Many traditional recipes can be converted to a slow cooker recipe by reducing the liquid by 50 percent and increasing the cooking time. As a guideline 1 hour in the oven equals about 6 to 8 hours on LOW in the slow cooker.

I have read a quote which likens a slow cooker to a plug-in 1950s housewife but without the gingham and Tupperware. As a single parent with 3 hungry boys to feed, coming home from a long day at work to a prepared meal sounds like a dream come true!

Crock Pots have certainly gained popularity in recent times and the delicious recipes are healthier and tastier than a fast food alternative. I also love that when you prepare a larger serving there is enough for 2 or more meals. The extras can be used for lunches the next day, reheated the next night or frozen for when you need to have something on the table quickly. It can also be a blessing in the summer months as your kitchen will not be heated up as when you use the oven.

Buying a Crock Pot is like going to a candy store. Obviously size and price are important factors. Consumer organisations like Consumer.org.nz and Choice.com.au often complete reviews on current brands and models giving you some unbiased advice on what to look for when choosing a slow cooker.

There are so many fantastic recipes available. This method of cooking is ideal if you are on a budget as well as many cheaper cuts of meat can be made extremely tender when cooked this way. I recommend preparing the ingredients in the bowl the night before. Just cover the bowl with the lid or cling film and pop in the fridge. In the morning you just set and forget until you get home to the mouth watering aromas.

Ideal ingredients/recipes include lamb shanks, silverside, osso bucco, casseroles, soups, and roasted meats, root vegetables such as carrots, parsnips, potatoes, celeriac, onions, swede, beans and lentils.

Food Safety Hints:

For safety, dried kidney beans should be cooked at boiling point for at least 10 minutes beforehand to destroy toxins that would otherwise survive the lower temperatures of a crock pot.

If there’s a power failure while you’re out and your meal’s cooking, throw it out – it may be unsafe to eat. Don’t reheat leftovers in a slow cooker. Use a microwave, stove top or oven.

Once your food is cooked, and the slow cooker is turned off – don’t leave it in the slow cooker for too long. Food needs to be kept hotter than 60°C (or cooler than 5°C) to avoid harmful bacteria growth.

Melissa Gillespie is a writer living in Brisbane Australia. Melissa writes articles for http://www.foodlovers.co.nz and a range of other clients.