Let's leave Grandma's kitchen of the past and travel to my kitchen today. My personal two favorite kitchen appliances are my crock pot and the microwave. Also the dishwasher, but we'll save that story for another time. Today’s blog is about the Crock Pot or Slow Cooker. The Slow Cooker is a countertop electrical cooking appliance which maintains a low cooking temperature which allows for the unattended cooking of beans, stews, roasts, and other meals. The key word for the writer is unattended. You can write and cook at the same time, once the initial prep work is done.
A basic slow cooker consists of a lidded round or oval cooking pot made of glazed ceramic or porcelain, surrounded by a housing, usually metal, containing an electric heating element. The lid is often of glass seated in a groove in the pot edge; condensed vapor collects in the groove and provides a low-pressure seal to the atmosphere.
Raw food and a liquid (such as water, wine, or stock) are placed in the slow cooker. The cooker lid is put on and the cooker is switched on. Some cookers even automatically switch from cooking to warming after a fixed time or after the internal temperature of the food, as determined by a probe, reaches a specified value.
The heating element heats the contents to a steady temperature in the 79–93 °C (175–200 °F) range. The contents are enclosed by the crock and the lid, and attain an essentially constant temperature. The vapor that is produced at this temperature condenses on the lid and returns as liquid. Some water-soluble vitamins are leached into the liquid. The liquid transfers heat from the pot walls to its contents, and also distributes flavors. A lid is essential to prevent warm vapor from escaping, taking heat with it and cooling the contents.
Raw kidney beans, and to a lesser extent some other beans (such as broad/fava beans), contain the toxin phytohaemagglutinin, which is destroyed by boiling for at least ten minutes, but not by the lower temperatures of a slow cooker. Dry beans should be either boiled prior to slow cooking to avoid poisoning, or alternatively, leaving the beans to soak in water overnight, sprouting them, to neutralize the toxin and increase nutritional values. Even a few beans can be toxic, and beans can be as much as five times more toxic if cooked at 80 °C (175 °F) than if eaten raw, so adequate pre-boiling is vital. This risk can be avoided entirely by using canned cooked beans, adding them towards the end of the recipe's cooking time. This is great to remember if you use the slow cooker often.
If you talk about the history of slow cooker and their evolution, you must first go to the iron pot. A person used to hang an iron pot over fire for many hours in order to get the food cooked. The food was simmered in the iron pot and was even buried under coals to get the dish cooked. The iron pot, in its own way, was the first slow cooker.
In the early 1960s the West Bend Corporation developed an electric bean cooker they called the Bean Pot. It was a crockery bean pot that sat on a warming tray. The Naxon Utilities Corporation of Chicago came up with their own bean cooker which they called the Beanery. It was a self-contained unit that was a forerunner of the modern slow cooker. The Rival Company bought Naxon in 1970 and reintroduced it under the Crock-Pot name in 1971.
This began Rival's exploration into the world of slow cookers. The company found that many types of foods cooked wonderfully with this same method. Once this was discovered, twenty-five thousand cookers were brought out and sold to the public as the first official Crock-Pot during 1971.
In 1974, Rival introduced removable stoneware inserts. The brand now belongs to Sunbeam Products, a subsidiary of Jarden Corporation. Other brands of this appliance include Hamilton Beach, West Bend Housewares, GE, Magic Chef, and former American Electric Corporation.
Crock Pots today come in a variety of sizes, designs, colors, and complexity. You can buy a tiny cooker which plugs in to melt a pound of Velveeta for cheese dip to 7 qt. multi-setting crock pot which turns on and off by timer. You can even find a triple slow cooker server with three removable pots and separate controls. So chop your meat and veggies, add a little liquid, and presto, in eight to ten hours you have a meal…and hopefully a finished manuscript.
Join me in two weeks as we discover that other wonderful appliance, the microwave.
Today’s writing prompt: Janie stared at the particles of food which coated her once clean kitchen. Could a Crock Pot explode? She glanced at…