Low and slow

by Betty Wrenn Day - Posted on Jan 09, 2013 - 01:48 PM

Photo: Once Crock-Pot by Rival was the only slow-cooker on the market, but it wasn’t very long before many other manufacturers offered this easy way of cooking under their brand name. Today they come in many sizes, colors and features, some with automatic timers. Photo by Betty Wrenn Day

Once Crock-Pot by Rival was the only slow-cooker on the market, but it wasn’t very long before many other manufacturers offered this easy way of cooking under their brand name. Today they come in many sizes, colors and features, some with automatic timers. Photo by Betty Wrenn Day

Ever since man tamed fire, slow cooking has been employed as a way to soften and tenderize tough slabs of meat and fibrous rooty vegetables. In prehistoric times wild root plants were cooked in a slow-burning fire pit for a full 24 hours. Our grandmothers slow-cooked in a big iron pot that sat on the stove most of the day.

In today’s world when we speak of slow-cookers, better known as Crock-Pots (which is a trademark), we are not using a new method of cooking, just a better method. The pot is an electrical appliance which maintains a relatively low cooking temperature compared to other cooking methods.

In the year 1970, Rival Industries purchased Naxon. With the rights for the Beanery (a bean-pot cooker), Rival began exploration into the world of slow-cookers. The company soon found that many types of foods cooked wonderfully in these appliances. In 1971, 25,000 cookers were brought out for sale to the public as the first official Crock-Pot.

Although slow-cookers today are not perhaps as popular as they once were (after only 10 years on the market, Crock-Pot sales reached $30 million in 1981), why not give them a try? Even if you have never used one, you’ll be pleased what you can create with it.

The advantages of slow-cookers are numerous. The low temperature makes it almost impossible to burn food even if cooked too long. But keep in mind that some meats and most vegetables will become nearly tasteless or "raggy" if overcooked. The slow simmering tenderizes tough cuts of beef, pork and chicken, and also brings a fullness of flavor to homemade soups. When it comes to cooking beans and legumes, the slow cooker is the only way to go. No more soaking overnight. Fill the cooker with water, add beans or legumes, turn heat low and go to bed. When you arise in the morning the contents of your pot are ready for use.