Product Type: Tesco Slow Cooker
Newest Review: ... in and out and wash as it has a good quality glaze inside and outside the pot. The lid is transparent, a plastic I think as it is quite... more
Cheap and cheerful and great for veggies too!
Tesco SC356 Slow Cooker
Member Name: jelliebeans
Tesco SC356 Slow Cooker
Advantages: Convenient, cooks well, cheap!
Disadvantages: No in-built timer,
Slowcookers generally come in two main sizes - 3.5L, which is the size of the Tesco slowcooker, and 5.5-6L. Since there are only two of us in my household, 3.5L is plenty big enough, and it's big enough to provide four servings of most meals. You can also find smaller 'fondue' type slowcookers, but they are not so common.
As I said, most people sing the praises of slowcookers for making cheaper cuts of meat more tender, and they are obviously great for making stews and soups. However, if this is where you stop, you are missing out on a lot! In the year I have had my slowcooker I have made my fair share of stews, curries and chillis in it, but I have also made veggie lasagne, jacket potatoes and rice dishes, and there are many more ideas on the internet and in modern slowcooker cookbooks.
The Tesco slowcooker has three heat settings - Low, High and Warm. Cooking on Low will generally take 8 hours, depending on the recipe, and could be anything from 6-10 hours. High will cook in about 4 hours, though again this may vary depending on the recipe. If you're just chucking your own ingredients in and making it up as you go, these are good rules of thumb. Warm is, as you'll have guessed, to keep your meal warm when it's finished cooking. Handy if your family eats at separate times. More sophisticated (and more expensive!) slowcookers may have more heat settings and an in built timer, so you can put your ingredients in and have it start cooking a couple of hours later, or have it switch to the Keep Warm setting at a specified time.
The cooker is nice looking with a simple brushed silver finish. The finish isn't cheap looking and it feels quite robust. I have been using this for a year and have no worries about it not lasting, from a build point of view. It has a removable black ceramic cooking pot and a glass lid. This won't look out of place in a modern kitchen.
The manual that comes with the cooker is short and sweet. There are a couple of warnings about not subjecting the cooking pot to extremes of temperature. For example, don't put it in the dishwasher when it's still hot. A tip you often read is to put your ingredients in the cooking pot and keep it in the fridge overnight so it's ready to set away first thing. The manual advises against doing this, and it isn't something I have risked. When I prepare ingredients the night before, I put them in tubs in the fridge and transfer them to the slowcooker in the morning.
I've found the slowcooker cooks evenly, however there is a hotspot on the left back side where the food tends to cook hotter and stick to the pot.
So, as a veggie, what do I use this for? Well, I make soup in this a couple of times a week. A hand blender is a great companion for this because you can blend the soup right in the pot. I also make seitan - also known as 'wheat-meat' - an old Buddhist meat alternative made from wheat gluten that has been heartily embraced by vegans in the 21st century. If you've ever had 'mock duck' in a Chinese dish, you've eaten seitan. The texture of this can vary wildly depending on the cooking method, and cooking on low overnight in the slowcooker cooks most seitan recipes to perfection! Lovely and firm with no sponginess. I also cook one or two main meals per week in the slowcooker, from lasagne to curry. It's great to make a chilli/curry/stew/pasta sauce type recipe in the slowcooker, then all you have to do is cook up some couscous, rice or pasta, or slice a fresh loaf of bread to complete the meal.
One tip is to fry things like onions in a saucepan before adding it to the slowcooker if you have the time. If you're pressed though, don't worry about it - it will still come out great. For basic soups I don't bother with this extra step. Also handy is to have some instant potato flakes to thicken anything that's too runny, or you can mix some cornflour with a little water and stir that into the food. Do this 30 mins or so before you want to eat.
If you're wondering about whether you will use a slowcooker, I would definitely recommend picking up the Tesco model because, while there are fancier versions, this does all of the basic functions admirably. Approach it with a good slowcooker cookbook or two and a sense of adventure and I'm sure you will find many uses for it that suit your family and lifestyle. It doesn't take away the daily grind of cooking wholesome meals, but it does mean you can do the grunt work at a time of day that is more convenient.
As to my worries of whether I would use it - I have completely rearranged my kitchen counters to give my slowcooker pride of place in the most accessible place! I have even considered buying a second. It makes my microwave a little hard to get to, but it is worth it!
Summary: If this broke I would go and buy a new one straight away!
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