Sunday, March 24, 2013

Slow Cooker Fancies

I've been thinking about possibly getting maybe a slow cooker perhaps, forever now. The imagined time savings are enticing. But when I think about it, I don't know how much time it actually saves if you want to get great results and aren't satisfied with just okay food getting done conveniently. It seems that you still have to brown things before hand, precook various ingredients, bring things to heat in advance, all before tossing things into the slow cooker and finally letting it do its thing. Doesn't seem like a great time saver...but I suppose you don't have to watch it once it's going.

I'm not yet convinced it's worth the money and space for me to get one. As such, the idea of using a rice cooker as a substitute for a slow cooker was intriguing as well. I finally went and looked into the idea a bit and learned some interesting things about rice cookers and why they're not ideal as slow cooker substitutes. Basically, rice cookers cleverly take advantage of the boiling point of water in order to automatically shut off at the right time. Once the water reaches its boiling point, the inside of the rice cooker will get no hotter until all the water has boiled off. When the rice cooker senses that the temperature has risen above the boiling point, it knows there's no more water and that its time to shut off the heat so as to avoid burning the rice (or whatever you've got cooking).

This is a problem for slow cooking, though, because it means you can't cook at higher temperatures than 212 degrees Fahrenheit or 100 Celsius. Now, to stretch out the cooking time, you can manually switch to the "keep warm" setting early and just rely on residual heat to cook slowly, and then turn it back on to bring the temperature back up to boiling point again, etc., as described in this article. But then, that defeats the purpose of using a slow cooker instead of a very low flame on the stove: convenience/not having to watch the food.

Well, that stopped my most recent bout of curiosity about slow cookers. Not that getting one's permanently out of consideration for me. I may yet want to learn more about using one when my life gets busier. And the other thing is that I'd be really happy if they work well for making stock like pork bone stock for tonkotsu ramen or sullung tang. Really for tonkotsu stock rather than sullung tang, clearly. 15 hours of simmering? Yeah, not convenient in the least. (What? You smell a future blog post updating my previous first stab at tonkotsu? Hmm, I think your nose does not deceive you...) And lamb stock, too...

Thoughts? Anyone use a slow cooker for making stock?


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