You might have heard about them, used them, or be thinking about getting one for yourself. A magical cooking appliance that allows you to throw ingredients in it, turn the knob and leave. After a few hours, you return to a sexy, tasty, ready-to-eat meal to enjoy with your family or friends.
This is the ideal situation, but sometimes it may not go as planned. And this is the reason why today we are taking a closer look at the advantages and disadvantages of a slow cooker.
I will go into more details on the PROs and CONs, but if you are in a hurry, here is a quick reference table.
Unable to make changes
Not suitable for everything
Need to plan
Brings rich flavor
Won't cook evenly
Easy to learn
Easy to use
Slow cooker advantages
Slow cooker saves your money
As mentioned in the table above, the slow cooker saves you money. How? Well, it is simple. In most cases, you are cooking in large batches. It doesn’t mean that you cannot cook something more delicate. But in general slow cookers are used mostly as a way to cook large-size meals.
The slow cookers provide the best result when cooking for a family or for someone who plans meals ahead. This way, you can prepare a large amount of food and portion it for later or even freeze it to use it in the future.
Slow cooker saves your time
Time is a thing that we all want to have more of, especially when it comes to cooking. Many times in my life, I wanted to have a little extra time to add that final special touch to my creation.
But there is a time when you want to eat, but don’t have the time or mood to cook. In these times, you can rely on your slow cooker.
Whatever it is that you need to do, spend time with your loved ones, go to work, relax or do anything else, you can just put everything in, set the hours and low or high, and leave. The slow cooker will take care of the rest.
This doesn’t mean that you should leave your slow cooker unattended on the first time that you are using it. But after a few tries, it is a great way how to save time and have an excellent meal at the end.
The slow cooker is hands-off
As hinted in the previous section, one of the most significant slow cooker advantages is the fact that it is a hands-off appliance.
Where most appliances need some care or watch full eye, the slow cooker does it all without supervision. With just a bit of practice and prep, you can leave your slow cooker to do its thing, while you can take care of other things.
Isn’t it great to cook full blown meal and do anything else at the same time?
The slow cooker is energy-efficient
It might seem strange at first, but the slow cookers are quite energy-efficient. Let’s say that the average price for kW (kilowatt) hour today is 13 cents, and the standard electricity intake of a slow cooker is around 1.5 kWh (1500 watts per hour). That brings us to 19.5 cents per hour of usage.
So for recipes that range between 4-8 hours per cooking cycle, you will pay between 78 cents to 1 dollar and 56 cents accordingly. In my books that is not bad at all.
Another angle of energy efficiency is your energy. Everything you do can be translated into money and energy spent.
By using a slow cooker, you are not spending that energy to cook and save it for more important things.
Slow cooker brings rich flavor
One of the things that made slow cookers most famous is the super-rich flavor. It almost effortlessly combines all characteristics of your ingredients into an explosion of tastes and smells.
Would you like to have your pulled pork to be more earthy and grounded tasting? Add some root veggies. Are you creating some complex sauce for your meal? Put it on high and let go for 8 hours. Are you feeling sick, and you would like to enjoy some robust soup? Put on low and allow everything to cook from dusk to dawn.
Your wishes might have limits, but deep and rich flavor are things which will slow cooker always deliver.
Slow cooker will tenderize the meat
Meat tenderizing is another primary reason to use a slow cooker. It can turn any cheap cut of meat into a moist, sexy, jaw-dropping tender piece of art.
Whenever you want to show off to your friends, surprise your family or relive that expensive restaurant feel that you had with your partner. The slow cooker can do it all and then some.
By the way, this Texas pulled pork recipe is an excellent example of that.
The slow cooker is a healthier cooking option
Yep, it is here. The reason is simple. Everything is done with the same juices and liquids that you put into the slow cooker. Ingredients are kept for a long time in an enclosed space with none to a minimum amount of vapor to be released.
So what you put into a pot it will stay there.
It can be a bit tricky to get into your hands at first. In most cases, you won’t account for water contents in the ingredients. I always lower the recommended amount by at least 10%. But in the end, it is a good thing.
The water, vapor, flavor, minerals, and vitamins are staying in the final product.
Of course, not all of them, as the cooking process itself loses some, but you are not frying. You are not vaporizing everything. You are not making any massive modifications to the food, and as such, the final product is consistent and healthier.
Slow cooker is easy to learn and easy to use
Allow me to combine these two.
Slow cookers are inherently easy to learn and use. You don’t need to study complex recipes or learn complicated cooking techniques. You put everything into a pot, select the low or high, set the hours, and turn the slow cooker on.
It is an excellent and straightforward introduction to cooking for anyone. Look at it as an entry-level to cooking arts. You don’t need to know much, but you can produce impressive results.
It is also a solid choice for:
- Students who generally lack money to spend and time to learn.
- For a hard-worker, which needs good food but cannot be bothered to make it.
- For a mother of three, which needs to spend time with her children.
Slow cooker disadvantages
So the first part was all sunshine and rainbows, but nothing is perfect, ever. So let’s take a look at those not so great things that you might keep in mind while using a slow cooker.
Slow cooker isn’t fast
Well, lightning speed is not something that is a slow cookers forte. You might already be aware of it, but it is essential to mention it.
If you are in a hurry and want to have some quick bite to eat, a slow cooker is not your friend. The minimum time to make anything is 3-4 hours, which rules out any fast foods from the menu.
If you are looking for a lightning-fast option look into pressure cookers / instant pots. They can deliver in a fraction of a time.
Slow cooking doesn’t allow ad hoc changes
The basic principle of a slow cooker is slow cooking. It takes some time to make your food, and you won’t be able to change it midway, maybe if you redo the recipe a few times, and even then, you might miss the right spot.
The thing is that a slow cooker is not made for the fine-tuning of your meal. It slowly cooks away, combining everything and melting the flavors into one and another.
So don’t look for that light hint of lime in the chicken bits. It won’t be there.
The slow cooker is not suitable for every recipe
As fantastic as everything in a PRO part might look, slow cookers are not made for every recipe. You can bend some to fit your needs, but all ingredients are combining their flavors. So you won’t get a separate taste of potatoes, carrots, and meat. Each one will take on a character of the others.
Also, a slow cooker is excellent at slow cooking, everything else from steaming to frying is hard for it. It is not a universal cooker. It is made to fulfill a specific task – to deliver an exceptional, slow-cooked meal. Don’t stress it and yourself with anything else.
Below is a beautiful short video about the not so suitable ingredients to put into your slow cooker.
With slow cooker, you need to plan ahead
The need to plan is connected to the speed part a bit. As you cannot expect anything fast from a slow cooker, you should also think about the planning.
Slow cooking usually takes between 4-12 hours (depending on a recipe and size chosen) to be done. As such, you should accommodate your schedule accordingly.
It works best if you have your groceries already bought. You are cooking overnight, or you get up a bit earlier and start the slow cooker before you leave your home. Also, you should add some wiggle room to your plans, as you might need to do some prep before or add a finishing touch or two once done.
The slow cooker won’t cook evenly
As much as I like my slow cooker, I have the fact that it doesn’t cook evenly. Potatoes, for example, take much longer to cook than something like pork. As they require higher temperatures over a shorter period of time.
There are ways to get around it. Pre-cooking the potatoes or adding the pork later in the slow cooker. But neither of those might deliver the result you want.
The first case adds additional time to your cooking, and the second one expects you to be present at your slow cooker, which is something you might not want to do.
You cannot sear in the slow cooker
It might go without saying, but you really cannot sear your meat in a slow cooker.
The meat won’t sear automatically over time, as you might think. The slow cooker brings food under the simmering point (right below 212°F or 100°C) over a long period.
Searing is a fast process. It allows meat to close up, so it won’t release as many juices. This doesn’t happen in a slow cooker. Your meat will cook through, but very slowly. The whole slow cooking enables the meat to suck into itself all the flavors, but there is no searing.
Slowly rising temperatures and liquid being released from ingredients prevent searing from happening.
Final thoughts on slow cooker advantages and disadvantages
I do hope that I have been able to bring you closer to your decision about the slow cooker. Whenever you decide to get one or not, I do believe that it is a solid starting point for anyone interested in culinary arts.
It brings you closer to the cooking while allowing you to wow your circles with excellent tasting, and with some skills put into it, also sexy looking dishes.
Until next time, have a slow and great time cooking your heart away.
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