The sort of meals that you can turn out for your friends and family using a crockpot can be very tasty and healthy too if you want, but you also need to get to grips with this type of cooking and learn how to use your slow cooker safely.
When you discover PaleoHacks for example, you could soon be turning out a delicious beef stew and other tasty recipes, all of which tick the right boxes if you are looking for 100% paleo or want to go gluten-free.
Here is a look at some important essentials on how to get to grips with your crockpot so that you can cook safely and make the most of what this style of cooking has to offer.
A viable alternative to your oven
Although you might automatically associate a crockpot with warming winter stew to satisfy you when the temperatures have dropped outside, this vessel is really a seasonal all-rounder and is a versatile and economical alternative to your oven.
Using a slow cooker allows you to plan your meals ahead of when you need them, allowing you to come home to a delicious dish that has been slowly coming to fruition while you are out.
Another positive to consider is the fact that it normally takes less electricity to use your slow cooker than you would expend using your oven, so there are some potential energy savings to enjoy as well as some good food.
A safe way of cooking
A crockpot, or slow cooker as it is also known, is a useful and safe appliance to have in your kitchen.
It works by cooking your food slowly at a relatively low temperature that ranges somewhere between 170F and 280F. This is a key selling point, as this way of cooking your food allows you to turn even a cheaper cut of meat that could be a bit tough when cooked in a conventional oven, into something far more tender as a result of the lengthier cooking process offered by a crockpot.
Another positive point to consider about using a crockpot to cook your food, is that as a result of the direct heat emanating from the pot, the extended cooking period, and the steam that is created inside the sealed container, this all combines to produce an environment that helps to destroy any potential bacteria, making it a safe way of cooking.
Good food preparation is the key to safe and healthy cooking and this is just as much the case when using your crockpot as it would be whatever type of cooking you are doing.
Make sure that the crockpot is clean and ready for use, and ensure that the work surface and any utensils you are going to use are also clean. Make sure that you keep any perishable foods properly refrigerated up until the point you are ready to put them in your slow cooker.
If you do some initial preparation beforehand and chop up the vegetables and meats in readiness for use in the cooker, do make sure that they are stored separately and in the refrigerator until you are about to put them all together in the pot.
Remember that your crockpot may take a few hours to attain a level of temperature where any lingering bacteria should be killed off, which is why it is important that you keep your ingredients refrigerated or at their optimum temperature for as long as possible.
Ensure that any meat or poultry that you are using in your slow cooker, is properly thawed before going into the pot, if it has been stored in the freezer previously.
The best recipes to try with your crockpot are normally ones that tend to have a high moisture content, such as stews or maybe a chili or homemade soup. Having a reasonable amount of liquid in the pot will help to ensure that your meat or poultry is kept nicely moist and tender as well as being cooked thoroughly over the number of hours it is in there.
If you do buy a ready-prepared slow cooker meal, make sure you follow their instructions in terms of preparation and cooking times, especially if the meal is frozen.
The right order
It should be remembered that vegetables are often going to take longer to cook through than meat or poultry will, so it is normally advisable to put those ingredients in first.
As well as putting everything in the pot in the right order, do check the volume of food that you can put in the pot. If in doubt, check your instruction booklet to see what quantities you can use for optimum and safe cooking conditions.
Using a crockpot is a lot of fun and with a bit of experience, you can soon turn out some restaurant-grade meals that everyone will really enjoy.
Tom Hughes is the one who does most of the cooking in his home. He enjoys coming up with new recipe ideas, tweaking those he finds online to make them suitable for his diet and lifestyle.