Sunday, September 14, 2008

Perhaps Crackpot isn't a bad word afterall... er... Crockpot...

Growing up we never had a slow cooker, so this small appliance, like the toaster oven, has just never seemed terribly useful to me. I scorned it, and its cousin the breadmaker. Dave, it turns out, has always wanted a breadmaker, and while I thought it was sort of silly, he decided we should buy one a few months ago and picked up the 2 lb Cuisinart model with Amazon rewards cards. After a few months, I am being forced to eat my words, but since Dave makes very nice honey wheat bread, at least I can make a sandwich of them. The bread maker is really rather cool, the sandwich bread we make is so much heartier and tastier than the store bought variety and I enjoy knowing exactly what went into it.

Earlier today Dave and I were talking about what we could possibly do to reduce our energy usage further. We already use CFLs in all but a very few of our lamps (I can't take the color temperature of even the best CFLs in the bathroom, and the short duration of use there makes them less useful anyhow) and LEDs just aren't quite there yet, I don't think, though I would like to switch when they arrive at a reasonable price/utility balance. We don't use air conditioning during the summer, and we're conservative with our use of fans to replace it. We keep the heat decently low in the winter and with the advent of the new windows, we should be able to do even better this year on that score. Our refrigerator is a hulking energy beast, but since we rent we have very little control over that, alas. It probably accounts for at least half our power bill all by itself! ConEd has had ads on the subway with energy saver tips, encouraging you to visit their website for more tips. Now, I'm pretty savvy, but there's always the chance that I've missed something or forgotten something, so I went to check out the list.

The majority of the list is concerned with heating and cooling (as it should be, those are major energy sinks for most households) which I can't do much about; appliances, which for the most part I don't have (hulking refrigerator aside); and lighting, which I've already addressed, but they did suggest that using a slow cooker instead of the oven was more efficient. It seems that seven hours of slow cooker time uses less than half the electricity of an hour of electric oven. Now, I have a gas stove and I neither want to do the math to compare BTUs to kWhs, nor to delude myself into thinking that the energy savings would be significant, given the amounts involved, but it did get me to thinking. The bread machine is pretty nifty because we can throw all the ingredients in and set the timer, coming back hours later to fresh tasty bread. It seems to me that the slow cooker would do the same thing for soups and roasts and chili. All things I like to eat as the weather turns cooler. Maybe we should get one...

Dave, it turns out, is very brand loyal to Cuisinart, due to the longevity of his college toaster oven. (Another small appliance I never had, and therefore never thought I needed. We still have his college toaster oven though, and it is a perfectly nice item, I freely admit.) Therefore, the Cuisinart 4 quart cooker, pictured above, is the obvious front runner, but I would love your insight. Do you use a slow cooker? What kind? What size? And most importantly, what do you make in it?

4 comments:

Trackella said...

I love my crockpot! I have a large oval Hamilton Beach, which my mom gave us many moons ago. I've made all kinds of stuff in it: veggie soup, Italian beef (GOOOOD stuff), turkey breast, various chicken dishes, and even a peach cobbler. They're a pain in the ass to clean up, but it's soooo lovely to walk into your house after a hard day's work and have dinner 99.9% ready to go!

Sarah Gates said...

Pain in the ass to clean? Do you have the removable crock or a single piece unit? Also, are you going to share some of those tasty sounding recipes with me? What, pray tell, is Italian beef?

Ringeddragon said...

I, too, find merely the name "Italian Beef" intriguing, and would like the recipe. I like using the crockpot for soups and chili, though I've been told it's also quite nice for chicken. If you have the two part machine, it's pretty simple to clean.

I don't use mine nearly as much as I'm inclined to, mostly because I fail to plan my life in such a way as to properly make use of it. I would like to use it more, and may do so this winter.

bethr1978 said...

I have a Rival crockpot that I love come winter time. Between school and working it's great for coming home to already cooked foods. I mostly do stews and soup though I've managed taco meat in it once or twice.