WHY THE SLOW COOKER CAN CERTAINLY MAKES YOUR LIFE EASIER?
THE SLOW COOKER IS the perfect convenience for people who live in the fast lane. Instead of relying on convenience foods, which really don’t save time (and contain all sorts of additives), you can come home to a house that smells great and enjoy a healthy, delicious homemade meal made with quality ingredients that you control. With very little effort you can keep your freezer stocked with the makings of a feast: broths, sauces and salsas, beans and soups, and savory main dishes. The slow cooker is also remarkably versatile. Not only can you make soups and stews, but you can also use your slow cooker to bake cakes, steam tamales, and transform your countertop into a bain marie. It doubles as a rice cooker and buffet server, and it’s smart enough to cook a dish for the correct amount of time and then hold it until you are ready to eat it. Once you learn what your slow cooker can do, it will certainly make your life easier.
Slow cookers generally come in 2-, 4-, 5-, 6-, and 7-quart sizes, and they may be oval or round. The shape does not seem to make a difference in how the food cooks. I developed most of the recipes in this book to serve 4 to 6 people and tested them in a 5½-quart oval cooker with an earthenware insert. Slow cookers are relatively inexpensive, so you may want to own them in several different sizes. Many cooks invest in a 7-quart cooker for making stocks and tamales and cooking for large groups, but they also own a 2-quart cooker to keep food hot at potlucks and parties. If you are cooking for two, all of the recipes in this book may be halved and made in a 4-quart slow cooker. Even so, you may want to make the full recipe and freeze any leftovers. Why cook twice? Generally speaking, it’s better to cook a smaller amount in a large cooker than to overfill a small cooker. My 5½-quart cooker works beautifully even when it is less than half full. Slow Cooker Features Be sure to purchase a slow cooker with an automatic “warm” setting (check carefully, since not all models have this feature). That way, even if you are away all day, the food will stop cooking at the correct time and will be kept warm at a safe temperature until you return. Another terrific feature that I highly recommend is a digital timer, which enables you to set a precise cooking time rather than relying on the standard presets of 4 and 8 hours. Food is often cooked perfectly at 3, 5, or 7 hours. Although you can now buy slow cookers with metal inserts, which get hot enough to use for browning, I much prefer the results I get from the gentle, even heat of a standard earthenware insert. If I do need to brown something for a recipe, it’s easy enough to do it on the stove top. Be sure to scrub the insert and lid thoroughly using a nonscratch scrub pad and soap and water after using them, and air dry them before putting them away.