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Different kinds of slow cooker
Some people call it a slow cooker, some call it a Crock-Pot, but what’s the difference? Well, a Crock-Pot is a brand of slow cooker that originated in the 70s and is mostly known for having a stoneware pot as its heating source. Not all slow cookers are Crock-Pots, there are many different kinds of slow cookers and they vary by shape, size, cooking pot, and controls.
Round pots are better for things like stew and soup while an oval pot is great for making meat like ribs or roast beef. Rectangular pots have more depth and are great for cooking larger pieces of meat. Slow cookers are made with either ceramic, metal, or cast aluminium. Each pot works differently with each material. Pots made from ceramic and cast aluminium can be used over the stovetop while metal can’t. Metal pots’ usually have a heat source at the bottom of the pan, which can sometimes leave food unevenly cooked.
In terms of control settings, there are two types: basic and programmable. The basic slow cooker has three temperature settings: low, medium, and high while the programmable ones are more customisable.
Choosing the best cut of meat for your slow cooker
A slow cooker is very versatile! You can use it to make wonderful melt-in-your-mouth savoury dishes, and you can even make desserts with it! If you’re thinking about using one the next time you cook, here are the best cuts of meat for slow cookers.
6. Chuck steak
One of the most commonly used cuts for slow cookers is the chuck steak – usually used for making beef stew. The chuck is the shoulder and upper arm of the cow which makes it very tough, but trust us when we say that it becomes amazingly tender after it’s spent a few hours in your slow cooker. Best of all, it’s cheap as chips! You can buy half a kilo of chuck starting at $AUD8.
5. Pork shoulder
Pork lovers, rejoice! This cut of meat can be very tough, especially since it usually comes with the skin, but transforms into soft, fork-tender pieces after cooking. If you’re a fan of crackling skin, rub some oil and salt on the skin and put it in the oven for around 40 to 50 minutes to get that crispy, golden brown colour before putting it in the slow cooker. If you don’t like the skin, simply remove before cooking. If you’re looking for the best meat for slow cooker pulled pork, you can get a kilo for around $AUD8 at Woolworths.
4. Beef short ribs
While you’ll usually see beef short ribs on the grill, it’s actually one of the best ‘slow cooker meats’ you can get! A slow cooker will help you get that pull-off-the-bone texture that you're looking for. Best of all, there's not much prep work needed; just marinate and chuck it in, bones and all. You can find beef short ribs at Coles for around $AUD13 a kilo.
3. Lamb shanks
Lamb shanks are a bit more complicated to prepare compared to the other cuts but it’s so worth it! When it’s raw, it’s tough and gamey, but after being slow-cooked, it practically falls off the bone. Before cooking it, it’s important to remember to trim the meat so that the meat doesn’t shrink in on itself. You can order lamb shanks online at Online Butchers for around $AUD14 for two packs.
2. Chicken thighs
One of the most flavourful parts of the chicken is the thigh. It doesn’t take a long time to cook chicken thighs, but after being in the slow cooker for an hour or so, it’ll turn soft, juicy, and will practically fall off the bone. While it’s not necessary, you can also opt to have your chicken thigh deboned before putting it in the slow cooker which will make it a lot easier to eat with cutlery. If you’re looking for fresh chicken thighs for your next meal, you can buy a kilo at Coles for around $AUD8.
1. Butternut squash
If you’re vegan, butternut squash will change your world! It’s super easy to cook in a slow cooker, you can even put the whole thing in uncut and unpeeled! After cooking, it becomes so soft and tender that you can practically scrape it off with just a fork. Best of all, not only is it tasty and healthy, but it’s also really cheap, selling at around $AUD4 per kilo at Woolworths.
Cooking meat before slow cooking
You may be asking yourself: “do I have to brown the meat before putting it in the slow cooker?” Well, you don’t have to but if you want an extra punch of flavour, then go ahead! Browning the meat will add more flavour to your dish and change its texture. Whether you decide to brown it or not, remember that thawing your meat in the fridge is an absolute necessity, because putting frozen meat in the slow cooker may increase the chances of bacteria contaminating your food.
A slow cooker is one of the best investments you can make when it comes to kitchen essentials. Not only is it easy to use, but you can also make delicious dishes without all the added fuss!