Slow Cooker - Convenient and Energy Efficient
TEXARKANA, Ark. –
I’ll admit I am not a big gadget or small appliance person. I don’t have the newest “got to have” kitchen item on the market; however, when I find one I like, I use it faithfully. For me that small appliance would have to be the slow cooker. Although I do have a new small appliance I really like and will share with you in the next couple of weeks!
In the 1930’s, Irving Naxon applied for a patent for a cooking device that would be a portable cooker. This device would have a cooking vessel (the crock) housed inside a casing with the heating element, which would allow the heat to distribute evenly. In the 1950’s the Naxon Beanery was introduced and by 1972, Rival Manufacturing acquired it and rebranded the Beanery as the Crock-Pot. Believe it or not, the appliance price has not varied much from the original retail price of $25 that it was introduced with in the early 1970’s.
Women discovered the slow cooker was both convenient – allowing you to make a one pot meal while at work – as well as energy efficient. This was important during the energy crisis of the 1970’s when everyone was looking for ways to conserve energy. They are reported to use about the same amount of energy as an incandescent light bulb, far less than the electricity required to run a traditional electric oven for any substantial amount of time.
A study in the early 2000’s determined that 80.6 percent of US homes owned a slow cooker. Consumers had already discovered the advantages of owning a slow cooker.
Other than the “prep it and forget it,” the ability to cook tough and cheap cuts of meat is enticing. Pork shoulder, beef chuck and brisket become fall apart tender; many times yielding better results than more expensive cuts of meat. This is because the long slow cooking method softens connective tissue without toughening the muscle, giving you a tender meat.
Even the most novice cook can use a slow cooker.
It’s practically impossible to burn anything in the slow cooker, but you can cook things too long and have the vegetables become tasteless or the texture too soft for your liking.
Some of the newer models allow you to bring food to a given temperature and then lower it, switching itself to warm mode to prevent over cooking, but allow it to stay safe until you are ready to serve it.
I love the ability to cook a meal in a single pot, meaning I have fewer dishes to wash. Plus the new disposable slow cooker liners make it pretty easy as well.
An appliance such as this also has some disadvantages.
- Anytime the lid is opened, heat moisture is lost. It is estimated that an extra hour of cooking time is needed to replace lost heat and moisture each time it is opened. Most slow cookers come with clear lids now to eliminate the need to remove the lid. So resist the urge to remove the lid.
- Because many of us use the slow cooker while at work, there is the danger of having an extended power outage during cooking and not being aware because you weren’t home to notice the power had gone out. Depending upon the amount of time power was out, it could put the food in the temperature danger zone for too long.
- For the safety of your foods, keep foods refrigerated before putting them into the slow cooker. This keeps harmful microorganisms from growing. Also avoid using frozen meat or poultry since it takes longer for frozen foods to reach bacteria killing temperatures.
- Don’t overload the crock. Heat transfer will be difficult if food is packed too tightly and this may allow extra time for spoilage organisms to grow.
I think I may have shared this recipe before because it is one of my favorite slow cooker recipes. They are so moist and tender that no knife is needed.
Pork Chops and Gravy
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 3 teaspoons dry mustard
- 1 teaspoon each salt and garlic powder
- 2 (10 three fourth) cans condensed chicken broth
- 6-1 inch pork chops
- 2 tablespoons oil
- Combine 1/2 cup flour, dry mustard, salt, and garlic powder in a shallow dish; dredge
chops in flour mixture and set aside.
- Combine remaining flour mixture and broth in a 3-1/2 quart slow cooker.
- Stir well to eliminate lumps. Over medium-high cook chops in hot oil just until browned
on both sides; place in slow cooker.
- Cook covered on high 2 - 2 1/2 hours or low for 5 to 5 1/2 hours.
Get your copy of Unleash the Magic of Your Slow Cooker, a newsletter full of safety information and recipes, or contact the Miller County Extension Office, 870-779-3609, or visit us in room 215 at the Miller County Courthouse.
By Carla Due
County Extension Agent - FCS
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture
Miller County Cooperative Extension Service
400 Laurel Street, Suite 215 Texarkana AR 71854
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