Well-Equipped: Slow Cooker

This post is the first in a series this year about how to use the right pans for the right recipes.  This month, I’ll tell you all about slow cookers with a turkey chili recipe to try at the end that’s sure to be a Super Bowl party star.  Next month, you’ll learn all about casserole dishes.  In the meantime, read about Sarah’s Philadelphia Fundraiser!

Slow Cooker Words

The slow cooker is a genius invention affectionately and commonly known as the “Crock-Pot” in my kitchen.  Slow cookers come in different sizes and shapes but the basic idea is the same:  A ceramic or porcelain pot sits inside a metal container with a heating element and is topped with a glass lid.

Slow cooker recipes are special because they call for more liquids and often have just a handful of ingredients.  “Low and slow” cooking is best for savory soups, hearty stews, as well as spicy chili and gumbo.  Cheap cuts of meat work best and become tender and succulent.

One perk of slow cookers is that they are portable.  That’s actually how I acquired mine when a friend left it at my house.  It was officially adopted after being abandoned for two years.  I use it so often that it’s a wonder why I never had one in the first place!

Some folks turn on their slow cookers when they leave in the morning so they can come home to a hot, ready-to-eat meal at night.  I’m a little wary about leaving mine unattended so it’s perfect for when I’m working around the house and need to make a tasty, perfectly-cooked meal at any time during the year.

My slow cooker has buttons for high (four hours at around 200 °F) and low (eight hours at around 170 °F) plus a “warm” mode (a steady 160°F until turned off).  I hear there are more advanced ones that have additional settings, can start on a delay and even tutor algebra!

A big bonus is that there’s only one pot to wash during clean-up time.  Granted you need to roll up your sleeves and wash it by hand, the only real trouble I’ve ever run into is scrubbing what’s left behind from the outer liquid that always cooks just a little bit faster.  It’s easy to clean though, you can watch more about that here.

I’ve had a few slow cooker mishaps, usually when taste-testing contents as they are cooking.  It’s always a lot hotter than I think it will be and my burnt tongue often reminds me of this.

Another disadvantage is from a nutritional standpoint since slow cookers zap the  vitamins and nutrients of your ingredients as a result of heat vs. time.  A culinary friend once told me to never use dry beans (you have to prep them first) and Mom always said to keep the Crock-Pot on low until you refrigerate what’s inside.

Now that you know, grab your slow cooker and let’s try a recipe!  Below is my very own chili recipe that features ground turkey, fire roasted tomatoes, golden corn and tons of fresh cilantro.  When you’re done, watch this clip of Jimmy Fallon cooking with Martha Stewart.  I’m jealous of Martha’s flip-top slow cooker and Jimmy is deliciously funny as always!  He adds shredded cheese, fresh tomatoes, cilantro, sour cream, lime and a few tortilla chips to his chili.  What would you add to yours?

Sarah’s Super Duper Chili
Serves 4.  Double and triple as needed. 

What You Need:
1-28 oz Italian-style peeled plum tomatoes
1-15 oz. chickpeas
1-14 oz. Hunts Fire-Roasted Diced Tomatoes
1-15 oz. red kidney beans
1-15 oz. golden corn whole kernel
2 lb. package of fresh ground turkey breast
Salt, red and black pepper garlic paprika
Half cup cilantro, fresh chopped
Half onion sliced thin
Spices (to taste): Salt, Crushed red pepper, Chili powder, Black pepper, Garlic, Paprika

What You Do:
1. Assemble all your ingredients into the slow cooker.
2. Cook turkey in a pan on medium-high until browned.
3. Add turkey to slow cooker crock and mix well.
4. Pick the setting that best works with the time you have before it’s time to eat!