A beginner’s guide to slow cooking
We love the simplicity of slow cooking – just throwing all the ingredients in and leaving them to cook to delicious tenderness. If you’re wondering whether a slow cooker is for you, or you have one but you’re not quite sure what to do with it, we have all the answers you need right here, as well as some delicious recipes to get you started.
What is a slow cooker?
As the name suggests, a slow cooker cooks food at a lower temperature than other cooking methods. They feature a removable inner pot, which is heated by an element in the base, and an all-important lid that keeps all the heat and steam inside during cooking. Slow cookers automatically control the temperature and cooking time – you can choose to have it cooking throughout the day on the LOW setting, so you can come home to a lovely meal at the end of a long day at work, or set it for a shorter time on HIGH.
Why use a slow cooker?
Slow cooking is a quick and easy way to create hearty but healthy home-cooked meals. All you need to do is spend a few minutes preparing the ingredients and then let the slow cooker do all the hard work. As the food cooks and produces steam, it condenses on the lid and drips back into the pot, so it’s self-basting, meaning that the ingredients simmer in their own juices and retain more of their nutrients and flavour, giving you deliciously tender results. Minimum effort with brilliant results, what’s not to love?
What can I cook in a slow cooker?
Slow cooking is fantastic for cooking cheaper and tougher cuts of meat that benefit from a longer, slower cooking time, including oxtail, beef brisket, pork shoulder, chicken thighs, gammon joints and lamb shanks. It’s also great for cooking vegetables, lentils, beans and pulses. You’ll be surprised at the versatility of these counter-top wonders – you can make hearty dishes like stews, casseroles, curries, and Bolognese, and you can even bake cakes and bread and make desserts in them. Come Christmas, they’re perfect for making a delicious batch of mulled wine too. Cheers to that!
Rules for slow cooking
- Don’t lift the lid! Taking the lid off during cooking releases all the precious heat and steam inside, a big no-no as it means your food will dry out and take longer to cook.
- Slow cooking recipes don’t need as much liquid. This is because not much evaporates during cooking, so it’s important to not add too much water, stock or alcohol to your recipe.
- Season well.
- If your recipe calls for a dairy product like cream, don’t add it until the end, or it’ll curdle.
Slow cooker tips
It’s not essential, but it’s always better to braise, or brown, raw meat before cooking it in a slow cooker. The low heat of a slow cooker means you can’t brown meat in it, so brown it in a pan before adding it to your slow cooker’s pot – this brings out the flavour of the meat and gives your dish an extra-deep flavour. If you’re using one of our Digital Slow Cookers, the hob-safe inner pots allow you to brown your meat in them before popping them straight back in the slow cooker, leaving you with less washing up at the end.
The liquid won’t reduce or thicken in a slow cooker, so adding flour can help to thicken it. Mix the flour with water to create a paste before adding to the slow cooker to avoid clumping.
Time to get started!
Pick your recipe, prepare your ingredients and pop them in the pot, then switch it on (LOW or HIGH) and leave it to cook your food to perfection – it’s that easy. And when you finish, the removable pot and lid make them easy to clean up.
We’ve pulled together some of our favourite slow cooker recipes to get you started – you can thank us later. And you’ll find loads more delicious recipes on our blog.
How much flavour can you pack into a bun? Stack up succulent pulled pork and juicy pineapple and serve with a side of slaw for this deliciously different take on a traditional burger.
A cheaper but just as delicious alternative to a traditional Sunday roast, this slow-cooked Spanish-style recipe cooks a fine piece of brisket to mouth-watering perfection.
Perfect for anyone who likes a bit of spice, this chunky soup can be made vegetarian-friendly by simply swapping the chicken stock for vegetable stock.
Yep, you can even make cheesecake in them. And this fruity delight will certainly please the taste buds.