The Secret to Quick & Inexpensive Home-cooked Meals? Cook Them Slowly.

I've written previously about my favourite ultimate money-saving small kitchen appliance. Given it's getting cooler outside these days (well, in Canada anyway), I'd now like to introduce you to my close number two: the slow cooker.

I use the slow cooker at least twice a week. I make soups, stews, chilli, spaghetti sauce, cook whole chickens and roasts and much more. Just this week I cooked chicken, made soup with the stock ( both pictured below) and even slow cooked ribs & finished them in the oven.

  Chicken cooked with nothing but a little spice.

Chicken cooked with nothing but a little spice.

 Soup made with chicken stock from the drum sticks, discounted store-bought veggies and the last of the garden fare.

Soup made with chicken stock from the drum sticks, discounted store-bought veggies and the last of the garden fare.

As mentioned in my last post, next up is the seafood bisque I'm making using one of the great finds from my outing earlier in the week. And this weekend? French onion soup*. Yum!

Our slow cooker is not only a 6-quart ceramic pot, but also has a ceramic lid, which I favour because it seems to keep the meal warm for longer, an important feature when you're trying to keep food warm after having moved the pot away from an outlet and onto the dinner or buffet table.

Cooking with a slow cooker is heaven. You put meat in with some seasoning or a stock base with raw veggies and let it cook all day (or all night) and it's ready when you are, its content kept warm until you're ready to sit down for a meal. And it always tastes great.

Top 10 benefits of using a slow cooker:

  1. It saves you time .
  2. It's an inexpensive appliance, with many costing $100 or less (the one pictured on the right is a 6-quart that sells for under $65 on Amazon.com at the time of this writing).
  3. It's easy to use - put food in, turn it on and forget it.
  4. It makes inexpensive ingredients, such as tougher cuts of meat, taste great.
  5. It's easy to clean because food doesn't stick like it does when it's cooked in the oven. And, many of the pots are dishwasher safe too.
  6. It's almost impossible to waste food due to burning or overcooking.
  7. It saves you money on electricity or gas because it's a more efficient way to cook than using your stovetop or oven.
  8. It's easy to bring along when you want to take hot food outside the home, such as when you make a contribution to a potluck dinner.
  9. It keeps food at the right temperature for extended periods of time, perfect if you like to serve meals buffet style.
  10. And best of all? It makes your home smell great for hours.

If you're not quite sure where to start but you like the idea, I suggest:

  • Starting with chicken, which is quite forgiving. I do nothing but put the chicken in (breast down or in pieces), sprinkle chicken spice on it and let it cook for 5 hours or so.
  • Using ready-made packets of crock pot sauces, such as the one pictured on the right. They cost about $1.50 or less each and they take a lot of the guesswork out of dealing with spices.

  • Making a batch of chilli - very forgiving and usually tastes great (crushed tomato, tomato paste, lean ground beef (optional), kidney beans, chopped peppers & onion, mushrooms, chilli powder, maybe some cayenne, and voilà).
  • Looking for recipes online that call for 5 ingredients or less and sticking to recipes that include your favourite meat and veggies, at least at first.

If you're not already a believer, I hope you'll give it a try. The benefits are undeniably delicious.

And I don't only take my word for it. Slow cooked meals get the best positive comments from family and friends...Who knows though, maybe that says more about the rest of my cooking? ;)

Are you a slow-cooker aficionado? Are you thinking of giving it a try? Wade in!


*UPDATE: I did make the French onion soup on the weekend (right). That recipe was so tasty, I made a second batch within a week. 



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