Post #396 How to Slow Cook Without a Slow Cooker

July 24, 2015 at 7:21 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

I use a slow cooker (a crock pot, but that’s a brand by Rival) all the time.  At one point, I had three of them in various sizes and shapes.  I’ve been known to have all three going at once.  Over time, attrition has whittled those down to one, fairly large, slow cooker.  We don’t use it continually as we have in the past, but it sees service about once a week or so.  Often enough that it’s in the front of the cabinets and not buried in the back.

However, while the “crock pot” has only been around for about 40 or so years, the cooking method it utilizes and makes easy for us has been around for centuries.  Slow moist cooking is called many things in many places.  It’s known as slo-lo, braising, stewing, simmering, jugging, slow roasting, and a bunch of other esoteric terms.  The process of slow cooking can be accomplished on nearly any medium  as long as it’s paid careful attention.

One of the simplest ways to slow cook without a slow cooker is with a “dutch oven”.  Basically, a dutch oven is a covered casserole.  Most of the time, they’re made of cast iron, or metal of some form.  We have two enamel covered cast iron dutch ovens in two different sizes, and one ceramic dutch oven in a square shape rather than a round shape.  Eventually, I want to get an oval one, but it’s not a pressing matter.  Dutch ovens were developed for cooking in the embers of a fireplace.  The cast iron models have flat lids so you can pile embers on top and cook from the bottom as well as the top.  With modern ovens, that’s not necessary so most dutch ovens have a slightly domed lid so internal moisture build up will return to the pot.

dutch oven 01dutch oven 02









Coincidentally, we have both of these.  I’ve never used the cast iron one, but the red ones get constant use from both of us.

Using a dutch oven is simplicity itself.  You can brown the meat on the stove top, add your other ingredients, cover, and put into the oven for however long the recipe calls for.  Or you can skip the browning process and just put it all into the oven.  Then you just leave it all alone till it’s done.  I’ve cooked everything from chili to a full grown turkey this way.

Another method, if you don’t have a slow cooker, is a skillet on the stove top.  This require quite a bit more attention since food can easily burn.  But all it requires is a skillet with a tight fitting lid, and a working stove top.  Chuck all your ingredients in the skillet per your recipe, cover, and cook.  You’ll likely have to check things every 15 to 30 minutes to make sure it’s not scorching, but if you start it low and keep it low, you shouldn’t have too many problems.  An alternative to the skillet on the stove top is the electric skillet with a lid.  Works just as well.

A big benefit the slow cooker gives you that the other methods don’t is power economy.  They don’t cost hardly anything to run for hours, whereas the stove costs more, and the oven costs most.

So, here are a couple of recipes for the slow cooker, or the dutch oven, or the skillet.

Kielbasa Stew:

  • 2 lbs. kielbasa
  • 1/2 lbs. sauerkraut <OR>
  • 1/2 fresh cabbage sliced thin and separated
  • 2 Granny Smith apples sliced thin
  • 1 large onion sliced thin
  • 2 lbs. small red potatoes
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 tsp caraway seeds
  • 1 cup Swiss cheese shredded

In your slow cooker/dutch oven/skillet, place half the sauerkraut or cabbage and half the apple.  Place 1 pound of kielbasa on top.  Place half the potatoes in various nooks and crannies.  Cover with remaining sauerkraut or cabbage, apple, onion, potatoes.  Sprinkle the caraway seeds over, then pour chicken broth over the whole thing.  Cook slow cooker: 6 hours on high, 8 hours on low until cabbage and potatoes are cooked through; oven set to 225 cook for 5-6 hours until cabbage and potatoes are cooked through; skillet on stove top or electric, cook on low heat for 4-5 hours until cabbage and potatoes are cooked through.  Serve hot with cheese over top.

Braised Short Ribs:

  • 1 1/2 lbs. short ribs (beef or pork, but I like beef better)
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 bay leaf (don’t break it because you’ll be taking it out later)
  • 1 can mushroom soup (yeah, I know, but it works in this)
  • 1 envelope brown gravy mix (see above)
  • 1/2 cup red wine (use a wine you’d drink otherwise you won’t like this.  The wine enhances the flavor)
  • 2 cups cooked mashed potatoes

Place everything except the ribs and the potatoes in your chosen cooking vessel.  Use a wire whisk to mix well.  Place ribs in sauce and flip to coat both sides.  Cook:  slow cooker, 6 hours on low, 4 hours on high until ribs are falling off the bone tender; oven: 4-5 hours at 250 until ribs are falling off the bone tender; skillet: 4 hours until the ribs are falling off the bone tender.  Serve warm with mashed potatoes.  Use sauce to cover the potatoes.




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