Three Cheers for the Crock Pot!
One of the most useful pieces of kitchenware of all time has to be the good old-fashioned crock pot, also known as the slow cooker. The slow cooker, as its name indicates, cooks food very slowly and thoroughly. The principle of it is based on being a large pot that is warmed by a thermostatic element. The food cooks slowly in its own juices, creating a delicious stew or soup.
So why would you want to use this kind of pot in your kitchen? It has several benefits:
- The slow, moist cooking process will soften even the toughest meats, making the food taste wholesome and delicious.
- Food cooked this way is less fattening than fried foods, and it doesn’t lose its goodness and nutrients.
- For any busy cook, such as a working mom, a helpful dad who has little time on his hands, or anyone else who is constantly on the go, the greatest advantage of the crock pot is that it saves time. All you need to do is prepare the ingredients by defrosting the meat, chopping the vegetables, throwing it all in, adding the right amounts of liquid and spices, and turning a switch. And that’s it. You can then walk away and get on with everything else that you need to do that day, and later on you will have a delicious, complete meal.
- The “one-pot” nature of this utensil saves a lot of washing up as well. No extra frying pans and saucepans to clean up. The only dishwashing that you need to do is the actual pot, a chopping board, sharp knife and whatever you used to stir the food before you closed the lid.
- This item of kitchenware has many, many uses. Whole books have been devoted to crock pot recipes, which vary from lamb stew to apple brown betty. You can even use it for various international cuisines, such as Russian food, Jewish cookery, Asian recipes, Southern dishes, and more.
If you want to get the best out of your pot, the following tips may help:
- Always place the vegetables on the bottom of the pot, with the meat on top and softer vegetables, such as tomatoes, on top of that.
- Remember that when you cook a meal this way, the liquids don’t evaporate the same way that they do in the oven or when boiling a pan on top of the stove. Therefore, if you are adapting a different recipe, always remember to reduce the liquid input by at least a third.
- For health and safety reasons, always remember to defrost any meat that you are cooking first. Meats need to be cooked to at least 140 degrees F otherwise this could be quite dangerous and even cause a risk of food poisoning.
- For similar reasons, it is a good idea to start off cooking the food on the high setting and then lower it after the first hour. This helps the food reach the necessary temperatures that would prevent health risks far more quickly.
Categories: Kitchen – Tags: crock pot, slow cooker
Using Bamboo Charcoal in Cooking
Written by Graham Parker on April 15, 2011
Most people are familiar with bamboo shoots in Chinese and Japanese cuisine; they are probably less familiar with the idea of using bamboo charcoal in cooking. The notion of eating bamboo charcoal is repulsive but bamboo charcoal can be effectively used to improve the taste of food and to remove impurities from food.
The Japanese have been using bamboo charcoal in food preparation for hundreds of years. In Japan the benefits of bamboo charcoal are well known. Bamboo charcoal is rich in minerals such as iron, potassium, calcium and sodium. Bamboo charcoal is also highly porous.
The most common use of bamboo charcoal in Japanese cooking is in the preparation of white rice. You can put a couple of slices of bamboo charcoal in the rice cooker with the rice and the bamboo charcoal removes the chlorine from the water and makes the rice taste better.
Another instance of using bamboo charcoal in the Japanese kitchen is for deep fat frying. The Japanese deep fat fry vegetables in a light batter. This is called tempura. If you put a piece of bamboo charcoal in the hot oil it makes the food crispier and improves the aroma of the food. Furthermore, bamboo charcoal helps to clean the fat and extend the life of the oil.
Bamboo charcoal can also be used in the preparation of pickles. When it comes time to eating the pickles the bamboo charcoal has made them chewier and tastier.
Many people not only in Japan but all over the world use a bamboo charcoal filter on their kitchen faucet. This helps to remove chlorine and other unwanted chemicals from the water. You can also put bamboo charcoal in a jug of water and leave it for 4 or 5 hours. It will make the water taste more like mineral water.
Finally, when you have finished using bamboo charcoal in the kitchen you can break it up and put it in the garden. Bamboo charcoal helps plants and flowers to grow quicker.