Slow-cooking is a technique that means what it says: Foods are slow cooked, generally for several hours, to create the finished product. The slow-cooking can be done in the oven, on a barbecue grill, or in a crock pot. The following are recipes you will find on GourmetRecipe for slow-cooked foods.
Slow-cooking in the oven is usually referred to as “roasting”. Foods are roasted to either dry them out and make them crisp or to make them tender, depending on the recipe. An example of a food that is slow-cooked to dry it out would be oven-dried tomatoes. However, this Coffee Pot Roast is roasted for four hours in a 325 degree oven to insure the meat will be tender and juicy when it is cooked. The meat is soaked overnight in vinegar to make it even more tender. Cuban Roast Pork Shoulder requires a cooking time of three hours and 30 minutes, also in a 325 degree oven to cook it to perfection.
Slow-cooking can be done on the grill, either with gas or with charcoal. The secret is to cook the meat a long time at a slow heat. Grilled Whole Chicken, chicken seasoned with cloves of garlic, is a whole bird slow-roasted in the center of the grill for about 1 1/2 hours to ensure the meat is tender and juicy. The ribs in this Honey and Onion Ribs recipe are rubbed with a dry mix of brown sugar, cumin, garlic powder, pepper, paprika, then chilled for 2 hours, grilled for at least 1 1/2 hours, and then served with a spicy sauce of olive oil, onion, tomato sauce, beer, honey, vinegar and Worcestershire sauce for a mouth-watering zest and tenderness.
A crock pot is often used to slow-cook foods for a long period of time, like all day or overnight. The ingredients for a dish can be put into a crock pot, left to cook for up to 14 hours (depending on the recipe), and it will be ready without any more fuss or bother. It’s a great way for busy cooks to prepare meals. For instance, a pot of Slow-Cooked Corned Beef and Cabbage can be prepared in less than five minutes. Just combine all the ingredients – beef brisket, onion, cabbage, pepper, vinegar, sugar and water – cover and cook. That’s it! Then enjoy it when it’s done at the end of the day. The filling for Pulled BBQ Beef Brisket Sandwiches can be prepared in 10-15 minutes, and left to cook all day, 5-8 hours, depending on the heat level. The result will make 5-6 sandwiches to feed your hungry family. You can make soup for lunch or for the whole family with this Vegetable Beef Soup recipe. It will make enough for 10 servings, but if you don’t want or need that much, you can cut the ingredients in half for a smaller batch. Either way, it will be ready in about 8 hours.
Slow cooking allows amateur or professional cooks to toss ingredients in a pot and walk away – often for hours. It saves time in the kitchen and is an easy way to create moist, delicious food.
Slow Cooker vs. Crock Pot
Although the terms “slow cooker” and “crock pot” are often used interchangeably, there is a difference between the two. Slow cookers typically only have heating elements on the bottom, whereas crock pots have heating elements on the sides of the pot, too. However, the term “slow cooking” applies to any cooking method that cooks food in a slow manner. This includes not just crock pots and slow cookers, but also stewing and roasting.
Slow Cooking Basics
The basic method of using a slow cooker is to place the food in the bottom of the cooker, putting any vegetables on the very bottom, followed by any meat. Liquid goes in last. Depending upon the quantity and type of food that’s prepared, it stays in the slow cooker for about 4 to 12 hours. This allows the cook to leave the kitchen and tend to other things; it’s even safe to leave the house. The food will not burn because the slow cooker remains at a low temperature of 200 to 300 degrees F, depending upon which setting is used.
Preparing the Fo od
One of the strong points of slow cooking is that it’s far easier to take tougher, less expensive cuts of meat and make them tender. Slow cookers remain covered during the cooking process, allowing steam to build up in the pot. This not only keeps the food moist, but it helps melt the collagens in tougher cuts of meat, making them easier to chew.
For the best flavor, it’s smart to pre-brown meat - but it isn’t absolutely necessary. Ground meats should be pre-cooked or the meal will end up o verly greasy. To ensure even cooking, cut meat, poultry, or vegetable chunks into pieces of approximately the same size. If cooking a large piece of meat (like a roast or small poultry), make sure it fits into the slo w cooker easily. If it’s crammed into the pot, it won’t cook evenly.
The Finished Meal
Slow cookers are best used with r ecipes designed for crock pots or slow cookers. However, it’s possible to adjust recipes to make them suitable for slow cookers. Please refer to our article on crock pots for details for information on how to do this.
Do remember foods that cook for a long period of time tend to loose their color. To brighten up a slow cooked meal, be sure to add some chopped herbs or seasonings shortly before serving. For example, one minute before turning off the slow cooker, you might add chopped chives or parsley. Be sure to also taste the meal before serving, adjusting the seasoning with salt and pepper, if needed.
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