There are so many brands and styles of slow cookers. Which
one should I buy?
Battle Creek, MI
That’s an excellent question. The size, shape and
quality of your slow-cooker can certainly affect the results
of your effort. All the recipes in my book were tested in
a 6 quart oval unit that was programmable and featured a digital
Here are three brands to consider:
1. Rival’s 6 Quart “Smart Pot” Countdown
Crock Pot. This model is oval shaped, which is better than
a round unit for pot roasts and chicken. Its timer allows
you to set it for as little as 30 minutes to 20 hours. The
digital display indicates the time remaining. After cooking
is complete, the pot will automatically switch to the “keep
warm” setting. The crock and lid are dishwasher safe,
and the brushed stainless base and black insert looks good
in most contemporary kitchens. At an average price of 45 –
50 bucks, it’s a good value.
Some folks think in cooks too fast and hot, but I like that,
and just adjust the recipes accordingly.
2. Cuisinart’s 6.5 Quart Slow Cooker is a stylish
unit, with a large rectangular brushed stainless base and
black crockery insert. The timer is limited to eight hours,
which may be a drawback. When the programmed cooking time
has expired, the unit automatically switches to the warm setting.
The retractable cord is a nice feature, and Cuisinart appliances
are generally high quality and dependable. Average price is
3. Kitchenaide 7 Quart Slow Cooker. This model is relatively
new and offers a unique rounded rectangular crock that makes
good use of space. The LCD display timer allow programming
times from 10 minutes to 10 hours. Its 400 watts make it a
powerhouse among slow cookers, with quick heat-up and recovery
times.This handsome cooker retails for about $120.
In review, the features I consider most important are a
programmable timer, at least 6 quart capacity, and oval shape
and aesthetic appeal.
Keep it slow,
What’s the best way to cool down and store slow-cooked
food that you don’t eat right away?
Dear J. R.,
That’s an excellent question. To preserve quality
and ensure wholesomeness, I recommend transferring the food
to another container – such as a stainless steel bowl
– and setting it a sink full of ice and water. Stir
occasionally. This will stop the cooking process and minimize
the time that the food is in the temperature zone conducive
to bacteria growth. When the food is cool, transfer it to
covered containers for the refrigerator or freezer.
Keep it slow,
What’s the best way to slow cook beans?
El Paso, TX
Dear J. Z.,
That’s an excellent question from the west Texas town
of El Paso. Beans are a natural for the slow cooker, and the
methods are myriad. For legumes such as lentils and peas,
I generally recommend just rinsing them, and adding to the
crock along with the other ingredients. For larger beans –
red kidney, pinto, black turtle beans, etc. – I like
a pre-soak. The best way to do this is refrigerated, over
night, in a non-reactive pot. When you are getting ready to
cook, place the pot over a medium heat, bring it to a gentle
boil and let it set while preparing the other ingredients.
The heated beans will give you a jump-start on the cooking
In my book, the procedures are clearly spelled out for each
Keep it slow,
Properly preparing a brown roux may be the step least familiar
to the nascent Creole cook. Essential to the flavor and color
of many dishes, roux requires high heat, and must be prepared
in a pan on the stove before being added to the slow cooker.
These instructions make it quick and easy.
Roux is essentially flour cooked in some sort of fat until
it is evenly browned to the desired color. Most recipes call
for either a dark roux, the color of chocolate (in the range
between milk chocolate and bittersweet chocolate), or a medium
roux, about the color of peanut butter.
Here’s how you make it: Set a heavy-bottomed pan over
a medium-high heat. The pan should be large enough to hold
the fat and flour, plus the chopped seasoning (onion, bell
pepper, celery). Heat the fat or oil in the pan and blend
in the flour with a wire whisk, making sure it is free of
lumps. Continue cooking and stirring constantly. When the
roux stops bubbling, in will begin browning rapidly. Keep
stirring with the wire whisk and pay close attention. As soon
as the desired color has been achieved, stir in the chopped
seasoning vegetables and remove the pan from the heat. The
addition of the room-temperature vegetables will immediately
lower the temperature and halt the browning process. Proceed
with the recipe as directed.
Two points of caution: If the roux looks or smells burned,
throw it out and start over as a burned roux will ruin a dish.
And be careful of splashes while stirring and adding vegetables
– roux is very hot!
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