Cooking smaller meals conveniently
March 23, 2020
Everyone does not have a large family at home. When cooking for just a few, it is hard to find smaller equipment to cook with. There are two major ways to save time and energy. One is Slow Cookers also called Crock Pots and the other is Pressure Cookers to cook very quickly indeed. It is hard to find smaller models of both.
I have relied on my 1 quart Rival Crock-ette for years but they stopped making new ones a long time ago. I went looking for a new Crock pot in the 1 quart size and could not find one. I also use a 90 Watt Proctor Silex 1.5 quart crock pot for baking loaves of hearty breads and it is also off the market. In my search for a widely available and inexpensive crock pot I found the 120 Watt Elite brand by Maxi-matic 1.5 quart size. I noticed it offers more power on high and has medium and keep warm settings too. It should bake breads a little faster and cook other foods like soups and stews all day on medium. For only about $15 delivered I went ahead and ordered one to try.
I had never heard of the Elite brand before. Online I found they do make a wide range of small kitchen appliances. It does look well made and the crock is the same size as my Proctor Silex and many other brands of 1.5 quart crock pots. I like to have spare pots so I can cook something else before finishing up the first food. For example after the bread and the pot are separated and completely cool on a rack, I store the bread back in the crock instead of wrapping in plastic. I may make a pot roast or stew to serve with that bread. The enclosed Elite instruction manual does not provide recipes. It does have long lists of tips for slow cooking and suitable foods for slow cooking and how to prepare them. It comes with a limited one year warranty with a dated proof of purchase.
To compare the amount of heat of my old Proctor Silex and this new Elite model I added 24 ounces of cold tap water to each one and measured the temperatures after 30 minutes of heating on high and every 15 minutes after that for a total cooking time of 2.5 hours. I chose that amount of time because most all varieties of breads I make are done by then, and I expected the Elite to be a little quicker. The Elite averaged about 12 degrees hotter so I am certain breads will be done a little sooner. This is important to me because when we lose power we run our home generator just over 2 hours once a day.
I love my Presto 4 quart pressure cooker and have used it in cooking shown in several articles here. For cooking beans and many grains you can only half fill a pressure cooker so the actual capacity is two quarts of certain foods. It would take too many days to eat 2 quarts of beans or rice in my family. Looking around Online I found the Hawkins brand line of pressure cookers from India offered in many smaller sizes and styles. I chose the 2 Liter model B25 which is highly polished stainless steel with a thick aluminum slab under the pot for quick and even heating. I feel safest cooking in stainless steel, especially for recipes with tomatoes or other acid foods. Anodized aluminum may heat a little quicker and more efficiently. My Hawkins cooker seems very well made. It is a unique design and some what different to use than my various American made pressure canners and cookers. Each of the many styles offered by Hawkins has its own instructions and I was able to read and compare them Online.
For any pressure cooker you need a heat source you can control and adjust precisely. At first you need high heat to get up to pressure and then a very low heat is all you need to maintain that. Most any home gas or electric range should be fine. On a heating wood stove it would be impossible, and on a wide wood cooking range like we have it would be difficult to find a spot with just the right amount of high and then suddenly very low heat. You also need to understand and follow the makers instructions very carefully. You will save some time, but you will save a large amount of fuel.
For my photographs I thought I would try using my TRANGIA brand model #25 larger size Backpacking stove. It is intended for cooking outside. I do not back pack, but I do use it for cool weather picnics and when the power is out. It is very efficient on fuel and can use various burners and fuels. I chose the gas burner with an adapter for Propane instead of canister gas. At 4 minutes steam was coming from the vent and I put the weight in place. At 6 minutes it was up to pressure and in only 6 more minutes the pressure cooking was done and it just had to cool off. Later I moved the cooked beans to my Crock-ette and seasoned them to slow cook all afternoon.