Best slow cooker for bone broth and The Benefits of Cooking With a Slow Cooker
Believe it or not the slow cooker has been around for many years. The slow cooker was originally invented in the year 1971 and during that time it dubbed the name “crock pot” which many people still use to describe this cooking tool to this very day. Today there are many people who are experiencing for themselves what slow cookers are capable of and purchases of best slow cooker for bone broth have increased over the past 20 years. Today many households have 1 or 2 slow cookers in their home. In fact nearly 70% of the United States homes have at least one slow cooker sitting within the kitchen.
The popularity of the slow cooker has increased over the years since it was invented. Famous chefs around the world and that are featured by the Food Network have come up with a variety of different delicious broths that are very easy to make. Ever since the tool was invented many people have bought them simply because they are very simple to use and they do not take much care to ensure it lasts for many years.
Of course every slow cooker on the market today is different and many of them come with their own unique displays, settings and timers, making your slow cooker unique to you. Slow cookers are perfect for those who live extremely busy lives and find that they do not have the time necessary to cook a gourmet meal. Anybody who lives a hectic and busy lifestyle simply have to put all of the ingredients they need for a broth, set their slow cooker to cook and serve the food upon completion. This kind of cooker is not only convenient, but it is also easier on people’s budget.
The Advantages and Disadvantages of Your Slow Cooker
Just as with anything in this world, a slow cooker has its own set advantages as well as distinct disadvantages. For starters the slow cooker is extremely popular especially in today’s world as many people are working more than 40 hours a week and with such a busy work schedule it is much harder to cook a gourmet meal for one’s family and themselves.
Another advantage to having your own slow cooker is that one can come with a variety of different features that you can choose from. Some of these features include purchasing a slow cooker that is manual, digital, programmable or even portable. Other distinctive features include purchasing a slow cooker that comes with a non-stick coating, one that comes with either a stoneware cooking pot or a ceramic cooking pot, or one that comes with a different lid style. The choices are virtually endless and you can get a slow cooker that best fits your needs.
A third advantage to having a slow cooker is that you will save time on cooking in the long run. It is incredibly simple to make your favorite meals with a slow cooker. Just add all of your ingredients before you leave for work in the morning, set your slow cooker to cook your meal while you are gone and return to your home with a hot and delicious meal waiting for you to eat.
The fourth advantage to using a slow cooker to put together your meals is that now you can begin eating much healthier than you are used to. When you cook your meal in a traditional fashion, the high heat that you use in fact breaks down important nutrients that you need such as important vitamins and minerals and even antioxidants. Loss of these important nutrients can lead to common diseases including Renal diseases and Alzheimer’s. However, when you cook your meals at a lower temperature this will allow your meals to maintain those important nutrients and help to ensure that no harmful chemicals seep into your food during the cooking process. Slow cooking your food also keeps the flavors of your food and will help to makes them more juicy and succulent by the time they are finished. There is no risk of overcooking your food or possibly burning it.
The last advantage to using a slow cooker to prepare your meals is that you will save more money in the long run. Usually all of the ingredients that you need to make a meal in your slow cooker including stews or soups are virtually inexpensive. You will also be able to make whatever meal you cook to stretch out throughout the entire day or for as many hours as you need. And lastly by only using one pot to cook your meals you will save money on your gas and electricity bill in the long run.
Now we will discuss the disadvantages of your slow cooker. One main disadvantage to using a slow cooker to prepare your meals is that while you cook the lid of your slow cooker will build up a lot of condensation. The reason as to why this is a disadvantage is because the water that builds up will leak into the meal you are preparing and may dilute the spices and overall flavor of your meal. So, for example if you are making soup the water from the condensation can make your soup very watery.
Another disadvantage to using a slow cooker is that when you use fresh spices and cook them for a certain amount of hours, they may be slightly overpowering when you first take a bite. The herbs that tend to be the most overpowering when you cook them at a lower temperature over a couple of hours are Cinnamon and Thyme. If you are worried about the overpowering smell and taste, then I highly recommend that you use as little herbs as possible and make sure you are aware of which ones will have less of an overpowering sensation as you can before cooking them.
A Few Helpful Tips For Your Slow cooking Success
When you purchased your brand new slow cooker, you probably never had the chance to ask yourself a few key questions in order to make sure a slow cooker was something that you truly needed. Some of these questions include whether or not a slow cooker would meet your own personal needs, how many people you would be cooking for on a daily basis, and how often you plan on using the slow cooker.
These questions will determine what kind of slow cooker you will need as each cooker comes in a variety of different sizes. For example a slow cooker that comes in three to four quarts size is great if you are cooking for only four people. Any more than that then you will need a bigger slow cooker. Also to figure out what kind of slow cooker you want you will need to determine how frequently you plan on using your slow cooker and how much food you plan to cook with it. If you plan on using it on a daily basis and plan on making as much food as possible then you need to make sure that you have enough storage space to fit the amount of food that you plan to make.
Other various questions that you will need to ask yourself to ensure that you purchase the right size slow cooker include:
- Do you want a slow cooker that will allow you to manually program the temperatures that you need to cook your meals or do you prefer on that has an automatic temperature control?
- Do you want a slow cooker that will allow you to de-frost meats that you plan to use in your meals?
- How much are you willing to spend on a new slow cooker in the case that you need to get a new one?
- Do you want a slow cooker that comes with liners, allowing it to be easier for you to clean?
I know that when you first buy a slow cooker, it can seem very overwhelming at first all of the possibilities that you have with one. However, I have listed a few tips that will help you in the long run and will help you to focus more on creating the most delicious meals that will surely impress your friends and family.
- Try To Save Yourself Some Time and Effort-of course one of the reasons that you purchased your slow cooker in the first place is simply because they make the process of cooking on your part much easier. To make this process even easier I highly suggest that you choose broths that will not require much pre-preparation on your part. Choose simple ingredients to make in your slow cooker such as the ones that are needed to make stews and soups. To find what ingredients work best when you slow cook them I recommend experimenting with them beforehand and see what makes your broths taste more succulent.
- Prepare Your Meals Ahead of Time-this tip can prove exceedingly important especially if you live a busy lifestyle. So if you find yourself pressed for time in the morning, try to gather all of the ingredients that you need for your dinner the night before. Of course when you are preparing your meal all of your ingredients should be at room temperature so take out everything that you need out of the refrigerator at least 20 minutes before you even turn your cooker on.
- Save Yourself Some Money-to save yourself on some money in the grocery store I highly suggest that you focus on cooking meals that will allow you to do so. So for example, broths that include using meats such as pork shoulder, chicken thighs, beef brisket or lamb shoulder are great on your wallet as there meats are naturally cheaper than others. These meats will also allow you to use less of them as you don’t need much of them to extract their delicious flavors.
- Trim the Fat of The Meat Beforehand-when you use a slow cooker there is no need to add any oil into it. The same applies to the fat upon any kind of meat you use. When you cook meat in a traditional oven, the fat that is upon it will usually drain away. This is not the case in a slow cooker so it is best if your trim away prior to cooking it.
- Try Not To Add Too Much Liquid to Your Broth-when you cook meals in your slow cooker, any liquid that you add into your broth will not evaporate due to the tightly sealed lid. Because of this I recommend that if you plan on using any kind of liquid, reduce the amount you use by at least a third and make sure that you only use enough liquid to cover whatever meat and vegetables that you use. Never overfill the slow cooker with liquid as this will cause you meal to cook improperly.
- Thicken Up Your Broth-Just as it is with adding too much liquid to your broth will cause it to become soupy, it will also cause it to not thicken up in the process. To prevent this from happening I highly recommend that you try to add a bit of flour or cornstarch to help thicken up the consistency of whatever kind of broth you are making.
- Don’t Try To Speed Up The Cooking. Keep It At A Low Temperature At All Times-many famous chefs around the world recommend that whenever you use a slow cooker you should always keep the cooking setting as low as possible. I recommend this as well as many dishes I have cooked have always come out better when they have been cooked using the lowest setting as possible. Besides making your dishes as succulent and juicy as possible this will help you to leave your slow cooker with peace of mind knowing that it will not burn while you are out working for the entire day.
- Whatever You Do, Leave Your Dish Alone While It Is Cooking-I know from experience that while we are cooking our meals, we have the need and the tendency to check on it throughout the entire process. The same applies here. Remember, a slow cooker is supposed to cook your food as slowly as possible. You need to leave your meals to cook without checking on them frequently simple because every time you take the lid off of the slow cooker, you will be releasing important heat which in turn can affect the time it takes for your meals to cook.
- Know Beforehand If You Have To Add More Ingredients As You Cook-there are many broths that you may come across that will need you to add ingredients later on in the cooking process. It is best if you know that you have to do this ahead of time so you don’t forget to do it before it is too late. Broths like spaghetti and meatballs require you to add the pasta towards the end of the cooking process to ensure they are cooked properly.
- Know How Long You Have To Cook Your Meals For-each meal you prepare will take a certain amount of time and you need to make sure that you cook it for as long as necessary to ensure that you neither burn your food or undercook it. So, for example if you are preparing a dish that usually takes around 15 to 30 minutes to cook, you need to cook it between 4 to 6 hours on the lowest setting. If you are preparing a dish that usually take 1-2 hours to cook thoroughly, you will need to cook it for 6 to 8 hours on the lowest setting. Knowing this beforehand will allow you to cook the most delicious and succulent meals without worrying about burning your food in the process.
Properly Caring For Your Slow Cooker
As with anything that you purchase today, you will need to learn how to properly take care of it so that you know how to care for it in the long run. The same applies to your new slow cooker. Here are a few helpful tips that you can follow to help care for your slow cooker in the long run.
- Make Sure That You Don’t Preheat Your Slow Cooker-this in fact can damage your slow cooker and potentially add harmful chemicals into whatever dish you are making. It is best to only heat up your slow cooker the moment you are ready to use it.
- To Ensure Proper Cooking Times, Keep Your Slow Cooker At The Lowest Setting-not only will your meals come out absolutely perfect and more succulent then traditional cooking, make sure that you only cook your meals using the lowest setting as possible.
- Make Sure That You Know How Long Your Dishes Need To Be Cooked For-because slow cookers are not affected by direct heat as if a pot would be if you cooked a meal traditionally, you need to ensure that you know how long a dish needs to cook for and abide by these cooking laws to the T.
- Before You Clean Your Slow Cooker, Turn It Off-not only will this save you from being accidentally electrocuted, but this will also help to ensure that you do not burn yourself from a hot slow cooker. Also to make sure your slow cooker remains as clean as possible use hot and soapy water to ensure it becomes as clean as possible.
General Bone Broth Slow Cooking Tips
To make the most of your slow cooking, there’s lots of tricks and tips to give you the best flavor and improve the quality of your broth. Always check with your slow cooker’s instruction manual, as these tips are generic. Your slow cooker’s manufacturer may have alternative recommendations.
Basic Comparative Cooking Times for High and Low Temperature Settings
4 to 6 hours 1 1/2 to 2 hours
6 to 8 hours 3 to 4 hours
8 to 10 hours 4 to 6 hours
Temperatures must reach at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit for safety. The low heat temperature on most models is about 200 degrees Fahrenheit.
Use the right size cooker for your broth. Slow cookers are available from one quart to over eight quarts. Your cooker should not be overfilled or under-filled for proper cooking.
Each time you take a quick peek or give the pot a stir, you add an additional 15 to 20 minutes cooking time to your broth. Stirring is not usually necessary and peeking is definitely a no-no.
The low heat setting takes almost twice as long as cooking on the high heat setting. Low heat is approximately 200 degrees Fahrenheit and the high heat setting is about 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
Even though that ceramic insert is very thick and heavy, sudden temperature changes can crack it. Don’t put a hot insert on a very cold counter. Use a trivet or potholder to protect the counter and your pot. Don’t set the crock on the direct heat of a burner. The ceramic insert cannot take the intense, localized heat and will break. A refrigerated insert should never be put into a preheated base. A cold crock should be put into an unheated base so it can warm gradually.
Slow cookers are very forgiving. Filling the pot willy-nilly will do for most broths, and your meal will turn out just fine. However, if you take a little time to do some preliminary work, you’ll enhance the flavor, texture and appearance of your meal. Dredge your meat in flour and brown on all sides before adding to your slow cooker. This gives the meat a nice appearance and the flour will thicken the liquid. Sauté your vegetable in either oil or butter to add loads of extra flavor to your meal. Make sure to deglaze your pan with the broth’s liquids to add extra flavor and enhance the appearance with the browned bits and juices.
If you live at a high altitude, add 30 minutes of cooking time for each hour specified in the broth. At high altitudes, beans and legumes will need almost double the length of cooking time before they are ready.
Dairy products, including milk, cream, yogurt and sour cream, break down and separate when cooked for a long time. Always add dairy products near the end of the cooking process. They only need to be warmed up and incorporated into the dish. Condensed soups can take longer cooking times, so they may be added at the beginning of the cooking cycle.
If you’re modifying a standard broth to use in your slow cooker, remember that the liquid in the dish will not evaporate. Cut down the liquid content of your broth at least 20 percent to compensate for the lack of evaporation.
Fresh herbs tend to lose their flavor during a long cooking cycle. For best results, add fresh herbs and spices during the last half hour of cooking. However, hearty herbs such as thyme and rosemary hold up well for broths that have short cooking times.
If you’re using dried herbs and spices, add half of the suggested amount at the beginning of the cooking cycle. As you near the completion of the cooking time, taste and adjust the seasonings. Garlic powder and chili powder can actually intensify over a long cooking time, so add these ingredients sparingly at the beginning of the cooking cycle. Taste and correct your seasonings near the end of the cooking time.
Citrus juices, vinegar and tomatoes aid in tenderizing meat, so they should be added when you are preparing your broth. If your broth has a long cooking cycle, taste and add additional juice or tomatoes during the last 15 to 30 minutes if necessary.
Cook pasta and add it during the last 30 minutes of cooking time. If you’re modifying a standard broth that calls for uncooked pasta, pre-cook the noodles before adding them to the slow cooker.
For best results, use long grain or risotto rice in your slow cooker. If rice is still hard after cooking for the suggested time, add 1 to 1 2/3 cups of liquid per cup of rice and continue to cook until soft.
Substitute rinsed canned beans for dried beans when converting a standard broth. However, they should be added in the last half hour of the cooking cycle, as beans can disintegrate if they are overcooked. If you’re using dried beans in a broth, cook them completely before adding to your slow cooker.
Root vegetables should be placed on the bottom or the sides of your slow cooker, as they don’t cook as quickly as meat.
If you plan to turn on your slow cooker before dashing out of the house in the morning, make your preparations the night before to save time. Cut and trim your meat, peel and chop your vegetables, prepare the sauce and measure out the dry ingredients. Refrigerate everything in separate containers. However, don’t store the ingredients in the crock, as the refrigerated insert will add too much cooking time to the broth. Just before you’re ready to set off in the morning, assemble your ingredients in the slow cooker.
Meat and Poultry Cooking Tips
Fatty foods like meat cook more quickly than vegetables. To ensure even cooking, trim away all visible fat from your meat and place the vegetables underneath and on the sides of the meat layer of your broth.
Instead of cooking whole roasts or chickens, cut the meat into pieces. Your slow cooker will cook more efficiently and quickly.
Fish and shellfish require little cooking time, so they should be added during the last 15 to 30 minutes of cooking, unless the broth specifies otherwise. Turn the cooker to the high setting and cook until the fish is just cooked through. If you’re making a large quantity of shellfish, extend the cooking time somewhat, but be careful. Shellfish can be overcooked easily and it will be tough.
If you choose to cook frozen meat in a slow cooker, add a cup of warm liquid to the crock before adding the meat. Don’t preheat the cooker, and add an additional four to six hours to the cooking time for the low setting, or add an additional two hours if you are using the high setting.
Typical Slow Cooker Times and Temperatures for Meats, Poultry and Fish
Meat Cut Low
Pork Roast, 6 – 7 lbs. 9 ½ hours
Pork Loin, 3 – 4 lbs. 6 hours
Poultry, 6 lbs. 7 ½ hours
Beef Roast, 3 – 4 lbs. 8 hours
Stew Meat, 3 lbs. 6 hours
Fish, 2 lbs. 3 ½ hours
Meat Cut High
Pork Roast, 6 – 7 lbs. 7 ½ hours
Pork Loin, 3 – 4 lbs. 5 hours
Poultry, 6 lbs. 6 ¼ hours
Beef Roast, 3 – 4 lbs. 5 ¾ hours
Stew Meat, 3 lbs. 4 ¾ hours
Fish, 2 lbs. 1 ½ hours
Understanding the Slow Cooker
What is a Slow Cooker?
A slow cooker is also referred to as a crockpot. It is an extremely useful appliance that not only produces delicious meals but will save you time and money. The slow cooker initially became popular in the 1970s just as women began to enter the workforce. A slow cooker meant that dinner would be prepared by the time she returned home from work. A slow cooker is an electrical cooking countertop appliance, and it does exactly what its name states, it facilitates unattended slow cooking for several hours.
If you want to improve your health by cooking nutritious, homely meals without burning a hole in your pocket, then a slow cooker is exactly what you need. With a slow cooker, your only job is to spend 15 minutes preparing the ingredients, and while the food cooks, you can get on with the rest of your day. It is ideal for anyone who has a busy schedule, for those who work shifts, for students who have lectures during the day, for the stay at home mum, you can put the dinner on after the morning school run and then get your errands out of the way, by the time it’s time to collect the kids from school, the dinner is ready. The slow cooker is ideal for people who are retired. You can put the supper on, go out and enjoy your day and return to a nice home-cooked meal.
Because the food is cooked at a slow pace on a low temperature, you don’t need to worry about the bottom burning, food spilling over, or it boiling dry. Slow-cooked food is a lot more flavourful than foods cooked in other ways. People got really excited when the microwave oven first came out; yes, it allows you to prepare food in minutes, but radiation experts state that they can increase the risk of cancer. This is not the case with a slow cooker. They are environmentally friendly because they don’t use the same amount of electricity as an oven. They are cheap to run as they only use the same amount of energy as an electric light bulb. If you find that the good quality meat is too expensive, not to worry, your slow cooker will make the cheapest meat taste like you are eating a gourmet dinner! They have the ability to transform the toughest meat into succulent, juicy, melt in the mouth, fall off the bone meat!
What Can I Make in a Slow Cooker?
Slow cookers are also great for steaming puddings. There is no need to add additional water because it doesn’t evaporate, so you don’t have to worry about the pudding drying out. Additional water can be used as a water bath or bain marie to cook terrines, pates, or baked custards. You can also pour fruit juice or alcoholic mixes into the port to make hot toddies or warming hot party punchies.
You can use the slow cooker to make cheese or chocolate fondues, simple chutneys, or lemon curd. You can also boil up a chicken carcass or meat bones to make a hearty homemade stock.
How To Choose the best slow cooker for bone broth
Slow cookers come in three sizes. The size you choose will depend on your requirements, such as whether you are a single person, or you have a family. However, you also want to bear in mind that if you are a single person or a couple with no kids who hold dinner parties often, you might want to consider getting a bigger size.
- Two people: 2 ½ pints – a mini oval slow cooker
- Four people: 6 pints – a medium round slow cooker
- Six people: 8 ¾ pints a large oval slow cooker
There is not much of a price difference between the mini and large slow cookers, but you should also keep in mind that when cooking fish, meats, and vegetable dishes, you will need to fill the slow cooker halfway. Oval is the most versatile shape for cooking things like a whole chicken. It also provides plenty of room if you want to make soups and pudding. It is also a good idea to choose a slow cooker that has an indicator light. This will let you know whether the slow cooker is turned on or not.
Read the Handbook
Although slow cookers all provide the same function, different manufacturers will have different instructions; therefore, make sure you read the manual before getting started to familiarize yourself with your slow cooker.
Filling the Pot
It is essential that you add liquid to your slow cooker before making a meal. Ideally, it should be filled halfway, for soups, the liquid should be no more than 1 inch from the top. Joints of meat shouldn’t take up any more than two-thirds of the space; if you are using a pudding basin, make sure there is 1.5 cm space around the circumference of the slow cooker.
Which Setting Should I Use?
There is a ‘high,’ ‘low,’ ‘warm,’ ‘medium,’ or ‘auto,’ setting on all slow cookers. The high and low settings will reach just below 100 degrees C, boiling point while cooking. But on a ‘high’ setting, it will get there quicker. It can be useful to use a combination of settings while cooking, some manufacturers recommend this; however, read your manual for further instructions.
Getting the Setting Right For Different Foods
In general, these are the settings you should use for certain foods; again, check your handbook for specific instructions:
- Fish dishes
- Rice dishes
- Egg custard dishes
- Chicken joints or chops
- Vegetable casseroles or diced meat
- Half shoulder of lamb
- Gammon joint
- Guinea fowl
- Whole chicken
- Pates or terrines
- Sweet or savoury steamed puddings
- Sweet dishes that include a raising agent
How Long Do i Cook Ingredients?
The length of time spent on cooking foods will depend on what you are cooking. The following cooking times for each temperature setting has been taken from the Morphy Richards slow cooker instruction manual:
6-8 hours4-6 hours3-4 hours
8-10 hours6-8 hours5-6 hours
10-12 hours8-10 hours7-8 hours
How to Clean Your Slow Cooker
Your slow cooker might have specific cleaning instructions; therefore, check with your manual beforehand. However, whatever model you have, it is advised that you clean it as soon as it has been used. You can make the cleaning process easier by spraying it with a non-stick cooking spray before using it to prevent staining. It is also advised that you don’t overfill the dish to avoid spillages that will leave residue on the pot. However, if you do get some stubborn stains on your slow cooker, here are a few tips for easier cleaning:
- Fill the cooker dish with water so that it covers the stain and leave it to cook for two hours
- Before washing, unplug the unit and never soak the base in water
- Dampen a soft cloth with dishwashing detergent and wipe clean
- Use a mixture of vinegar and baking powder, or fresh lemon juice applied to a sponge for more stubborn stains
- Do not use harsh detergents or abrasive cleaners
Slow Cooker Tips and Tricks
A slow cooker is one of the most efficient and convenient cooking utensils you can own. But you can make life even easier for yourself by following these simple tips and tricks when using your slow cooker:
- Trim off excess fat and brown the meat in a frying pan before adding it to the slow cooker.
- Cut the chicken skin off the chicken thighs before browning
- Do not lift the lid off the slow cooker to check the food while it is cooking. This will reduce the temperature, increase the cooking time, and affect the moisture of the food.
- Unless the broth requires that you place the cooker dish in the base after heating it, do not do so. Place the cooker dish in the base before you heat it.
- Do not reheat foods in a slow cooker. Their only purpose is to cook foods and not for reheating. If you want to reheat food from the day before, you can do this in a saucepan on the stove.
- Slow cookers don’t evaporate; therefore, make sure you use broths that are specifically for slow cookers
- To add additional flavour to a dish, sprinkle fresh herbs over the top of a dish or add a dash of lemon juice.
- When cooking rice dishes, if you can get your hands on easy cook rice, it cooks better in a slow cooker. Also, wash off as much of the starch as possible, you will have a better finished dish.
- Add pasta at the last 30 minutes of cooking, or it will get extremely soggy if cooked for any longer than this.
- If you are adding fresh herbs, add them at the last 30 minutes of cooking, or they will lose their intense flavour.
- Root vegetables take a lot longer to cook than meat; therefore, you can either chop them up into smaller chunks, or sauté them before adding them to the dish. Make sure that all vegetables are on the base (which is the hottest area of the slow cooker), and fully immersed in the liquid.
- If the stew or sauce you are cooking is too thin, mix 1 tablespoon of cornflour with 2 tablespoons of the stew or sauce and add it to the slow cooker.
- Do not cook frozen foods in a slow cooker; make sure that you defrost them first, this applies even more so with meat. This is extremely important because the slow cooker is designed to safely cook foods at a low temperature, but if the required heat is not maintained, the risk of food poisoning is increased by the spread of bacteria. If you are adding quick-cook frozen vegetables such as prawns, sweetcorn and peas, add them in the last 30 minutes of cooking.
- Milk, creams, crème fraiche, and Greek yogurt can separate when cooked for long periods of time in a slow cooker; therefore, it is advised that you add them right at the end just before serving.