Slow cooking is the remarkably “fast” way to cook. Separate preparation and cooking to fit your schedule. Have delicious slow cooked food available on demand.
Why slow cooking?
I enjoy cooking and find the process to be creative. However, who has the time to cook each evening? I combine my cooking time into one creative session a week which I get to enjoy without pressure. This allows me to get into the flow state.
Slow cooked food is often enhanced by wine, which can be deservedly enjoyed whilst cooking. Best of all, the cheaper and tastier cuts of animals can be used. Slow cooking is both frugal and healthy. Slow cooking is also an excellent way to make a bone broth.
I make a large slow cook which provides ready made food for the week. The first evening is an ideal chance to invite appreciative friends to share in the bounty. I let the left over food cool and then refrigerate in tupperware for the week. Re-heating a portion or two of delicious slow cook takes 5 minutes on the hob.
The slow cooker
We can split slow cookers based on the construction material of their inner pots, sometimes called “crocks”.
- Everything else, usually aluminium
The ceramic pot is what I know and recommend. It is coated in a non-stick material. It takes longer to heat up and retains heat for much longer. The disadvantage is that it is heavy to handle when washing and it is not recommended to submerge the pot in the sink. The not stick coating does not cover the base and is somewhat porous. I wash it on the counter next to the sink.
I recommend a larger pot than you think. Measure the volume of your largest cooking pot for reference. I find I always fill my 5.5 litre slow cooker and this makes around 7 – 8 meals. I wish that I bought the 6.5 litre one! To allow the heat to circulate, it is best to leave an inch or two of space below the lid. This reduces the effective volume of the slow cooker.
If you don’t want left-overs, the 3.5 litre slow cooker could work. However, I would be concerned about fitting larger cuts of meat or bones in the smaller slow cooker. Many slow cookers are oval-shaped to fit joints like a leg or shoulder. I like my large round slow cooker, which fits nicely in a corner of the kitchen counter.
The basic slow cooking method
- Brown your onions and garlic in the fat on HIGH in the slow cooker
- Brown your meat under the oven grill or on the hob
- Add the meat to the slow cooker and continue to cook on HIGH
- Prepare the vegetables and add to the sides and on top of the meat
- Turn to LOW and cook for 8 hours or more
Slow Cooking Tips
Limit the liquids
Do not add any unnecessary liquids. Liquids should only be added if you are making a soup, such as a dhal. The meat joint and vegetables will release plenty of wonderful juices. I generally only add “glugs” of wine and perhaps 100 ml of concentrated stock.
Long and LOW
Aim for eight hours of cooking on LOW. Tougher and fattier cuts will need more time to break down. For example, a breast of lamb can take 16 – 18 hours.
Limit the lid lifts
Minimise the number of times the lid is removed. Each lid lift can reduce the heat by up to an equivalent of one hour’s cooking time. I turn the food over with a ladle perhaps 3 or 4 times during the second half of the LOW cooking phase.
Fit into your life
I like to prepare the slow cooker in the evening. I let it cook long and LOW overnight and turn it OFF in the morning. The ceramic pot keeps the heat for many hours, but do not lift the lid! For a next level variation, turn it to OFF overnight when going to bed. Turn the slow cooker back to LOW in the morning to cook throughout the day.
Crazy Slow Cooker
Slow cooking is limited only by your imagination. You can make desserts, breads, soups, whole roasted chickens and just about anything you can think of. You can add and stack smaller ramikens or pots inside the slow cooker, each containing different foods to cook or heat.
Imagine preparing a full cooked “English” breakfast in the evening and cooking overnight? When you wake up everything is waiting for you – a perfect recovery to a big night out.
My favourite is probably my Precious Lamb Neck Slow Cook.
What are your favourite slow cooker recipes or ideas? I’d love to hear from you below.