Slow cookers take advantage of three centuries of cooking expertise. In the late 18th century, the French, busy in their castles inventing dinner, came up with a way to slow-cook foods by setting a heavy covered pot in the coals, rather than over the fire.
Named for the coals that cook the dish, a “braise” creates a moist environment, perfect for slowly simmering meat. Problem is, a braise usually means a watched pot. You adjust the heat, dip the temperature, keep the sauce at a slow bubble, stir and fuss.
Not in a slow cooker. All that culinary ingenuity is put to work without your having to lift a finger once the lid’s on. And don’t lift the lid either. Every time you do, the temperature drops in the cooker and you lose precious moisture. Or to put it bluntly: lift the lid and add an hour to the cooking time.
By Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough, food writers in Colebrook. Conn.