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A slow cooker is something that I've always secretly lusted after but was never really sure if it was just a gadget that would get used once then gather dust in the back of the cupboard. I wasn't even entirely sure if a Crock-Pot (which I've seen people raving about on various cooking forums online) was the same thing as a slow cooker. Well, needless to say, when I was asked if I'd like to review a Crock-Pot slow cooker, I jumped at the chance. And I can now tell you, it most certainly isn't a gadget. It's a fabulous investment that can help get your family eating home-cooked nutritious meals rather than junk when you've rushed in from work at the end of the day and need to get something ready fast.
I wasn't really sure how it all worked but, if you've ever used a bread machine, it works along the same lines. You sling all the ingredients in, set the timer and the temperature setting (high or low) and let it all get on with it, safe in the knowledge that it will switch over to Keep Warm mode so that you can walk in to your home after a long day at work and have a piping hot dinner ready and waiting for you. The first waft of home-cooked dinner as you open the door is such a fantastic way to relax into the evening and removes so much stress and rushing around, which is always the last thing you want to do when you're feeling tired and frazzled. I do feel sorry for the dogs who stay at home with the tantalising smells all day long though !
I am seriously impressed with how versatile the slow cooker is. I was expecting it to be perfect for stews and pot roasts but was amazed to see that the recipe book that comes with it, featuring 15 recipes from top chef Phil Vickery, even offers desserts ! The Crock-Pot website offers even more recipe ideas and cooking instructions and there are some really exotic and delicious sounding meals on there that I can't wait to try.
What is really funky is that the stoneware pot part of the Crock-Pot can be removed and used in the oven, microwave or on the hob, and also used to store leftovers in the fridge or freezer (although, if it's in the freezer, you can't use it in your slow cooker !). It looks really impressive so you can take it to the table to serve up. The fact that you can use the stoneware directly on the hob (which is something you can't do with all slow cookers) allows you to brown meat or caramelise onions and vegetables before putting them in the slow cooker, thereby adding great depth of flavour to your meals.
We received the biggest size of Crock-Pot which has a 5.7 litre bowl that can cater for 6 people so it's ideal for a big family or a dinner party. Alternatively, you can make a huge pot of your favourite dish then freeze the leftovers. Crock-Pot have really done everything they can to make your life easy - it has a special Rinse Clean coating designed to make washing up easy and the pot can even go in the dishwasher.
I decided to do the ultimate test and try a Beef Bourguignon. Married to a Frenchman, it's a dish that I have cooked many times but, although the flavour is good, we're always disappointed by how tough and chewy the meat is. We bought the same cut of meat as usual and I used the same recipe but it was unrecognisable - the flavour was much stronger, the vegetables were perfectly tooth-tender and infused with flavour and the meat just melted in the mouth. The recipe always says to cook for 6-8 hours but let's be honest, who has the time to do that ?! Well, with the slow cooker, it's possible. I love setting the timer and getting dinner cooking before I head off to work, knowing that it will all be done when I get home at the end of the day. It's the closest I've ever come (since being a grown-up !) to having someone lovingly prepare a home-cooked meal for me so that I just have to get in and put my feet under the table and it's all ready !
It's far from a gadget, it's an absolute lifesaver for overstretched working mums and has radically improved our eating habits, as we no longer have to rely on quick fix frozen meals that are often lacking in taste and nutritional qualities. Three cheers for Crock-Pot !
star rating : 5/5
RRP : £64.99
for more information : http://www.crockpot.co.uk/Index.aspx