One-Pot Weirdness…

Lakeland, in their desire to peddle us slow cookers, have made a very strange claim – one-pot meals mean less preparation.

If you’re tempted to buy a slow cooker (aka a crockpot in the colonies) in the hope you’ll get to spend less time cutting and chopping, forget it – that claim is complete garbage.

Given my assortment of ailments, it’s the prep – the standing – that does for me, and prevents me from cooking most of the time, and I can assure you that whether your meal ultimately emerges from a single pot or from several, the amount of prep you have to do is – exactly the same.

You might think “Huh! Not worth making a fuss about,” but you’d be wrong. There are always young disabled people getting to grips with life in a home of their own, who, like me, would love to have to do less prep, and who might rush out and buy a slow cooker – and they can be expensive – on the strength of this ad. And come unstuck.

Oh, and if you are disabled, be aware that the crock – the inner pot of a slow cooker – is usually earthenware and very heavy.

A slow cooker will save you money on fuel, and if you go out to work, it will have a meal waiting for you when you get home, but don’t forget – you have to do all the prep before you go to work. That, for me, wipes out any advantage at the other end of the day. Personally, I cook stews and freeze them – much less hassle.

But getting back to prep. I rate the recipes I post here in Spoons (for Spoonies!), and it’s almost always the prep work that adds a spoon or two. You can reduce the amount of prep quite dramatically if you’re prepared to accept a reduction in the quality of the raw materials and use pre-prepped vegetables, either fresh or frozen. All the supermarkets stock a range of both.

Steer clear of mixed veg or any sort, though, as they are almost invariably combinations which take vastly differing times to cook (of all the veg you’ll cook, carrots take the longest, and broccoli probably the shortest yet, bizarrely, you can buy mixed broccoli florets and carrots. Who the hell thought that was a good idea?

So, buy single prepped veg, fresh or frozen (any fresh that are left over can be frozen as long as you use them fairly quickly), and you’ll save yourself a lot of time and, if you’re sick and disabled, quite possibly a lot of pain, too.

Ah, I hear you mutter, what was that about reduction in quality? Simple. I use specific veg, when I can. Alliums will be Echalion shallots and strong cooking onions, both from Sainsbury’s (their quality is better), and carrots will be Sweet Spear, also from Sainsbury’s. However, buying pre-prepped veg, you get what you’re given, which will be pretty generic. You’ll lose out on flavour – maybe a little, perhaps a lot, I honestly don’t know – but you’ll save on time and effort – and pain.

But trust me, a slow cooker will save you none of those things.. Or don’t trust me, but do think about it logically – the components of a meal are the same no matter whether you cook them in one pot or several – so how can you save on prep work? Simple – you can’t.

Tomorrow – if I’m able – and I won’t know that until tomorrow arrives, I want to cook a dish based on Toulouse sausages (the recipe will be published – I thought I’d already done so, but it appears not). Whether I cook it in a lightweight but heavy-bottomed stainless steel and very Spoonie-friendly casserole (with no long handles sticking out to snag in a moment of inattention), or whether I dig out my very heavy and unfriendly slow cooker from the depths of the cupboard, the amount of work that goes into the dish will be exactly the same.

Do not be fooled by advertising claims.

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7 thoughts on “One-Pot Weirdness…

  1. and there is another thing………..you said. “or whether I dig out my very heavy and unfriendly slow cooker from the depths of the cupboard,”
    More spoons used in doing just that. looking for and tussling with everything in the cupboard to get out the actual pan, dish, gadget etc that you need for any given dish you want to cook. (i found this a real problem. still do, not only in cooking but in most things i used to do, gradually giving up doing most of those things….i.e. i used to paint in oils. had a dining room in my house so space to leave things out so i could continue the next day. dry the painting, shut the room off from lounge etc so smells of turps etc were contained.from that 2 bedroomed house to this 1 bedroomed bungalow. very little storage space. had to put pain materials in a cupboard. nowhere to keep them to hand here. such a struggle to get them out when i felt like painting. plus nowhere to dry a painting once done. so in the cupboard everything stayed, for a few years. in that time i tried water colour pencils. easier to store, and easier and quicker drying for the paintings. but never got the same satisfaction from those. so again they too got left in the cupboard. as did various other materials as i tried other hobbies. until i found this contraption. and started my family tree, learning graphics etc.but my patience has gone for those now…as i get older and get more things wrong with me plus the net has changed so much over the 12 years ive been on it. no more msn chat rooms so less chance of using the type of graphics.i did and got as far as i think i can with my family tree.(back to 1600 on dads branch 1700 on mums). hobbies are now confined to blogs politics to some extent, and games.(Im getting boring in my old age.lol)

  2. I contacted Lakeland via Facebook *spit*, asking them to explain the less prep statement, and this is their reply:-
    “Hi Tricia, we refer to the fact that when using a slow cooker vegetables will cook through without having to be finely chopped or the meat without needing to be browned or pre-cooked first. We do think that one-pot cooking in general saves time as everything can go in at once.”

    I suppose if you’re not a cook, then they’re right, but we always chopped the vegetables and browned the meat first, when we used our slow cooker.

    • They’re talking rubbish. Even in one-pot recipes everything doesn’t go in at once. The “foundation veggies” – carrots, onions, celeriac/celery, whatever, go in at the beginning – chopped, though not necessarily finely (fine for soup, more chunky for stews), but other ingredients go in later, depending on how long they take to cook. If I put peppers and pak choi, for example, in at the start, they’d be mush by the end, even in a slow cooker.

      And the difference between chopped and finely chopped, in terms of labour, is negligible.

      As for “meat without needing to be browned or pre-cooked first,” pre-cooked is just nonsense (who does that?), but browning adds flavour and colour, which is why they offer at least two slow cookers with a browning facility.

      If you go out to work and leave a slow cooker running then, yes, everything would have to go in and some would have to be left bigger to avoid overcooking (and some would cook to mush no matter what you did). But their claims were made for one-pot meals, not slow-cooked, and there’s a considerable difference.

      And when slow-cooking a beef joint (6-8 hours), I’ve had large pieces of carrot still like bullets at the end.

  3. Ron I have a Morphy Richards stainless steel slow cooker ,which is lightweight,and also has a browning facility.Tesco do a brilliant range of both soup and casserole veg pre prepared that can be frozen without blanching, These come in very handy for a spur of the moment casserole dish. I think the older versions of slow cookers were very heavy but ,not the newer models.

    • Freezing veg without blanching drastically shortens its storage life. As long as it’s used quickly, there’s no problem.

      The pre-prepped veg, of course, I already covered – all supermarkets sell their own versions, both fresh and frozen.

      And modern slow cookers ARE very heavy – I know that for a fact because I have one. It all depends on what the inner pot is made of, and the degree and complexity of the electronics and the heating element. Stainless steel can be light, hence my use of stainless steel casseroles (it isn’t always, though as I have a very heavy 3-litre stainless steel pan), other materials aren’t.

      And bear in mind that this blog is primarily aimed at disabled people, and our idea of heavy might not be yours – I don’t know. There’s no getting away from the fact that most slow cookers still have earthenware or stoneware crocks, hence their name in the US – crockpot – and they can be very heavy by anybody’s definition.

      Size is also a factor. Single portion versions are light, 5 litre versions are not.

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