The noble crock pot. Time saver. Sanity saver. Dinner helper.
When asked to describe all the greatness of the crock pot, it’s hard to know where to start. Put all your ingredients home and come back to a warm meal! This workhorse cooks without needing any attendance. It’s safe to leave on at home providing you leave ample space around the appliance (the sides do get hot.) Let’s explore some common questions.
How does it work?
- The electronic part of a crock pot (also known as slow cooker) is basically a specially shaped hot plate.
- It has three heat settings: warm, low, and high.
- The ceramic insert is a bowl that endures very high temperatures that serves as the ‘baking dish.’
How does it cook?
The crock pot does one thing very well: braising. Braising is a slow-cooking method using liquid. This is excellent for tough cuts of meat along with soups, stews, or even dishes featuring gravy.
More creative cooks have also begun using the crock pot as an oven, forgoing the liquids and improvising a small oven. Examples of this are recipes for foil wrapped baked potatoes (jacket potatoes to our UK friends.)
What does the Crock pot cook best?
- Any cut of meat that does best with a long cooking time (great for inexpensive cuts of meat.) Savory soups and stews. Cakes, cobblers, Oatmeal or rice porridge. Many Indian dishes. Diced fruits, veggies, or purees. Pastas cooked in sauce. Casseroles. Lasagna. A whole chicken or parts. Warm dips. The list goes on and on!
- You can also buy crock pot liners made of plastic so all you need to do is throw them away once you’re done. Easy cleanup!
What are the drawbacks?
- For typical crock pot dishes, it must have ample liquid to cook, otherwise the bottom contents of your food will burn.
- It’s difficult to monitor a precise temperature. For most dishes, cooking on high or low until meat or vegetables are done is completely acceptable. However, if you’d like to roast a joint of lamb at a precise temperature, the crock pot does not give you enough control to do so (unless the high, medium, or warm setting is the exact temperature you need.)
- If you’d like to keep your meat from being fully cooked through, the crock pot will not work for you. If you’d like a steak done medium rare, I’d recommend another cooking method.
- Meats that do best when cooked quickly become tough when overcooked (such as crock pot cooking.) Keep your scallops and beef filets out.
- Food does not brown in the crock pot. For that, you’ll need to transfer the contents into an oven safe dish and put it under the broiler (grill) for a few minutes (great for a whole chicken or turkey roast.)
- The crock pot takes up a lot of space in a kitchen. Of course, there are smaller models that will cook only enough to feed two people.
- If you don’t like planning ahead, the crock pot may not be much help to you.
- Transporting a crock pot full of hot food can be tricky. I buckle mine into the car and cover it in beach towels if I’m taking it anywhere.
Should I buy this?
- If you love one-pot meals, setting and forgetting it, leaving home and coming back with dinner waiting for you, this one’s for you.
Need some recipes?
How about a whole section of crock pot recipes?
You’ll find they have instant pot directions too. Anything you can do in an instant pot, you can do in a crock pot!