Slow cookers – are they worth it?
Slow cookers sound like the answer to every working mum’s prayers. But are they the saviour of home cooking or are they just one more appliance to add to the gadget graveyard?
It sounds like the perfect solution doesn’t it? Drop some ingredients into a slow cooker, head off to work and come back to a delicious, warm and hearty meal. The slow cooker promises so much. Convenience, thrift, nutrition and taste, all rustled up while you’re at work. But do they deliver? Let’s take a look at some pros and cons.
Is there anything worse than coming in from a busy day at the office, you’re tired, the kids are hungry and you’ve got to get dinner done before homework and bed, and hopefully find a minute to sit down? The slow cooker promises to end all that. You add all your ingredients in the morning, switch it on and by the time you come back, dinner is done. Perfect. This really is the best part of a slow cooker, coming home to dinner, simply dishing it up. It can really make those hectic days come to a peaceful conclusion. They also lend themselves to batch cooking, so it’s easy to whip up a few days’ worth of dinners to freeze for a later time.
The prep still has to be done. Your evening might not be as hectic, but your morning sure will be. If you are an early bird and the idea of getting up half an hour before your usual time doesn’t fill you with dread, then prepping before work could be the answer. But if you like to hit snooze, then the chopping and browning while the kids eat breakfast might be enough to turn you off slow cooking completely. An answer to this might be to buy prepared meat and veg that has already been chopped.
Slow cookers are ideal for cheaper cuts of meat. The process of slow cooking can make even the toughest cut turn soft and delicious. They also use very little electricity, about the same amount as a light bulb and because the meal has to be thought about and planned in advance, they discourage last minute shopping which has been proven to bump up the cost of your grocery shop.
There’s not much to argue with here. Slow cookers can help to save money. However, if your main reason for using one is to help reduce costs, then make sure that you aren’t cutting corners with prepared ingredients as the higher cost will negate your savings.
Slow Cooking may actually lock in more nutrients than normal cooking, because the low temperatures preserve the goodness. The meals best suited to slow cooking tend to be healthier meals; soups, stews and casseroles which all use unprocessed ingredients that will definitely count towards your five a day. On the days when you come in exhausted, having a dinner ready to go will mean that you’re much less likely to order a takeaway rather than face making dinner.
Once again, there’s not much to complain about. The nutrient powerhouses of fresh greens don’t do well in the slow cooker all day but throw some in when you walk in the door and they’ll be ready once you’ve got everyone settled at the table.
As we already mentioned, slow-cooked food can be used with hardier cuts of meat which tend to be full of flavour and once they have been on the slow cooker all day, they will be tender and juicy. The slow cooker does well with big flavours; onions, garlic, herbs and spices can be loaded in and the long simmering time blends them together beautifully.
Surely there can be no cons here. Slow cooked food tastes better. Think of slow roasted shoulders of lamb, slow baked potatoes, pork belly that has spent all day in the oven. Yum! Ah, here is the issue. Slow cookers wet cook food, they don’t roast. The condensation rises up to the lid and drips back down into the pot. This can lead to weaker flavours, watery sauces and bland dinners. To counteract this, slow cooker recipes advise that you use plenty of herbs and spices and loads of strong flavours like onions and garlic, as well as browning meat before adding it to the pot. However, this brings us back to point one, the extra prep time.
So, is the slow cooker an answer to all your perfect housewife prayers or is it just another appliance that will crowd your cupboards? That decision is up to you. But if you do decide to invest, make sure to pick up a good slow cooker cookbook so that you can take advantage of all it has to offer.