When it comes to easy cooking, the British love one pot wonders. For best results we recommend using a slow cooker. Cheap to run, they bring out the flavour of the food and most are easy to clean. Not only that but they work wonders with cheaper cuts of meat and make the most of vegetables. Prices start from around £20 and there are various guides available online to help you find the best one.
A guide to using a slow cooker
Think carefully about the size you need. The size quoted rarely refers to the space available for cooking. If you want to cook a shoulder of lamb or pork or a whole chicken with vegetables you’ll need to be thinking about 5 litres plus. Oval shaped slow cookers are especially suited to cooking whole joints and chicken. Also consider whether you want the insert to be hob-safe for browning.
As indicated above, it’s possible to turn cheaper cuts of meat into melt-in-the-mouth feasts. Shoulder of lamb or pork work well or even beef brisket or lamb neck. Don’t waste time chopping vegetables neatly – one pot meals are traditionally rustic. Designed to cook slowly for 6 hours +, it’s easy to prepare one pot casseroles the night before.
Unless you are able to render fat first by browning, it’s worth trimming fat from the meat. But don’t remove all of it, because it will still add some flavour. It’s also worth remembering slow cookers are sealed. Liquid won’t evaporate in the same way as from a casserole cooked in the oven. Therefore you will probably need less liquid. One tip is to toss meat in flour before adding to the slow cooker. This will thicken any liquid without adding a floury taste.
Slow cookers often come with variable settings – low, medium and high. We recommend using the low setting, at least initially. You don’t need a specialist cook book, at least to start with. Have fun with some of your family favourites, adjusted as suggested above. Recipes where ingredients can all be added at the start work best. Remember you can brown food if you buy a slow cooker with a hob friendly insert. But it’s not essential – you can brown meat and cook spices in a frying pan before transferring it to the slow cooker.
Cooking times are slightly harder to predict. If you are used to cooking a casserole for 2 hours, try leaving it on low for 6-8 hours.