I bought my 5th slow cooker recently. It’s a tiny 2 quart one that will be primarily for making candles, salves, and similar projects. Are you wondering about the other 4? Each has its purpose. And, no, I’m not a Crock Pot hoarder.
My first slow cooker is a 3 quart, round, stainless steel one. It’s a good size for small meals – we like to eat leftovers (our kind of convenience food), so this pot is generally used to make bone broth. This is a good size to make meals for two.
The next two slow cookers are larger and oval: a matte wine-colored 4 quart and a metallic red 6 quart one. Both are excellent for making soups and stews, and the larger one will accommodate a large roast or most whole chickens, rabbits, or ducks. These crocks have a more accommodating shape for cooking meat; ribs, for example, will fit more easily into an oval than a round crock. Whole poultry fits more easily into an oval crock, too.
The largest is a stainless 8 quart pot. This one was purchased specifically to slow cook a whole Muscovy drake…a goose-sized bird. We don’t eat Muscovy very often, and the drakes we do process are culls (too many drakes is stressful for the whole flock because they fight constantly during breeding season and also wear the poor ducks out with their attentions). The meat is unusual: dark, rich, and “beefy” – its flavor has even been likened to expensive ham. A whole drake is simply too large to fit into a smaller slow cooker. Cooked on low for around 6 hours, the meat is melt-in-your-mouth tender and can be used in many excellent dishes (and the bones go into the 3 quart pot for bone broth, of course). We try to use meat mainly as an accent, rather than the centerpiece of a meal, so we’ll add a handful of the cooked, chopped duck to ramen (A Post-Thanksgiving Meal) or congee (Comfort Food: Congee), where it lends delicious flavor but doesn’t overpower the dish.
After the meal is cooked, the crock obviously must be cleaned…while slow cooker liners seem to be the rage, we can’t see adding to the planet’s plastic problem – an overnight soak in soapy water will loosen up even the most intimidating crust in the stoneware crock, and a little elbow grease will get it squeaky clean. Don’t be lazy and buy the slow cooker liners…get a nice little workout, instead!
Are you wondering why all of the slow cookers we show are manual, rather than the digital models now available? Well, we had a digital one and (to our chagrin) it died prematurely while a whole chicken was sitting in it. It also had a bad habit of becoming oddly hot, even when on the “low” setting, which is what we use almost exclusively. Simply put: our manual models are still cooking just as well as the day we purchased them, and the digital one died. Enough said.
Someone once referred to meals cooked in a slow cooker as “peasant food”. It makes us chuckle as we enjoy our truly farm to table, perfectly-cooked, easily prepared meals…peasant food? Only if the peasants are gourmets! The next time you have a whole pastured chicken sitting in your fridge, put it in your slow cooker along with chopped potatoes, carrots, celery, and onion, and pour cream of mushroom soup on top. Cook on low for 8 hours. Afterward, the chicken will be tender and delicious, with veggies in a savory gravy: a satisfying one pot meal.
Let us eat “peasant food” often!
Do you use your slow cooker regularly? Share your experiences, recipes, and tips in the comments!