PRODUCT REVIEWS-On test: Slow cookers.
Lakeland Timeless oval slow cooker (2.5 litres)
Slow cookers are simple to use, and so convenient too! Ideal for people who work, you can simply switch on the slow cooker before going to office and your supper is ready the minute you get home. This dishwasher-safe cooker has a large stew pot sized electric machine with a removable inner ceramic serving dish, cool-touch handles, and a glass-lid. There is a Low, High and Automatic heat dial to cook dishes according to the temperature and time required for recipes.
What we liked: The great thing about slow cookers is that you can make just about any one-pot dish, and simply leave the cooker on for hours. We decided to make a vegetable stew, and since all the ingredients were sitting for a long time, the vegetables were tender while the sauce - made from broth - was delicious. The cooker is also low-risk, with no danger of burning food. Two sizes are available for this product; the compact size is good enough for two, whereas the family size slow cooker is ideal for a large family. The fact that the inner dish is removable, means you can simply take it out of the cooker and serve right out of it. For its price point, it is very reasonable, as it has the energy consumption of a household light bulb. Since it is small and compact, it fits well on a standard sized kitchen countertop, and can easily be stored in a kitchen cupboard.
What we didn't like: Obviously the slow cooker is not for those who are in a rush, as you need to allow everything to cook for a few hours before it is ready to be eaten. I thought the pot and metal elements of the cooker were slightly flimsy, and would break if you were to mishandle them while washing or storing away.
To buy: From Dhs115, available at Lakeland.
Be careful not to touch the ceramic bowl immediately after turning off, as it can be deceptively hot.
Kenwood slow cooker multi cooker (6.5 litres)
A large, family-sized appliance, this is a must-have in any household with busy schedules as it's the perfect way to ensure a healthy, home-cooked meal at the end of a day rushing about. The Kenwood slow cooker, one of the few brands available here in the UAE, is simple and convenient to use, and with its classic metal and black design, will fit in with any kitchen's decor.
What we liked: The large capacity cooker is kitted out with a large ceramic bowl, and is roomy enough to easily cook up a hearty stew, soup for the whole family or even roasts like a whole chicken or leg of lamb. The outer shell is powered by electricity, and fitted inside is a ceramic insert which is removable and washable, and can go from kitchen to dining table. Easy to use, with straightforward controls - there are only three settings to choose from: Low, High and Auto - it's just a matter of chucking in your favourite meat and vegetables with herbs and spices, and leaving it to cook away.
Generally cooking on low takes about eight hours, high about four hours, and auto, somewhere in between. It's best to follow recipe instructions and your manual, at least for the first few times, until you get the hang of your cooker. If you are going to set the cooker before leaving home, set it to Auto so that it will turn itself off and on as needed, but if you are cooking something overnight, it can be set on low. Always remember to use cooking spray or a bit of oil before putting the food in to be cooked, as this makes the ceramic bowl easy to clean - otherwise the crusty edges of food can get hard to clean.
One of the best tools for healthy cooking, not only did we end up using less oil and fat for cooking, but also less water for stews, casseroles and the like, as there is no evaporation in the cooking process.
What we didn't like: There is no timer, so you can't set it to turn off at a desired time, and have to rely on their existing settings. The other issue, which is for slow cooking in general, and not this particular model, is that it can't be used for frying, so certain recipes will require browning of onions or meat on the stovetop before placing in the slow cooker.
To buy: Dhs199, available at Jashanmal.
Remember that every time you remove the lid, it adds about half an hour to the cooking time.
Have you used a Slow cooker before? What is your favourite dish to cook in it? Share your recipes and tips with us on facebook.com/bbcgoodfoodme
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