Summer is coming (a bit slower for some of us than others, but coming nonetheless), and no one wants to heat up their whole house by turning on the oven when it's blazing hot outside. On the other hand, not that many folks want to eat sandwiches and salads for four months, either. Enter my favourite kitchen appliance: the slow cooker. (Is this technically a green living post? I've heard slow cookers don't use much electricity, so I'm calling it green.)
|I have two slow cookers, because of course I do, and this|
one is invaluable when I make beans or rice, usually
both at the same time. However, I don't leave this one on
while I'm out, since food cooks faster in the smaller crocks.
Make sure your slow cooker setup is ready to go:
1. It needs to go on a heatproof surface. Check this by filling it half full with water and turning it on for a couple hours while you're there to watch it. If the counter under your cooker is hot, then maybe that's not the best place for it. You can also try placing the cooker on a baking sheet or a trivet.
2. It needs personal space. You'll notice this when you do the heat test--most heat comes off the sides. Keep it away from walls, your fridge, other things on the counter, etc.
3. "Low" is the setting you want. If you're leaving it cooking all day, only use recipes that call for 8-10 hours of cooking on low.
4. Don't use your granny's old slow cooker. Family heirlooms are wonderful things, but old slow cookers are best used for decorative purposes. If the slow cooker doesn't have a removable insert, treat it the same way you would an elderly space heater--leave it unplugged and get a new one.
5. Small children, pets, and slow cookers do not mix. Make sure the cord doesn't dangle over the edge of the counter--that's just basic safety, anyway--and that the entire setup is out of reach of kids. If your cat is a counter jumper, consider whether it's possible kitty could take the whole thing crashing down with her.
6. Err on the side of caution. If leaving a slow cooker on with no one in the house makes you nervous, then don't use one. It's not the only way to cook things, after all, and there's no point in spending your days worried.
If your cooker is good to go and the idea of coming home to dinner already cooked appeals to you, then it's time to start cooking. Pinterest is your friend for finding slow-cooker-friendly recipes (I have an entire board for just that), but any recipe site you use should have a wealth of choices just waiting for you.
What's your favourite thing to put in a slow cooker?