The Crockpot: A Siren Call for Single People

This post was inspired by a good friend of ours who is single and wants to cook more food at home, but he finds himself worn down by the combination of long hours at a Wall Street job and a brutal commute to and from the office. As a result, he tends to find himself stuck picking up take-out dinners most nights each week.

But he bought a crockpot recently--and he's actually happily using it. Happily, because it solves one of the pernicious problems of being a single professional: it pretty much sucks to cook just for yourself.

Think about it: you just finished a long day at the office, then finished a long commute home. And now you have to make dinner from scratch? If you keep a sleep/wake schedule like many of my colleagues, you'll be sitting down for your homemade meal, oh, about fifteen minutes after it's time to go to bed.

Worse, the food preparation time is borne 100% by you. Sure, it’s great to be king when you have somebody to delegate prep work to. But what fun is it to delegate work to yourself?

No wonder take-out can seem so tantalizing when you’re a bachelor or bachelorette.

Which brings me back to the core concept that a crockpot is one of those rare cooking tools that is spectacularly worth owning, especially when you're cooking for one. Think of the cooking logistical problems that are solved by the crockpot:

1) It's easy to make meals in bulk that can be eaten all week long.

2) Sure there's some prep work, but it's usually pretty simple: cut a bunch of stuff up and chuck it in the pot. Set the dial and forget about it for the rest of the day.

3) Instead of having to cook after you get home from work, you can put the food in the crockpot in the morning before you leave. Set the dial on low. When you get home ten or eleven hours later, a healthy and inexpensive dinner is ready and waiting for you.

3) You can be a total novice cook and still make great meals. Crockpot recipes are generally easy and foolproof. And if you have a knack for cooking (but you just don't know it yet) this can be your entry point into more serious cooking down the road.

4) Finally, how much time does it take to microwave a dinner you've already cooked the other day? Sure, you might have to invest a bit of extra time making the recipe initially. But if you can microwave the leftovers a couple of more times that week, the aggregate time (and money for that matter) you've spent feeding yourself over three or four meals will be much less than making three or four separate daily trips to pick up take-out on your way home from work.

The crockpot isn't just for June Cleaver any more. It's the perfect tool for anybody--especially single people--who would like to look forward to a delicious, hot, home-cooked meal after a long day at the office.

I've put below a few helpful links, including a link to the exact crockpot model we have at home (at Amazon.com). Also see below for a post I wrote a few months ago that contains an extended list of crockpot recipe resources.

Related Posts:
Crockpot Recipes and Cooking Sites
The Crockpot: How I Admitted I Was Wrong in a Cooking Debate


7 comments:

Lady Di said...

I'm afraid that I have to disagree just a tiny bit. I don't think they are all that great for cooking 10-11 hours for most recipes. Especially if they are the newer ones - they just cook way too hot and over cook a lot of the foods (not all). On the other hand, they are great for weekends where the person can throw the foods in unattended for most of the day and reheat throughout the week though. On low, my brand new crock pot boils, not simmers like the old one it replaces. Something that I will have to take into consideration when I put recipes into it. It was a 6 qt oval slow cooker that I used to make large hunks of meat (turkey breasts, corned beef, and large quantities of soup, etc). I could safely leave those "hunks of meat" for up to 8-10 hours without a problem, but the meat that I cooked this time was done in 6 hours and the soup that was boiling was done in the same amount of time. Soup is a lot more forgiving though - the meat wouldn't be.

Daniel Koontz said...

Hi Lady Di:

You make a really interesting point.

We have experimented with both 4-quart and 6-quart slow cookers, and in both cases I agree that you can definitely dry out lean meats (like chicken or turkey breasts) in a crockpot, even with a fairly short cooking time (8 hours on low, for example).

So we tend to stick to higher-fat meats in our crockpots, and we'll even add some extra olive oil onto the meat when we first put it into the cooker if we are going to be away all day. That seems to ease the "drying out" problem.

Second, we don't try to cook small batches of any crockpot recipe in a large-size 6-quart cooker. When we've cooked a "4-quart sized recipe" in a 6-quart cooker, the ceramic crockpot applies heat to a much greater percentage of the volume of the food in the dish. This can be another cause of overcooking over a lengthy 9-10 hour cook time.

So to solve this problem, we make sure to double the batch size so it really loads up the crockpot. Plus, then there's more to eat for the rest of the week.

Thanks so much for your comment!

DK

Mrs. W said...

Many slow cooker recipes really lend themselves to freezing & reheating, too. So a big batch of food in a crock pot doesn't mean you'll be eating the same thing for 2 weeks.

Invest in some decent freezer- and microwave-safe containers for some good versatility in eating from the freezer.

You can even make lasagne in the crock pot. And of course lasagne freezes & reheats nicely.

Daniel Koontz said...

Mrs. W:
This is a great point... it's no fun to have to eat the same food every night for several days in a row. Better to freeze some and reheat for future meals.

Thank you for your comment!

DK

PS: I have to admit I'm a bit suspicious of how lasagne will come out in a crockpot... We haven't tried to make it yet. :)

mikeinkansascity said...

I have had a crockpot for ~ 15 years now and while I always prefer a pot roast or stew cooked slowly in a Le Creuset Dutch oven, the crockpot does earn its keep. Besides making stews, soups etc, I use it a lot for making stock /broth. Every time I de-bone chicken joints or whatever, I add the bones, skin etc., along with some veggies (peelings too) and some water to the crockpot and let it do its thing overnight. Put in the fridge once it's done and you can remove the fat layer easily. I've also ignored the general dictum of not to cook dairy in crockpots and have made some excellent lemon rice pudding in it several times - although I only cook it for ~ 4 hrs

Daniel Koontz said...

Mike,
Thanks for the great ideas. I particularly like the idea of making stock in the crockpot.

And I can guarantee that my wife is going to want to try the rice pudding! Do you by chance have a recipe you'd like to share?

DK

jules said...

dan
loving the idea of a single bloke who works on wall street but is organised enough to put dinner in the croc pot before work.

as a newly single sydney gal...I'd love to meet such a fellow

apart from that I have absolutely no croc pot cooking experience but am a big fan of my le creuset

J