Thursday, February 25, 2010

Slow Cookers

Slow cookers are back. It figures, the economy is bad and slow cooking makes savory, inexpensive food.

The idea has been around a long time. In the 1890s through the early 1900s, a little item called a fireless cooker was developed which slow cooked food on residual heat. Super-insulated boxes with tight-fitting insulated tops could hold a pot of food heated to boiling for many hours allowing the food to finish cooking. When homemakers had to buy fuel specifically for cooking, when heat for cooking was not a by-product of warming a house, people paid attention to the costs of cooking a meal. Some cook books of the era reveal this concern.

Fireless cookers had their time in the sun, then faded away.

In 1971, Rival Company introduced the crock pot based on a product developed by a company which they had purchased. Crock pots cooked slowly all day, too, a boon during the economic turn-down of the 1970s, and a help to women who were joining the workforce in ever-increasing numbers. During the more prosperous 1980s and 1990s, they acquired a dowdy reputation, and crock pots were cheap at yard sales.

So our economy has turned down again, women are employed at higher numbers than men, and "slow cookers" which sound classier than crock pots, are program-able to save electricity.

I can't wait to see the next iteration.


  1. I saw a beautiful read oval crock pot at Best Buy the other day. It was practically singing to me to buy it. I resisted, in the interest of space. I did own one briefly. A student of mine about a decade ago told me it was the only way to render hash into butter to make brownies. He borrowed my new unused one. And then told me a few weeks later it was accidentally broken. Oh well. Not that I haven't been doing slow clay cooking anyway in a pot in the oven set to 200 degrees. A pipkin is still the best in my book.

  2. "Slow cookers" may sound classier, but we've been re-educated to call them that because Rival trademarked the term "crock pot."

  3. After years of using my 3 qt Regal Crock pot I recently bought a Hamilton Beech slow cooker with three different pots - 4 qt, 4 qt and 6 qt with a lid that fita all the pots. The white ceramic pots can be used in the oven, the freezer, and the microwave, as well. I love it! One of my favorite slow cook dishes is to take a big pork butt, brown it well, and in the pot add lots of garlic, bay leaf, onion, cumin, peppercorn and cook that sucker all night. The smell in the house is to die for and when done the meat falls off the bone for many packages of taco and enchilada meat to put in the freezer. I also use it for large batches of beans.

  4. Only Rival makes the Crock-pot, and is fierce about protecting the copyright, so slow cookers it is. I love having something cooking when I come home from work,usually a little meat, a lotta and some interesting spice or herb component, for a stewish dish that goes over rice or noodles or polenta and has plenty left for lunch the next day. And nothing is better to make Indian Pudding in!
    And I was also in Best Buy the other day, and was this close to walking out with an red oval cooker.....great minds....

  5. veggie - a whole lotta veggies -