Slow cooking without a slow cooker
I frequently hear people telling me about how wonderful their slow cookers (AKA "crock pot") are. In many cases they're right - meat that tends to come out tough in normal cooking comes out very tender from a slow cooker.
But do I really need a slow cooker to pull this off? It seems like such a basic concept - simmer and/or steam at low heat. What's so special about these devices? For kitchens with very limited space, can a slow cooker be "synthesized" from other cooking implements, or is there really no substitute?
I'm still waiting for someone to make a combination slow cooker / rice cooker / deep fryer / steamer for apartment dwellers ... they're all just a container with a heater. (and rice cookers will *switch to warm* when the water's absorbed, whereas I don't know if any slow cookers will)
I have a rice cooker with 3 of the 4 - slow cooker/rice cooker/steamer. If you were feeling MacGuyverish, you could probably repurpose it for a deep fryer - I've never checked it's maximum temp.
@justkt : most slow cookers switch to warm after a pre-determined time, or some of the new ones because you hit temp with a probe thermometer, not because there's no water available like a rice cooker will.
It's just an oven on low - only difference is the cost and possibly safety of leaving your oven on for 8hours
@Joe, I'm waiting for someone to hack one of those electronic pressure cookers ( https://duckduckgo.com/?q=Electric+Programmable+Pressure+Cooker+!a ). Right now, I think they will supply everything except "deep fryer" as they come from the factory.
In addition to slow cooker, some rice cookers also come with a quick-cook cycle, which is excellent for such things as browning onions for soup.
@Joe I don't know if you're still waiting but someone made a machine for you (it even does sous vide) https://www.bosch-home.com/za/products-list/multicooker/multicooker2/MUC88B68
Your best bet would be a dutch oven on a low to medium low heat in the oven. You could use a regular pot in the oven, but you'd need to stir it regularly (maybe every hour) to stop everything from sticking to the sides and burning.
This is exactly how I make pulled pork in the winter and a few similar dishes. Would you say it's the same as using a slow cooker? (Since I don't own one, I can't compare.)
I actually prefer it to a slow cooker. I find things in a slow cooker turn out "wet" as opposed to moist, particularly meat. I like the dutch oven as I find meat is tender, but still has a bit of "structure". In a slow cooker I find it almost makes the meat mushy.
You can also get creative by burying your dutch oven in the ground with some hot (heated in a fire) rocks underneath, and on top of it, then burying it with dirt. Granted, you'll have to be comfortable with digging holes in your yard and handling hot rocks, but it is fun. :) Oh yes, don't heat rocks that you've pulled from a river or lake. The water absorbed in them will turn to steam and can cause catastrophic explosions.