Cooking for yourself is a surefire path to better eating and enjoying a more nutritious, healthy diet. If you’ve never cooked before or you’re just not as comfortable in the kitchen as you’d like to be, this ETM Kitchen Gear series is for you. We’ll cover the basics of how to navigate recipes, and explore tools and techniques that will help you feel more confident about preparing your own meals. With a little practice, you could be saving time, money and creating dishes you’re proud of, all while eating well and working toward your goals.
Our first edition explores Slow Cookers. These convenient plug in pots offer hands off cooking and minimal prep time, and can be used to create meals that satisfy just about any palate and diet plan. Plus, if you’ve never woken up to the smell of fresh Ratatouille or White Chicken Chili wafting through your home, you’re missing out!
Purchasing a Slow Cooker
If you don’t already own a slow cooker or can’t borrow one, there are plenty of options available online and in stores. For your first purchase, we recommend looking for a four to six quart capacity size with a simple interface that won’t set you back a ton of money. This 6 quart manual slow cooker from Crock-Pot is a great place to start. (You can also get one with a locking lid on Amazon.) The size will ensure you can approach most slow cooker recipes without adjusting them and give you plenty of leftovers from one cooking session. The simple interface means fewer features to figure out and, overall, less to worry about. Once you fall in love with slow cooking, you can splurge on high end models with advanced settings, travel kits and even smart phone enabled controls.
Using a Slow Cooker
The best part about slow cooking is the freedom it gives you to do other things while it makes your food. Work, exercise, chores, sleep… as long as you have a timer set to unplug it when it’s done, you’re free to go about your business. Some recipes are as simple as adding protein, spices and liquid before putting the lid on, while others require minimal prep work such as chopping vegetables or pre-browning/sautéing/boiling certain ingredients. You’ll find a nice variety of crock pot and slow cooker meals in our Food & Recipe Browser to try out.
Before and After Cooking
Most slow cookers are designed to work as both cooking and storage vessels which is great for saving time, planning your meals and storing your food. Let’s say you want to make Slow Cooked BBQ Ribs, but the timing isn’t right at the moment. Just prepare the ingredients in the slow cooker, refrigerate overnight, then set it to cook in the morning. The only trick here is making sure the cooker warms up a little on the counter before setting it to cook. The same goes for when you’re done cooking – simply let the cooker and the food cool off a bit before tossing it in the fridge, or you might throw off your fridge’s internal temp.
Now that you have some basic know-how, here’s a great recipe to try out – Slow Cooker Carnitas.
This is a perfect example of how simple slow cooker recipes can be. If you have a favorite slow cooker recipe, add it to our Food & Recipe Browser. Happy (slow) cooking!