Slow cookers are basically lifesavers for so many households. These affordable kitchen appliances allow fuss-free meal preparations and easily prevent you from slaving away on the stove for hours when cooking stews and pot roasts. Therefore, they are a must-have for those who love home-cooked meals no matter how hectic their day-to-day lives can be. But; are slow cookers healthy in today’s cooking.
While they are simple to use, if you haven’t really used a slow cooker before, you might be wondering about a lot of things about these appliances.
So, to help you get to know them better and assist you in deciding whether to get one or not, here are the answers you might be looking for.
Are Slow Cookers Healthy?
The first thing you might be worried about is the health factor of these appliances. The long cooking time of a slow cooker meal could make you think that the food is overcooking and nutrients are being lost.
This, of course, is a very valid concern as you always want the best for your family and their health. The high temperatures of conventional cooking can destroy many nutrients. However, even with slow cooking, some nutrients can be lost due to the long cooking times. But not so many, also you should to be very thorough in how you safely prepare food and stick to a few basic cooking rules so that cooking in the slow cooker is healthy.
What you should know about slow cookers is that they indeed provide a very healthy way to prepare food. This is mainly because you’ll mostly just use fresh and natural ingredients to cook in a slow cooker, there is little risk involved regarding unhealthy food additives as they occur in processed foods
You might still need to do a bit of sauteing and browning a cut of meat if the recipe recommends it, but in general, simmering meat for long hours is as safe, if not safer, than cooking on your stovetop.
Can you overcook food in a slow cooker?
Cooking food slowly over many hours produces delicious, tasty cooking results. It is a gentle cooking method that will largely retain valuable nutrients and vitamins, especially in vegetables. Actually with most ingredients you don’t have to worry that you overcook food in a slow cooker.
However, there are a few exceptions:
- Dairy products such as cream or milk should be added only near the end of the cooking time to prevent curdling.
- Rice and pasta often cook too fast for a slow cooker and can become very soft and soggy. They are not very suitable to prepare in a slow cooker.
- Fish and some kinds of seafood can easily be overcooked in a slow cooker, become very soft quicky and fall apart.
You need to pay attention and cook strictly according to the recipe when cooking the above.
Will Slow Cooking Destroy Nutrients and Enzymes in Your Food?
If you’re worried about the retention of nutrients and enzymes in the ingredients, fret not. These appliances may take a while to finish cooking but it doesn’t mean that it overcooks and destroys all of the good things found in your food.
While there are conflicting opinions on slow cooking and nutrient retention, a lot of experts are actually confident that slow cooking can be a better option if you want to eat healthier.
As these appliances make use of the natural oils and juices found in your ingredients, they can be better for your health than using cooking oil or additional and artificial flavorings for your food.
Then there’s also the fact that slow cookers have a sealed lid to keep the moisture inside. This also helps in recapturing the nutrients that evaporate due to high heat.
This allows the appliance to retain as many nutrients as possible, guaranteeing that you can still get a good dose of the great things in your food.
Are Slow Cookers Safe?
Another frequently asked question about slow cookers is its safety. As the FDA only recommends that food should only be left sitting out at room temperature for just two hours at the most, some tend to worry about the long cooking hours breeding bacteria and spoiling your food.
The additional heat doesn’t seem to be very reassuring, too, as the heat tends to speed up the spoilage.
The fact that the device is powered on for hours is another thing that tends to make people worry. Leaving food cooking unattended can also be something worrisome for some people.
So, are slow cookers healthy to cook in? Yes, as long as you use your unit properly.
When it comes to spoilage, studies have shown that direct heat, steam, and lengthy cooking can destroy bacteria that can spoil the food. This makes it perfectly safe for cooking and guarantees excellent results as well.
However, you should also be aware that certain ingredients have different characteristics as well, so make sure to check first how you should prepare each ingredient before throwing them into your slow cooker.
You also don’t have to worry about the unit’s lengthy operation as it is engineered to work for long hours. However, as not all slow cookers are made the same, you should look for the ones that are quality built and made.
There’s also nothing to worry about leaving slow cookers unattended for long hours. It’s not like leaving the stove on as its heating element isn’t an open flame.
However, safety precautions like placing it on top of a heatproof surface and away from flammable items, as well as avoiding filling the pot with ingredients to the brim should still be observed.
What temperature does a slow cooker cook at?
Slow cookers come usually with 3 different temperature settings.
At the low level, most cookers keep the temperature at around 170 degrees F. While the food slowly simmers at this heat level, this temperature is sufficient to kill bacteria. Power consumption is around 100 Watts. Use this setting as often as possible, but keep in mind that cooking time will be around 8 hours for most dishes
At the high setting, the food in the pot will reach temperatures of just under 200 degrees F. Cooking is much faster than at the low setting level, use this if you want to have a meal ready in less time. The power consumption at this level will obviously higher at around 200 Watts or more depending on the model and the crock size.
The food is cooked somewhere between “low” and “high”. This stage is selected depending on whether you want to shorten or extend the cooking time according to the recipe.
Can Slow Cookers Handle Frozen Ingredients?
It is not recommended to directly use frozen ingredients in most slow cookers, especially those with ceramic crocks. The extreme switch in temperature can cause the material to crack and damage your unit, so make sure to avoid doing so.
How Do You Clean a Slow Cooker?
Cleaning a slow cooker shouldn’t be a hassle. Most units have dishwasher-safe crocks and other parts that get in touch with food so you’re not required to slave away after using these appliances for cooking.
However, if food overflowed and got to the bottom of the unit, you should never soak it in water. Clean it with a damp cloth instead and make sure to thoroughly remove every remnant of the spilled food before using the unit again.
Are slow cookers healthy to cook with?
Slow cookers are, without a doubt, healthy, safe, and fuss-free. So if you’re thinking of adding an excellent appliance to your kitchen, a good slow cooker should definitely be at the top of your list.