Slow cooking originally gained popularity in the 1970s and some 30 years later sales of slow cookers were on the rise again. UK doesn’t fall behind USA in terms of slow cooker popularity — lots of people even in the smaller neighbourhoods such as Croydon turn to the help of the slow cooker.
Nowadays slow cooking has a lot of competitive advantages over cooking in an oven — cleaning, for example, is quite easier with slow cookers. They are much smaller, at the size of a big casserole, which means less cleaning time. Much less than what waits for you with a large free range stove. On the other hand, energy efficiency and healthy cooking are amongst the rest of the perks that make up the advantageous slow cooking a feast for the soul.
Over the last decade, we’ve seen slow cookers’ revival with the emergence of a range of newer appliances such as manual, digital, and portable. Materials range from non-stick coating to stoneware and ceramics. There’s also a wide variety of liners and lids. This resurgence of the slow cooking method naturally set a new trend in the cooking trade with new gourmet recipes, ethnically influenced dishes, as well as a twist to classics such as soups, stews, roasts, and curries.
Slow cookers are available at prices ranging anywhere from £10 to £100 and are generally thought of as an energy- and time-saving option for healthier cooking. Considering you can easily choose an appliance based on your specific needs at an affordable rate and a myriad of recipes for what to cook in it, let’s see what its advantages are compared to the traditional electrical oven.
Maintenance and Cleaning
By being one of the most hated household chores, oven cleaning is not one of the easiest to manage. It’s simply messier to cook in an oven. It takes a lot of time, especially if the cooker’s been neglected for a while, and, in most of the cases, a professional oven cleaning hand is needed to give an edge to the messy situation. On the other hand, slow cookers are much like large pots. You know how to clean a large pot — rinse it over the running water, splash with a dishwashing powder and give it a good rub — but it will take you no more than 10 minutes. Stove washing, on the other hand, takes around 2 hours, according to expert Croydon oven cleaning technicians. Do the simple maths and you’ve got yourself a winner in this category.
It’s hardly a coincidence that the slow cooker was first introduced at a time when more and more women were getting jobs and leaving the housewife occupation. This device allowed them to simply add the ingredients in it, let it do its magic all day and come back home from work to a hot meal. And this function of the slow cooker is still a major advantage today when busy lifestyles and the myriad of eat-out, take-out, and drive-in options are a reason and excuse to skip the cooking part. What’s more, if you are terrified by the thought of having to spent copious amounts of time cleaning the stove, then you are in for a pleasant surprise — there isn’t so much so to clean a slow cooker. Its compact size predetermines it.
Time saving is a major advantage, as the slow cooker allows for an easy one-pot meal but the method of slow cooking also means healthier food. With slow cookers, you are always starting with the meal in a polished appliance, sparkling with cleanliness, whereas the same thing can’t be said about ovens. Most of the times, it will be dirty as hell.
Unlike in the oven, where high temperatures can both break down the nutrients in food and create unhealthy chemical compounds, cooking on low temperature allows each ingredient to preserve its nutrients and prevents the production of dangerous chemicals. This means that a meal cooked in a slow cooker retains more antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals than a meal cooked in the oven. It also keeps the freshness and flavours of each ingredient more efficiently and reduces the risk of overcooked or burnt food.
Flavour and Succulence
Something that might come through as a disadvantage for the slow cooker is the inevitable condensation on the lid that comes with this method of cooking. Throughout the many hours of cooking, the drops formed on the closed cover will inevitably drip into the meal and dilute the flavour of meal components. The slow cooker is the best way to turn stew meat and dried beans into melt-in-your mouth goodness but if you want to add delicate ingredients like sweet peppers, zucchini, asparagus and chicken breasts, or hydrated vegetables such as tomatoes, you risk ending up with a soupy consistency even when the recipe wasn’t intended as soup.
The long simmering process — sometimes up to 10 hours, might make the flavour of fresh spices too strong, overpowering all other ingredients. For recipes which include aromatic spices such as thyme and bay leaf, less is more. Unless the recipe is specifically intended for slow pot cooking, use less of the spice than what it says. When it comes to recipes, the most typical ones for slow cookers are soups, stews and tender meats. Recipes that require large cuts of meat or other ingredients which need browning are hardly suitable for slow cooking. It is only natural that if you want a crispy grilled chicken you won’t use the slow cooker but rather the counter-top grill.
In addition to saving time, slow cookers are also considered an energy-efficient option. They run with a little more energy wattage than that of a light bulb — 70–250, while a conventional electric oven uses 2000–3000. However, electric ovens maintain temperature by switching their elements on and off, often being on for only about one fourth of the actual cooking time. The heating elements in slow cookers, on the other hand, stay on continuously, and considering the fact that they are used on high for at least twice the amount of time as an electric oven, the difference in energy usage will probably not be significant. What you also need to consider when comparing energy consumption is the various factors which affect the energy efficiency of the oven — for example, the number of dishes you can cook at the same time in your oven, how much heat escapes when you open the oven door, as well as how well insulated and clean the oven is.
With gas stoves, it’s harder to determine whether you save on energy compared to slow cookers and just how much the savings would be. Typically, natural gas is a more efficient fuel than electricity. However, it depends on the appliance you are using — newer electric-ignition gas ranges are about 30 percent more efficient than older models, while slow cookers’ efficiency depends on their size, as smaller pots are more efficient.