If you have a busy lifestyle but are craving more home-cooked meals, you should invest in a slow cooker. These kitchen gadgets cost little – usually less than $40 – although you can choose from a wide array of deluxe varieties. They are worth the money because they will allow you to eat healthier and with little preparation time in the evenings.
There are a few rules to remember about using slow cookers, though, to make sure that you have great meals when you are ready.
First, check the capacity for your slow cooker. Most standard models are 2 1/2 to 3 quarts, which makes a lot of food. If it is only you and your significant other who will be eating the meals, make sure it is going to be something you are willing to have as leftovers. If you live alone, know that you will be eating one standard slow cooked meal for the entire workweek, unless you have a very healthy appetite. You may want to consider purchasing a smaller model.
Next, note that most slow cookers come in low or high heat settings only. There is not much adjusting and evaluating involved, which is great if you have no ambitions of becoming a gourmet cook.
Remember that a slow cooker does just what the time implies. It cooks food very slowly, usually over several hours. You will not be able to put something in the slow cooker when you get home. Instead, you will need to plan to make time in the mornings to put food in the slow cooker. Even on the high setting, it will not reach very high temperatures. The heat should be contained as well, making your slow cooker safe to leave on. Getting up a little early is a small price to pay for a nice home-cooked meal when you get home, especially if you only have to do so every couple of days.
Also know that every model does not cook at the same temperature. If you are using a cookbook, you still will need to pay close attention to how long you cook the food. You may find that a recipe that calls for six hours on low only needs four hours for your slow cooker. Be prepared to adjust your cooking times accordingly.
You should use your slow cooker with the lid in place. That advice seems common sense, but many people lift and leave the lid off throughout the cooking process. Doing so allows a lot of heat to escape from the slow cooker. One oddity you may notice when you first get started is that these recipes call for very little liquid ingredients. That is because the enclosed cooking pot means little will evaporate. Taking the lid off repeatedly voids this process and could cause problems in cooking your food.
Finally, know that you can experiment some with your slow cooker once you get the hang of how it works. Some spices, such as basil, take on a much stronger taste because of the low evaporation and seeping used in slow cooking. Other spices may not taste as strong as normal. Be prepared to make some alterations the first few times you use your slow cooker.
Once you get a few meals under your belt, you will be able to experiment with your foods and make what you really love.