Earlier this year, just as we were emerging from the shuck of winter and blinking in the spring sunshine, with thoughts turning to light, easy lunches involving salads and grilled things, I decided to I needed to buy a slow cooker to cook stews in.
A slow cooker is actually a very good idea for someone like me, because I am a natural early riser and I am at my best, my most industrious, early in the morning. It’s all down hill from there. I am often too tired of an evening to cook, or think about cooking. In Italy, at least in my family, it is customary to largely prepare the main meal of the day (whether that be taken at mezzogiorno or a cena) in the morning. This is when people visit and the cook can chat, catch up with the latest gossip and prep a substantial meal. I would watch many such occasions as a child and marvel at how organised and easy it seemed.
(I would also marvel at just how much bitching would go on.)
But, I never managed this level of organisation and I thought the slow cooker would help. As these things go, I started looking at entry level slow cookers and before I knew what I was doing, I had ordered a top of the range slow cooker and pressure cooker combined – a huge hulk of a stainless steel beast, the Fast Slow Pro by Heston for Sage (before anyone thinks I am on a salary from them, I am not, this is literally only one of two Sage appliances I own, the other one being an insanely priced waffle maker which is brilliant but I don’t recommend anyone buy because no-one can like waffles that much.)
It is an electric model, so you can use it anywhere there is a plug (no need for a stove top).
Of course, the purchase of lots of books on slow cooking and pressure cooking followed and I realised that most people were either evangelical about one type of cooking, or another. But you can be a fan of both and this lets you be.
Slow cooking, in case you don’t know, is just like cooking something on a stove top or in an oven at a very low temperature for a very long time. The difference is, because the slow cooker is sealed, no moisture gets out so things stay very moist. I have done the best ‘roast’ chicken in this ever, you then reduce down the gravy, in the same slow cooker pot, using the reduce function which is the equivalent of a pan on the hob simmering away.
Moist is not a bad word.
Pressure cooking cooks things under, er, very high pressure so it cooks things very very fast. It is particularly good for cooking dried pulses etc.
The beauty with either is that you just put it in the pot, turn the lid and leave it. I can’t comment on other appliances but mine is all digital and you set a timer and it does it all for you.
I mostly use mine for making stock and bolognese, which is brilliant cos I chuck everything in and do it on a slow cooker 12 hour timer overnight. I use the pressure cooker for things like ribs (does them in an hour * they are literally falling off the bone when they come out which may not be to everyone’s liking) and pulses. But you can cook loads and loads of things in it, I am only just starting.
*The pressure cooker takes time to come up to pressure and also to release the pressure so if it says it does it in an hour remember to factor in these things.
It’s also brilliant at reducing (you leave the lid up) as you can reduce, say, a stock on a timer and leave it whilst you do other stuff. Obvs you can do this with an ordinary sauce pan, on the hob, but you don’t have to worry about going back and switching it off.
It has a ‘keep warm’ function so once it has finished its main cooking, it will keep things warm for two hours. Great if you are a bit nebulous about a coming home time.
In short this is a brilliant bit of kit – huge so think about where you’re going to put it – and I’ve had it for several months now and I really rate it.
Post script, summer 2017. I have had this for about 18 months now and it is easily one of the best bits of kitchen kit I’ve ever bought. I use it loads and it is a marvel. Buy it.