A slow cooker is also known as a “crock pot” and is used to cook meals slowly for a long time. Slow cookers work well on hectic days when you must be out of the house, as you can throw your ingredients inside in the morning and have a prepared meal waiting when you get home. Slow cookers are not complicated to use and are an effective way to produce tender meat with a lot of flavor.
Slow cookers are good for cooking inexpensive, tougher cuts of meat because of the low heat that is produced over a long cooking time. The nature of the slow cooker also helps to ensure your food is safe from bacteria. Slow cookers use direct heat and cook foods thoroughly. The lid is usually on tight, trapping in steam and making the inside inhospitable for any food-borne bacteria to live.
As with any appliance that produces heat, there is always opportunity to hurt yourself if you aren’t careful. The outside of some slow cookers gets relatively hot, which could cause mild burns if you try to pick it up and move it while it is in use. Moving it around could also cause it to tip over, which could spill the contents on you. As far as cooking appliances go, it is as safe as any other, and with normal use you should never have a problem in terms of safety. Leave it alone to do its thing when it’s on, and remove the food carefully when it’s done. Keep the lid on the cooker during most of the cooking, and only take it off if you have to give the food a stir, or check to see if it’s done.
Getting all your ingredients ready for the slow cooker in a safe manner helps get the process off on the right foot. Start the preparation off with a clean slow cooker and clean utensils, including your hands. Chop and slice vegetables and meats ahead of time and store them in the fridge until it is time to go in the cooker. Bacteria is most likely to form on your food at room temperature, so keeping your ingredients in the fridge until it's time for the cooker will help keep it bacteria-free. The tight-fitting lid of the slow cooker helps keep bacteria away until the cooker reaches a higher, bacteria-killing temperature. Thaw your meat or poultry before you add it to the slow cooker so it cooks properly, and fill the slow cooker no more than 2/3 full and no less than 1/2 full to ensure your food isn't over cooked or under cooked.
Slow Cooker Settings
Setting the slow cooker for use is not complicated . Most slow cookers have only two settings -- “high” and “low.” Foods set on high cook faster; the low setting takes longer. Many recipes will specify which setting to use and for how long. The low setting is usually good for when you will be gone for the day. If possible, start your slow cooker on high to get it up to a bacteria-killing temperature faster, then turn to low if the recipe calls for it.
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