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Equipment Guide

Your ultimate guide to slow cookers

27 April 2023

Slow cooker and rice

Slow and steady wins the race

The slow cooker has been a kitchen staple since way back in the 1970s, and its popularity has never wavered. The slow cooker lets users chuck a bunch of ingredients together in the morning, and return in the evening to the comforting smell of a home-cooked meal. Just like the famous slogan goes, it ‘It cooks all day while the cook’s away’. Versatile, convenient, and cheap to run, it’s no surprise these machines have stood the test of time. But the slow cooker’s legacy stretches back much further than the disco era.

What is a slow cooker?

A slow cooker, also known as a crockpot, is a kitchen appliance designed to cook food at a low and consistent temperature over an extended period. It consists of three main parts: the ceramic pot (crock), an outer casing with low-wattage coils, and a glass lid. The slow cooker is renowned for its ability to simplify cooking by allowing users to prepare ingredients in the morning and return to a fully cooked meal in the evening.

 Where did the slow cooker come from?

Although the slow cooker we know today only came to be around 50 years ago, the actual technique of slow-cooking dates back centuries. From earth-covered pits and pot roasts, the cooking method traps the ingredients’ liquids inside a sealed cooking chamber, heated on a low temperature, allowing the contents to tenderise over a long period.

 While the Australian aboriginals were cooking plants and roots overnight in ground ovens, the Hawaiians were cooking whole hogs covered with hot stones. And although the techniques may have differed slightly, the concept is the same. Low, slow, and super tasty.

How does the slow cooker work?

The slow cooker operates on a simple mechanism. The ceramic pot, often removable, holds the ingredients and is surrounded by low-wattage coils within the outer casing. The glass lid traps steam which adds moisture back into the food and stops it drying out. The slow cooker typically offers different temperature settings (low, mid, and high), allowing users to adjust the cooking time accordingly.

What temperature is a slow cooker?

The temperature settings on a slow cooker usually range from low to high. The low setting generally maintains a temperature around 190°F (87°C), while the high setting reaches approximately 300°F (149°C). The slow, even cooking at these temperatures contributes to tender meats and flavours infused into dishes.

Are slow cookers energy efficient?

Slow cookers are known for their energy efficiency. The long, slow cooking process requires minimal electricity, making them an economical choice for preparing meals. The sealed cooking chamber and the efficient use of low-wattage coils contribute to the energy-saving characteristics of slow cookers.

How to use a slow cooker?

Using a slow cooker is a straightforward process. Simply place the prepared ingredients in the ceramic pot, choose the desired temperature setting, and let the slow cooker work its magic. Whether it’s soups, stews or roasts, the slow cooker’s low and slow-approach ensures flavourful and tender results.

How to clean a slow cooker

If your slow cooker’s crock is removable it can be placed directly in the dishwasher with the lid. But we would recommend scooping out any leftovers beforehand. Another handy trick is to fill it with water after you’ve taken out your food, and let it simmer away before wiping it down by hand. The outer casing shouldn’t need cleaning (unless you’re a bit of a mucky pup), but if it does end up with a few splatters, just wipe down with a warm, damp cloth. 

rice recipe in a rice cooker

Slow cooker comparison

Navigating the world of kitchen appliances involves choices, and when it comes to slow cookers, considerations extend to multicookers, like the Instant Pot and Crockpot. In this section, we delve into the distinctions between slow cookers and multicookers, helping you make an informed decision based on your preferences and needs.

The slow cooker versus the multicooker

If you’re thinking about buying a slow cooker, you may have come across another name in your research… the multicooker. Or to use the more well-known brand names, the Crockpot and the Instant Pot – clash of the titans.

When it comes to comparing the two, it may be more straightforward than you think. Basically, the slow cooker can do one thing very well – cook stuff slowly. Whereas the multicooker has multiple functions, including pressure cooking, slow cooking, sautéing, and steaming. And because the multicooker has more buttons on it, it generally carries a bigger price tag. If you’re looking for something to take the stress out of cooking a full evening meal after work, and that’s about it, then the slow cooker is for you. But if you’re in the market for a kitchen assistant, capable of making small work of various cooking styles – including slow cooking – then it sounds like you want a multicooker. The only other thing to consider is that the multicooker’s pot isn’t generally as large as the slow cookers.

Rice cooker vs slow cooker

When comparing rice cookers to slow cookers, the primary difference lies in functionality. A rice cooker specialises in producing perfectly cooked rice, offering convenience and precision in this specific task. On the other hand, a slow cooker is a versatile appliance capable of preparing a myriad of dishes beyond rice. While the slow cooker can certainly cook rice, its true prowess lies in the slow and steady cooking of stews, casseroles, roasts and more. So, if rice is a staple in your meals, a rice cooker might be suitable, but for diverse culinary creations, the slow cooker takes the lead.

What can you cook in a slow cooker 

The slow cooker’s culinary canvas is vast and varied. From classic stews and hearty casseroles to succulent roasts and even bread, the slow cooker proves its versatility on countertops worldwide. It effortlessly transforms tough cuts of meat into tender delights and infuses flavours into dishes with its long, slow cooking process.

Additionally, the slow cooker is an ideal companion for cooking grains like rice and creating soups that simmer to perfection. Its set-it-and-forget-it nature makes it a convenient choice for busy individuals seeking wholesome, home-cooked meals without constant monitoring.

Can you cook rice in a slow cooker?

Yes, we use ours to make tasty, fluffy rice. And it couldn’t be easier. With the pot’s non-stick coating, you don’t need to worry about babysitting rice cooking in a slow cooker, as you would on the stove or hob. You just set it off and get on with the rest of your meal.

Start off by straining your uncooked rice with warm water until the water runs clear, removing all the starch and preventing it from clumping into one big ball. Once that’s all sorted, chuck it in the slow cooker with two mugs of boiling water and a pinch of salt, pop the lid on, and leave it for a couple of hours. And when it’s time to eat, fluff it up with a fork and serve.