bands that create the heat that transfers to the cooking vessel.
The heat is created at the bottom and rises up the sides. This cooks you food evenly.
Within the base, there is a gap between the liner which allows some airflow. This stops the outside of the slow cooker from overheating.
How do Slow cookers cook food?
They cook food evenly and slowly generally. We will discuss later what you can and can’t do in a slow cooker.
Generally, most slow cookers have a couple of settings. On a low setting, food will generally take between six and ten hours to cook. On a high setting, it will normally take between four and six hours to complete.
To put that into perspective, if you were to use an oven for an hour at 350 degrees Fahrenheit, on a slow setting in a slow cooker, it would be equivalent to four hours on a high setting and eight hours on a low setting. If you were to use the oven for three hours, it would be between four and six hours (4 – 6) on a high setting and eight and sixteen (8 – 16) hours on a low setting.
It is slow to cook but that is precisely the point of them.
Sizes of Slow cookers
They obviously come in a variety of sizes to serve different needs and markets.
Generally, they range in size from one to seven (1 – 7) quarts.
Between one and three quarts (1 – 3) size slow cookers are generally used to make dips or sauces. They are not often used to make meals given their size.
For three and five (3 – 5) quarts, they generally cook meals for up to four people.
The largest sizes are between five and seven (5 – 7) quarts. These large slow cookers can cook for five people and upwards depending on the dish. These larger sizes are better for soups and larger cuts of meat.
As a guide, you should not take the quart value at face value. You can fill the vessels up to two thirds (2/3rds) full to cook therefore the quantity will be less than you anticipate. Move a size up if you are basing your buying decision on size.
Why would you use a Slow cooker?
Generally, people use slow cookers if they want to return after a few hours to a hot meal. The ability to return from work to a great meal is really tempting to some and allows for more free time in the evenings.
It also recognizes that you may not feel up to cooking in the evening but still have a nutritious meal instead of take outs.
It can also simplify cooking. Most recipes designed for slow cooking literally involve putting raw ingredients into the vessel and turning it on. Even the most inexperienced cook can make delicious meals.
Slow cooker health benefits
It is the healthiest way to cook meat
It is the safest way of cooking meat. When meat is cooked over a flame for example, the proteins and fats interact to create compounds which are damaging for our health. Over time this can be dangerous and cause illness. If you eat meat regularly, you need to alter the way you cook meat and a slow cooker is the ideal way of doing this.
Introduce beans into your diet
Beans contain important nutrients and macro nutrients that you need as part of a healthy diet. Slow cooking them means you can dispense with the soaking process.
It’s perfect for summer
For some reason, people associate slow cooking with winter food. The opposite is true, it is perfect for summer as it does not heat up your kitchen. Throw in some seasonal food and you have healthy dishes all year round.
Tips for using your Slow cooker
One of the biggest concerns people have is the timing of the cooking. Some people are not comfortable with the fact that the machine is on during the day when they are not home. It panics them. The solution is simple…cook overnight.
By cooking overnight, you can cool the food in the morning and refrigerate it. This means that you still have a meal ready for the evening that just needs to be warmed up. This process actually works very well for some people.
There are other tips that you can benefit from;
- It is important that you thaw any meat in the refrigerator before you cook. Do not attempt to use and frozen meat.
- Cook the amount of food relative to the size of the vessel. Cooking too little or too much will affect the cooking time.
- In terms of liquids, make sure to adjust the liquid you need. As it does not evaporate in the cooker, you may end up with watery dishes. Reduce the amount of liquid in your recipe for best results.
- Keep the lid on during cooking and resist the temptation to open the lid. Opening the lid will result in a longer cooking time.
- Make your life easier when it comes to cleaning by rubbing oil on the inside of the vessel. This will prevent food sticking and saves time and effort later.
- Vegetables take longer to cook the meat. The trick is to place the vegetables at the bottom and the meat above. The broth is then poured and it should result in even cooking.
- If the vegetables are soft, wait until the end before introducing them. They do not need to cook for hours.
- For dairy products, leave them until the very end to introduce them. This will stop them curdling in the Slow Cooker.
Summary – Slow Cooker Advantages Disadvantages
For those of you who have experienced Slow cooker advantages and disadvantages, you know that it can alter the way you see food and your diet. You start to view cooking as more integrated to your lifestyle rather than a burden. The feeling that after a hard day’s work, having to cook a meal can be quite depressing. You can change all that easily by experimenting with Slow cooker’s. Once you experience this, that feeling may well be a thing of the past.