The first slow cookers came in only one style, but today they come in all shapes and sizes. There are manual cookers, programmable cookers with digital timers and small cookers designed solely for heating dips. Today's slow cookers can be either round or oval to accommodate different types of food, and they range in size from one to seven quarts.
Benefits of Using a Slow Cooker
Using a slow cooker is a great way to save time and still prepare a nutritious meal. Assemble the meal in the morning, put it in the slow cooker, and at the end of the day, dinner is ready -- without much mess or many dishes to clean. The device requires only a small amount of electricity only to do its work -- compared with a standard oven, a slow cooker uses a lot less energy, so it won't heat up an entire kitchen the way an oven does.
Cooking with a slow cooker can also be an economically smart choice, because you can use cheaper cuts of meat. Condensation acts as a self-baster, so traditionally tougher cuts of meat become tender in a slow cooker. And just because you're saving time and money doesn't mean you're sacrificing taste. Vegetables cooked in a slow cooker can absorb stocks and spices, giving them fuller flavors.
The high and low settings on the device allow you to adjust the temperature for the length of time you want the meal to cook. Although cooking on low is completely safe, if you're home during the process, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends cooking on high for an hour first to ensure the food is thoroughly cooked.