The slow cooker equals healthy eating made easy. This amazing appliance provides the solution to many issues of both nutrition and convenience. First off, slow cooking as a technique is incredibly easy.
Though not necessarily the case for all slow cooker recipes, most let you throw all the ingredients into the pot at the beginning of the day and walk away. Thatu2019s it: Then you simply come home to a delicious meal.
And whole, uncut foods and meats are perfect for the slow cooker. And did I mention that your kitchen, if not your entire house, will smell amazing?
OUR TOP PICK
Why Should you get best slow cooker for single person
Cooks While You’re Away
Set it and forget it—that’s pretty much the slow cooker motto. I believe that if you know you’re going to come home to an appetizing home-cooked meal, you’re less likely to opt for takeout or find yourself eating unhealthy, processed foods. The concept of leaving your food to cook and walking away is undeniably convenient.
You Control the Ingredients
Slow cookers give you more control over what you’re eating, resulting in both healthier and cheaper meals. Fresh ingredients work exceptionally well in the slow cooker. Use fresh vegetables, fresh starches like sweet potatoes, and pretty much any cut of meat—the tougher, the better. Slow cookers also encourage you to use less expensive ingredients.
For example, using dried beans you’ve soaked overnight rather than higher-sodium canned beans is not only better for you but cheaper, too.
Low and Slow
Set to the right temperature, slow cooking will cook vegetables to perfection, and starches as well—potatoes cooked just right, that a fork pierces easily. Ever had meat so tender it literally melts in your mouth? If not, you haven’t tried slow-cooked meat. Even the toughest meats will become tender during the low-and-slow cooking process to the point that they shred with a fork.
Using tough cuts has health benefits, too: They are generally lower in fat, decreasing the overall fat and calorie content of slow cooker meals.
SLOW COOKER OR CROCK-POT?
Slow cooker is the generic name for an appliance that has heating elements in a metal housing around an insert and can be safely left unattended on your counter top as it slowly cooks a meal. Crock-Pot is the Rival Company’s registered trademark for its slow cookers. The terms “slow cooker” and “Crock-Pot” are often used interchangeably, much like “tissue” and “Kleenex.”
While all Crock-Pots are slow cookers, not all slow cookers are Crock-Pots. Other popular slow cooker brands include All-Clad, Cuisinart, and Hamilton Beach. Even the popular Instant Pot pressure cooker has a slow cooker function.
Healthier and Safer Cooking Method
Some people worry about slow cookers stripping the nutrients out of food. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. Cooking food at low temperatures for a long period of time preserves nutrients normally lost at high temperatures. Slow cooking also eliminates the risk of AGEs (advanced glycation end products) occurring when foods are cooked at high heat.
Can’t stand a hot kitchen in the middle of the summer? Prefer not to grill in the winter? The slow cooker solves both these problems. You can cook the same wholesome meals without changing your cooking methods or ingredients. And in general, slow cookers use substantially less energy than a conventional electric oven.
Benefits of Slow Cookers
Slow cooking has several advantages, such as saving time and energy, preserving the nutrients in food, and eliminating all harmful microorganisms that might be present in food. Let us look at all the different benefits of slow cooking.
Slow cooking is a wonderful cooking technique. When you use this method of cooking, you reduce the time spent in the kitchen considerably. You no longer have to slave away in the kitchen.
You merely toss all the ingredients in a pot and wait for the food to cook. If you want to enjoy home-cooked meals but don’t like the idea of spending hours in the kitchen, then slow cooking is the method for you. While your meal cooks itself, you can do other chores at home. A slow cooker is a wonderful kitchen appliance, and once you use it, you will certainly fall in love with it.
Cooking with a slow cooker will help ensure that heat is spread evenly and that food is cooked uniformly. A slow cooker consists of a lidded round cooking pot that is usually made of either glazed ceramic or porcelain.
The cooking pot is surrounded by metal that houses the heating element. The condensed vapor collects in the groove of the inner pot and creates a low-pressure atmosphere that cooks the food. A slow cooker is different from a regular pressure cooker, and unlike the latter, it doesn’t present the danger of abruptly releasing pressure.
The heat from the heating element is transferred to the cooking pot, and it helps cook the food. This technique of cooking ensures that all the nutrients in the food, such as various minerals and vitamins, will stay intact and won’t dissipate. Steam will surround the food, and this means that the food wouldn’t get oxidized by air or exposure to heat. Therefore, fresh green foods will retain their color, even after being cooked.
A slow cooker has a unique cooking mechanism where the food stays fully sealed. No steam or any smells will spread throughout your home or your kitchen. This makes for a clean and extremely convenient cooking appliance. A slow cooker is best suited for cooking flavorful meals that retain all their nutrients. Owing to the cooking cycles that are controlled by the heat settings, all the meals are cooked in a consistent manner.
The food that is cooked in a slow cooker is cooked in a fully sealed container. This means that all the nutrients and flavors in the ingredients are trapped within the container. The water content and fresh juices within all the ingredients will remain in the cooking pot and will not dissipate.
You can cook any cut of meat to perfection using this appliance. Even if you use a tough cut of meat or any of the cheaper cuts, you will still be able to cook it to perfection. In fact, this is the best appliance to braise or tenderize meats. You can cook the meat perfectly so that it is falling off the bone. For instance, you make hearty stews using cheap cuts of meat. Not only will you be able to feast on a delicious meal, but it will be lighter on your pocket as well.
Another important feature of this appliance is that all meals will be cooked consistently. This is possible because of the heating mechanism that ensures that similar foods are cooked in a similar manner and also due to the even distribution of heat while cooking. When you cook food at a constant temperature for a prolonged period, the results will be consistent as well.
Conventional cookers have an image of these spitting and steaming monstrous pots that keep making rattling noises that can scare even an adult. Even if you enjoy cooking, the thought of cleaning up afterwards can make you feel otherwise. The thought of spending an hour or two in the kitchen, cleaning all the pots and pans, will prevent you from cooking.
If you enjoy cooking but don’t like cleaning up afterwards, then the slow cooker is the perfect kitchen appliance for you. All that you need to clean is a single pot, and that’s about it. The slow cooker is fully sealed, and no steam will escape into the immediate environment. Therefore, you don’t have to worry about any smells spreading in your kitchen or your home.
As mentioned earlier, it will help trap all the flavors of the food within the container. A slow cooker will help you to cook food without heating up the surroundings, and this will be well appreciated during summer time by reducing the electricity required for heating and cooling the food. The slow cooker certainly helps you keep your kitchen clean.
There won’t be any messy spills or splashes, and you don’t have to clean up food that boils over. Everything is perfectly sealed and trapped within the inner pot. It is a kitchen friendly appliance that requires minimal cleaning. It is a multipurpose appliance, and it will help you get rid of the clutter in your kitchen.
Eliminates Harmful Microorganisms
When food is cooked at a temperature that is above the boiling point of water, then this will help kill all the harmful microorganisms that might be present in the ingredients like bacteria and viruses. Slow cooking is a good way to sterilize your food. Rice, wheat, corn, and even beans tend to carry different fungal poisons referred to as aflatoxins.
These aflatoxins are produced by different species of fungi due to humid conditions and improper storage. In addition, these are responsible for triggering a range of potent illnesses, such as liver cancer, and might also play a role in hosting other triggers of cancer. Well, you don’t have to worry about these toxins because a low-carb diet effectively eliminates all forms of carbs.
Just heating the food to the boiling point of water does not necessarily destroy these harmful toxins. Cooking it at that temperature really helps. Kidney beans are a very common ingredient and are mostly used in cooking chili. Well, these kidney beans have a particular toxin that’s present in them, and the only way this can be destroyed is by cooking the beans at a really high temperature for at least 10 minutes.
Certain meats like chicken and pork need to be cooked thoroughly to kill certain harmful microorganisms present in them. When you cook meat in a slow cooker, all the time it takes to cook the meat automatically ensures that there are no harmful microorganisms left behind.
The slow cooker also frees up all the space in your oven and stovetop for other purposes. In fact, it is a good idea to cook meals in a slow cooker for large gatherings. You can make a pot of delicious and nutritious soup using your slow cooker. Slow cookers also utilize less energy than a conventional electric oven.
Moreover, when you cook food at a low temperature, the chances of burning the food or scorching it also tends to reduce. Apart from all these, a slow cooker is quite portable and travel-friendly. You simply need to plug it in at your office or at the party, and you can enjoy hot food instantly.
Well, a slow cooker is a marvelous kitchen appliance. All that you need is one appliance to cook your meals in.
Choosing the right slow cooker for one person
As you can imagine, I have a lot of slow cookers. I currently have six (all different brands) in my home! I have pretty much every size—some programmable, some manual. And yes, I use them all! These different sizes and brands serve different functions. Having said that, I understand that most people will not need this many—six is a lot.
If you do a lot of slow cooking I recommend two, but even one is enough. I tend to use a programmable 6-quart slow cooker the most. I cook for four most nights, so I need the 6-quart size, and I’m usually not home when the food finishes cooking, so I need the programmable function that will switch to warm, so the food doesn’t overcook.
In the following sections I explain what you should look for when choosing a slow cooker, whether for your own home or as a gift for someone else.
The most important factor in choosing a slow cooker is size. In general, slow cookers come in the following sizes: less than 2 quarts; 3½ quarts; 4, 5, or 6 quarts; and 7 quarts or larger. If you’re feeding just one or two people, you’ll never need more than a 3½-quart model. To feed three to five people, you’ll need a 4- to 6-quart cooker.
If you plan to cook for any more people than this, you’ll need a 7-quart cooker or larger, or look into purchasing two. To test the recipes, I used a 6-quart cooker. The one thing you want to avoid is a slow cooker that’s too big for the amount of food you’re cooking. If you don’t fill the cooker to at least 75 percent of its capacity, you risk burning the food.
NO PROGRAMMABLE SLOW COOKER?
If you already own a manual slow cooker and you don’t feel you are ready to upgrade to a programmable one quite yet, another alternative is to invest in a digital electric socket timer. This way your slow cooker will shut off automatically after it has completed cooking, rather than continuing to cook your food all day.
You can pick up a socket timer at your hardware store for less than $10. It’s simple to use: Just plug the timer into the outlet, plug your slow cooker into the timer, and then set the timer to cook for the appropriate time. To avoid any chance of harmful bacteria growing on room-temperature food, don’t set the timer to begin any later than two hours after putting the food in the best slow cooker for single person, and don’t let the completed dish stand in the slow cooker for any longer than two hours (and no longer than one hour at a room temperature over 90°F).
The basic slow cooker shapes are oval and round, and now there are even some oblong or square casserole-shaped models. I cook a lot of simple one-pot meals, so to me the shape doesn’t really matter as long as the size is right. However, the different shapes can come in handy depending on your needs. What will you be cooking?
Breads and cakes cook better in oval-shaped cookers, but round cookers are usually less expensive. Round cookers tend to cook a bit more unevenly, but for one-pot meals they’re fine. Do you cook mainly casseroles or whole cuts of meat? If you will need to fit large cuts of meat (think: whole chicken), an oval is probably more practical.
Also consider storage: Will your slow cooker be stored on the countertop or in the pantry? Will it fit there if it’s round? Choose the slow cooker that works best for your purposes and your space.
Programmable or manual? As I said, I have both. Programmable cookers are a little more expensive, but for me, it’s worth the investment. In addition to the usual high, low, and warm settings, a programmable slow cooker has a timer that allows you to set the actual cook time. Once the cook time has completed, the slow cooker automatically turns to warm until you turn it off.
That way, the food will remain heated without overcooking. A new feature offered by some slow cooker brands is a sear option, so you can sear the meat directly in its base rather than on the stove.
easy, essential prep
Slow cooker prep falls into two categories: essential and optional. Essential prep refers to techniques like chopping vegetables or cutting up the meat before you add it to the slow cooker.
Optional steps are methods like sautéing vegetables or browning meat before adding them to the slow cooker. I try to keep my recipes as easy as possible, so most of the recipes you find here do not require any optional steps. However, if you have the time for this pre-step, I recommend you do so. Browning ground meat or sautéing vegetables such as onions, garlic, and mushrooms on the stove top not only adds flavor, but it also allows you to discard all the grease before you add the food to the slow cooker.
healthy favorites—and what to forget
Some foods are great for the low-and-slow method, while others are admittedly a flat-out disaster. For example, brisket is one of the toughest cuts of beef you can buy, but cooked in the slow cooker, it can become one of the most succulent.
The flip side is that filet mignon, arguably one of the choicest meats, is totally wasted in the slow cooker. It cooks too fast and quickly becomes overcooked. Similarly, root vegetables work great, but leafy vegetables not so much! Below are some ingredients that are perfect for slow cooking and others that are best to avoid.
Cheap Cuts of Meat The low-and-slow method of cooking meat makes even the toughest cut melt-in-your-mouth tender. Some cheap cuts of meat that work particularly well are beef brisket, corned beef, skirt steak, pork cheek, and chicken thighs.
Large Cuts of Meat As long as it fits in the slow cooker and you have the time, the meat will cook perfectly—all you need is patience. Cooked long enough, even the largest cut of pork or beef will cook to the point of being so tender it will shred with a fork. Examples of such large cuts include beef top, bottom or round, pork shoulder, and lamb shoulder.
Potatoes Never worry about over- or undercooking your potatoes again. Whether you’re wrapping them in foil for a basic baked potato/sweet potato or peeling them for some mashed, your slow cooker provides a foolproof method to cook them to perfection.
Root Vegetables Root vegetables such as carrots and parsnips are ideal for the slow cooker because they require a longer cooking method to reach doneness and won’t turn to mush like more tender vegetables.
Dried Beans Using dried beans in your slow cooker meals provides many benefits. First off, they’re healthier than canned beans. They also hold their form better and are less likely to turn to mush if slightly overcooked. They’re cheaper, too, and you can even soak them in the slow cooker overnight first.
Fresh Herbs Herbs can add tons of flavor to slow cooker meals. Whenever possible, use fresh herbs—not only is the aroma stronger, but they also add a creative finishing touch. Whenever a recipe calls for fresh herbs, I make sure to reserve some for the garnish.
Grains Traditionally long-cooking grains such as barley, steel-cut oatmeal, and wild rice cook perfectly in the slow cooker. These ingredients are ideal for overnight slow cooker recipes.
Canned Tomato Products From diced tomatoes to stewed tomatoes, embrace the cans. Canned tomatoes make a great staple ingredient for slow cooker casseroles, stews, and roasts.
Low-Sodium Broth Let’s face it, you can’t have a soup or stew without broth. Ideally, we’d all make our own broths all the time, but that’s not realistic. Good-quality low-sodium broth is readily available at supermarkets nationwide. (For information on purchasing, or making, gluten-free broth, see A Word on Store-Bought Broth, here.)
Seafood cooks very quickly—I’m talking 15 to 30 minutes—in the best slow cooker for single person, so in most cases, seafood should be added at the end of the cook time. Since this pretty much violates the whole slow-cooking concept of “set it and forget it,” there are no seafood recipes for slow cookers.
Filet Mignon or Other Lean Cuts Lean meats like sirloin steak and chicken breast are simply not meant for the slow cooker. Save those expensive cuts for another method. They just cook too quickly and thus are especially difficult to use when cooking other foods along with them.
Delicate Vegetables Delicate vegetables make poor slow cooker ingredients because they’re just that: too delicate. Save them for your side salad instead!
Alcohol Alcohol needs to evaporate when you cook with it. If you add alcohol to the slow cooker and then put on the lid, it becomes trapped, with no way to evaporate. The result is an unpleasant flavor, so it’s best to avoid adding booze.
healthy slow cooker tips
If you follow these basic slow cooker tips, you’re almost guaranteed to create a delicious and healthy slow cooker meal:
1.Select the right size slow cooker.
Using a too large or too small slow cooker is a surefire way to under- or overcook your food.
2.Cut food uniformly.
Equal-size pieces ensure evenly cooked food. This is particularly important when cutting potatoes and other vegetables.
3.Trim the fat.
Because meat will be falling-off-the-bone tender once it’s cooked, the fat will be almost impossible to remove at that point. Save yourself the trouble and trim the fat before adding the meat to the slow cooker.
4.Don’t overcrowd the slow cooker.
Another surefire way to improperly cook your food is to overstuff the slow cooker. If you’re making chili for six, don’t use a slow cooker for two.
5.Add citrus for color and flavor.
Citrus juice and zest contribute not only a dash of color but also refreshing taste to most slow cooker recipes.
6.Set the timer or plan accordingly.
No one likes overcooked meat! If you don’t have a programmable slow cooker, invest in an electric timer so the slow cooker will shut off, or manually turn the cooker to warm after the allocated cook time.
7.Don’t remove the lid.
Slow cookers truly do work best when you leave them be, so just “set and forget.” Lifting the lid, even just briefly, can release so much heat that you may need to add an additional 30 minutes of cook time.
SLOW COOKER TEMPERATURES
Ever wonder why slow cooker recipes usually give a range for the cooking time? That’s because every slow cooker brand and size cooks differently. It’s just the way it is; there’s no way around it. I have one slow cooker that will cook food fully in six hours, while another of the same size takes nine. Get to know your slow cooker.
The more you use it, the better you’ll get to know its heating mechanism. I used my 6-quart Hamilton Beach Set & Forget Programmable Slow Cooker with Temperature Probe. It’s my go-to slow cooker when I need a 6-quart. When cooking smaller size portions, I used my 3½-quart Cuisinart PSC-350 Programmable Slow Cooker.
Slow Cooker Tips and Safety
Do you want to be able to whip up tasty food without having to spend hours in the kitchen? Well then the Instant Pot is the right appliance for you. The slow cooker is quite handy and very simple to use. It will not only save you time and effort, but it can also improve your overall health. A slow cooker makes use of pressurized steam to help you cook meals, and this method helps to seal most of the nutrients in food.
If you are hesitant about trying the best slow cooker for single person and cooking while you are away throughout the day, then you can consider cooking during alternate hours when you are at home. You simply need to toss all the ingredients into this appliance and then wait for it to work its magic.
In the meantime, you can take a quick nap, shop for groceries, or even get some household chores done. You can even cook in batches and freeze the leftovers. So during the week, you merely need to heat up the food, and voila – you can enjoy a nutritious meal quickly!
Here are some basic tips and safety rules that you must keep in mind while using a slow cooker.
If you are looking for a means to quickly clean the slow cooker, then make sure that you rub the inside pot of the stoneware with some oil or nonstick cooking spray before you use it. Alternatively, you can use slow cooker liners to ease up this process. Instead of cleaning a variety of pots and pans, you only need to clean one slow cooker, and that’s it.
Before you use any frozen meat or other frozen produce, you need to thaw it before tossing it into the slow cooker. If you don’t thaw the meat, then it will not cook evenly. If you want your meat to cook evenly, then don’t forget to thaw it once you remove it from the refrigerator.
You must fill the slow cooker to no more than 2/3 of its capacity and no less than ½ of its capacity. If you cook too little or too much, then it will affect the cooking time, the quality of the food, and also the safety.
Vegetables take a while longer to cook than poultry or meat. So you need to place the vegetables first in the slow cooker, then place the meat on top of the vegetables, and top it all off with some water, broth, or any sauce that you are using.
You can use a slow cooker to reduce any liquids like broth. You can simmer the liquid in the slow cooker until it is of the desired consistency. Liquids don’t boil away in a slow cooker, so you don’t have to worry about burning the cooking pot.
If you remove the lid, then it will slow down the cooking process. So you need to make sure that the lid stays on, unless the recipe suggests otherwise. Every time you remove the lid, you lose about 15 to 20 minutes of the cooking time. When you remove the lid, the heat that is building up in the pot is released, which is what increases the cooking time.
If you need to use milk, cheese, or cream in a certain recipe, make sure that you add it in the last hour. You cannot slow cook dairy products for long because they stand the risk of curdling.