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Slow cookers symbol of a busy society, create good dinners

POSTED: May 29, 2013 9:37 a.m.

Slow cookers, or Crock-Pots, are similar in size, design and function to the old cast-iron Dutch ovens, which have been used in kitchens and campfires for hundreds of years.
The idea of throwing all the ingredients into one pot and allowing this all-in-one meal to cook slowly for hours is not new, but its renewed popularity says much about America’s fast-paced society.
The Dutch oven allowed the cook to do other things while supper was stewing slowly next to the fire. Today’s slow cooker allows cooks to prepare the ingredients, set the timer and walk away.
According to, the Crock-Pot saves on kitchen counter space and allows cooks to use the stove and oven for other dishes.
My wife, a teacher, wore out numerous slow cookers over the years after we started having kids. On Sundays especially, she’d get up hours before me and the kids to prep the ingredients for a beef stew, chili, stroganoff, spaghetti sauce or a dozen other meals for her “eleventy-quart” Crock-Pot.
By the time we got home from church and changed clothes, Sunday dinner was ready. And it was delicious — most of the time.
Some things just don’t go in a slow cooker, like canned vegetables. They’re already processed and partially cooked, so if you put them in a Crock-Pot with fresh veggies, the canned ones will look mushy and generally taste yucky. Also, because some veggies take longer than others in a slow cooker, always cut carrots, celery and other hard veggies into smaller slices.
My wife has a great roast beef recipe that includes a chuck roast, potatoes, carrots, celery and onions. To prep the roast, she trims the fat then browns the meat in a skillet before laying it in the Crock-Pot. Add chopped veggies, salt, pepper and a package of onion soup mix. Cook for five or six hours.
Here’s a pulled-pork recipe that’s a good rainy day substitute for the real thing:

Crock-Pot Pulled Pork
1 6-pound pork shoulder
1/2 cup hickory smoked barbecue sauce
1/2 cup North Carolina spicy vinegar barbecue sauce
3 tablespoons liquid smoke
1 1/2 teaspoons onion powder
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Place pork shoulder in the Crock-Pot and sprinkle salt, pepper, onion powder and garlic powder. Add both sauces then liquid smoke. Cook for 8-10 hours. Take shoulder from the pot and remove meat from the bone using two forks. Chop larger pieces with large butcher knife or cleaver.
Taste the meat to see if more sauce or liquid smoke is needed. Return shredded meat to pot and allow it to cook another 30 minutes. Serve on a toasted bun with cole slaw and homemade fries or tater chips.

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