Author Topic: Electric slow cooker - worth it?  (Read 17695 times)

ZiziPB

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Electric slow cooker - worth it?
« on: September 25, 2013, 11:35:09 AM »
I've been debating purchasing a slow cooker for a couple of years now.  It's not so much the money as whether I would use it and whether it would work better for me than my current cooking methods.  I like cooking, am a competent cook and often cook stews, chilis, roasts....  I am single but usually cook in large batches that I portion and freeze or I have lots of leftovers. The vast majority of my cooking is done on weekends when I'm home.  Then during the week I just reheat my leftovers and supplement with steamed veggies and starches, if needed.  I typically use a large cast iron enamel dutch oven which I love because I can brown in it and then slow simmer without switching to a different pot.  I also often use a large roasting pan in the oven.  My oven and cooktop are gas.  If I want to bake or broil a small portion of something (2-3 servings of fish, for example), I use a small electric toaster oven instead of the large gas oven.   Just to give you a sense of what I typically make:  last weekend I made roasted chicken thighs with lemon, thyme, shallots and garlic (yum!) served with buckwheat and steamed broccoli.  I also grilled some chicken breasts to add to my lunch salads this week.  In the freezer I have several containers of lentil stew, traditional chili, lentil soup and zucchini/tomato/sausage dish.  This weekend I am planning to make chicken with mushrooms and cream sauce (good with rice or egg noodles and steamed veggies) and roasted chicken thighs with vegetables (onions, potatoes, carrots, squash, etc.).

So here are my questions: Would a slow cooker be more economical than my current cooking methods in terms of utilities (gas is cheaper than electric, I believe)?  Would my cooking methods translate easily to a slow cooker?  Is there any benefit to using a slow cooker over my current methods?  Anything else I haven't thought about?

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Re: Electric slow cooker - worth it?
« Reply #1 on: September 25, 2013, 11:59:52 AM »
The biggest benefit to slow cooking is that it can be safely left unattended. This is obviously a big bonus for working adults who want to start a meal before leaving for work.

I cook many meals similar to your repertoire and I honestly can't think of anything you can do with a slow cooker that you aren't already doing. You sound like a serious cook with plenty of weekend time. (And your meal plans are winners!) Don't feel like you are missing out on anything not having a slow cooker (again, unless the unattended cooking feature appeals).

bo_knows

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Re: Electric slow cooker - worth it?
« Reply #2 on: September 25, 2013, 12:01:43 PM »
If you enjoy cooking on the weekends, then keep on keepin' on.

Slow cookers provide a way to do less work, and arrive home to a warm meal.  They also allow for the slower cooking of tougher meats so that they become softer and delicious.  I don't know if it's going to be "cheaper" really.



Catbert

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Re: Electric slow cooker - worth it?
« Reply #3 on: September 25, 2013, 12:06:17 PM »
Get one cheap at a thrift store and try it out.  I always see tons of them.

ZiziPB

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Re: Electric slow cooker - worth it?
« Reply #4 on: September 25, 2013, 12:21:09 PM »
I definitely enjoy cooking on weekends and really dislike cooking on weeknights when I'm hungry and tired!  When I get home from work in the evening, I just want to eat, not spend an hour cooking ;-)  But I very much look forward to my cooking sessions on Saturday and Sunday.  Unattended cooking is really not important to me, as I have plenty of time on the weekends to attend to it.  Also, I would be worried about my cat tempted by some smell and trying to get into the pot - do any of you have pets and feel that it is a concern with a slow cooker?

Thanks for a suggestion of checking out thrift stores.  I may do that, although as I said before, the cost is not an issue - I just don't want to get a useless gadget that's going to clutter up my kitchen.

jfer_rose

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Re: Electric slow cooker - worth it?
« Reply #5 on: September 25, 2013, 12:28:13 PM »
Like you I often have marathon cooking sessions on the weekends. I like to cook up multiple things and then I freeze meal-size portions so that I can eat a variety during the week. What I like about having a slow cooker is that I can have a stew cooking in that and then use the oven/stove for other meals simultaneously. I have a small stove, so this really helps.

My cat has never expressed interest in my slow cooker.

Rebecca Stapler

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Re: Electric slow cooker - worth it?
« Reply #6 on: September 25, 2013, 12:30:38 PM »
I use my crockpot during weekdays so I can come home to a warm meal. There's nothing like walking in the door to the smell of something delicious cooking. If you're not interested in unattended cooking then I think the only benefit you might see with a crockpot is that it uses less energy than an electric stove would -- because the crockpot is very well insulated, so once it is up to temperature it don't use as much energy to stay there (just don't remove the lid, or else you have to add 30 more minutes on to the cooking time). It's well suited for stews and chills, but I recommend that you brown the meat and sautť the onions with herbs/spices before putting them in the crockpot to stew.

I have no idea how cats react to slow cookers, so I am no help there but the outside of the pot can get hot (although it depends on the model).

Rural

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Re: Electric slow cooker - worth it?
« Reply #7 on: September 25, 2013, 12:44:36 PM »
I definitely enjoy cooking on weekends and really dislike cooking on weeknights when I'm hungry and tired!  When I get home from work in the evening, I just want to eat, not spend an hour cooking ;-)  But I very much look forward to my cooking sessions on Saturday and Sunday.  Unattended cooking is really not important to me, as I have plenty of time on the weekends to attend to it.  Also, I would be worried about my cat tempted by some smell and trying to get into the pot - do any of you have pets and feel that it is a concern with a slow cooker?

Thanks for a suggestion of checking out thrift stores.  I may do that, although as I said before, the cost is not an issue - I just don't want to get a useless gadget that's going to clutter up my kitchen.

You won't have a problem with a cat; the lids are too heavy and fit well enough that I've never had trouble with my two Great Danes (or the cats either, for that matter).

You may save some on utilities, but given the way you cook, your biggest advantage is the possibility of using cheaper cuts of meat. It's probably worth trying one from a thrift store. Get one with a removable crock; some of the very old ones have the crock as part of the unit, and they're a pain to clean.

ZiziPB

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Re: Electric slow cooker - worth it?
« Reply #8 on: September 25, 2013, 12:49:35 PM »
Thanks for all the responses!  They are very helpful and bring up good points for consideration. 

Cooking space is not an issue (the stove has 5 burners and the oven is very large), but I really like the idea of "walking in the door to the smell of something delicious cooking"...  Also, the "cheaper cuts of meat" are often the best tasting, so I may give a slow cooker a try for that reason alone ;-)

This thread has made me think of so many things I want to cook - I'm getting hungry as I type!!!

bo_knows

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Re: Electric slow cooker - worth it?
« Reply #9 on: September 25, 2013, 01:17:15 PM »
My favorite crockpot meal was always pulled-pork.... until I bought a charcoal smoker. MmmMMmmmmmmmmm

apennysaved

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Re: Electric slow cooker - worth it?
« Reply #10 on: September 25, 2013, 02:01:10 PM »
I use my crockpot to cook many different things.  I make homemade apple or pear sauce when I have some older fruit to get rid of (great for my daughter and I personally love the sauces on pancakes).  I also make some desserts in the crockpot.  Imagine walking in the door to a blueberry cobbler cooking in a crockpot.  There are three of us in my family, so we normally don't have a ton of leftovers.  Some of the recipes may not work well if you are cooking for one as you might have too many leftovers.  Search the Internet for crockpot recipes and you will find lots of different ideas if you want to experiment.

ZiziPB

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Re: Electric slow cooker - worth it?
« Reply #11 on: September 25, 2013, 02:10:22 PM »
Quote
Some of the recipes may not work well if you are cooking for one as you might have too many leftovers.

There is no such thing as "too many leftovers" ;-)

Dulcimina

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Re: Electric slow cooker - worth it?
« Reply #12 on: September 25, 2013, 02:31:24 PM »
I have a crockpot.  I wish I'd gotten a pressure cooker instead.

You can get the same effect of the crockpot with the dutch oven and if you're home anyway, that takes care of any safety issue.  I don't care for food smells in my home, so that's not an advantage for me. 

ZiziPB

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Re: Electric slow cooker - worth it?
« Reply #13 on: September 25, 2013, 02:41:52 PM »
My mom has had a pressure cooker for years and she swears by it, but I never got a hang of it.  She has a stove top one and uses it all the time.  It takes some practice to use one - if you don't do things right you will end up with food that is either overcooked or undercooked.  Also, I've always been terrified of it exploding and food splattered all over kitchen walls and ceiling....

Spork

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Re: Electric slow cooker - worth it?
« Reply #14 on: September 25, 2013, 02:56:30 PM »

If anyone is looking for a stove and loves crockpots...  Many of the older gas cooktops/stoves (from the 40s and 50s) have crockpot equivalents built into them.  They'll be called "deep well" or "thermowell".  Several of the older brands have them and they work wonderfully -- Chambers and Roper for sure had them.

dodojojo

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Re: Electric slow cooker - worth it?
« Reply #15 on: September 25, 2013, 02:58:51 PM »
I love my slow cooker. I found it new on Craigslist for $15 about a decade ago.  It was a gift from a mother to a daughter and the daughter didnít have a clue about it apparently.

I donít even know if they still make it this wayómy momís 2-3 decade old slow cooker is a one piece.  So the ceramic pot is embedded into the cooker.  Mine has a removable ceramic pot and thatís come in handy as a big pot I can also use on the stove and oven.  I have a small kitchen so having an item that can serve multiple purposes is a lifesaver.  It also makes cleanup much easier.  With my momís version, obviously, you have to be careful to get the electronic parts wet.
As mentioned already, slow cooking is a great way to cook cheap tough cuts.  I like it because Iím a bit of a night owl and it allows me to put a meal together late at night.  I set it to cook while I sleep and in the morning, I have lunch ready for the office.

My cats arenít allowed on the kitchen which is where I use the slow cooker.  The lid is super duper heavy duty glass so they wouldnít be able to do much with it anyway.  Plus, the cooker can heat up quite a bit after it gets going so the cats would presumably learn to stay away after the first hot touch.

Dulcimina

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Re: Electric slow cooker - worth it?
« Reply #16 on: September 25, 2013, 03:07:55 PM »
My mom has had a pressure cooker for years and she swears by it, but I never got a hang of it.  She has a stove top one and uses it all the time.  It takes some practice to use one - if you don't do things right you will end up with food that is either overcooked or undercooked.  Also, I've always been terrified of it exploding and food splattered all over kitchen walls and ceiling....

Err on the side of it being undercooked.  Then you can either re-pressurize or finish cooking the regular way.  Still super fast and therefore worth all risks of explosions...

Spork

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Re: Electric slow cooker - worth it?
« Reply #17 on: September 25, 2013, 03:12:35 PM »
My cats arenít allowed on the kitchen which is where I use the slow cooker. 

Hahahaha!   Yeah, mine aren't either.  Wifey and I kid that we have a ghost cat that leaves footprints on the chrome cooktop, since ours are not allowed up there.

kh

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Re: Electric slow cooker - worth it?
« Reply #18 on: September 25, 2013, 03:32:45 PM »
Another perk no one had mentioned: lower energy bills from not heating up your house with an oven. In my old apartment in Texas, my AC couldn't really keep up once it got over 95 degrees, so it tried to run all the time. Turn on the oven on top of that? No way. The slow cooker helped to keep my house bearable. Sounds like you're onto this with the toaster use.

Second the idea of making better use of cheap cuts of meat as well. A gross, gristley, cartilage-filled cut of pork that sells for $2-3/lb is actually MORE DELICIOUS than a nice cut when cooked in a slow cooker, because all that stuff melts down into delicious savory goodness. You can reproduce this with long slow oven heat, but then you'll have your oven on for 6 hours and not be able to leave your boiling hot house.

Spork

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Re: Electric slow cooker - worth it?
« Reply #19 on: September 25, 2013, 03:54:03 PM »
Another perk no one had mentioned: lower energy bills from not heating up your house with an oven. In my old apartment in Texas, my AC couldn't really keep up once it got over 95 degrees, so it tried to run all the time. Turn on the oven on top of that? No way. The slow cooker helped to keep my house bearable. Sounds like you're onto this with the toaster use.

That's also a problem with the oven.  It isn't insulated enough.  I've had that problem.  I don't have it now.

worms

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Re: Electric slow cooker - worth it?
« Reply #20 on: September 25, 2013, 04:03:15 PM »
Our main cooking appliance is our oil-fired range cooker/central heating boiler but we still love the electric slow cooker.  Useful in summer when the range cooker is off but also great for winter stews, curries and soups! 

Also great for communally-catered parties where several people each bring a slow cooker pot. Each pot can be thought of as ten servings.  1 person does a pot of rice or potatoes, 1 a main - pot of chilli, curry or somesuch, 1 a dessert and there you have a meal for ten.  Bigger parties just need more people to bring their full crockpot!

dodojojo

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Re: Electric slow cooker - worth it?
« Reply #21 on: September 25, 2013, 04:34:42 PM »
My cats arenít allowed on the kitchen which is where I use the slow cooker. 

Hahahaha!   Yeah, mine aren't either.  Wifey and I kid that we have a ghost cat that leaves footprints on the chrome cooktop, since ours are not allowed up there.

Ok, I hear ya.  Let me explain.  For whatever reason my cats have a mental block about jumping onto the counter from the floor.  I'm not sure why because physically they could make the jump easy.  Now, does that mean they don't try to get on the counter?  Of course not.  Their little brains are always trying to figure out a way.  My cats have it in their brains that the only way to get onto the counter is from another raised platform--chair, table, cabinet or step stool.  So I have have to fastidiously keep those items a safe distance from the kitchen counter.  The last time I got lax was a few weeks ago when I left a chair tantalizing close and I hadn't figured out one of my cats was acting suspiciously and casing out the situation (pacing, staring at the counter, swishing the tail).  I left the room and CRASH, BOOM, BANG!  My cat's attempted leap from the so close yet so far away chair resulted in whatever was on the counter over all the carpet and a indignant cat at the bottom.  She was yelling at me like I had done something wrong...Think she was embarrassed. 

So that's how my "cats aren't allowed on the counter" rule works.  I'm bracing myself for the day when they figure out they can jump onto the counter from the floor.

Li

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Re: Electric slow cooker - worth it?
« Reply #22 on: September 25, 2013, 04:51:12 PM »
Another great thing about the crock pot is that you can use it in the summer to cook a hot meal without heating up your house by using the oven.

I also have a cat and it's never been a problem.  She doesn't seem to care about it although she does enjoy sampling some of the results at dinner time.

Carrie

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Re: Electric slow cooker - worth it?
« Reply #23 on: September 25, 2013, 05:04:27 PM »
I've just started using my crockpot to make dried beans.  The beans take about 4 hours on high setting.

I personally prefer using my dutch oven for roasts, but it does heat up the house.

jfer_rose

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Re: Electric slow cooker - worth it?
« Reply #24 on: September 26, 2013, 08:54:18 AM »
I have a crockpot.  I wish I'd gotten a pressure cooker instead.

Once again, personal preference rears its head! I just got rid of my pressure cooker. I hated it-- it required far too much hands-on supervision. I much prefer to slow cook food where it is mostly unattended.

ZiziPB

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Re: Electric slow cooker - worth it?
« Reply #25 on: September 26, 2013, 09:09:44 AM »
This turned out to be a great discussion!  Some good points about oven use in the summer.  I tend to have a different menu during the summer for just that reason.  So in June, July and August I make lots more grilled foods, quick stir fries, broiled fish (cooked in a small toaster oven), salads, etc.  I'm not big on baking as a rule so the oven gets barely used in the summer.  As soon as the weather cools off, I switch to roasts, stews, soups.

I've just started using my crockpot to make dried beans.  The beans take about 4 hours on high setting.

I personally prefer using my dutch oven for roasts, but it does heat up the house.
I soak dry beans overnight and then cook them for about an hour.  If I forget to soak them first, I use the quick soak method: I put them in a pot with water, bring to a boil then let stand for an hour.  After that they cook as if they were soaked overnight.
Oh, and I most often use my dutch oven on the top of the stove, not in the oven.  I have a heavy enamel cast iron one and it works wonderfully on low heat.

happy

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Re: Electric slow cooker - worth it?
« Reply #26 on: September 26, 2013, 09:29:08 AM »
Its seems to me that a lot of kitchen appliances are slightly different but overlap quite a lot in their function. You can achieve similar results depending on your preferences and what you own.  (blender v food processor v thunderstick v mixmaster is another "similar but different" cluster)

I slow roast in the oven at times and have a crockpot and a pressure cooker.  If I only had one  method available I'd still be fine. The pressure cooker really can give that slow cooked feel in a very short time. I can make truly awesome bone stocks with the pressure cooker in a really short time. It needs supervision. I can get just about the same result in the slow cooker, but it takes forever, but it needs almost no supervision.

Rural

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Re: Electric slow cooker - worth it?
« Reply #27 on: September 26, 2013, 07:09:41 PM »
Since we have six months of summer, I'll add that a slow cooker works well on a covered porch, too. Use care with this if you live in bear country...

Kamikaze Emu

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Re: Electric slow cooker - worth it?
« Reply #28 on: September 27, 2013, 07:40:22 AM »
We cook a lot, and we use ours a fair amount.  We don't mind cooking but sometimes it is nice to have a less intensive preperation.

We use ours more in winter since it is soup/stew season.  You can make a mean pulled pork in the slow cooker too!

It is really convenient to set up a meal in the am and then eat later in the day without another thought.  Depending on the size of your family you can often have leftovers which adds to the convenience factor. 

I'd say get one, even if you only use it occasionally it is well worth it in time/convenience.

Dee18

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Re: Electric slow cooker - worth it?
« Reply #29 on: September 27, 2013, 09:26:42 AM »
I have a small kitchen so I only have appliances I love.  These include my 4 liter Hamilton Beach slow cooker, bought on sale for less than $20 about 3 years ago.  Makes great main course dishes with very little effort.  It's easy to clean and easy to store.  Before this one, I wasted $2 on an old one at a yard sale.  It was the kind without the removable liner----what a pain that was to clean! 

Elaine

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Re: Electric slow cooker - worth it?
« Reply #30 on: September 27, 2013, 09:42:28 AM »
I'm with you on this OP, I love love love to cook, so I've never really had need for a slow cooker. I also cook mostly on weekends and then supplement, and I genuinely love spending time in the kitchen. The only time slow cookers tempt me is in their ability to cook dried beans during the day when I would be at work. Other than that I kind of think of them as a tool for working parents or something, for people who don't have time to cook when they get home (like have to feed kids immediately, etc.).

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Re: Electric slow cooker - worth it?
« Reply #31 on: September 27, 2013, 09:49:34 AM »
Slow cooked meals are great for days when I have an event/activity scheduled in the evening. I have time to change out of my work clothes, eat, put away the leftovers, and wash the liner (or at least put some water in it to soak) without having to rush. Also eliminates the temptation for takeout since dinner is already waiting for me.

vespito

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Re: Electric slow cooker - worth it?
« Reply #32 on: September 27, 2013, 10:56:50 AM »
I use my crockpot to cook many different things.  I make homemade apple or pear sauce when I have some older fruit to get rid of (great for my daughter and I personally love the sauces on pancakes).

apennysaved - any favorite crock pot applesauce recipes?  I recently decided that I want to start making my own.

MrsPete

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Re: Electric slow cooker - worth it?
« Reply #33 on: September 27, 2013, 02:25:02 PM »
Crock pots (or slow cookers) are the best thing ever, and the simple models are super-cheap.  I own three in different sizes, all useful.  They're not good for everything, but they are the best for pulled pork, a pot roast, etc.  The thing I cook most often is dried beans as a side dish in my smallest crock pot.  No effort:  Just soak them overnight, then leave them cooking all day.   

If you're new to this type of cooking, try this website:  http://www.365daysofcrockpot.com/.  It's written by a woman who decided to use her crock pot every single day of the year.  Before I started reading this blog, I didn't know just how versatile these appliances are. 

Yeah, I have a pressure cooker too, but we're not the best of friends.  The crock pot is much less time-consuming. 

Yes, I love to cook . . . but on busy workdays, it is wonderful to come home and have a meal waiting for me. 

footenote

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Re: Electric slow cooker - worth it?
« Reply #34 on: September 27, 2013, 02:46:01 PM »
I use my crockpot to cook many different things.  I make homemade apple or pear sauce when I have some older fruit to get rid of (great for my daughter and I personally love the sauces on pancakes).

apennysaved - any favorite crock pot applesauce recipes?  I recently decided that I want to start making my own.
Couldn't be easier: http://www.cooks.com/recipe/en7v52nu/crock-pot-applesauce.html

I don't add sugar and or peel the apples, and then sieve it with a food mill. (You could also use an immersion or regular blender.) Enjoy!

(Also, for those with a pressure cooker: http://premeditatedleftovers.com/recipes-cooking-tips/making-apple-sauce-in-a-pressure-cooker/ )

oldtoyota

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Re: Electric slow cooker - worth it?
« Reply #35 on: September 27, 2013, 03:08:51 PM »
It's well suited for stews and chills, but I recommend that you brown the meat and sautť the onions with herbs/spices before putting them in the crockpot to stew.


Yes! The above makes a huge difference.

I can't speak to cost savings, yet I love my slow cooker. Our first one was purchased for 25 cents at a church sale. We are on our second one. When I had the opp to get a second one, I got a slightly larger one.

If you like oatmeal, you can also start cooking it the night before and have it ready when you wake.

Coming home to a warm meal is fantastic too.


vespito

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Re: Electric slow cooker - worth it?
« Reply #36 on: September 27, 2013, 03:24:46 PM »
footenote - many thanks!

I use my crockpot to cook many different things.  I make homemade apple or pear sauce when I have some older fruit to get rid of (great for my daughter and I personally love the sauces on pancakes).

apennysaved - any favorite crock pot applesauce recipes?  I recently decided that I want to start making my own.
Couldn't be easier: http://www.cooks.com/recipe/en7v52nu/crock-pot-applesauce.html

I don't add sugar and or peel the apples, and then sieve it with a food mill. (You could also use an immersion or regular blender.) Enjoy!

(Also, for those with a pressure cooker: http://premeditatedleftovers.com/recipes-cooking-tips/making-apple-sauce-in-a-pressure-cooker/ )

apennysaved

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Re: Electric slow cooker - worth it?
« Reply #37 on: September 28, 2013, 03:00:16 PM »
http://www.food.com/recipe/crock-pot-apple-pear-sauce-with-ginger-452829

Here is the link to the sauce I make.  My in-laws have a pear tree, so we always have them available.  I leave out the ginger because my daughter doesn't really like it.  You can easily do all pears, all apples, or this half & half combo.  Yummy!!

HappierAtHome

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Re: Electric slow cooker - worth it?
« Reply #38 on: September 29, 2013, 05:14:31 AM »
Finally bought a slow cooker this week. Very happy with my choice. Thanks to all on this thread for great ideas about what to cook!