Thursday, March 19, 2009

Efficient Impliment: Crockpot

  • Energy efficient: In a 2008 article, Consumer Reports named using a slow cooker as one of 25 Simple Ways to Save, because it is more energy efficient than simmering your food on the stove or firing up an electric oven.
  • Attendance optional: Crockpots are designed to be left unattended so you are free to go to work and return home to a warm meal. Be sure to place it on a sturdy surface, do not put more ingredients in it than it can safely hold if the liquid begins to boil, and be sure that it is a safe distance from items that might be damaged by heat -- including the cord, which should be stretched away from the pot.
  • Harness your inner miser: We all know that dry beans are healthier and cheaper than canned beans, but don't have the time to prepare them? The chef with the crockpot! After a big meal of roasted chicken or turkey, who has the energy to stew the carcass for another meal? The chef with the slow cooker -- s/he can do it in her sleep!
What Type?
Prices for crockpots run the gamut, from as low as $15 to up to $250. The price depends on the size, the number of settings, and whether it has a timer.
  • Timing can be everything: Chefs who dare not leave the house while cooking with a crockpot have no need for a timer. Crockpots with a timer allow the chef a more wiggle-room, in case s/he has a meal bubbling in the crockpot while out and s/he arrives home later than expected, the crockpot will automatically switch to a "warm" setting, which avoids over-cooked or burnt food.
  • Size might be important: The Lil Dipper is the smallest size, weighing in at 16 oz -- good for keeping a dip warm for a party. A meal for the entire family, however, requires at least a 6-quart capacity, and preferably an oval shape if you would like to cook an entire tenderloin or chicken.
  • True one-pot deliciousness: The ultra-efficient model, by All-Clad, has an inner container that can be used on the stovetop, which saves the chef from cleaning a pan otherwise needed to saute onions, etc., before adding them to the crockpot. That model tops the charts in expense, and a kitchen equipment rating organization recently found the browning capability of the insert subpar.
Up next:
Tips and recipes for using your crockpot

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