Slow Cooker, also referred to as crock pot (a brand name), is my newly-found favorite kitchen appliance. It saves time and effort, yet gives us a delicious meal. But is the slow cooker for Indian recipes – a cuisine that’s complex in technique and taste?
Yes. It can. You will understand the following tips by your second experience with the slow cooker.
Indian Cooking In Slow Cookers:
From dal to mutton, every Indian dish can be cooked in the slow cooker and is just as delicious. I’ve made dishes like Darbari Mutton, Mutton Stew, and Chicken Biryani. I’ll keep uploading more slow cooker recipes with time. A few tips:
In stove top cooking, ingredients are added and mixed at regular intervals. With slow cookers, all the ingredients are added together. There is no regular mixing but don’t doubt the result.
In most Indian recipes, onions are usually fried golden brown. This can’t be done in a slow cooker since the oil doesn’t reach the high temperature needed to fry. Fry onions on the stove top, keep aside on paper towels, and add to the slow cooker towards the end, when your dish is nearly cooked. Fried onions will add the taste and color you usually see in stove top cooking. The same is applicable for tadka (seasoning).
500 grams bone-in chicken takes up to 4 hours on HIGH and 5-6 hours on LOW. 500 grams mutton takes about 7-8 hours on HIGH and about 9 hours on LOW. 2 cups lentils (soaked chana dal, rajma, urad dal, toor dal, etc) take up to 7 hours on HIGH and 9 hours on LOW. So if you set your slow cooker timer before you leave for work in the morning, your dinner is ready by the time you are back!
Amount of water added in slow cooker technique depends on the ingredients. Slow cooker retains moisture and allows meat to cook in its own juices. If your recipe includes yogurt or tomatoes, add about 2-3 cups of water (specified in my recipes) since the meat, yogurt, and tomatoes release their water content. I usually add 1 cup for chicken, 2-3 cups for mutton (depends on type of cuts), and at least 4-5 cups of water for lentils since they don’t have water content. Vegetables like carrots and potatoes need 1 cup of water. Don’t cook dishes that have little or no water.
You can marinate the meat and refrigerate overnight below 40 F/ 4 C. Refrigeration at this temperature is safe. Don’t freeze marinated meat.
Thaw/ defrost frozen meat it in a microwave or cold, running water to get rid of the icicles. Never place frozen, iced meat in a slow cooker. Not only will this ruin the taste but also make meat harmful for consumption because your meat is defrosting in a warm pot pushing it in the danger zone for long – between 40 F to 140 F / 4 C to 60 C. Harmful bacteria grow at these temperatures. Slow cookers cook between 170 F to 300 F – at par with the FDA guidelines for safe cooking.
I add the first few ingredients (usually oil, dry spices, tomatoes, ginger-garlic paste), turn on my slow cooker to HIGH and cover it, while I defrost the zip-locked frozen meat in cold running water. I add the meat after 20-30 minutes since the slow cooker is now geared up to reach 140 F quickly, keeping the meat out of danger zone. The same is applicable if you are using marinated meat refrigerated overnight (no thawing needed, of course!). Cover as soon as you add the meat and turn to LOW if you plan on slow cooking. You can also rinse your ceramic pot in warm water, wipe it dry, and place it in the electrical unit to help increase temperature quickly.
About Slow Cookers:
A slow cooker is a countertop ceramic or porcelain pot placed in an electrical heating unit. During my first experiments with slow cooker, I realized it resembles the Indian dum and handi technique – cooking food on low flame for hours in a sealed pot, retaining moisture, and allowing every ingredient enough time to cook in it’s own juices, and every spice to breathe flavor and aroma into the dish. Here’s what you need to know.
Slow cookers have heating options ranging from LOW (approx 170 F / 93 C) to HIGH (approx 250 F / 121 C). Some have a WARM option to keep your food warm till you serve.
Buy programmable slow cookers. The timer lets you set the start and end time for cooking. After the time has ended, the slow cooker will automatically switch to WARM. For instance, if you have set the duration for 5 hours but are out for longer time, the slow cooker will stop cooking and switch to WARM mode.
Slow cookers are usually round or oval and come in different sizes (2 qt. to 8 qt.). A 4 qt is sufficient for a family of 4. If you intend to cook large amounts of meat/lentils, buy a bigger slow cooker.
Don’t remove the lid to check what’s happening. You may be curious but remember that it has taken a long time for your slow cooker to build up the steam and reach the simmering temperature. Taking off the lid just for a peek would let out the steam and the temperature will drop.
Don’t reheat food with slow cookers. You can refrigerate the ceramic pot. Don’t heat a cold ceramic pot. Allow it to reach room temperature. Don’t pour hot ingredients in a cold ceramic pot and vice versa.