This month marks the 20th anniversary of “What a Crock,” a column born out of a cooking population tired of struggling with the demands of work, growing families and a desire to find an easier way to put dinner on the table at the end of a long day.
For those of you who received new slow cookers for the holidays or even if you are just new to slow cooking, my advice now is the same as it was 20 years ago: start simple. Not that there is really anything complicated when it comes to slow cooking.
Buy a package of chicken pieces or cut up a whole chicken yourself and get started. A little seasoning, some sauce and you’ll be on your way.
Find a simple stew or soup recipe if you prefer. The soups and stews are perfect for those who work extra long hours. The simmering nature of slow cooking only enhances the flavors of the cooking ingredients. Remember, though, that soups and stews aren’t the only things a slow cooker does well. Dare to think outside the box.
Timing: While most recipes cook in the 6- to 8-hour time range, I am often asked if recipes can be left longer. The answer is not a simple one. For those recipes with a lot of liquid, there is generally no problem if we are talking about an extra hour or even two on Low. For other recipes, the recipe quality may be greatly diminished. Some cooks choose to slow cook the recipes they might worry about over the weekend when they have more time to watch the cooking pot; others opt to swing home for lunch and start their dinners then.
As I’ve said before, not all slow cookers cook the same. Some cook faster than others, which is why you see a range of time in slow cooking recipes. Get to know how your cooker operates — something that can only be found in your instruction manual.
In the meantime, here’s a new recipe to try out. Simple, yet good.
Julie Kay is a columnist for The Advocate. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.