Crock-pots… almost everyone has one, but do they use them? Many just stay in the cupboard, completely underused. Slow cooking has been used for hundreds of years to get the most out of food, but it used to be a lot more work than it is today.
Way Back When the Origins of Slow Cooking
Slow cooking has been around ever since people figured out how to make an iron pot. One could be hung over a fire for many hours while food simmered in it, or a smaller one could be filled with ingredients and buried in the coals to cook. People have long known the benefits of slow cooking their food. The obvious detriment to these methods was the attention it took tending the fire all day and stirring the contents of the pots.
Cooking on a low heat for many hours tenderizes tough meats through the softening of the fibers. The natural collagen also melts, creating a tender, delicious meal that is full of gelatin and nutrition. Long cooking times may also be beneficial to tough root crops, rendering them more digestible. Dried beans and lentils also benefit from a long cooking time on low heat.
Today’s Crock Pot not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker
In the 1950s, Naxon Utilities Corporation of Chicago created the first slow cooker. It was called the Beanery All Purpose Cooker, and it was designed to help people cook baked beans. It was basically a ceramic pot that fit inside a metal pan with heating elements around the inside. This kept the heat even all around the food, but kept it out of direct contact.
Naxon was bought by Rival in 1970. The Beanery was reinvented as the Crock Pot. During the 1970s, more women were joining the workforce, and the Crock Pot helped them manage to feed their families as well. It was easy enough to fill it before they left for work and be able to come home to a hot meal.
Over the years, Crock Pots have evolved. They now have ceramic pots that are removable, making cleaning much easier than the old models. With the older pots, one had to be careful during cleaning that the electrical cord not get wet. The new ceramic inserts are dishwasher safe, as well, making clean up even easier. Some newer crock-pots also have an additional setting. They come equipped with High, Low, and Warm. A few are even computerized and will change automatically to warm when the food is finished.
While women made many dishes slow cooking the old way, today’s crock-pot is even more versatile. Beans, stews, casseroles, and roasts are the most common dishes made in the crock-pot. You can also make foods like lasagna, barbecued pork, and even your favorite chicken noodle soup recipe in your crock-pot.
You can also emulate your ancestors and bake breads by slow cooking. The more you use your crock-pot, the more creative you will get. You may even try desserts and dips if you get adventurous.