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Friday, June 3, 2011

slow cooker first attempt - please help!

Hello dear readers

I was wondering if you could please help me answer some questions. a) Did I do something wrong to end up with burnt chicken and potatoes stuck to the sides of the slowcooker stoneware? b) Is there an easier way to remove it other than soaking and scrubbing for a day and night before giving in and letting my husband do it? (preferably is there an easier way other than asking my husband to do it right from the start, because I am stubborn, I want to win against the evil burnt on bits) and ultimately c) When I attempt to use said slowcooker again is there tips to avoid the evil burnt-on bits?

Allow me to explain.

My mother-in-law bought me a slow cooker in February recently. It was a very thoughtful and very personal gift, designed to make my life as a young mum easier. I was very touched. She even bought me four slow cooker recipe base sachets, her favourites in fact, to make it super easy for me. It was very kind and generous.

I used it for the first time on Wednesday afternoon. It took me four months a bit of time to first attempt to use it, because I don't like change I wasn't sure if it was safe to eat slow-cooked food in pregnancy. I'm still not sure, so I cooked the meat before putting it in. Cooking the meat before putting it in kind of defeats the purpose of having a slow cooker because you have to a) cut the meat to cook it b) cook the meat c) get a fry-pan and stirrer and stirrer rest dirty as well as the slow cooker stuff. I thought it would be nice to have dinner ready at about the time we wanted to eat it rather than cooking it early when I have time and having to microwave it. Also I really wanted to give it a try and we had been shopping for all the ingredients so, why not give it a whirl.

The first one I attempted was a potato and chicken curry. I have never cooked myself a curry nor ordered myself a curry from a restaurant. When I smelled the flavour sachet as I got the ingredients ready and closed the lid I was struck by the potency of it. I then had the privilege of smelling it for the next four hours while it cooked away. I went from "argh that smells random" to playing outside with Alexis for an hour while dinner cooked itself, to "ooh that smells pretty good". The last hour or so was torture because I really wanted to eat it I didn't want to wait. I made myself Alexis and myself spaghetti on toast and waited for hubby to get home like a good wifey. Dinner continued cooking while I showered Alexis, and myself, because she had spaghetti everywhere, including my hair.

When Corey got home we heated up some rice I'd prepared earlier and he dished up the curry. It tasted DELIGHTFUL. It was actually really really nice. The meat had fallen apart nicely it was really tender and the potatoes were soft and juicy kind of like they'd been roasted. I don't do roasts or anything that requires the oven being on too long since we took our kitchen gate down (Alexis just kept crying and banging on it every time we locked her out of the kitchen but if the gate's not there she happily amuses herself elsewhere, go figure) but the slowcooker is good because it is up on the bench out of her reach. It also doesn't require me bending over. So I decided I like this slow cooker gizmo. Corey put away the leftovers, I busied myself with being lazy doing something elsewhere, we got Alexis to sleep, went to bed, forgot about it.

The next morning we do our normal morning this and that and then I stumble across it: the slow-cooker. The stoneware was still in there, and there was a layer of chicken and potatoes stuck to the bottom and the sides. Obviously it is best not to leave it sit overnight, but it was too hot to soak in water when we went to sleep (we went to bed really early that night). So there we were, with a disgusting curry-smelling (really potent now) conglomerated mess. My affection for my new gizmo faded.

I soaked it for ages, then attacked it, then soaked it, then attacked it... Rinse and repeat all day and all evening. The only way to remove stuff seemed to be to pull chunks off with my fingernails, which was disgusting, and why was everything so green? (Does curry go green?) I couldn't bring myself to eat the left-overs Thursday night after smelling it and playing with it all day so we ended up getting takeaway.

Finally this morning I surrendered or Corey intervened, depending on your vantage point, and he attacked the stoneware for the slow cooker. With a knife. I'm pretty sure it says "don't do that you'll scratch it" but as I was blissfully ignoring him unaware, I didn't try to stop him. It worked. It's now clean. Ready for the next time I want to use it. I'm not sure what I should try next, chicken bacon and potato or beef ragout. We also have the base for lamb shanks, which I'm quite keen to try, but I'll buy the lamb fresh on the day I want to do it. This slow-cooker gizmo really does encourage me to broaden my cullinary horizons (what do you mean pasta, cheese, frozen peas and tomato sauce is not a real dinner!? It's Alexis' favourite!)but I'm not sure it's "convenient" so to speak. Not yet. Maybe it will be when I get more adapt at using it.. and cleaning it..

Do you have a slow-cooker? Do you use it? Do you have any tips for me? Do you bother pre-cooking the meat? Do you do 8 hours low or 4 hours high or a combination of both? Do you leave it on when you leave the house? How do you know it's not going to burn the house down? Or if you stay how do you stand smelling it for that long without eating it? Do you check on it as it cooks or leave it alone? How do you clean the blasted thing? I was thinking maybe of putting water and lemon juice or vinegar in it and putting it on for a bit. Apparently that works in microwaves? I'm not real good in the kitchen, but I'm trying, for hubby's sake. Our daughter Alexis really would rather eat pasta and cheese though. Or a jar of custard. Or playdough.... maybe she's not the best judge... but when she eats the food everybody's happy.

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At June 3, 2011 at 11:53 PM , Anonymous Vanessa Campbell said...

i am waiting for more comments....i have a slowcooker ben and i got given at christmas (also by my mother inlaw funny enough). i have used it twice...but dont have a clue what i am doing. i dont feel safe letting it 'cook' while i am not home even tho i have been told by many people that they put it on in the morning and its ready when they get home from seems highly irresponsible to me. so the alternative i have is to a/ use it only on a day when i am home (ie. never) or start it as soon as i get home from work and wait ages for it to cook.
PLUSSS i have no idea WHAT to cook in it that i cant just cook normally in a fraction of the time...i dont understand why in this day and age we would want to do ANYTHING slow...???
*eagerly awaiting with Karlee for peoples input*

At June 4, 2011 at 8:16 AM , Anonymous Kahler said...

I have a slow cooker and I LOVE it!!! I dont leave mine on when I'm working but I don't mind leaving it for an hour or so. ( I just make sure there is nothing near it) with cleaning it - if u don't feel like doing it straight away I pour some boiling water and dish washing detergent in the stone ware and leave it over night with the lid on (switched off) the next morning it's cooled down and easy to clean. I haven't made a
Lot of different things but the lamb shanks are really and corned beef is AMAZING! (& not very messy) I just chop up an onion put some in first and rest the meat on it. Cover the meat in water and the rest of the onion. Ad about 1/4 of a cup of white vinegar. 3 - 4 heaped tablespoons of bronwn sugar and a teaspoon of mustard powder. It works if u cook it on high for 4 hours at slow for 8.

At June 4, 2011 at 12:50 PM , OpenID meltdownschaosaspergers said...

And add some cloves to the water as well ;)

Cleaning I do as Kahler said and soak it over night.

I leave it on all day when I am out. I throw everything in it in the morning and turn on low and dinner is ready when we walk in at night.

At June 8, 2011 at 3:06 PM , Blogger Julie said...

I love my slow cooker! We received it from my hubby's Mother and sister as a Christmas present just before Popette was born and its been the best thing. I always use mine on High for 4 hours or longer, depending on what time I put it on and what I'm cooking.

I normally start 'dinner' at 1pm, so it's ready for Popette to eat at her dinner time.

I am sometimes tempted to sample it early, but restrain myself :-)

Depending on what the dish is I might brown the meat first. If its small pieces of chicken in a casserole I wouldn't worry as they have lots of time to cook, but if its big pieces of meat like lamb shanks I would brown them in a pan.

Lamb shanks are to die for in the slow cooker...give it a go. The meat falls off the bone....yumm!!

Tip, I always add a bit more water than what the satchets say, they usually don't say enough and the sauce either sticks to the sides of the slow cooker or burns.

I don't leave the house when its on, like you I don't know if I trust it.

Other recipes ideas; lamb shanks, chicken and vegie casserole, chicken caccitore, beef stew, devilled sausages.

Happy slow cooking!

At September 22, 2011 at 3:23 PM , Anonymous Paula said...

I love my slow cooker - like the others suggested - just add water to it as soon as you take the food out and put the lid on. You can then wash whenever you are ready.

The corned beef is amazing, you can cook it by emptying a can of ginger beer (lemon/orange/lemonade) soft drink and adding enough water to cover and cook for 8-10 hours. I have an auto function on my slow cooker which cooks on high for 2 hours and then switches to low. I really like this setting as it gets the food hot, and then allows it to slow cook.

I tend to use the satchets with some meat and whatever veg is in the fridge and I end up with a lovely meal.

Always make sure the pot is about 1/2 full, otherwise the contents can burn. I have a massive 6.5L pot, so I usually make a double batch of anything and put the left overs into the freezer for a couple of weeks time.


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