Did you know your appliances are talking to you? Really, they are! Did you also know you can also learn an awful lot by listening to them? Really, you can! You can find out how much electricity you’re using — and how much money you’re spending, too! To highlight what customers can discover with Direct Energy’s Direct Your Energy Insights Tool, we’re going to dig into some of the lesser-known ways your appliances affect your electric bill. By learning more about your electricity usage, you’ll use less of what we sell!
What is my Slow Cooker Trying to Tell Me?
Slow cookers are the one kitchen appliance that gives more flexibility than any other appliance. You can set it up to slow cook a meal within a time span that meets your schedule —in as little as 1 hour or as long as 12. With summertime cookouts and holidays, slow cookers give you portable heating and serving options. For all their wonders, though, slow cookers have their own quirks that can frustrate any cook. That’s why it helps to understand a little bit more about them and how they work.
Not much can actually go wrong for a slow cooker. To begin with, slow cookers are very basic appliances, with the electrical parts consisting of the heating element, thermostat, and electrical cord. Newer, high-tech versions can come with digital displays and smart networkable controls that add convenience, but whether you’ve got an old reliable or the latest model you can control with your phone, all slow cookers share the same basics.
Slow cookers work by cooking food over a long time. Some models do this with heating elements in the bottom of the pot-surround. The bottom of the ceramic pot is heated and the ceramic material conducts the heat evenly throughout the entire pot. Other manufacturers put the heating elements in the walls of the pot-surround so that heat spreads throughout the pot evenly but also more quickly. The pot or crock, meanwhile, is designed to hold heat for a long time, letting it act as a heat reservoir. While there is no standardized temperature ranges among manufacturers, “low” settings tend to run at about 190°F while “high” settings are at about 300°F. The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service reports that most slow cookers reach a temperature between 170°F and 280°F. In terms of cooking, though, once food gets to simmering (just below boiling or 212°F), the amount of time it takes to fully cook depends on what you have and how much of it there is. As one manufacturer suggests, “For most cookers, you would choose the low setting for meats such as a roast or pork shoulder. This setting puts out less heat, but the heat is sufficient to safely cook the food at the right temperature. High setting is usually recommended for dips and sauces that would cook for only an hour or two.”
How much electricity does one use? Depending on their size, slow cooker wattage runs from as little as 50 watts to over 300 watts. That’s not a lot of power, and even when you consider that you leave one cooking 3 quarts of food for 8 hours a day, a 200 watt slow cooker will use only 1.6 kWh.
Another important feature of any slow cooker is the glass lid. The lid is designed to seat into a groove formed on the pot’s edge. Water vapor from cooking condenses out as water and collects in this groove. This actually keeps the lid stuck in place and forms a low-pressure seal. Since water can’t evaporate away as in normal stove-top cooking, the pot’s contents actually cook under a very modest pressure (NOT the same as a real pressure cooker). Ideally, you want to cook with just the right amount of liquid so that there will be the right amount of pressure. Too much liquid and you’ll get something too soupy. Too much pressure can also cause the lid to rattle against the pot’s edge.
With this in mind, let’s get to some useful tips.
Five Basic Slow Cooker Tips
Use the right amount of liquid. —If you’re adapting a stove top recipe to your slow cooker, use less liquid so the dish doesn’t turn out too soupy. As already mentioned, since the dish is covered, little liquid evaporates during cooking (that also include alcohol — go easy on the wine). Also avoid overfilling it. It should be ½ full to ¾ full.
Choose the right cuts of meat. — Slow cookers break down tough cuts of meat by dissolving the muscle collagen fibers and making them tender and succulent. Luckily, tough cuts are also the cheaper cuts of meat.
Trim the fat. — Fat adds flavor and juiciness to what you’re cooking. But in a slow cooker, fat and oil can’t be drained away easily. So in order to reduce the amount of fat from the food, trim the excess away before you put it in the slow cooker. This way, you’ll get out exactly what you put in.
Same-size pieces cook more evenly. —Since the cook time depends on what you’re cooking and how much of it, it’s a good idea to be sure that all of your ingredients are more or less the same size. That way, they will all absorb the same amount of heat within the same time frame.
Leave it alone. —Each time you lift the lid to add, stir, or taste, you’re letting out heat, pressure, and flavor. It can also add an additional 15 to 20 minutes of cooking time.
A slow cooker is easy to use, requires little maintenance, and is energy-efficient. With these tips, you’ll save money and avoid the typical frustrations of this appliance.
Want to know how you can save even more?
Customers who sign up with a Direct Energy plan can get complete access to the Energy Insights Tool to help them monitor their usage and take more control of bill. If you’re a Texas resident, you can save even more by signing up with Direct Energy’s Free Weekends. From Friday at 6 PM to Sunday at 11:59pm, you’ll get FREE electricity. Just by switching to Direct Energy and saving your laundry for the weekend, you’ll really clean up!