A crock-pot ™ is an electric pot used for slowly cooking a meal. They are fairly inexpensive, between $15 and $50 USD. Though not as popular as the microwave, the crock-pot is a necessity in a home where the cook has little time and wants a home-cooked meal. Like the microwave, they don’t heat up the kitchen or require a lot of maintenance. All you have to do is add the ingredients in the morning before you leave, turn on the heat setting required, and when you come home dinner is served! They’re safe and easy and, barring small preparations like the thawing or browning of meat and the dicing of vegetables or fruits, you’re in and out of the kitchen faster than you can say "The Cook’s Reference!"

Food bacteria die at 180 degrees, the crock-pot’s target temperature. By putting foods in an insulated area at a low, but constant temperature, they never boil, making scorching less likely. Plus, because the food stays in such close quarters for such a long period of time, it more easily captures the flavors that can get away in open air. Still not convinced? Just look at what noders have to say about the wonder that is the crock-pot™!

brassmule says: because of the extended period of heat time, however, water is crucial in the process... or you'll dry everything out.
achan says: low heat and long cook times are essential when cooking cuts of meat with a lot of connective tissue and very little fat

What are you waiting for? Buy one now!

Some information gathered courtesy of http://www.lvrj.com/lvrj_home/2001/Oct-03-Wed-2001/living/17073027.html

The official trademarked name for this miraculous invention is "crock-pot," though common usage on the web and in recipe circles is "crock pot."

The single most convenient piece of equipment in the kitchen, barring the obvious like the sink and refrigerator. This little baby is the working person's blessing. Here's a recipe.

Clampe's Pot Roast

Piece of roast, my favorite is the eye roast
TBSP Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Fresh Rosemary (dried will do)
3 cloves garlic
1/2 pound carrots
3-4 medium sized red skin taters
One Large Onion
small package mushrooms
can beef stock
1/2 cup red wine (not necessary, but nummy)

Mince your garlic and place it a hot saucepan with the olive oil, rosemary, crushed black pepper and salt. Be careful not to let the garlic get brown. Once you can smell the garlic cooking, place the roast in the pan and sear all sides until it is a nice brown. Remove from heat.

Place you cut vegetables in the crock pot, with the can of beef stock, wine, some more rosemary, salt and pepper. Put the roast and everything else in the sauce pan over top the whole deal. Cover and let cook at low for a long time.

Typically, I prepare everything the night before, leave the pot in the fridge, and then just put it on when I get up in the morning. By the time dinner rolls around, it's perfect.

The simplest thing you can cook in a crock pot is pinto beans. Even you geeks out there who can't manipulate anything without a keyboard can do this. It helps if you are able to make cornbread to go with the beans, but it's not necessary. You can eat them as a soup.

Get a pot and boil some water. Fill it about half full, and throw in a tablespoon of salt. When the water comes to a boil, throw in some pinto beans. Hell, I don't know: How ever many you think you can eat! But they will expand so don't overdo.

When the beans come to a boil, turn the eye off and let them sit for an hour. Get out the crock pot and turn it on low. Pour the beans in there. Is there a lot of water left? Good. If there's not, add some more. You see, the beans soak up the water. It didn't disappear; it just moved. Don’t let it frighten you.

You're pretty much done here, except for any flourishes you want to add. You can throw in a bay leaf, some soy sauce, some celery or onion salt, some parsley, whatever. You probably want to add more salt and some pepper. You will find that they'll do fine without anything else except the added salt, but you'll learn how to do this the way you like.

Oh, there's one more essential thing! When they are soft, use something to mash about a third of them up. This is what will make the soup taste good.

It'll take 15 hours or so for them to get ready, and it doesn't hurt to cook them for a whole lot longer.

Suggested accouterments? Cornbread is essential. Cole slaw is wonderful. Sweet pickle relish adds a great garnish. In fact, you can just make a mush of all the above (it looks horrible) and have a great meal. When someone comes in and asks what you're eating, just say, "I don't know. Something the dog threw up." This will leave more for you to consume later.

Autumn crackles crisply in, all hard geometries of frost and the clarity of sound and vision that the newly cooled air confers. It can be a little much. Sweaters are more than concessions to the temperature. They're hugs you give yourself, reassuring and soft and warm. Cocoa, tea, cups that steam up and harmonize with your breath as you sip from them on the porch in a bundle of old blankets. We begin to gather strength for the winter ahead. We need soups, and other good things.

A crock pot is an essential tool in autumn and winter, just as essential as wooly socks and thick sweaters and good hot chocolate and a decent long-distance calling plan. It enables you to slave over a hot stove all day without actually being there. A crock pot will simmer and bubble and cook while you are away. Turn it on in the morning, come back after work or school, and your house smells like the platonic form of Grandma has been bustling around making you nourishing soup, cinnamony applesauce, spicy chili. The smell of herbs and spices, of odors the body identifies as "nourishing, sustaining, savory" - it is better than any incense, any scented candle.

It is aromatherapy for your inner beastie, yearning for comfort and civilization in a barbaric world.

There are many Web sites and cookbooks detailing crock pot recipes, most of which require about 15 minutes of preparation and then a long, slow cook time. A small crock pot will cost perhaps 10-15 dollars (and is just the right size for 1-2 bellies). A large crock-pot can range between $20-$40, depending on bells and whistles and bellies.

I have a wee little crock pot that has two settings: low, and high. No timers or any of that business. Just low, and high. And I have an inexpensive wee little rice cooker that does a fine job on my brown rice. I recommend one of those, too, as brown rice is very good when it is cold. And here are my two favorite things to make in my crock pot in October and the other cold months:

Lentilles a la Paresseuse (Lazy Girl's Lentils)

Shopping list for 1-2 and a tiny crock pot:

  • Bag of green or brown lentils
  • 2 carrots
  • Onion
  • Potato
  • Can of tomatos (I favor Hunt's diced tomatos with onion and celery)
  • 2 cans beef broth (I favor Swanson's 98% fat free)
  • Brown rice
  • Seasonings you may or may not have: celery salt, pepper, fines herbes, balsamic vinegar.

The night before: Dice carrot, onion, and potato into smallish cubes. Put in fridge.

That morning, while the coffee is brewing: Put veggies into into crockpot. Add both cans of beef broth. Add can of tomatos. Rinse about half the bag of lentils (maybe a little more) under cool water, very well. Add to pot. Season generously with celery salt, pepper, fines herbes.

Set to high - once it gets to boiling, turn down to LOW. Take shower etc. VERY IMPORTANT: set crockpot to LOW before leaving house!

That evening, return home to lovely smell of herbs and spices and vegetables on the earthy scent palette of lentils. Mmmm! Put 1 cup brown rice into rice cooker, add 2 cups water, hit button. Sit and relax, have glass of red wine. Rice is cooked in half an hour, 45 min. Smells nutty and good. Go to kitchen, splash a measure of balsamic vinegar into lentils and stir. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve in large bowls, spooned over brown rice.

Best Apple Sauce in the World (For Breakfast!)

Shopping list:
Bag of apples (4-10, depending on crockpot size)
Cream
Sugar and cinnamon, if you don't have it.

That night: Peel, core, and cut apples into large chunks. Put apples in crockpot along with 1/4-1/2 cup of water. Sprinkle with 1 t. cinnamon (more, if you like), and 1/2 c. sugar. You can reduce the sugar to 1/4 cup and add raisins if you like. Cover and cook on low overnight. Wake up to smell of warm apple cinnamony goodness. Spoon into bowl, splash a measure of cream over apples, and eat with cold glass of milk or cup of hot coffee. Also exquisitely good with oatmeal, if you have time to make some. (Go ahead, make some. Treat yourself.)

Blue Dragon notes that in the UK, crock pots are also called slow cookers.

Happy autumn...

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