Friday, July 1, 2011

Slow Ride

With it being a holiday weekend I figured I'd slow it down (pun intended) a bit and talk a little about an essential kitchen tool; the Crock Pot or slow cooker. This little creation from the 70's, once the receptacle for keeping Swedish meatballs warm during parties, is a must for the busy cook, the beginner cook, or even the absolutely clueless cook. Most recipes involve dumping the ingredients in with some liquid then, to coin a phrase, set it and forget it. The actual cooking method would be considered a long simmer with constant temperatures between 175-200 degrees. The absolute key to success (and it's so hard to screw up that if you do I'll rap you upside the head with a tack hammer) is leave the lid on! The whole damned time! Don't let temptation get the best of you, just leave it on. This maintains the constant temperature and the steam creates condensation to add extra moisture to the dish. As with most low and slow cooking techniques one of the great advantages is you can use tougher, cheaper cuts of meat and they come out fall off the bone tender.

So, what do I make in my Crock Pot? My staples are chili, beef short ribs, baby back ribs, beef stew, pot roast, a pretty decent chicken vindaloo (seriously) and most of all pulled pork. When I started using my Crock Pot I just bought the McCormick seasoning packs and dumped them in but I slowly adapted my own rubs, spice mixes and sauces to make for a better end product. What I really love is being able to dump everything into the pot in the morning and having a finished product when I get home from work. Plus from a timing standpoint you can devote more time to the side dish as the main course is basically done

I recently purchased a variation of the slow cooker in the Rival BBQ Pit. One of my true loves is BBQ but as I have no yard that means no grill, no smoker, no authentic BBQ. You can come close with brisket and pulled pork with a Crock Pot but you get no bark and no smokey flavor. I had been searching one of these out forever and recently found out they are exclusively on QVC (or HSN or one of those places). I've had mine about 4 months now and I love it. The higher dome gives the cooking more convection and is not reliant on moist heat like a traditional slow cooker. It's bigger then I expected which is good and bad as you can cook a lot at once but storage is a bit of a bitch. I've done baby backs, pork ribs, pulled pork, smoked wings and brisket so far and all have been killer. One nice feature is you can add smokey essence with hard wood chips (as I don't have a hood that vents outside I soak them in water so I don't die of inhalation) on the bottom of the cooker. I'm not recommending this for beginners but if you love good Q and have no backyard options the BBQ Pit is awesome

Slow Cookers are short money so go get one right now!!. I have a 4 quart and a 1 quart. 6-8 quart might be a little big for cooking for 1 or 2 people but whatever works for you. My recipe for pulled pork will follow shortly.

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