When an old-school slow cooker is better than an Instant Pot multi-cooker

When an old-school slow cooker is better than an Instant Pot multi-cooker

In the age of sophisticated, high-tech multi-cookers like the ubiquitous Instant Pot, it’s easy to overlook the simple slow cooker. But those old-fashioned gadgets are kitchen workhorses that can feed a legion of hungry friends and family during the busy Christmas season.

The classic slow cooker, Crock-Pot is the best known brand, but many other manufacturers offer competing products today, it is little more than a ceramic pot that fits inside a heating element. But that very basic kitchen tool is capable of producing everything from simple soups to elaborate roasts.

And one of the biggest advantages slow cookers have over multi-cookers is the ability to really monitor your food and make changes as it cooks because it’s not stored under a pressurized lid.

Slow cookers have evolved quite a bit since they gained popularity in the 1940s, and modern versions have many improvements that are worth looking for.

Temperature probe: If you want to cook large pieces of meat, look for a model with a built-in temperature probe that sticks to the meat to better control its cooking.

Programmable: Programmable slow cookers are useful if you want to start and stop cooking at specific times. Some models will automatically switch to a low temperature designed to keep food warm for hours.

Acute: Some slow cookers offer the ability to brown ingredients, allowing for the development of deeply caramelized flavors that traditional slow cookers are unable to achieve. Some models do that with the heat from the slow cooker heating element, but they tend to be very slow and usually don’t get as hot as a skillet.

Other models have a pot that is safe to use on the stove, allowing for much faster heat transfer and better browning ability. Just put that pot back on the slow cooker heating element after browning.

While many of those features are a nice bonus, a wide variety of delicious meals can be made with simple slow cookers, which are much more affordable. Basic slow cooker models can range from about $ 10 for a 2-quart size to about $ 30 for a large 7-quart unit. More elaborate models can range from $ 60 to $ 250, and multi-cookers start at around $ 60.

This week we’ve simmered four recipes in slow cookers with little more than a manual knob on a high, low, and warm setting.

Starting with a Texas favorite, our Classic Slow Cooker Cheese is a simple blend of Velveeta and Ro-Tel tomatoes and peppers. A slow cooker is perfect for mixing those two ingredients into an irresistible sauce and keeping it warm all day. While not necessary, a plastic slow cooker liner will help considerably with cleanup once this cheese is done.

Our Vegan Slow Cooker Lentil Soup is the perfect dish to keep warm on the counter while friends and family hang out around the house on vacation. This hearty and nutritious soup will satisfy almost anyone’s dietary restrictions while providing a palatable flavor thanks to the inclusion of umami-rich tomato paste and smoked paprika.

The slow cooker is an ideal tool for braising chicken until tender, as demonstrated in our Slow Cooker Coq Au Vin. This French classic requires the use of a skillet if your slow cooker doesn’t have a scorch feature, but that extra effort is worth it once this highly aromatic, wine-infused dish hits the table. And unlike coq au vin cooked on the stove, once the prep work is done, the dish can be cooked without supervision.

And finally, our Slow Cooker Honey Mustard Pork Tenderloin is a surprisingly easy yet elegant dish. This recipe only takes a couple of minutes to prepare and will fill your home with delicious aromas as it simmers.

Recipe: Slow Cooker Honey Mustard Pork Tenderloin

Recipe: Slow Cooker Coq Au Vin

Recipe: Vegan Slow Cooker Lentil Soup

Recipe: Classic Slow Cooker Cheese

pstephen@express-news.net

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