TREND WATCH

Dis­cover the art of slow cook­ing with these Dos and Don’ts of Crock Pot meals

Better Nutrition - - CONTENTS - BY NEIL ZEVNIK

Crock Pot Love Noth­ing beats a slow cooker for nu­tri­tion and con­ve­nience. Plus, nat­u­ral clay for wound healing, vi­ta­mins for se­nior health, and more.

Slow cook­ing at low tem­per­a­tures has been around for a long time, from pit- roasted whole pigs in Samoa to sand- pit clam­bakes in New Eng­land. Start­ing in the 1970s, the pop­u­lar and ver­sa­tile coun­ter­top slow cooker, or “Crock Pot,” warmed its way into our hearts. And for good rea­son.

This slow, con­tained method of cook­ing also al­lows you to re­tain max­i­mum nu­tri­ents in what is es­sen­tially a closed sys­tem. Min­i­mal evap­o­ra­tion oc­curs, so the whole­some good­ness of your in­gre­di­ents re­mains largely in­tact. And talk about con­ve­nience — just prep a few items, toss them in to­gether, push a but­ton, and your de­li­cious din­ner cooks it­self.

Here a few things to keep in mind as you select and uti­lize your slow cooker:

Size. The heat­ing pat­tern re­quires that the con­tainer be at least half to two- thirds full, so be sure to choose the right vol­ume cooker for your needs. If you’re mostly cook­ing for two, then a smaller ver­sion will do; if you’ve got a big fam­ily to feed, or like a lot of left­overs, then a six- or seven- quart model is the way to go.

Fea­tures. Pos­si­bil­i­ties run from a sim­ple sin­gle- dial heat­ing con­trol to an ar­ray of dig­i­tal op­tions. Con­sider how you will use your cooker: will you be mak­ing just sim­ple fam­ily meals while you’re at home? Will you be tak­ing gen­er­ous off er­ings to pot- lucks or the in- laws? Will you need your crock to cook and then hold while you’re at work? All these will aff ect what fea­tures you want.

Meat. The best meats for this cook­ing method are also the cheap­est. Clod roasts, stew meat, shoul­der cuts, rump cuts— all have con­nec­tive tis­sue that breaks down dur­ing slow cook­ing and adds fl avor and ten­der­ness. Just be sure they’re cov­ered with the liq­uid. And for both fl avor and safety, it’s best to sear meats be­fore adding to pot. Liq­uids. Heat­ing liq­uids be­fore adding them to the pot will cut down on cook­ing time by about half an hour, plus it helps the fl avors merge fully.

Leave It Closed. The con­den­sa­tion that forms in­side the lid helps re­turn mois­ture and heat to the dish. If you need to open the lid, keep it brief.

There are tons of cook­books that can guide you as you ex­plore the won­der­ful world of slow cook­ing. Browse a few, pick up a cou­ple recipes off the in­ter­net, and en­joy the ex­tra time and ter­rifi c com­fort food that this mod­ern con­ve­nience pro­vides.

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