We all like surprises and a slow cooker is one way you can give yourself one of the loveliest surprises of all.
Imagine that you've had a gruelling day at the office, on the allotment, on the golf course, in the beauty salon...wherever you spend your days...and you walk into the house thinking; "Oh no, and now I've got to make tea!" But then as you open the door you are met with the delicious aroma of cooked food - a nice stew, perhaps. You have a Three Bears moment; you think, "What's that? Who's been cooking in MY house?" And then in a moment of blissful ecstasy you remember that before you went out you put food in the slow cooker AND remembered to switch it on!!! Believe me, if this has never happened to you, it's almost as good as sex and you get to do it every day if you want to.
Of course, also like sex, it can be disappointing. There are those times when you're at work, on the allotment, on the golf course or in the beauty salon and you begin to salivate at the thought of the yummy tea that will be waiting for you - then suddenly realise with that profoundly hollow sense of dread that you did NOT, in fact, switch the damn thing on. As with any piece of technology, it's only as good as the person operating it. And this can be very good.
I was really pleased to see that these Prima slow cookers are still available, as I have had mine for some years and I've been very happy with it.
~ What is a Slow Cooker? ~
What you get is a ceramic cooking vessel that sits inside a metal casing, which encloses a heating element. The ceramic pot has a lid, in this case made of glass, so that you can see how the food is cooking. The cooker operates on a low wattage thus cooking the food slowly and economically.
My Prima slow cooker has Low, High and Auto settings, is 180 watt and has a 3.5 litre capacity.
There is a 1.5 litre, 120 watt version on the market now, from Prima, with Low, High and Keep Warm settings.
~ How Much Do They Cost? ~
This is a good but no frills cooker, the kind which you should be able to pick up between £15 and £30, although I notice that you can bid for this model on eBay at the moment, starting at 0.99p and so you might get a very good deal.
That 1.5 litre version I referred to is advertised at £25.99 online. For that price you might get one with a bigger capacity, but on the other hand if you'll never want to make large quantities and 1.5 litres is enough, it might be sensible to go for the lower wattage.
~ How Do You Use It> ~
Let's say you want to make a casserole to come home to.
If you're using meat, you might prefer to brown it first and some people would roll it in flour, depending on how you want your gravy to thicken. If you're using larger pieces, then just put them straight in. If you are using meat, it's a good idea to cut off excess fat first and to remove the skin from chicken. It's probably best to cut your vegetables as evenly as possible, but to be honest I never bother too much. I chuck the ingredients into the cold crock (don't pre-heat it) and pour over my liquid. The nature of the liquid will depend on you - you might use a packet casserole mix, get it out of a jar, or make up your own. One thing you do need to consider is that the casserole won't lose a lot of water in cooking and there is a lot of moisture in those vegetables, or could be. You probably need to put in less liquid than you think at first.
Give it a good stir and switch on at the mains. Then select your setting. On a low setting it might take the food 8-10 hours to cook, so a full day out at work. On high - 4-6 hours. The Auto setting will cook on High for a few hours then drop down to Low. Don't worry if you're kept late. An hour or two extra isn't going to spoil the food.
~ But Does It Cook Well? ~
Well here we come back to the operator. There isn't some Michelin-starred sprite in there who waves a magic wand over the food while you're out. You will find that, as with anything, you will learn with experience what works well and what doesn't. Having said that, I've been delighted with the results that I've had from my very rough and ready approach. But maybe I'm just so grateful to have had my tea cooked for me.
Quite apart from the convenience, this type of cooking suits foods and meals that benefit from a long time in the oven. This is true of the cheaper cuts of meat, for instance, which will come out succulent and tender. Meals that are better for a good fester, like chillies and curries, also come out well. The long, slow cook allows for the all the flavours to merge and to mature.
Some foods don't need so long - fish and other seafood, for instance, and can be added later. Pasta also would not need to be in there for too long - perhaps just for the last couple of hours.
Sometimes, if you come back to your pot and worry there is too much liquid, a good way to soak it up is to add a dried ingredient like pasta, pearl barley or lentils and give it another hour or two. Depends on what you're making and how hungry you are, I suppose.
~ Is it Reliable? ~
Yes. That's why I was keen to review it. Prima have been making slow cookers for a while and I've had mine a good time. There isn't that much to go wrong. It will last as long as the element and the switch hold out and they've been fine on mine.
~ Care and Maintenance ~
Watch where the power lead is trailing. The cooker will be operating for a long time and you might be doing other things around it.
The unit does get hot, of course, so site it clear of anything combustible.
The knob on the glass lid shouldn't get too hot, but I always use a thin oven pad or a tea towel anyway, to protect my fingers just in case. Don't place the glass lid down on a working hob.
The cooker has four little feet that should keep it clear of the work surface.
Use plastic or wooden utensils so that you don't damage the glaze on the crock.
Remove the lid as little as possible during cooking as this would lower the temperature significantly.
Use oven gloves if you want to take out the crock, but better still switch it off at the mains, unplug it and leave it to cool before you wash it up.
Don't immerse the main unit. Simply wipe over with a damp cloth when cool. The lid can be washed, but take care, as it is glass.
I would never put meat in that hadn't been thoroughly thawed first, but I would put in frozen vegetables. I'm not saying that the meat wouldn't be safe - I just never do it.
I'm giving this five stars, not because it's all-singing and all-dancing, but simply because it does a simple job very well indeed. If you haven't already tried a slow cooker, it's well worth a modest investment.
Hi I purchased a Prima Slow cooker around 3 years ago and have used it frequently ever since with no problems - that is until I put my fave soup on and went to work expecting it to be ready when I returned... well yes the cooker did the job BUT when I went to get a bowl I found the lid had shattered into a million pieces and the soup was now riddled with small shards of glass. I have been trying to contact the web site (without any luck) since. So be careful with your GLASS lid everyone who reads this comment. I will still use the cooker but will have to cover the bowl with alfoil. Helen
What a fab invention! My mum bought me one of these, she'd had one for a couple of weeks and kept harping on about how good it was. - She wasn't wrong. I've made many a casserole in this thing, beef, chicken, lamb, sausage and even just plain vegetable. The beauty of it is you can just fill it up and forget about it for hours, and no matter how long you leave it the casserole always turns out beautifully. I cooked a whole joint of beef in it yesterday, just bunged it in with a load of veg and some casserole sauce mix and left it on "Auto" for 8 hours. The beef was so tender when it came out that when I tried to carve it it literally fell to pieces. And it was so succulent. The meat hardly shrank at all (unlike when you roast it and it shrinks to about a third of the size!), and I hardly had to chew it. So often I have paid out well over £5 for a decent joint of beef (although small) for just myself and my husband, but when it it has been cooked it has shrunk so much and turned out to be so tough or gristly that it just isnt enjoyable. How pleasant it is to be able to make a nice meal out of a cheap bit of beef. The good thing about this is the whole meal is cooked in the one pot, so you have a massive casserole and only the crock pot and lid to wash up afterwards. With the crock pot being ceramic it is so easy to clean, food very rarely sticks to it. The only thing you have to be careful with is thicker sauces. If you are using a ready made sauce (from a jar or tin) you may need to water it down a little, or keep checking on it to see if it needs water adding as they can sometimes burn on the bottom of the crock pot. It is a good idea to give the casserole a thorough stir through every hour or so in this instance. I imagine that you could also make good home-made soup in one of these, although I have yet to try. Slow cookers are great when you have a busy day planned, or kn
ow you aren't going to be around, or have the time to prepare a proper dinner. You can just chop all the vegetable (or even lazier buy them pre-packaged) and throw them in the pot with a bit of meat and some water and a couple of stock cubes, then leave for several hours (the longer the better), and voila, you have a fabulous meal cooked with virtually no effort at all. And the great thing is there's very little risk of burning, boiling over or the thing catching fire if unattended! I would highly recommend one of these to anyone with a busy lifestyle (or not!). :-)
I dont know how to delete posts that the hosts dont like so just dont read this I got my first ever new home the other day, as you should all know, you head out to the curries sales and spend as little as possoble on kitchen appliances. ( At least I did) As I walked through the front doors, there stood the cooker of my dreams, not only was it good looking, so was the price, who would not have brought a cooker for a great price like that. Finally came the first time ever for me to use my cooker, all the take away money had run out so it was back to cooking real food. I got the Iceland turkey burgers out of the freezer, read the instructions and through them into the oven. half an hour later I returned, by now I was really hungry, and as mates know, getting in between me and food is not a good idea. I was shocked to find that rather than being left with nice crispy, tasty, mouth watering turkey burgers, all that was there were 6 frozen burger, they looked like I had only just taken them out of the freeze, how could this be, I had brought a cooker, if I wanted a fridge then I would have brought one. THis product is useless, rather than cooking great meals in half an hour like good old mums cooker used to, this just keeps it cold. What type of person would have brough one of these things if they knew what it was like. since the small experiments with cooking eggs a few days before had gone wrong, the store was not able to take the cooker back and ginve me a refund. This means that these days I have to plan my meals in advance, right now the food for next weeks meals is cooking nicely.and in a few weeks I will be buying my christmas turkey so that it will be ready for christmas.
We all know what(or most of us anyway) a slow cooker does, let's face it, if you are reading this opinion you have either just bought or are thinking of buying one. Well, for those who don't know how a slow cooker works or what it does, let me enlighten you. Food is cooked for long periods of time usually between 8 and 10 hours in a crockery pot which fits inside a metal housing. This housing is heated by elements which cook the food from the bottom. Even though the instruction manual may say your food won't burn you may have to stir a couple of times to stop the food from scorching. I have read that each time you raise the lid you should increase the cooking time by 20 mins but as I use mine overnight I don't tend to stir it as I'm usually in bed! The extended cooking times mean flavours mingle better than cooking in the normal oven or pan and food tends not to stick as it would if left in the oven. Food is also a lot more tender because of the long cooking process. Some people worry about the temperature food is cooked at but even on the lowest heat setting it reaches well above 140 degrees which is the minimum temperature at which bacteria is killed. The Prima model PSO350 which I use is is one of the new shape of cookers on the market today in that has an oval crock pot instead of the usual round one. This makes it easier when cooking larger items of meat or poultry and also looks a lot nicer if you want to take the dish to the table. Basically if you are using any slow cooker remember to brown off fatty meat first in a frying pan and pour off the excess fat, otherwise your nice cassserole or whatever will be swimming in grease. If you are using chicken then it is best to discard the sking first also the same applies to pork etc. Ok, if you are cooking in a conventional oven then leave skin on as it prevents the joint/poultry from drying
out but you won't have this problem with a slow cooker. There are basic rules to follow when using ie. Don't preheat the crock before adding food. Don't place crock in the freezer. Don't place crock in the oven. Don't place the lid in a microwave although you CAN place the crock in (if you can fit it in, it is quite large). Don't place on a gas burner or electric hob. Most meat and veg will need between 8 and 10 hours on the Lo setting, 4 - 6 hours on HI and 5 - 7 on AUTO. I know this sounds scary when you think of the time scale you think of the cost but don't worry it costs less than you think. I rang the electricity energy efficiency line to check, and basically if you are on a normal tariff it will be about 12p to cook over a 10 hour period. If you are on Economy 7 like myself then it will cost less than 5p !!!!!!!!!!!! So, don't be tempted to turn off your cooker an hour earlier to try and save on your fuel costs as they are negligable. The main thing to remember is not to keep taking the lid off whilst cooking, when the steam is released it will take longer for your food to cook, just take it off to stir and replace as quickly as possible. Slow cookers cook cheaper cuts of meat best so don't go out and buy the most expensive joint in the supermarket go for a nice cheap one. Try something that you wouldn't normally buy. One of the best ones I have recently tried was a massive Turkey Drumstick from Tesco at 99p each. I have bought these in the past to roast and they were absolutely foul (oops!) like leather and full of tendons. Not in the slow cooker! Place a mixture of veg (small pieces cook better than large ones) in the crock, place the drumstick on top and cover with a sauce of your choice. Now, as Homepride cook in sauces are usually on a buy one get one free I used the barbecue one.
Switch the cooker on LO and leave for 9 - 10 hours. I promise you that you will not believe how tender the meat will be and how easily those nasty tendons fall off the meat and bone. Another good piece of meat to try is the Bacon Hock joints from any butcher (Dewhurst sell them for £1.49 each). The only thing to remember as with most bacon they are quite salty, so leave them to soak in a bowl of water to remove the excess salt (best overnight if possible). Any foods that should be avoided when using a slow cooker? Fish and seafood tend to break down to a pulp so if you are using them in a recipe add them towards the end of the cooking period. Milk will curdle if cooked over a long peiod so stir in double cream at the end of the cooking period. Natural cheeses will break down during long cooking periods so either replace with processed cheese or add near the end. I bought my cooker from Currys recently for just less than £22 and it has been worth every penny. Just think, you are saving money on fuel, saving time on the cooking preparation, saving money on buying cheaper cuts of meat and saving time on preparing the food. At the end of all this you are left with a wonderful filling meal for all of the family for a handful of money. Go on, if you haven't bought one yet, give it a go, you won't regret it. Happy cooking!