close-up of an orange slow cooker set at 100 degrees Celsius

How Does a Slow Cooker Work?

Slow cookers became a household item during the World War 2 era. As women often had to go outside of their homes to work, the slow cooker would make sure the meal was ready when they came back. Slow cookers have evolved slowly over time, but their main function is pretty much intact today. They really come in handy when you’ve got large pieces of meat ready to be cooked. However, meat takes time to tenderize, and a slow cooker helps exactly in that purpose. We’ll take an in-depth look at how Slow Cookers do their magic in this article.

As we know, the meat that is turned out after slow cooking is really juicy and has the flavor engraved into it. But how exactly does the slow cooker achieve this level of flavor? Let’s get started with the process!

The Science Behind Slow Cooking:

Consistent temperature is the key element behind the slow cooking phenomenon. Whenever you’re cooking meat, after touching 160-degree Fahrenheit, the collagen from the meat slowly transforms into much more edible gelatin, which infuses the flavor of the meat with the gravy. Hence, slow-cooked meat has the best tasting gravy compared to dishes that are instantly or normally cooked.

It is to be noted that some kinds of meat might require higher temperatures for their collagen to tenderize into gelatin. Otherwise, they won’t turn out to be tender and have rubber-like characteristics that no one likes. However, cooking at high temperatures might increase the likelihood of moisture loss. To compensate for that, you can either brine or steam the meat pieces. It will reimburse the flavor in them while keeping the tenderness alive.

Physical Structure of Slow Cooker:

In the past, the majority of slow cookers were gas-based. Therefore, they used gas as their main source of energy. This indirectly led to many incidents where the flame was gone, and the gas kept leaking. Since then, most of the slow cookers we see today are electrical. The possibility of having any incidents is far lower than the slow cookers of the past. Let’s take a look at what makes a slow cooker:

  • Heat Element: This is the main part of the slow cooker since it converts electrical energy into heat energy. It can be variably adjusted to change the temperature to accommodate all kinds of different meats. It is usually enclosed in the casing of the slow cooker and can be adjusted using the dials available on the front of it. In the past, heat elements were notorious for shorting out quickly; however, that isn’t the case anymore. Heat elements these days are far more efficient, reliable, and easy to use.
  • Cooking Pot: It provides the surface area to the food items and is indirectly heated using the heating element. The element is present just below the pot making direct contact with it for efficient conductivity. Various materials are used to make the cooking pot; however, the most widely used materials are porcelain and ceramic. These materials make the cooking pot easy to clean and are reliable conductors of thermal energy from the element. However, they’re prone to breakage and must be handled with care.
  • Metal Wrap-Around Housing: This is the outermost housing of the slow cooker. It usually contains the wrap-around heating elements as well, which help the food cook uniformly from top to bottom. However, they don’t make direct contact with the ceramic pot or outer metallic housing. This is to prevent any possibility of a short-circuit within the slow cooker.

Size is another important property of a slow cooker. For instance, if the slow cooker is too large, it may disappoint you with overcooked food. Be sure to use a slow cooker that’s neither too large nor too small for your meal.

How to use a slow cooker?

Using a slow cooker is easy; however, there’s some learning curve involved. You’ll need some patience and experimentation to figure out what suits your needs best. You can try various methods to cook with a slow cooker. We’ll be taking a look at some basic steps that will help you get your slow cooking started within no time.

Let’s get started!

  1. Clean the cooking pot thoroughly and make sure there’ no residual sticking inside it. Any residual can greatly impact the flavor of your cooked meals. Also, make sure that there’s no smell from previous meals still present inside it. Once you’ve made sure your pot is clean and odorless, you can proceed to the next step.
  2. Pre-heat the cooker before loading your veggies and meat inside of it. Some recipes might ask for the braised before being loaded into the slow cooker. Make sure to do that as well. Pre-heating allows your food to be cooked uniformly and enables you to test whether the heating element is still in operation or not.
  3. Chop your veggies and meat before loading them. Always use fine pieces of meat. Those always provide the best flavor without wasting much heat energy in breaking down the meat’s muscle fibers. Root vegetables need to be handled carefully and placed at the bottom of the cooking pot to ensure that they’re cooked well since these kinds of vegetables take a long time to cook.
  4. After all the ingredients, add an adequate amount of water to compensate for the moisture loss that occurs during the slow cooking. Once all ingredients are inside the pot, cover the pot with the transparent lid, and set the dial to the desired temperature. If your slow cooker comes with a timer, then you can use the timer as well.
  5. After you’ve enjoyed your meal and had your coffee, it’s time to clean the slow cooker. If your cooking pot is removable, you can pop it out and place it inside the dishwasher or in hot soapy water.

Difference Between Slow Cooker and Crock-pot:

The majority of folks consider a slow cooker and crock-pot to be the same thing. However, that isn’t the case since there are some glaring differences between both. Following are the major differences between a slow cooker and a crock-pot:

  • Branding: Crock-Pot is actually a brand that makes these types of slow cookers that have the ceramic pot that is heated by the element; however, most slow cookers don’t have that and rely on direct contact with the metallic pot. Other brands manufacture slow cookers as well; however, none of them is as popular as Crock-pot.
  • Placement of Heat Elements: Normal slow cookers usually have a single heat element fitted on the bottom of their pot; it makes direct contact with it to ensure heat transfer. On the other hand, crock-pots have wrap-around heat elements that ensure that the food is cooked uniformly by providing heat energy on both sides; top and bottom. This results in richly flavored recipes that aren’t possible with the slow cookers.

Conclusion

Slow cookers have been used throughout the generations to feed us. They’ve also helped us during the great depression. Modern crock-pots make slow cooking a delight and are safe to use as compared to previous generations. A slow-cooked meal is healthy and rich in flavor, plus it is easy to cook as well.