Ah yes. The infamous Crock-Pot, or Slow Cooker. In an article in the Huffington Post, A Brief History Of The Crock Pot, The Original Slow Cooker, they state that “… People tend to use the terms “Crock Pot” and “slow cookers” interchangeably, but they are not, in fact, interchangeable. While all Crock Pots are slow cookers, not all slow cookers are Crock Pots…Don’t get too disappointed. Just because the Crock Pot is a brand doesn’t mean it doesn’t have an interesting back story. In fact, the Crock Pot’s story is rooted in Jewish mothers and beans. The device was inspired by a dish the inventor’s mother told him about. From a humble bowl of bean stew grew a kitchen ware empire. Here’s the story:…Irving Naxon applied for a patent for a food heating device in 1936. His device consisted of an insert, held up by a case that held a heating device, which facilitated even heating of food inside the insert. The device was also portable…By 1940, Naxon got his patent for the device he called the Naxon Beanery, and he says his Lithuanian mother, Tamara Kaslovski Nachumsohn, inspired him. Naxon’s mother had told him stories about a bean-based stew she used to make in her village bakery at home in Lithuania.
In the early 1970s, Naxon sold his design to Rival Manufacturing, who rebranded his Beanery and put it on the market as the Crock Pot. It was marketed toward working mothers who could put food in the pot before leaving for the office and come home to a cooked meal; the Crock Pot sold millions through the ‘70s. The Crock Pot “cooks all day while the cook’s away,” a 1976 advertisement said, the LA Times reports…
Today, slow cooking is as popular as ever, as 83 percent of families owned a slow cooker in 2011, according to Consumer Reports. The original Crock Pot design has changed little over the years, but now the insert is removable, a major improvement.”
But what about all the recipes I have collected over the years. How can I adapt them to the Slow Cooker? Good question. From About (dot) com we get some interesting information on this subject. Homecooking.
Reduce the amount of liquid used in most oven recipes when using the LOW setting, since the crockpot retains all moisture that usually evaporates when cooking in the oven. Add liquids for sauces about an hour before done. You will normally end up with more liquid at the end of cooking times, not less. A general rule is to reduce liquids by half, unless rice or pasta is in the dish.
• Spices may need to be adjusted. Whole herbs and spices are more flavorful in crockpot cooking while ground spices may have lose some flavor. Add ground spices during the last hour of cooking. Whole herbs and spices will probably need to be reduced by half.
• Crockpots may vary but generally, the LOW setting is about 200 degrees Fahrenheit and the HIGH setting is about 300 degrees. One hour on HIGH is approximately equal to 2 to 2 1/2 hours on LOW. Most crockpot recipes recommend cooking 8-10 hours on LOW. Some recipes recommend the HIGH setting based on the nature and texture of the food.
You will have to judge your recipe accordingly. For example, beef cuts will be better cooked on LOW for 8-10 hours to get a more tender texture, while chicken may be cooked on HIGH 2 1/2 to 3 hours.
Ingredients to Avoid
• Rice, noodles, macaroni, seafood, milk and Chinese vegetables do not hold up well when cooked 8-10 hours. Add these to sauces or liquid about 2 hours before serving when using LOW setting (or 1 hour before if set to HIGH). If you want to use milk in an 8-10 hour recipe, use evaporated milk.
• Frozen foods cooking at low temperatures can provide the ideal medium for harmful bacteria. If you use frozen “make-ahead” ingredients in your crockpot, defrost them first.
Prepping for the Crockpot
• Choose well-marbled meats and dark-meat poultry for best results. Chicken breasts and lean meats will dry out.
• Browning meats before cooking is a personal choice. It is not necessary, but it will reduce the fat content of some meats. Browned meats also benefit textually and visually.
• Sautéing vegetables (like onions, etc) is not necessary, (except for eggplant which should be parboiled or sautéed prior due to its strong flavor). Just add them to the pot with everything else. You may wish to reduce quantities of stronger vegetables since they will permeate the other foods in the crockpot with their full flavor.
How to Convert Recipes
You generally need twice as much liquid as product to cook these ingredients. Here are basic conversion times:
If conventional time is: 15 to 30 minutes, then cooking time on low should be 4 to 6 hours.
If conventional time is 35 to 45 minutes, cooking time on low should be 6 to 8 hours.
If conventional time is 50 minutes to 3 hours, cooking time on low should be 8 to 16 hours.
Cooking most raw meat and vegetable combinations at least 8 hours on LOW. This gives the vegetables time to soften, the meat time to tenderize and all the flavors to blend.
Of course, the new hotter cooking crockpots change the rules. If you have a crockpot that is less than five years old, you’ll probably need to reduce the cooking time.
In fact, some of the newer recipes I’ve seen in magazines cook the food for only 3-4 hours on low. That’s not really ‘slow cooking’, but it’s the reality of the crockpot manufacturing today. Check the food at four hours on low, using an instant read meat thermometer to see if the food is done.
For more information on using your favorite recipes in a crockpot, look at Cooking Times for Specific Foods. This article has more in-depth information on cooking times for more specific items, i.e., steak, beans, chicken, Swiss steak, brisket, meatloaf, ham and soup to name a few. Give them a try. Great for Gameday treats! Here is a Gameday recipe we use, Creole Slow Cooker Pork Chops, but there are many more ideas at Boise Foodie Guild Recipes. It should be fun. Here is a link for some oven to crockpot recipes. There are more. Lots more! Five Ingredient Crockpot Recipes crockpot recipes. All that being said, here is a good resource for finding the right crockpot for you: Picking the Slow Cooker That’s Right For You.