I was researching Consumer Reports ratings for a story about appliances when I noticed a bulky electrical pot that is supposed to cook meal for up to 12 hours. I began reading about it and within a couple of hours, Hamilton Beach Set ‘N Forget slow cooker for $50 was in my online shopping basket.
I was very excited to see a huge box waiting to me by my door when I got back from work a couple of days later. I unwrapped the slow cooker, proudly put it on my countertop and looked up some recipes. They all called for a chunk of meat, some kind of liquid and at least eight hours of cooking. Eureka! I thought it would work perfectly for our little family of two since I am usually away from home for 12 to 13 hours while my husband comes home two hours before me. He doesn’t cook and I don’t like to do it when I get home about 7 p.m.
That evening I put a whole chicken into the removable pot, poured a jar of salsa and refrigerated it overnight. Before leaving in the morning, I placed the pot into the slow cooker and set the appliance for 10 hours. My magical slow cooker is programmable and was supposed to switch to the warm cycle once the cooking was done.
The smell of a homemade meal greeted me when I came home the same evening. And more importantly, my husband already ate his dinner and was unloading the dishwasher. I didn’t have to cook! What a relief!
But I am not the first person who discovered the magic of a slow cooker. A national expert on food and diet trends in America, Henry Blazer, said that in 1985 only 8.6 percent of Americans used a slow cooker regularly, while in 2013, 19 percent of American households would fire up a slow cooker sometime in the next two weeks.
“In one generation the number of household using slow cooker more than doubled,” said Blazer, who is also the author of The NPD Group’s Annual Report on Eating Patterns in America. “The beauty of a crock pot is that it’s unattended appliance.”
Longer workdays and extended commute time as well as improved features of modern slow cookers contributed to the growing popularity of the appliance. Today’s crock-pots have locking lids, timers, and probes that check the internal temperature of the meat.
My $50 slow cooker, with all the fancy settings, already made dozens of dinners including steaks, BBQ ribs, beef stews, chilis, chicken, and pulled pork. My husband and I sometimes get tired of the cooked meat so I try to make salads and sandwiches during the weekends. But the slow cooker is still my Monday to Friday appliance. I will keep using it unless I’ll discover something else that would cook for me while I am sitting in the office about 40 miles away from my kitchen.