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Slow Cookers

The best kitchen gadgets for easy winter comfort food

With the festive season already feeling like a distant memory, the dark, drizzly winter evenings can be a bit of a slog, but arriving home to the smell of a hearty home-cooked meal could help to banish those winter blues. If you’re in need of some comfort food, there are plenty of handy kitchen gadgets that can help to rustle up a tasty meal. What’s more, they can be a savvy choice, helping you to get more veg in your diet or make the best of cheaper cuts of meat, not to mention doing the cooking for you.

Read on for three kitchen helpers that could brighten up your January.

Kitchen gadget reviews[1] – see reviews of everything from blenders to air fryers.

1. Make melt-in-the-mouth stews the easy way with a slow cooker

Slow cookers can be set up in the morning to pot-roast, braise or stew your food, so you’ve got a meal ready and waiting when you come home. They’re economical to run, and you can get away with using cheaper cuts of meat, such as stewing steak, brisket or skirt, as this slow and gentle cooking method helps to soften them up into tasty, tender mouthfuls.

Whether you want a casserole for one person, or enough stew to feed a large family, there will be a slow cooker to fit your needs. If you choose an oval-shaped model, and you aren’t fussed about achieving a crispy skin, you can roast a chicken economically too. You can spend as little as GBP12 for a basic slow cooker, up to around GBP100.

There’s no need to splash out unless you’ve got your heart set on a certain feature, though – we’ve found Best Buy slow cookers[2] that will create delicious meals for less than GBP20. See our slow cooker buying guide[3] for more advice on the features worth having.

2. Make a speedy hot lunch with a soup maker

A soup maker can whip up a warming batch of soup without leaving you with a collection of dirty pots and pans to clean up.

Soup makers cost from around GBP40 to more than GBP100, and will blend and cook your soup for a fuss-free meal. The pricier models will saute your ingredients prior to cooking, which can help to give your soup extra flavour. Most soup makers will also blend cold ingredients, so you can make smoothies, too.

But not all soup makers are created equal. Our tests have found that some can be very noisy, while others are slow to cook or a hassle to clean. To find one that makes perfect soups, whether you like a smooth or chunky blend, see our pick of the best soup makers for 2018[4].

3.

Wake up to warm bread with a bread maker

If you need some encouragement to get out of bed on a chilly morning, the smell of a freshly baked loaf wafting through the house might tempt you. But great bread must taste, as well as smell, fantastic, which is why we meticulously examine the loaves from every bread maker we test, checking the crust, texture and rise. Only the very best models earn our Best Buy logo, so you can rest assured that you won’t find any gaping holes, soggy bottoms or hard, sunken crusts.

If you like a speciality loaf, there are models with settings for everything from sourdough and pizza dough to gluten-free bakes. Some bread makers can also tackle extras such as making cakes, pasta dough and even jam. See our bread maker buying guide[5] for more advice on choosing the best model for you.

Keen on a bread maker?

Find out which are the best and most reliable bread maker brands[6].

Other ways to beat the winter blues

A warming bowl of soup with crusty bread on the side can be a great way to ward off chills, but if you need a more comprehensive solution, there are some useful appliances to consider. If your home has cold spots, or you don’t want to have the central heating on all day, an energy-efficient portable heater[7] can keep you warm without breaking the bank. It may not be practical to leave your windows open for too long in the winter, but a closed environment can cause damp and condensation to build up in your home.

We’ve tested more than 50 dehumidifiers, so if you’re suffering from condensation issues check our recommendations for the best dehumidifiers to buy in 2018[8]. With the short winter days, bright lighting can help cheer up dingy stairs and hallways. With the rise of super-bright 100W-replacement LED bulbs, there’s no need to settle for a bulb that’s dull and slow to brighten.

Read our guide on how to choose the best energy-saving bulb[9] to make sure you find one that’s warm and welcoming – as well as money-saving.

For more tips on keeping cosy, see our guide to making your home warm and healthy in 2018[10].

References

  1. ^ Kitchen gadget reviews (www.which.co.uk)
  2. ^ Best Buy slow cookers (www.which.co.uk)
  3. ^ slow cooker buying guide (www.which.co.uk)
  4. ^ best soup makers for 2018 (www.which.co.uk)
  5. ^ bread maker buying guide (www.which.co.uk)
  6. ^ best and most reliable bread maker brands (www.which.co.uk)
  7. ^ portable heater (www.which.co.uk)
  8. ^ best dehumidifiers to buy in 2018 (www.which.co.uk)
  9. ^ how to choose the best energy-saving bulb (www.which.co.uk)
  10. ^ guide to making your home warm and healthy in 2018 (www.which.co.uk)

Top three festive hacks for your slow cooker

If you’re planning some festive gatherings, or simply like to have an endless supply of mulled goodness over the Christmas period, the humble slow cooker could be the answer to your prayers. You might not think that a slow cooker has much of a place at the Christmas table, but it can be a handy way to keep things warm and free up space if you’ve got multiple dishes cooking on your hob or hotplate. It also means one less thing to keep an eye on when you’re tackling party prep.

We’ve pulled together three classic Christmas recipes you can prepare in your slow cooker, along with advice on tasty twists to experiment with. Watch our quick video guide to making slow cooker mulled wine and get more detail below. Best slow cookers[1] – see the models we recommend for perfect results.

Making mulled drinks in your slow cooker

Using a slow cooker means you can leave the flavours to infuse while you get on with other things, and the gentle heat means there’s less risk of overheating your concoction and boiling off the alcohol.

By switching to ‘low’ or ‘keep warm’ when it’s ready, you can keep your brew at the perfect drinking temperature throughout the evening, so it’s easy to top up thirsty guests. If you don’t have a slow cooker, you can also make these recipes on the hob, you’ll just need to cut down the heating times and stick to a gentle heat.

1. Slow cooker mulled wine

Ingredients

  • 250 ml water
  • 4-5 tablespoons caster sugar
  • 2 cinnamon sticks, 1 star anise, 6-8 cloves
  • 1 orange and 1 lemon, sliced
  • 3/4 bottle red wine
  • 1-2 capfuls rum or brandy (optional)

Method

  1. Slice the lemon and orange, and stud half of them with cloves.
  2. Cook the sugar, water, spices and clove-studded fruit for 20-30 mins on high to allow the sugar to dissolve and the flavours to infuse.
  3. Add the wine and brandy and switch to low for approximately one hour.
  4. Serve in small mugs or glasses, with spare slices of orange and lemon to garnish.

Variations to try

Don’t be afraid to experiment with flavours to find your favourite blend.

Try a splash of blackcurrant liqueur instead of brandy, clementines instead of oranges, or a handful of cranberries or allspice berries. Jamie Oliver uses sliced lime, and adds grated nutmeg and bay leaves to the mix, BBC Good Food recommends squeezing half the orange juices in to sweeten the mix, and adds a splash of Cointreau. Sliced ginger or a ginger tea bag is another way to add some zing.

Shortcuts and cheats

If you’re in a rush, you can buy pre-mixed bottles of mulled wine which are sweetened and spiced already, and simply warm and add some sliced citrus fruits.

Or you could buy a mulled spice kit – these are like small tea bags with pre-mixed spices. Cinnamon sticks can be pricey in big supermarkets, so it’s worth checking in health food shops or independents to see if you can get better value. Ready-mixed mulled wine usually works out cheaper, but you’ll have less control over the flavour and they tend to be less alcoholic too.

Best wine for mulling

We asked Helen McGinn, one of our Christmas wine tasting experts[2], for her top tips on which wine to use.

She suggested using a soft, fruity red. Think inexpensive Spanish, Chilean or Australian reds, and avoid anything too heavy and tannic, otherwise the post-mulling mellow spice flavours will struggle to get through. Her recommended extra is a splash of ruby port.

See our list of the best red wines for winter[3].

2. Slow cooker mulled cider

Ingredients

  • 550ml cider
  • 1 orange and 1 apple, sliced
  • 3 cinnamon sticks, 1 star anise, 6-8 cloves, 1 teaspoon allspice berries
  • 2 tablespoons honey or brown sugar
  • 200ml apple juice
  • 1-2 capfuls rum (optional)

Method

  1. Slice the apple and orange, and stud half the slices with cloves.
  2. Cook the honey, apple juice, spices and fruit for 20-30 mins on high to allow the sugar to dissolve and the flavours to infuse.
  3. Add the cider and rum, and switch to low for approximately one hour.
  4. Serve in small mugs or glasses, with spare slices of orange and apple to garnish.

Variations to try

Try adding some pear slices instead of apple. Nigella Lawson adds cardamom, bay leaves and ginger to her mix, while Jamie Oliver takes things up a notch fruit-wise with sliced clementines and pomegranate seeds.

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall uses a splash of sloe gin instead of rum. You could also experiment with other festive tipples such as Winter Pimm’s.

Shortcuts and cheats

As with the wine, you can buy mulled cider for warming, or a ready-made spice bag, which you can heat up with some sliced fruit for added interest.

Best cider for mulling

If mulling cider, Helen suggests using a good-quality traditional cider (not too fizzy) and if you want to extra oomph, add a slug of your favourite spirit once the mulling is done. Whether you’re mulling wine or cider, the secret is to cook it on low and not for too long.

The trick is getting the spice flavours to emerge without heating off the alcohol – which is where your slow cooker comes in.

3. Slow cooker mulled punch

This non-alcoholic version is ideal for kids, non-drinkers, or those on driving duty.

Ingredients

  • 275 ml apple juice
  • 200 ml cranberry or cherry juice
  • 250 ml orange juice
  • 1 orange and 1 apple, sliced
  • 2 cinnamon sticks, 6-8 cloves, 1 star anise
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger, or ginger tea bag
  • 1 tablespoon honey

Method

  1. Slice the apple and orange, and stud half the slices with cloves.
  2. Pop everything into the slow cooker and give it a good stir.
  3. Leave to cook on low for 1.5-2 hours.
  4. Serve in small mugs or glasses, with spare slices of orange and apple to garnish.

Variations to try

Look out for festive juice options; Ribena sells a limited edition ‘Winter Spice’ fruit cordial, and Belvoir offers a mulled winter punch drink. You can warm these in the slow cooker to make an easy non-alcoholic brew.

Shortcuts and cheats

Use a mulled wine or cider spice bag.

Mixed fruit juice is a good shortcut if you don’t want to buy multiple juice cartons.

Adapting the recipes for your slow cooker

Each recipe above is based on a small (2-3 person) slow cooker. You can then scale this up to match the size of your slow cooker or pan, and adjust the recipe to your preferences and tastes. Double quantities for medium-sized models, and triple them for larger ones.

You don’t need to double the amount of cloves and cinnamon, though – go for half as much again instead. Remember never to fill your slow cooker beyond around two-thirds full.

How to use your slow cooker[4] – advice and tips on getting the most out of slow cooking

Why not also try: Slow cooker hot chocolate

For truly icy winter days, a steaming mug of hot cocoa could do the trick. Add a dash of Baileys to give it an edge, and marshmallows, whipped cream or even a candy cane for a sweeter treat.

Simply mix up cocoa powder with whole milk and a couple of teaspoons of sugar, as you normally would.

Cook on low in the slow cooker for 1-2 hours. Add a couple of handfuls of chopped chocolate (dark or milk depending on your preference) and stir in until melted. You can also add a generous slug of cream if you’re feeling indulgent.

Cook for a further 30 minutes until hot, garnish and serve.

Other slow cooker Christmas cheats

A slow cooker can help out with more than just hot drinks at Christmas. If you’re a fan of the classic braised red cabbage and apple in cider[5] as an accompaniment to your roast dinner, this is a good dish to make in a slow cooker. If you like generous lashings of sauce with your turkey, why not make up a large batch of bread sauce instead.

For more advice on prepping for the big day, see our complete guide to Christmas cooking[6].

Choosing the best slow cooker

During the colder months, slow cookers are a great way of making hassle-free and tasty meals. The long, low heat helps to produce tender meat and rich sauces. However, in our lab tests, we’ve found that some slow cookers give out too much, too little, or uneven heat.

This can result in dried-out or undercooked food, which is not what you want to come home to. It’s not always the cheap models that are a letdown either, some pricey models haven’t lived up to the standards set by the best cheap slow cookers. There are some great cheap slow cookers around – if you choose wisely – but you’re less likely to get extra features, so it’s worth thinking about what settings you can’t live without before you buy.

See our slow cooker buying guide[7] for more advice on finding the best option for you.

References

  1. ^ Best slow cookers (www.which.co.uk)
  2. ^ Christmas wine tasting experts (www.which.co.uk)
  3. ^ best red wines for winter (www.which.co.uk)
  4. ^ How to use your slow cooker (www.which.co.uk)
  5. ^ braised red cabbage and apple in cider (www.which.co.uk)
  6. ^ complete guide to Christmas cooking (www.which.co.uk)
  7. ^ slow cooker buying guide (www.which.co.uk)

Klarstein Jacuzzi Sous-Vide Cooker (6L, 520W, +/-0,5 °C, LCD, Adjustable Temperature Between 45 and 99 ° C, Brushed Stainless Steel) Silver

Gentle sous-vide cooker for simple vacuum garnishes for crunchy healthy vegetablesand juicy tender meat at home.

Large water bath with up to a 6 liter capacity and 520 W heating power with anadjustable cooking time and cooking temperature.

Precise temperatures between 45 and 90°C during the overall cooking time with amaximum deviation of 0.5°C.

Pleasure starts with cooking. For this reason, vegetables, fish or meat can be foundin the water bath of the Klarstein Jacuzzi sous-vide cooker. In the comfortably warmwhirlpool safely packaged in a vacuum bag, natural aromas and ingredients arepreserved. Spices and marinades are particularly well suited, as the food is cookeddelicately. The sous-chef for every kitchen!

The Klarstein Jacuzzi sous-vide cooker offers wellness for the taste buds. Thekitchen is simply a professional cooker: simply vacuum the food, place the bags in a6 l water bath, set the temperature and the cooking time, and then you are ready. Therest is done by the 520 W cooker, whcih has a maximum temperature deviation of 0.5 °Cduring the whole cooking time. This makes precise low-temperature cooking fun!Through the transparent lid, the food can be observed the whole time during thewellness treatment. No what is to be cooked, the cooking time table in the annualhelp you to select the right temperature between 45 and 90 °C and the length of thecooking time. The latter can be set in 30 minute increments for up to 72 hours. Ablue LCD shows the selected temperature and count down the cooking time duringoperation. The included insert helps you to place the vacuumed meat slices neatlyinto the water bath, while with the tongs the pouches can be easily pulled out of thehot water.

Now the kitchen becomes a wellness area. The Klarstein Jacuzzi sous-vide cooker is abeautiful hot tub for fish, meat and vegetables

  • Easy-to-use 520 W vacuum cooker for the home | Tub with a 6 l capacity | Adjustable temperature in 1 °C increments between 45 and 90°C
  • Cooking time in 30 minute increments selectable up to 72 hours | High precision: maximum temperation deviation of 0.5 °C
  • On/off switch on the front of the device | Blue LCD for displaying the chosen temperature and remaining cooking time | Simple operation via a rotary knob
  • Pleasure starts with cooking. For this reason, vegetables, fish or meat can be found in the water bath of the Klarstein  Jacuzzi  sous-vide cooker . In the comfortably warm whirlpool safely packaged in a vacuum bag, natural aromas and ingredients are preserved. Spices and marinades are particularly well suited, as the food is cooked delicately. The sous-chef for every kitchen!
  • The  Klarstein Jacuzzi  sous-vide cooker  offers wellness for the taste buds. The kitchen is simply a professional cooker: simply vacuum the food, place the bags in a 6 l water bath, set the temperature and the cooking time, and then you are ready. The rest is done by the 520 W cooker, whcih has a maximum temperature deviation of 0.5 °C during the whole cooking time.

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