I don’t know how any family survives without a Crock-Pot. They save time, cut costs, and are so easy to operate that anyone can use one to make a meal fit for a king. Today, most moms and dads both work. Once they pick up the kids at the end of the day and get home, they are exhausted. It’s a lot easier to pick up burgers or pizza on the way home than to take the time to cook a meal. If you get off work at 5 pm and it takes until 6 to get home, your family would not even start to eat until 7:30 or 8:00.
When you use a Crock-Pot, however, you can prepare dinner the night before and stash the pot in the refrigerator overnight. The next morning, pop the pot into the Crock-Pot heating unit, turn it on, and let it cook all day while you are at work. When you get home, dinner will be almost ready. It only takes a few minutes to get the food on the table. Slow cookers make it easy to serve a home-cooked dinner that is healthy and delicious.
You can cook just about anything in a Crock-Pot: appetizers, side dishes, main dishes, seafood, desserts, and even condiments and sauces. It is hard to burn anything in a Crock-Pot; if you use nonstick spray or liners, there is little clean up required. You can take it to dinners, potlucks, parties, barbeques, and anywhere food is served. You can serve your dish directly from the pot itself; there’s no need to dirty a serving dish.
Food in a Crock-Pot cooks slowly and meats are more likely to be tender and delicious because of the low heat and long cooking time. The ingredients have time to blend together and the extended cooking time allows the flavors to thoroughly infuse the dish, enhancing the flavor. Nothing dries out in the pot, so meats are juicy and delectable.
It doesn’t matter what you call them. Crock-Pots and slow cookers are the same thing. The inside part is the crock; it is made from ceramic. Remember the old-fashioned crocks grandma used for making corned beef or pickles? Slow cooker crocks work along the same lines by sealing in flavor and insulating the contents. This is the part that is easily removed and put in the refrigerator or the dishwasher. The pioneers stored their butter in crocks designed to keep the butter cool. When heat is applied to the crock, it will stay evenly hot, allowing the food it holds to cook evenly and stay warm for hours.
The crock, or ceramic part of the pot, slips easily into its metal base. This base contains a heating element that causes the heat to rise up the sides of the crock. Most Crock-Pots have high and low settings and some have a warmer setting, to keep the dish toasty while it is served. Depending on the model, your slow cooker may even have a timer.
Most dishes need to be cooked for at least 8 hours on low heat or 4 hours on the high setting. The timer comes in handy if you aren’t going to be home in 8 hours. Just set the timer to turn the pot to stay warm after the desired amount of time.
The lid of the Crock-Pot is very important. It is made of glass and must remain on the pot for it to work properly. The lid does not allow liquid to escape from the pot and evaporate, so the food inside stays moist.
You almost always use the Crock-Pot with the lid on, but sometimes the ingredients in the Crock-Pot need to thicken. In this case, you would cook with the lid off. This allows the steam and liquid to evaporate and the food inside thickens.
Crock-Pots come in many different sizes. My favorites are the large oblong pots that come in 4-, 5-, or 7-quart sizes. The 7-quart pot is essential for a family. I prefer the oblongs because a chicken, roast, or ham will fit in it easily. The round pots sometimes are not large enough to allow larger birds or roasts to fit very well. The round cookers are normally in the 4- to 5-quart size or smaller; you can even find a single-portion sized Crock-Pot, handy for when you’ll be dining alone.
Using the right size of Crock-Pot is essential to having a cooked meal when you want it. If you put a large recipe in a small Crock-Pot, it will take longer to cook. You might find the meat isn’t done for several more hours. Most recipes are formulated for a 5 to 6-quart Crock-Pot. If a recipe requires a different size, I let you know in the notes. If you have a larger pot, you may find you don’t need to cook it for as long as the recipe says. Crock-Pots should only be filled up to two thirds of the crock’s capacity; this will ensure that the food cooks evenly. Overstuffing a Crock-Pot can lead to disaster.
I highly recommend Crock-Pots that include a probe thermometer. When you insert the probe you can tell if the temperature of your food is hot enough to have killed any lurking bacteria. If your Crock-Pot lacks a probe, I recommend using a digital food thermometer. When the food is ready, just pop off the lid and take the temperature. If it isn’t done, replace the lid and cook it a little longer. I have seen a floatable, stainless steel thermometer that can either be inserted or floated in the Crock-Pot; you can usually read it through the clear lid, as long condensation hasn’t gathered. In most cases, food will cook in the time allotted on the recipe, but if you want to be safe, test it before serving.
Some people think the only thing you can cook in a Crock-Pot is main dishes. Not so!!!! You can cook just about anything in them: stews and soups, vegetable dishes, eggs and sausage, pasta, and even desserts. A Crock-Pot is a perfect gift for a college student living in a dorm. With it and a small refrigerator they will be set for eating or entertaining.
The only problem I encountered when I first started to convert my recipes to the slow cooker is that I forgot liquid does not evaporate as it does in a regular pan on the stove or in a casserole in the oven. You need less liquid, because it does not evaporate. For example, a recipe that calls for 4 cups of chicken stock will usually need only 2 cups in a Crock-Pot. The only time this adjustment won’t work is when the other stuff in the Crock-Pot absorbs liquids; you’ll need the full amount of water for things like beans, rice, and pasta.
Another suggestion is to use Crock-Pot liners if you are making something that is going to be sticky. These liners come in all different sizes and will save you a lot of cleaning time; instead of soaking or scraping out the crock when you are done using it, just lift out the liner and discard it. Then give the crock a rinse and it will be ready for the next time you want to use it.
I like to prepare my meal the night before and set it to cooking in the morning. I don’t like getting up early to chop meat and vegetables. You can put the ingredients in the pot, set the lid on top and chill it in the refrigerator overnight. You’ll need to add an extra hour to the cooking time when you do this, as the pot will have to warm up from its refrigerated state instead of from room temperature.
However, I’ve discovered a way you can prepare for the day to come without adding additional cooking time. Chop your meat and brown it, if necessary. Then, put it into a dish and cover it with foil or plastic wrap. Prepare the chopped vegetables and herbs and place them in re-closeable plastic bags or in dishes covered with plastic wrap. In the morning, put your liner in or spray the crock, then start dumping everything in the crock as you would normally. You might have a few extra dishes, but the effort is worth it.
I don’t know how many times I have transported my Crock-Pot to church or to a friend’s house and had a problem with leakage. The lid of the Crock-Pot is not secure and when in a car, it can slide off. The solution is a Crock-Pot lid lock that fits over the lid and holds it firmly in place. It won’t leak at all. Some lid locks include a ladle that slides in too, making it very convenient for serving.
Travel bags are also handy. Your Crock-Pot is usually hot when you transport it and it is not easy to handle. There are insulated cloth bags that zip open. You just place the Crock-Pot, lid and all, inside and zip it up. No burning your hands on the Crock-Pot. I still secure the lid with a lid lock, too. My travel bag has a shoulder handle so I can sling it over my shoulder to carry it.
An essential accessory is the rack. I have seen round Crock-Pots that do have a rack for the bottom of the Crock-Pot, but more likely, the oval ones will have them. The racks look somewhat like a cooling rack. They fit in the bottom and raise food a half inch to a full inch above the bottom. This comes in handy when cooking something with greasy meat, to keep the grease away from the food you are going to eat. I have a rack for my oval Crock-Pot that has long handles on the sides. They come up almost to the lid so I can easily lift out whatever is in there without putting my hands in to get burned. I love that rack.
Slow cookers are easily available pretty much everywhere. There are hundreds of them available on amazon, and most are brilliant designs. The modern slow cookers run on electricity, which makes it even more convenient. If you haven’t invested in a slow cooker yet, consider buying an “Instant Pot”, as it can much more than just slow cook. An instant pot in slow cooking mode is basically a slow cooker, and it has multiple other modes too. One appliance to do it all, even if you don’t have a gas and stove in your kitchen! It is eco-friendly, and super convenient.
Things to know about a slow cooker: -
- They are highly energy efficient, and don’t be afraid to leave these on for long periods of time, as they use very little energy when slow cooking.
- Don’t fill the container of the pot over the 2/3 full mark.
- During cooking, keep the lid sealed and in straight position, making sure the steam remains trapped inside and cook the food accordingly. Never open the lid during the cooking process, as this will release valuable heat and steam from the slow cooker, increasing cooking time, and reducing the moisture content. If you need to check whether the appliance is working correctly during the cook, do so without opening the lid.
- When testing the slow cooker, fill it 2/3 with water and cook for about eight hours then check the temperature – a temperature over 185F means the heating element is in great health, but a lower temperature may indicate a fault.
- Don’t spill liquids outside the ceramic insert. If you do spill some by mistake, clean cautiously using a cloth and let dry before turning the pot on, ensuring that no liquid enters the electricals.
- The slow cooker’s temperature is low, and therefore not ideal for re-heating. Use a microwave instead.
- Sanitize the pot using solutions or soaps meant for cleaning utensils.
- Some ingredients like beans and grains cook faster in the slow cooker if soaked in water overnight before starting the cook.
- Never let any food stay in the pot for long after you’re done cooking. Clean thoroughly, and regularly.
- The lid of the slow cooker is pretty much air-tight, and doesn’t allow moisture to escape during the cook. Most ingredients will release their own moisture, and that is enough. Even if the ingredients in some of the recipes seem to dry to cook, they will cook just fine.
Cornstarch and flour can be used to thicken the final dish, if you wish. Just ensure you add those before you start the cook.
Why Cook Slow?
There are multiple reasons why slow cooking is one of the most popular methods of cooking today. A few of these are:-
- Slow cookers are great for people cooking on a budget, as the long cooking times are great for the cheaper cuts of meat.
- Most of the slow cooker recipes are loaded with veggies, making the food insanely nutritious.
- Negligible oil is needed to cook slow cooker recipes, making this a great option if you’re watching your calorie intake.
- As I said before, slow cooked food has time on its side, allowing the flavours to develop thoroughly.
- It is great if you’re a busy person. Just throw stuff into the cooker, and sleep. Wake up to delicious food!
- It is super easy to use. You don’t need to be a cook to be able to chop up some food and throw it into a pot and press a button.
- The instant pot can be used for cooking a wide spectrum of dishes.
The recipes are versatile, and you can throw more of the ingredients you love into the pot.
Buying a Slow Cooker
The model I bought for slow cooking is probably not the best model today. New slow cooker, and instant pots are always entering the market, each with an edge over an older model. The best way to buy a slow cooker or instant pot is to head over to amazon, and pick a model with the most positive reviews, and preferably the “Amazon’s Choice” badge.
The size will depend on how many people you are cooking for. I have a family of 4 and a 4-quart slow cooker gets the job done. If you’re a family of two, you should still buy a 4-quar one, as you never know when you might have to cook for The 4-quart ones really do hit the sweet spot, so head over to amazon and pick the most popular 4-quart slow cooker. If, however, you have a big family, consider bigger options.
The Dutch oven or what is originally referred to as a multi-cooker is a heavy pot that we can use for cooking any of our favourite dishes. Every Dutch oven is equipped with a tight lid and is characterized by thick side walls that are made with cast-iron.
Dutch ovens are known for their ability to retain heat and for its non-sticky nature. This cooking appliance is easy-to use, easy to clean and it doesn’t need many sophisticated techniques. Therefore, Dutch ovens make one of the most convenient cooking appliances that we can use in indoor or even outdoor kitchens. Dutch ovens make a perfect choice for camping and it is known for being one of the most versatile cookware appliances that are available in markets. Dutch ovens can be used for roasting, baking, frying, broiling, stewing or steaming.
In a few words, Dutch ovens make the best alternative for conventional ovens and you can use it to cook anything you cook both in oven and stoves. And what makes the Dutch oven wins favour over other backpack ovens is the fact that it takes a very small space in your pack and you can take it with you wherever you go. Dutch oven recipes, usually serves groups of about 6 to 8 people and you can reduce the quantity of food to your liking or you can opt for smaller equipment.
But before starting our Dutch oven cooking journey, let us firs learn a little bit about the origins and history of this unique cooking appliance. For instance, it is said that the invention of the Dutch oven dates back to the year 1492; does this year ring a bell? Indeed, yes, the first Dutch oven ever appeared at the first place, in North America and historians believe that it is Christopher Columbus who brought cast-iron pot with him to the New World. But if the Dutch oven was the discovery of Columbus, why was it referred to as a Dutch invention? Well, Dutch oven originates from the 18th century when Dutch traders sold their cast-iron pots to Indians and New settlers.
The Dutch oven was historically known as a braadpan in the Netherlands and if we seek the exact translation for this word, we can define it as a roasting or frying pan. But the Dutch design that circulates in the market nowadays is an enamelled steel pot that is basically used for frying meats. The modern form of Dutch oven is light and cheap and it is suitable to use with gas and now, we are able to use in indoor kitchens.
And if we look deeper into the history of Dutch ovens, we will discover that this cooking appliance was used in the 17th century and the initial composition of Dutch ovens was mainly cast of brass. The first process of making Dutch ovens consisted of using moulds in order to produce high-quality pots with smooth surfaces while English made it using clay and loam. But as time passed by, the process of making Dutch oven witnessed a great progress and started being used by miners, homesteaders, ranchers and pioneers. And nowadays, we can find a huge variety of Dutch oven brands that spread all over the world.
Unraveling the “Mystery” of the Dutch Oven
There are essentially two distinct types of Dutch ovens: outdoor and indoor, or camp and kitchen, or comparative portrayals.
The properties that differentiate the two are:
- Camp Dutch ovens have flanges and legs
- Kitchen Dutch ovens do not (have flanges and legs)
Dutch ovens are additionally cast iron. Once in a while, they may be a redesigned “European” style, but the fact remains that they are still cast iron and therefore need specific care.
Understand that “specific care” does not signify “hard work,” simply skilled use to be explained later.
There are also aluminum Dutch ovens. In any case, I don't consider cooking in aluminum to be a healthy thing and wouldn’t recommend it. Likewise, aluminum Dutch ovens are liable to more extensive temperature variations. They cool faster, heat faster, and if a high wind fans the coals, a great high temperature can be reached rapidly, similar to a blast furnace, and really melt the aluminum. I for one have no longing for aluminum in my meals.
Both Dutch oven styles additionally have a “tab” shaped on one side to hold on to while tipping it to drain, serve, or clean.
Camp Dutch Ovens
Flanges and legs: Camp Dutch ovens are fashioned to sit above charcoal or an open flame, thus the legs to allow airflow to fire or coals underneath. They are also fashioned so that coals can be placed on the cover (lid) to give heat to the top and sides of the oven, thus the flanges.
Flanges around the highest point of the cover prevent the coals on the cover from rolling off.
One major benefit of cooking with camp Dutch ovens outdoors is that the flanges and legs allow for the stacking of the Dutch ovens when cooking. This makes for a totally stunning showcase for anyone. Be that as it may, make certain your location is protected from unsettling influences. You surely wouldn’t want them falling over. Try not to stack more than 5 high and dependably utilize sensible judgment based on the strength of the ground surface, activities nearby and other safety considerations.
By stacking a couple of Dutch ovens, food can be easily and quickly prepared for large gatherings.
You can't beat that blend.
Stacking likewise saves coal as the heat from one oven goes up to heat the one higher. Stacked Dutch ovens quickly cook, utilize lesser coals all the way up the stack, around 8 on the base and 8 on every cover as you go up. The coals on the covers heat the top of the oven underneath and the base of the oven above.
A show/display like this will for a long while be remembered by children and great meals enjoyed by everybody. Have your camera ready.
Kitchen Dutch Ovens
Kitchen Dutch ovens look more like conventional kitchen pots; flat base, cover, and a slightly different handle. I'll additionally, for the most part, believe that a kitchen Dutch oven is utilized on a stove. They can, obviously, be put in an oven and ought to be if you have to give heat from a source other than the base.
Dutch Oven Lids
All Dutch ovens have a loop of some kind at the top to lift the cover. The lids (covers) of Dutch oven do vary a little. The undersides might be partially concave or might have little points formed into them. This distinction affects the circulation of moisture in the Dutch oven. The concave covers will return moisture to the inward sides of the Dutch oven. The covers with the little points will return moisture to the center of the Dutch oven appropriating it all through the dish. It's hard to say which is better, they're simply distinctive. I’ve come to know that the concave covers tend to brown cobblers, bread, and dumplings better.
Dutch Oven Sizes
There exist a wide variety of Dutch ovens; large, small, deep, shallow. A Dutch oven is normally portrayed by its volume or diameter:
Dutch ovens are likewise portrayed by their depth. They each have their own best applications:
Description Depth and Typical Uses
Shallow 3 ½" - 4" Baking pies, rolls, cakes
Deep 5" Cooking dishes, chickens, roasts, chili, stews
Dutch Oven Accessories
You can purchase a wide range of accessories to make your Dutch oven cooking experience simpler. Here are the accessories:
A scraper for use in quickly breaking burned stuff. A couple of snappy licks to break up the mess you made and afterward steam cleaning will be simple.
Heat proof gloves (mitts). Get those things that are specifically made for kitchens.
Leather gloves are not the same, they do not insulate heat well.
You'll need tongs for cleaning with steam.
You'll likewise require something to move around the coals. You'll have to take coals off, put coals on, move them around, particularly if the recipe calls for an hour or a greater amount of heat. You can use a garden trowel or a small hand shovel
You also need a cake or pie pan.
Seasoning is the procedure of sealing the cast iron of the Dutch oven. Seasoning makes cleaning the Dutch oven simple, a sort of first generation Teflon covering.
Cooking with the Dutch oven gives its own seasoning to the cast iron and furthermore returns flavors to your dishes. Seasoning is truly simple.
First Time Seasoning – Virgin Dutch ovens Only
You need to wash off wax (or wax-like material) from your new Dutch oven. The maker utilized it for sealing and coating the Dutch oven so it looks pretty when you purchase it. This is the ONLY time you can utilize soap in cleaning a Dutch oven. Soap is really bad for Dutch ovens and generally for all cast iron for two reasons:
|•||It will get the seasoning out of a Dutch oven, and the seasoning is the thing that makes it simple to clean and the food taste so great.|
|•||Soap will embed itself into the cast iron and along these lines leech into your next magnum opus. On the off chance that that happens, nobody will ever like to eat with you again.|
Rinse your virgin Dutch oven well under water. Utilize a brush/scrubby pad with a touch of dishwashing cleanser and wash the Dutch oven inside and out, cover as well.
At that point rinse off all the cleanser.
Dry the Dutch oven a couple of ways:
- Let it naturally dry (do ensure it is completely dry before continuing with seasoning)
- Fire up the coals and heat the Dutch oven covered over the coals until dry.
- Dry it in your kitchen oven. Flip it upside down and put the cover next to it and heat it until dry.
At the point when your Dutch oven is dry, you have to coat it with oil or shortening. You can utilize any oil you might have in your kitchen, olive oil, vegetable oil, and so on. Coat it all around, top and cover, apply generously utilizing paper towels or a dish material.
You have to bake that seasoning into your new Dutch oven. Once more, you have a few ways:
- Heat the covered Dutch oven over the coals for an hour, more or less.
- Heat up your kitchen oven. Place aluminum foil on the base rack because of trickling oil. Flip your Dutch oven upside down and put the cover next to it on the second rack. Bake it for an hour or something like that at 450 degrees. This technique gives a deep dark coating to your new Dutch oven. The detriment of this methodology is your kitchen will load with smoke and smell while the new season gets baked in.
Re-seasoning is the procedure of re-sealing the cast iron of the Dutch oven. Re-seasoning is by and large just necessary when a Dutch oven will be put away for quite a while, or you have cooked something that has leeched the seasoning from the cast iron. Or if the Dutch oven has been abandoned and has lost its seasoning.
In what manner will you know whether a Dutch oven has lost its seasoning? Parts of it could look like fresh new cast iron, gray and clean. On the other hand, maybe it will display signs of mild rust.
Constant utilization of the Dutch oven will keep on bestowing its own particular seasoning from your cooked dish in the Dutch oven. Most times it is adequate to simply re-coat your Dutch oven with shortening or oil before storage to re-season it. In any case, if there is visible rust or exposure of cast iron, daintily clean it off, re-coat it and re-heat the Dutch oven to bake the seasoning into it once more. In any case, don't totally scrub it, leave as much seasoning as you possibly could. When you rinse it, coat it and heat it, your Dutch oven will be bounty clean for its next use.
The key to camp Dutch oven cooking is the positioning of the coals. I don't recommend putting the Dutch oven over an open flame, it is almost impossible to deal with the temperature of an open flame and the temperature inside a Dutch oven quickly builds up.
Figuring out what number of coals are required and where they ought to be set requires practice, however, there are a couple of simple tips for beginners, and you can sharpen your abilities as you move along:
- You can, for the most part, begin with 24 charcoals for a decent hour of cooking. You'll need 12-24 more to clean. Place these “cleaning” charcoals on your hot supper charcoals before serving supper, then your cleaning charcoals will be well ready after supper.
- Of course, these estimations of charcoal differ with outside temperature, yet this is a decent beginning for typical summers.
- When you are cooking (not baking) for example, dishes, stews, chili, soups, or roasting beef or chicken, put 2/3 (16) of the coals on the base of the Dutch oven and 1/3 (8) on the top. This will put the majority of the heat on the base of the dish, yet make certain to stir on occasion.
- If you are baking, for example, cobblers, pizza, bread, dumplings and most desserts, put 1/3 (8) of the charcoals on the base of the Dutch oven and 2/3 (16) of the charcoals on the top. This will put a large portion of the heat on the top and sides to brown pleasantly.
- The distribution of coals is mostly known as “rings.” That is because the charcoals are ordinarily put in a ring around the base of the Dutch oven and the cover. A ring is 8-10 charcoals.
- If you need to keep a camp Dutch oven hot for over an hour, or on the off chance that it is exceptionally cold outside, or it is breezy, you should keep hot coals ready to be placed on the top and base of the oven.
Big roasts, whole turkey and chicken and different other dishes take a little to cook. You should prepare to stage hot coals above and underneath the Dutch oven. The most a set of charcoal can give you is about an hour of heat. Just after an hour, the charcoal has decreased greatly. If you’re only cooking for an hour or less that works out just fine. But if you need to keep the temperature of the Dutch oven up for more than an hour you’ll need to stage hot coals onto the Dutch oven, and you still need hot coals to steam the Dutch oven clean when you’re done.
If you require 24 coals for the first 60 minutes of cooking, fire up twice as many, i.e. 48 coals. When they’re white hot, put 24 on the cover and base of the Dutch oven. Leave the rest 24 in your “bone yard.” Add another 24 immediately. Watch out for the coals on the Dutch oven and change them in around 45 minutes when the coals are like half their original size. Put the aged coals back in the bone yard. And put another 12 new coals into the bone yard. Keep doing this until the roast is done. When you take away the roast from the Dutch oven, pour in around ½ inch of water, cover and place over the bone yard to steam while you get busy with your food.
The wind and outside temperature will no doubt require adjustments, especially in extended cooking times like this.
NEVER USE SOAP. This is the whole truth. There is an exception for new Dutch Ovens, as explained above.
Cleaning is very easy to do if the Dutch oven is properly seasoned and if you keep it seasoned. And as discussed above, seasoning is easy. So cleaning is also easy. What is required is for water to be turned into steam. Then allow the steam clean the oven. It’s that easy.
Pour about ½ inch of water into the Dutch oven. Cover the Dutch oven and heat until it boils using coals or a kitchen burner under the base. Allow it to boil for around 10 minutes and take away the cover. Gently wipe down any debris from the bottom and sides of the lid.
When you serve your food, scoop out all of the food into a serving dish and instantly pour water in it and place it on hot coals mixed with some new coals. With this method, the Dutch oven can steam while you enjoy your meal!
You are required to keep a Dutch oven dry owing to the fact that cast iron rusts. Store it in a dry place.
Remove the cover during storage or else moisture remaining from cleaning will condense and rust the Dutch oven. You can place the cover on wood and place the Dutch oven on top of the cover. This works very well for Dutch ovens with legs. For indoor types, do not seal the cover on the Dutch oven, rather tilt it, and better still, put some paper towels between the sides and cover to absorb moisture.
Aluminum foil I believe is a very versatile kitchen tool and can be of great help in cooking. But I don’t think it has a place in Dutch oven cooking unless you plan to use it instead of that green scrubby tool to help in cleaning the Dutch oven after cooking.
A lot of people use it to line the Dutch oven so as to make cleaning easy. But unavoidably, the foil might tear, and you will still be required to clean the Dutch oven anyway! Understand that if you use aluminum foil to keep the food from making contact with the cast iron you are unknowingly countering the favorable effects of cooking in a Dutch oven. Allow your food to blend with the seasoning so as to draw flavor, and continue to season the Dutch oven.