Everyday Cheapskate: Take it Slow and Easy!
That slow cooker you keep on reserve for the cold months of winter is a perfect solution for summer, too -- especially during these days when you just cannot look another takeout meal in the face. Think about it: A slow cooker creates very little heat and costs only pennies a day to operate. And with energy costs skyrocketing, slow cooking is good news for your grocery budget and your electricity bill, too.
But, you may protest, I've tried to use a slow cooker, and the results have been disappointing at best. That might be because you are not sure what you're doing. You need a crash course in slow cookery!
KNOW YOUR COOKER
The slow cooker, also known as a Crock-Pot, is a kitchen appliance where the heat surrounds the stone cooking insert (crock) in some models or where the heat comes from underneath in others. The most common models have a removable pot insert. Generally, the two heat settings are low (200 degrees) and high (300 degrees).
SLOW COOKER RECIPES
Until you become slow cooker proficient (soon!), stick closely to a recipe that has been specifically developed for slow cooking. My favorite resource is the website Allrecipes.com. When you get there, search "slow cooker" in the search bar. You'll discover more than 2,000 slow cooker specific recipes.
CURB THE URGE
Resist the impulse to peek inside the Crock-Pot, unless the recipe directs you to stir partway through. Every time you lift the lid, you will need to add about 20 minutes cooking time.
Don't fill the insert so much that the lid doesn't fit tightly. Without a tight fit, a vacuum will not form, and that can dramatically affect cooking time.