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There are plenty of benefits of slow cooking, but perhaps one of the biggest is that you can put your dinner into it first thing in the morning and when you get home from work, it’s cooked and ready. That’s great, but what about the healthy side of it? Does the long cooking process cause food to lose its nutrients?
This question is nothing new, it’s been debated over a long period and has caused concern to many people. Studies seem to show that the amounts of nutrients lost during long cooking periods in a slow cooker are low because it’s covered. The goodness is kept inside.
Questions have also been raised as to whether food cooked in this way is safe. The US Department of Agriculture issued guidance to this in their document, Slow Cookers and Food Safety.
Create and Stay Healthy
Using a slow cooker is certainly a better option than frying or even boiling your food. You can create a healthy nutritious meal, even if you time is limited, without having to opt for something that would be more fitting in a fast food outlet.
Most slow cookers give you the option of cooking in different ways, including boiling, simmering, blanching, baking, steaming and broiling. With each of these there will be a small amount of nutrient loss, but because slow cookers use a low heat, it causes less damage to the food.
By making a wholesome meal for all the family by adding all of the ingredients together while cooking slowly, you can give them all the nutrients they need and make life easier too! You can also save money by being less wasteful and using leftovers for other dishes like soup or stew.
Other Benefits of Slow Cooking
There’s a common myth that the best use of a slow cooker is for evening meals, but that’s just not the case. What about breakfast? Well yes, warm cereal, such as steel cut oats can be prepared using a slow cooker. They can be slowly cooked with extra flavoring like cinnamon, honey and butter to make a very tasty breakfast.
Of course, there are other benefits of slow cooking too. Weight loss being a prime example, you can carefully control your calorie input while making wholesome meals. Vegan or vegetarian meals are other examples, plus you can even be bold and make low calorie desserts.
Just about any vegetable, pulse or cut of lean meat will become a tastier option by being cooked slowly with spices or other flavorings. The possibilities are almost endless when planning meals for your family or other groups.
Slow Cooker Options
In the past, slow cookers were seen as being just for families, but now there are different sizes available. This means that even single people can benefit from easy slow cooker meals.
You can now buy mini versions which are suitable for small families or single people. Their design has changed a lot in recent years too. They come either as round or oval shaped and available in a range of different colors. This makes matching with your kitchen decor easier, so the one you choose fits in well.
Because their design has moved away from being just a kitchen utensil, they generally look attractive, so serving straight from the pot is no problem. As you can see, there are plenty of benefits of slow cooking. You can let your imagination run wild, while eating healthier foods and freeing up time too.
Best Slow Cookers for Healthy Cooking
There’s been a change in the performance of these cookers in more recent years. Originally it was a case of turning it on and leaving it to cook, but as technology got better, so did the slow cooker.
Many are now programmable, while others are digitally controlled. You can even get wi-fi enabled slow cookers now! Look for a removable ceramic pot, a glass lid so you can see the food cooking and one that’s easy to clean.
There’s a lot of different slow cookers to choose from, but you’ll want to find one that fits your needs. Size will obviously be important, but so will convenience and safety.
The Crock-Pot SCCPVL610-S 6-Quart Programmable Cook and Carry Oval Slow Cooker meets all these points. It has a capacity of 6 quarts, so there’s plenty of room inside. That’s large enough to cook a roast for quite a big family or give you a lot of leftovers that can be used for other dishes.
One important safety feature is that it has a locking lid, so if it does get accidentally tipped over, there won’t be any spillage. The lid also has a seal, making it easy for taking the Crock-Pot with you without food spilling all over the place.
You’re able to conveniently set the program to count down the time the food needs to cook. This makes sure it doesn’t get overcooked and once the time is up, it switches to the warm setting.
It’s also easy to clean when you’ve finished cooking as the stoneware part can be separated from the electrical parts. That’s not only good for cleaning but also for serving the food.
Hamilton Beach 33182A
If you have a large family and would prefer something with more capacity, then you might want to look at the Hamilton Beach 33182A. It can take up to 8 quarts, which is enough for a very large family or party.
Handling a roast, a chicken or any large dish won’t be a problem for this slow cooker. You can buy larger ones but 8 quarts is a lot. It’s very easy to use with a low and high setting and it can also be switched to warm. The warm setting is there to keep the food hot enough to be served but to prevent any overcooking.
There’s a lid latch to make sure it’s secured, which is great for when you’re cooking, but even better if you want to take the food somewhere else in your car. This is often the case with owners of a slow cooker, they cook the food at home, then take it to a dinner party at someone else’s house.
The handles are nice and wide, making them easy to grip so you can keep the pot steady. It also has removable stoneware for easier cleaning and saving on using extra dishes by serving straight from the pot.
If you want something a little smaller, then you might want to look at the Proctor-Silex 33043 which has a 4 quart capacity. Of course, you can cook smaller amounts in a large slow cooker, but if you have small family or don’t cater for larger parties, it make sense to get a smaller one.
It has simple high, low and warm settings, making very easy to use. Having a warm setting is important because it lets you keep the food warm and ready for serving without overcooking it. The stoneware can be removed for serving or for cleaning in the dishwasher along with the lid.
One thing worth noting, is that there isn’t a rubber seal around the lid or on the top of the pot. It doesn’t make any difference to the quality of the cooked food as it will still taste just as good.
The only drawback to not having a sealed lid is that it makes it difficult to carry from place to place. This means taking it in your car to another location will be difficult. Having said that, because it’s a smaller slow cooker, you probably would only use it at home anyway.
Getting the Most Out of Your Slow Cooker
The beauty of using a slow cooker is that you don’t have to use the most expensive cuts of meat. Because it cooks slowly at a low heat, even the toughest meat will be tender. Meats such as chuck or shoulder, which can be tough, work well in a slow cooker meal.
Because there’s plenty of moisture in the cooker you shouldn’t need to add oil as there won’t be any sticking. You can also trim the fat from the meat which will make it healthier. Don’t add too much liquid and don’t keep lifting the lid, leave it alone to do its job.
There are many benefits of slow cooking, mainly ease and flexibility. You can cook virtually anything and all you need do is just throw the ingredients in. Yes of course there’s a bit more to it than that, but the reality is, it really does make life easier. It removes some of the stress and hassle of cooking for large groups of people and you’ll be amazed at the extra time you’ll have freed up too.