The slow cooker was first developed as an all purpose bean cooker but when Rival Industries
purchased the parent company in the early 70s, they renamed the product the Crock-Pot. So
while a lot of you out there in Nichibei Times readership land may have slow cookers, not all of
you have Crock-Pots.
So what is the advantage of a slow cooker? For starters, it lets you place all ingredients in one
cooking vessel, set it and forget it. It also helps to prevent scorching that might occur on a
traditional stovetop burner. For those living in counties where electrical rates are lower during
the night, it allows you to cook a meal while you’re sleeping and rates are lowest. Finally, for
those who prefer steel cuts oats instead of the usual flattened oat flakes that Quaker offers but
hate mixing said steel cut oats for 30 to 45 minutes for your daily breakfast, slow cookers allow
you to have that hearty bowl of “real” oatmeal every morning.
What about the disadvantages? Well… they are another kitchen appliance and unless they are
used with regularity, likely to be stored in your kitchen appliance graveyard with the fondue pot,
extra rice cooker, panini grill, electric steamer, and multitude of Ronco appliances… you get the
point.

What do Slow Cookers Actually do?

On the low setting, most slow cookers start in the 150 to 160 degree range. Therefore you
wouldn’t want to place frozen raw chicken in the cooker because by the time it reaches the
appropriate temperature to start cooking, harmful salmonella may have already started
propagating in your culinary creation. If your model also has a high setting, it probably gets up
to 190 to 200 degrees but it rarely goes over the boiling point (212 degrees). Therefore you just
need to experiment with your slow cooker on several types of dishes – chili versus stew versus pot
roast to determine how you own model functions and what setting it needs to be on (and for
how long). Remember that the set-and-forget benefit of slow cookers doesn’t guarantee perfect
results on the first try.

Variations on the Slow Cooker

The simplest of devices simply has a cooking bowl (usually ceramic) that is placed in the warming
device and plugged in when you want to start it, unplugged when its time to stop. Then you have
models which have on/off buttons, cooking timers, various cooking settings (from high to
brown foods down to low for simmering), temperature probes that automatically change the
cooking temperature and finally, the grand-daddy of all slow cookers; the All-Clad Deluxe with
its non-stick aluminum insert that allows you to brown foods directly on the stove top then add
cooking liquid and other ingredients and place directly into the slow cooking heating element
with its 26 hour timer, 3 temperature setting and digital display.

What does the Gochiso Gourmet Use?

For grains and hard root vegetables that require lengthy low cooking, I still recommend going
green and using an induction cooker paired with a thermal cooker (see my previous column on
induction and thermal cooking: http://the-gochiso-gourmet.blogspot.com/2008/06/time-for-
reflection.html.
However, when slow cooking tougher cuts of meat, especially those with lots of connective tissue
a slow cooker is the way to go. I tried induction/thermal cooking for arguably, the toughest cut
there is; oxtail. While the environmentally sound cooking method produced cooked, flavorful
oxtail after 4 hours, those bad boys needed at least another 2 hours of constant simmering to get
to the fallin’-off-da-bone state of tenderness. And a constant supply of heat would have helped
the process.

The Baby Slow Cooker

I recently was gifted a small basic Crock-Pot (because it’s made by Rival Industries, it’s the real
McCoy) by a work colleague who knew that I never purchased these cookers due to kitchen
storage issues (including that Mac-daddy All-Clad Deluxe model). Even with only 1.5 quart
capacity, it can still provide anywhere from 2 to 4 servings depending on the type of food you’re
preparing which is actually a good thing when you’re simply testing new recipes. I eventually plan
on retrying my Asian spiced braised oxtail recipe in this device but for the time being, will simply
experiment with new recipes… like the Mediterranean inspired chicken dish below.

Slowed Cooked Chicken and Olives

3 chicken breast cut into 3 or 4 pieces
20 pitted Nicoise or Kalamata olives halved lengthwise
½ onion, roughly diced
1-2 tbsp fresh rosemary, minced
1-2 tbsp fresh chives, minced
3 cloves garlic, flattened
1/4 cup dry white wine
3/4 cup chicken stock
1 tbsp sun dried tomato paste or regular tomato paste
Fresh ground black pepper and salt to taste

Place all ingredients in small crock and turn on or plug in crock pot. Let slow cook for 6 hours.
Essential Cooking Device or Just a Crock?