Slow cookin'Crock-Pots and the like can save you time and money.
If asked, I would be hard pressed to choose my favorite cookware.
For sure, I would be lost without my cast-iron Dutch oven, which we use weekly for everything from chicken to roasts to fish.
And at least a couple of times a week, one or two in my collection of a half-dozen cast-iron frying pans finds their way to the top of our gas stove for things such as warming up burritos, cooking rings of sausage or simmering shredded pheasant in barbecue sauce.
Then, there’s my stainless-steel, 3-quart saucepan from Emeril Lagasse. I love to use it when making the marinara sauce we put over pasta and a meat sauce that my grandson, Rakeem, likes with spaghetti.
And I can’t forget about my two stainless-steel soup pots that get a constant workout. This week, I used both — the larger some Czechoslovakian Cabbage Soup that we served at a Relay for Life fundraiser at work and the smaller for a Pasta and Bean Soup that Therese really enjoys.
But one item is “slowly” becoming a favorite — my 4-quart Rival Crock-Pot.
And I’m not the only one who is becoming enamored with slow cookers. If you do a Google search of “love slow cookers,” you will see more than 1.6 million hits, most of which are testimonials to the beloved receptacle that came upon the food scene in 1971. And according to NDP, a leading marketing research firm, 83 percent of U.S. homes have a slow cooker.
For a long time, serious cooks turned up their noses at the idea of using a slow cooker. Perhaps, some of the scorn came from the fact that many of the recipes were nothing but a hunk of meat covered with some cream of mushroom or cream of chicken soup.
But over the years, foodies discovered that slow cookers work great on foods that require slow cooking, such as braises. Even Mark Bittman, author, columnist and blogger with the New York Times, sang the praises of slow cookers for braising in a 2003 column.
Braising is a technique that works great on cheaper cuts of meat, which take time to tenderize. These days, with many more households having two breadwinners, it’s unlikely someone spends all afternoon fixing supper, so a slow cooker is the perfect way to braise meat.
Another nice thing about slow cookers is you can adapt many conventional recipes for them.
But keep these things in mind:
— Cut all liquid amounts in half when adjusting for the slow cooker.
— The low heat setting is about 200, and high heat is about 300 degrees.
— For every hour you’d cook something in the oven or on the stove, allow eight hours on low or four hours on high.
— Enhance flavor and texture by browning meats and onions before slow cooking.
— Use dried herbs, not fresh, at the very end, just before serving.
— Don’t peek. When you lift the lid, you’re letting heat escape.
Among things I’ve cooked in my Crock-Pot are sausage in sauerkraut as well as pheasant and wild rice, seasoned with Cajun spices and cream of mushroom with roasted garlic soup.
One thing I’d like to try is friend Doris Bornhoeft’s pulled pork recipe. It’s kind of intriguing, since she likes to cook her pork overnight in a can of Coke before adding the other ingredients. (See recipe at www.grandforksherald. com/event/tag/group/Features/tag/food/.)
I bet it won’t take as long to eat as it does to cook.
Tiedeman is food editor at the Herald. Reach him at 780-1136 or toll-free at (800) 477-6572, or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.