Me and my crock pot.

September 24, 2010 · 8 comments

Yesterday, as I needed to cook a MASSIVE quantity of soaked chickpeas for tonight’s smoky fried chickpeas, I happily dug out my slow-cooker. Knowing the beans needed to cook for quite a while, at a relatively low temperature, to reach a desired consistency; and knowing that my kitchen might get a tad bit warm since we hit a record-high temp of 95º yesterday — the crock pot was ideal. I was reminded, yet again, of how much I love it. I don’t use it very often, but when I do — it’s the perfect countertop appliance.

It inspired me to recycle a post I did a couple years ago when I first realized my feelings of adoration. Even now, two years later, my love is just as strong.

…………………………………………………

I love my crock pot.

Before you get all “oh, and next your gonna tell me your favorite recipe uses a can of cream-of-mushroom soup” on me, let me qualify that statement:

  • If someone held a gun to my head and told me to choose either the crock pot or my Le Creuset dutch oven, I’d throw the crock pot by the cord into the nearest body of deep water, without blinking.
  • I’ve never made a dessert in it.
  • I don’t use it as a dumping ground for a variety of canned goods and then, eight hours later, call it dinner.

I first requested this appliance after hearing an interview on NPR with the author of a “gourmet” crock pot cookbook (my memory is fuzzy on where I heard that interview, so don’t go looking for it in the NPR archives). She described some quite useful ways of utilizing its convenience, including the fact that, in summer, you could cook a whole chicken without heating your entire house and by consuming the same amount of energy required to light a 60-watt bulb. These things appealed to me.

For example, I am making a dish tomorrow night that requires cooked, shredded chicken. About a half-hour ago, I pulled 3 pounds of bone-in chicken leg quarters out of their packages, rinsed and dried them, seasoned them with salt and pepper, and dropped them in the crock pot. Turned it on low, and that’s it. They’ll be done around 8 or 9 this evening, when I’ll take them out, let them cool on a plate for a short while, and stick them in the fridge. Tomorrow all I have to do is pull the meat off the bone. So easy, and so perspiration-free, I was inspired to write a post describing my devotion to a small kitchen appliance.

Before you continue to write it off, thinking in your Amish way, “yeah, but I don’t need cooked chicken that often, and if I do, I’ll just poach it on the stovetop, the old-fashioned way,” consider two more favorite uses (mainly utilized in winter, when it’s not the warmth of the kitchen that pains me, but the gas bill):

  • Stews. The crock pot is really wonderful for beef, chicken, and lamb stews. I prefer the boneless meats over bone-in chicken, because the extended cooking time can make chicken bones fall apart, which I find unappealing.
  • STOCK! STOCK! STOCK! This is the reason I can almost always use homemade chicken and vegetable stock in soups and sauces. There are a variety of ways to do it, explained quite nicely in a book called Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Cookbook(I’m not a fan of every recipe in the book, but overall it’s a good resource). No, you don’t end up with pristine, clear stock like you would if you watched it boil over the stove for 6 hours, skimming impurities until you were blind from the effort, but the end result makes canned broth seem like salt water. It makes all our winter soups taste, well, homemade.

Oh, and if aesthetics are an issue, they do make lovely stainlessones these days. I’m not quite cool enough for that yet, so mine has little flowers on it. You might argue that this is one foot inside the door of the “I Heart Country” club, but if it means a cooler kitchen, I just might be willing to pay the dues.

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{ 8 comments }

jane September 24, 2010 at 8:58 am

I love my stainless slow cooker and I think it is a sin to put cream of mushroom soup in it. There I said it! (I feel like I have just admitted something to an AA meeting.)

Peas shouldn’t be allowed in slow cookers either.

katy September 24, 2010 at 12:21 pm

Stainless? You are officially cooler than I am, in the crock-pot contest.

Hello, my name is Katy. And I’m a crockaholic….

Chris September 24, 2010 at 10:14 am

We remodeled our kitchen last winter. Set up temp kitchen with toaster oven, microwave and crockpot. I found it quite hard to find anything that tastes better after cooking eight hours! I purchased a cheap induction cook plate and all problems were solved. Soak chickpeas overnight using no energy, then cook for 40 minutes? New cookbooks caution against putting raw meats in crockpots without searing them first due to the long time to heat up. But if you are really sold on a reciepe, please share it ?

katy September 24, 2010 at 12:20 pm

Ah, induction. In my dream kitchen, I have one. So efficient, so quick.

With the stews I make, I’ve always browned the meat first. This had more to do with searing the outside to add flavor (deglazing the pan and letting the browned bits be included in the cooking liquid) than safety. I’d not heard about that (the raw meat question) but it makes sense. I always pre-heat my crockpot, too, so that meats are going into a hot pot.

Of course, this makes the whole process more labor-intensive; not as easy as dumping everything in and turning it on. But, at least it’s still more energy-efficient, cooler, and you’re work is done in the morning with dinner ready-to-eat at 6pm ; )

katy September 24, 2010 at 12:23 pm

Also, meant to comment: I most always limit cooking of meats to 4-6 hours; all crock pots are different, but mine seems to cook things well after that amount of time.

Hannah September 24, 2010 at 1:26 pm

a nice rump roast (last winter i did this with a beautiful one from brown family farm, sells at winter market), rubbed with salt and pepper, browned in a pan and then put in the slow cooker with some garlic, sliced onions and a big red wine, on medium or high for several hours and then low for about 8, and it is fall apart, melt in your mouth cold weather deliciousness. and i’m not ashamed to say it. this is my version of the soup-packet “hot beef” my husband’s family makes in wisconsin. pure comfort, and the house smells like heaven all day.

DesignHER Momma September 25, 2010 at 5:47 pm

When I got married I registered for a crockpot. ONE CROCKPOT. While opening gifts, we opened 4. I actually kept 2, one large, one small. Yes, I can host my own church pitch in lunch. Crockpot are awesome!

nana September 26, 2010 at 8:25 pm

should I be offended that I put lots of canned goods in my crockpot and call it dinner? hmmmm….

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