A slow-cooker, or Crock-Pot®, is a fairly recent innovation in the cooking world. These electric cookers substitute for cast iron Dutch ovens, in that they can cook foods slowly, at lower temperatures. However, the advantage of a Crock-Pot® is that it can maintain a steady temperature for a number of hours, ensuring even cooking.
The Crock-Pot® has its origins in the Naxon Beanery All-Purpose Cooker. This appliance was manufactured before 1950, but other manufacturers liked the idea of an electric slow cooker and started making look-alikes. Rival Industries bought the Naxon company in 1970, and with it, their slow cooker. Renamed the Crock-Pot®, the slow cooker was re-introduced in 1971, and hasn’t looked back.
A Crock-Pot®consists of a cooking pot, usually made of glazed ceramic or porcelain (hence the “crock” part), and a housing with heating elements inside. They are usually covered with a glass lid. The original Crock-Pot® had crockery pots that could not be removed from the housing, along with two temperature settings: low and high. While useful, the lack of temperature variability sometimes caused foods to overcook and lose a great deal of flavor. The Crock-Pot® caught on in large part, because women were re-entering the workforce and needed a way to have dinner cooked shortly after they arrived home. The Crock-Pot® is also famous for its ability to make tougher, cheaper cuts of meat tender and appetizing, which saves money at the supermarket.
Some major changes have been made to the Crock-Pot® since the 1970s. Many now have digital timers, which can be set so the cooker will shut off, or go to a “keep warm” setting after a certain period of time. The Crock-Pot® also often has low, medium and high temperature levels now, allowing for more control over the cooking process. One of the best innovations has been the removable crock. With the old Crock-Pot®, the cook had to wash the appliance very carefully, since no water needed to get into the housing with the heating elements. This made washing a Crock-Pot® a difficult, annoying job. A removable cooking pot means the cook washes it just as he or she would any other casserole dish, and many cooking pots are dishwasher-safe.
Crock-Pot® recipes are available by the thousands on the Internet and in nearly every cookbook. However, a cook needs to take care to make sure his or her concoctions have a lot of flavor going into the cooking process, since 12 hours in a Crock-Pot® can leach the flavors out of many foods. Adding some seasoning right before serving will help brighten the flavors of the food.
The Crock-Pot® and other slow-cookers are sold everywhere that sells small appliances. They can be found in discount stores, department stores, home stores and online. Prices can vary from $15 U.S. Dollars (USD) to $200 USD, depending on the maker and features. The Crock-Pot® is a good way to cook hot meals for the family, and is also a blessing at parties when you want to keep the cheese dip warm!