What’s your go to dish when it comes to cooking a hearty family meal? Whether it’s a Thai green curry, a casserole or a vegetable soup with homemade bread, how much better would it be if you could take the hassle out of cooking?
With a slow cooker you can, and as their popularity continues to increase, we’ve taken a look at the benefits they bring to the cooking process, how to make the most out of your slow cooker1 and two recipes we recommend you try.
Benefits of a Slow Cooker:
Slow cookers bring about many benefits when it comes to cooking, none more so than making it easier to cook delicious meals over a prolonged period of time with little effort being required. But this isn’t the only benefit of using a slow cooker, and below we look at 3 others.
- Save time and energy. Slow cookers are also a cheaper way to cook your favourite dishes – and it doesn’t just have to be stews and casseroles, your slow cooker can also be used to cook fudge, porridge and even bread!Whereas your everyday cooker is one of the most expensive appliances to use in the home, using roughly two kilowatt hours to cook a family meal, a slow cooker can cook a delicious meal over an 8 hour period, using 0.7 kilowatt hours. [source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sponsored/property/smart-living/11743927/save-money-with-slow-cooker.html]
- Cheaper ingredients, greater flavour. Slow cookers work by applying a small amount of heat over a prolonged period of time, and the time cooking makes it easier to use cheaper ingredients, such as meats which offer a great flavour.Some meats recommended to try in your slow cooker include mutton, brisket, beef shin or skirts and ox cheek. During the cooking process the muscle within such meats will cook down, becoming tender and more flavoursome than their more expensive counterparts.In addition to cooking cheaper meats, it’s also recommended to use root vegetables which can bulk up dishes and are cheaper to purchase.
- Healthier food. Cooking in a slow cooker requires little to no oils or fats, as the food is left to simmer in its own juices. Due to the way the food cooks, it also allows more vitamins and minerals to be kept, whilst many slow cooker recipes are packed full of vegetables and / or pulses. [source: http://www.goodtoknow.co.uk/recipes/512245/slow-cooker-tips-tricks-and-recipes]
Get More From Your Slow Cooker:
When using your slow cooker, a few simple tips and tricks can help you get the most out of it to ensure you get delicious dishes every time, whatever you’re cooking. Some of our top tips to help you get the most out of your slow cooker include:
- Place root vegetables at the bottom of the dish. These take longer to cook than most meats, but by being at the bottom they will be closer to the heat source, helping to make them soft and tender during the cooking process.
- Remember, liquid doesn’t escape during the cooking process in a slow cooker so if the recipe hasn’t been adapted for a slow cooker, reduce the liquid suggestions by a third.
- If using herbs, we recommend you use dried ones. The reason being fresh herbs are prone to going limp and brown during the long, moist cooking process whilst dried herbs and spices will release their flavours over time. [source: http://www.goodtoknow.co.uk/recipes/512245/slow-cooker-tips-tricks-and-recipes]
- Don’t lift the lid when cooking in your slow cooker. As tempting as it may be to check the process of your food, lifting the lid off will allow heat to escape, prolonging the time it takes for your dish to cook – which in turn will cost you money too.With a slow cooker, you don’t need to check or stir the food. Instead, once the ingredients are placed within cooker you can leave them to cook. We would recommend however to brown the meat before putting it into the slow cooker.
Two Slow Cooker Recipes for Hearty Meals:
So we’ve explained the benefits of using a slow cooker and how to make the most out of yours, now it’s time to put it to use. And for two hearty meals, we recommend you try these two – a warming sausage and onion stew, and a (hot) chilli con carne.
Sausage & Onion Stew:
For this stew (which serves 4) you’ll need:
- 8 sausages
- 3 onions
- 2 tbsp plain flour
- 500ml stock
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 3 tbsp chutney
With your ingredients to hand lightly brown the sausages, on all sides, in a frying pan before transferring them to the slow cooker which you should set on to “High”. Once you’ve browned the sausages and transferred them to your slow cooker, lightly cook the onions in your frying pan until they’re soft, before adding the plain flour and coat gently for a minute.
Remove the onions from the heat stir in the stock and continue to stir until it thickens, at which point you should add the chutney, Worcestershire sauce and black pepper before transferring the contents of the frying pan into your slow cooker. Turn your slow cooker down to “Low” and cook for 5 to 8 hours. [source: http://www.netmums.com/recipes/sausage-and-onion-casserole]
(Hot) Chilli Con Carne:
This recipe will serve 4 people and is best served with tortilla wrap and sour cream, and to create this delicious hot chilli con carne you’ll need the following ingredients:
- Beef mince
- 1 large onion
- 2 garlic cloves
- 2 tbsp paprika
- 1 tin of kidney beans
- 1 beef stock cube
- 1 tsp hot chilli powder
- 1 tsp cumin
- 100ml boiling water
Begin by browning your mince in a frying pan, without any oil, until the mince becomes lightly crisp and then transfer it to the slow cooker on a low heat, add the rest of the ingredients to the slow cooker and mix well.
Place the lid on the slow cooker, leave it on a low heat and cook for 4 hours. Before serving the chilli, give it a quick serve and then enjoy. [source: http://www.netmums.com/recipes/slow-cooker-chilli-con-carne]
We’re positive that once you’ve tried these two recipes in your slow cooker, and a few others which you’ll find with a quick search on the internet, you’ll be hooked with the appliance. And should you need a spare or appliance to make the most out of yours, you’ll find it with BuySpares.