How Does a Crock Pot Work?

Crock pots are a good way to cook food without having to devote constant attention to a cooking appliance.

Introduction

People use crock pots to cook such meals as pot roasts, chicken dishes and stews. What makes the crock pot so useful and versatile has to do with its design and mastery of moist heat. Understanding these factors can give you insight on why a crock pot can cook food for hours upon end without drying it out.

Crock pots are a good way to cook food without having to devote constant attention to a cooking appliance. People use crock pots to cook such meals as pot roasts, chicken dishes and stews. What makes the crock pot so useful and versatile has to do with its design and mastery of moist heat. Understanding these factors can give you insight on why a crock pot can cook food for hours upon end without drying it out.

Design

Crock pots, also known as slow cookers, are usually made out of ceramic or porcelain, two materials known to handle heat for lengthy periods of time. The crock pot lid is made of glass that isn't air tight to allow for pressure relief. Within the crock pot is a heating element at the bottom and sides of the pot. Crock pots operate on electricity and can sit on your counter top.

Moving The Moist Heat

The crock pot works by using relatively low heat and liquid to cook raw meat and vegetables. Crock pots can cook anywhere between 160 and 300 degrees Fahrenheit. They start at the low end and slowly build to the 300 degree mark over the course of hours. Since the heat is a slow application, there doesn't have to be a lot of liquid involved ensuring an evenly-cooked meal. However, the liquid aids in keeping heat on the meat, even as it condenses on the lid and falls back down into the pot. Although the lid isn't airtight, it has to fit fairly tight on the crock pot to prevent that heated liquid from escaping. At relatively low temperatures and constant moist heat, this slow cooking process can last up to 12 hours.

Choosing Your Pot

Some crock pots can automatically set themselves to a warming temperature around 160 degrees. This can keep all the liquid from evaporating and leaving you with dried, salty meat. More advanced crock pots, like the Kitchen-Aid 7-quart cooker, allow you to program when the temperature changes occur, giving you more recipe options. When purchasing a crock pot, size and shape should be considered. If you plan on cooking larger meals like complete chicken dinners, oval crock pots may be the better option. The smaller, rounder crock pots with lids that double as serving trays should be chosen when cooking for two and you are cramped for space.

About the Author

Paul Bright has been writing online since 2006, specializing in topics related to military employment and mental health. He works for a mental health non-profit in Northern California. Bright holds a Bachelor of Science in psychology from the University of North Carolina-Pembroke and a Master of Arts in psychology-marriage and family therapy from Brandman University.