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How a Slow Cooker Works

How a Slow Cooker Works

I love my slow cooker. On a busy day, I simply throw in my ingredients, turn it on and go about my daily business. It took me some time to learn it but once I did, food preparation was a breeze. Here is how my slow cooker works.

Structure of the Slow Cooker

The device basically has a cooking pot, outer pot, and lid. The cook pot goes into the outer pot. Along the inside base of this outer pot are heating bands that pass the heat through the cook pot and into the food. On its outside is the temperature dial that I can set to high or low during the cooking process, and a timer to help me move between high and low.

My slow cooker rests on a countertop but with a 7-inch space all around it so it doesn’t do heat damage to anything.

Our Favourite Slow Cooker: Hamilton Beach Set & Forget

Hamilton Beach Set & Forget

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The Preparations

I love a healthy, low-fat vegetable and meat stew. Here’s how I prepare for it.

  • Preheat cooker for 20 minutes so heat passes efficiently through the food.
  • Chop carrots and potatoes and sauté.
  • Cut up the lamb shanks or pork chops. These fatty and tough cuts cook best.
  •  Cut the fat from the meat so it doesn’t pool in the stew.
  • Brown the meat in a pan to help bring out its full flavor.

Once the cooker has preheated, I spoon in the veggies and place the meat on top.  These root veggies are best placed at the bottom since they need more cooking time than the meat. I then add boiling water to the half or three-quarter mark. Too much water causes the mixture to spill over and too little means the food cooks too quickly and may even burn. I cover the pot with the lid.  I don’t have to keep checking that everything is OK once the cooking starts. The continuous lifting of the lid allows heat to escape and I don’t find this to be good for the cooking process unless I add on the lost minutes.

Setting the Temperature

My meat is tough so it must be given enough time to cook.  Ten hours max, on low heat is ideal. Had I chosen chicken or lean meat, six hours at high heat would have done. I can now plug in the cooker and start the cooking.

Extra Ingredients

At scheduled times, I lift the lid to add other ingredients I think will enhance the taste. If added at the beginning they may become mushy, lose their flavor or even spoil the entire stew. Here’s how I add these ingredients during the cooking:

  • An hour from time – corn, broccoli, seafood, spices.
  • 30 minutes from time – pasta, rice, soup thickeners
  • 15 minutes from time – dairy products.

Once the cooking time is over and I’m not anywhere near the cooker, it automatically shifts to ‘warming’ mode. This ensure the food remains hot without spoiling until I can dig in.