Once you take your new slow cooker out of the box, you’ll be happy to use it. Besides being a convenient way to cook tasty and healthy stews, a slow cooker is an opportunity to try and cook cheaper cuts of meat that you may have already avoided.
Our guide explains which settings work best for different types of meat, which cuts are worth considering, ingredients for vegetarians, and recipes you might not have thought of.
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Choosing the best slow cooker setting
Slow cookers come with different temperature settings – basic models will only have high and low settings, while premium models can have a medium and / or automatic setting. Each setting tends to suit different foods:
This is recommended for cooking light meats like chicken. It cooks meat faster (in three to six hours) and at a slightly higher temperature.
Use the medium setting for cooking cuts of red meat. This setting is useful for cooking faster without losing all of the benefits of slow cooking, but the results won’t be as impressive as cooking at low heat for longer.
This is recommended for cooking inexpensive cuts of red meat, as it breaks down connective tissue and performs better than cooking on medium or high settings. Cooking on this setting typically takes about 10 hours.
This setting starts cooking over high heat and changes after one hour to low heat.
A keep warm or hold setting can be handy, especially if your dinner is delayed – it keeps food from drying out while keeping it from chilling.
Which inexpensive cuts of meat should I try slow cooking with?
With a slow cooker, you can afford to experiment with the meats you cook. Beef shank, clod of mutton (mutton shoulder), and beef cheek are just the beginning of a list of cheaper cuts of meat that benefit from slow cooking.
As a general rule, the more a muscle works, the more it benefits from slow cooking. For example, the root ball or shoulder of any animal can normally be quite hard, but will soften in the process.
There are several cheaper cuts of meat that are good for slow cooking and available from butchers:
- Pork – pork cheeks, pork knuckle, pork neck, pork trotters
- Lamb – lamb shank, end of the scrag (neck), shoulder
- Mutton – all cuts
- Beef – oxtail, oxtail, oxtail, oxtail
Pieces such as root ball, blade, and mandrel are often grouped together in supermarkets and labeled as “braised” steak.
Can I roast meat in my slow cooker?
Yes – and it’s more energy efficient to do so. Roasting in a slow cooker uses an average of 246 watts, a tiny amount of power, heating a small space. Compare that with the average oven, which uses around 700 watts.
I am a vegetarian, what can I use the slow cooker for?
Vegetarians might find a slow cooker very useful for cooking dry bean, lentil, and pea dishes. To prepare legumes, they will need to be soaked overnight to soften and boiled for 10 minutes to get rid of toxins.
What else can I do with my slow cooker?
You can make an easy and tasty pudding in your slow cooker. Put the ingredients for the pudding in individual bowls, which you will then place in the main saucepan. Then pour boiling water between the bowls, halfway up, to gently poach the sausages. Any mess created by overflowing puddings will be contained if you have an easy-to-clean ceramic pot.
Slow cookers are also great for jam – they speed up the jam-making process by softening the fruit without drying it out. Slice the fruit and cook slowly over low heat overnight to make an excellent jam base.
Is the slow cooking job intensive?
Three to 12 hours might seem like a long time if you just want a quick and easy dinner. And you will need to prepare the day before your meal, or very early in the morning. But, once you’ve got your ingredients ready, all you need to do is put them in your slow cooker, turn it on, and you won’t need to touch them until everything is done. . Then you can go home for a healthy, hot meal.