• 43°

Picture it: you opening the front door on a cold winter evening and being greeted by the inviting smells of beef stew or chicken noodle soup wafting from a slow cooker — this is every diner’s dream come true. But winter isn’t the only time a slow cooker is useful. Slow cookers,or “crock pots” as they are often referred to, are also excellent to use all year round. These small electrical appliances can be used in place of the oven.
A slow cooker can make life more convenient. A little advance planning will save you time, since slow cooking is “all-day cooking without looking.” Another plus to using the slow cooker is that it uses less electricity as opposed to the traditional oven, so it’s more economical.
The only thing I can think of that might stop people from using a slow cooker is that they may not think they are safe to use or may not know how they work.
Yes. The slow cooker, a countertop electrical appliance, cooks foods slowly at a low temperature between 170 degrees and 280 degrees, is totally safe to use. The low heat helps less expensive, leaner cuts of meat become tender and shrink less. The direct heat from the pot, lengthy cooking and steam created within the tightly-covered container combine to destroy bacteria and make the slow cooker a safe process for cooking foods.
Begin with a clean slow cooker, utensils and work area. Always wash hands before and during food preparation. Also be sure to keep perishable foods refrigerated until preparation time. If you have cut up meat and vegetables in advance, store them separately in the refrigerator because the slow cooker may take several hours to reach a safe, bacteria-killing temperature. Constant refrigeration assures that bacteria, which multiply rapidly at room temperature, won’t get a “head start” during the first few hours of cooking. Preheat the cooker and add hot liquids, if possible. Preheating the crock before adding ingredients or cooking on the highest setting for the first hour will ensure a rapid heat start. Either will shorten the time foods are in the temperature danger zone.
Test your slow cooker for safety. For steps on how to test your slow cooker visit: http://www1.extension.umn.edu/food-safety/preserving/safe-meals/slow-cooker-safety/
To prevent foods from sticking and to simplify clean up, you can spray the inside of the cooker with a non-stick cooking spray, before adding ingredients.
Always thaw meat or poultry completely before putting it into the slow cooker.
Choose to make foods with high moisture content such as chili, soup, stew or spaghetti sauce.
If using a commercially frozen slow cooker meal, prepare according to manufacturer’s instructions.
Vegetables cook more slowly than meat and poultry in a slow cooker so if using them, put the vegetables in first (most slow cookers heat from the bottom and sides of the unit).
Large cuts of meat and poultry may be cooked safely in a slow cooker; however since slow cookers are available in several sizes, consult the instruction booklet for suggested sizes of meat and poultry to cook in your slow cooker.
Add the meat and desired amount of liquid suggested in the recipe, such as broth, water or barbecue sauce. The water or stock level should almost cover the ingre
dients to ensure effective heat transfer throughout the cooker. Water or liquid is necessary to create steam.
Fill cooker no less than half full and no more than two-thirds full.
Keep the lid in place, removing only to stir the food or check for doneness. Each time the lid is raised, the internal temperature drops 10 -15 degrees and the cooking process is slowed by 30 minutes.
While food is cooking and once it’s done, food will stay safe as long as the cooker is operating. Food should not be left in the cooker to cool. If not consumed it should be stored in shallow covered containers and refrigerated within two hours after cooking is complete. It is not recommended or safe to reheat leftovers in a slow cooker. Heat leftovers in the oven, microwave, or stovetop, until the temperature reaches 165 degrees, and then add to a preheated slow cooker. In the slow cooker, food should remain hot for serving, 140 degrees or above, as measured by a calibrated food thermometer.
Slower cookers are an excellent way to assure that you will have a home cooked meal after a very long and busy work day. There is also a wealth of recipes so you can make almost anything from soup, stews, sauces, ciders/punches and even desserts. It’s the easiest cooking you will ever do — or not.

For information on slow cookers visit:
http://www1.extension.umn.edu/food-safety/preserving/safe-meals/slow-cooker-safety/
http://www.fsis.usda.gov/fact_sheets/Focus_On_Slow_Cooker_Safety/index.asp

Toi N. Degree is a family and consumer education agent for Rowan County Cooperative Extension. She may be reached at 704-216-8970 or email her at: toi_degree@ncsu.edu

Comments

Comments closed.

Local

Catawba holds baccalaureate services for Class of 2021

News

$9M settlement for two men wrongfully sent to death row

Nation/World

China lands spacecraft on Mars in latest advance for its space program

Business

Gas crunch hits Washington; Colonial Pipeline paid nearly $5 million in Bitcoin ransome

Coronavirus

State mostly returns to normal operations after 15 months of lockdowns, restrictions

Crime

Blotter: Man accused of stealing car, crashing it

Crime

Man faces new charge of attempted murder for father’s shooting

BREAKING NEWS

Gov. Cooper lifts indoor mask mandate for most situations, gathering limits

Crime

Barnes gets new punishment of two life sentences in Tutterow couple’s 1992 murder

High School

High school football: State’s top honor goes to Jalon Walker

Local

Scout’s Honor: With dedication of flag retirement box, Salem Fleming earns Eagle Scout rank

College

North Carolina king, queen of NCAA lacrosse tourneys

Education

Kannapolis seniors walk elementary schools

Local

Local real estate company employees come out in force to build Habitat house

Local

Quotes of the week

Coronavirus

Auditors find oversight lacking for $3 billion of state’s pandemic aid

Nation/World

When will gas situation return to normal?

Local

Rowan native Shuping posthumously receives Concord Police Department’s Medal of Valor, Purple Heart

News

GOP measure on penalties for rioting draws fire

News

Black high school softball player told to cut hair

Coronavirus

State shows 303 COVID-19 deaths in Rowan

Coronavirus

CDC: Fully vaccinated people can largely ditch masks indoors

Crime

One arrested, another hospitalized in Castor Road stabbing

China Grove

China Grove Roller Mill open for tours Saturday