Crock Pot Week - The History of Slow Cooking


Ever since man first tamed fire, slow cooking was discovered as a way to soften up and tenderize those tough slabs of meat and fibrous rooty vegetables. In prehistoric times, indigenous peoples often cooked wild root plants in a slow burning fire pit for a full 24 hours. This released the nutrition locked into the bulbs and made them much more tender and tastier to eat. Tough meat cuts especially benefit from slow cooking. Slow cooking these chewy cuts broke down the collagen in the meat and turned it into a gelatinous broth. As the fibers of the meat separated and shrunk during slow cooking, the juices would moisten the meat and turn even the toughest cuts into a mouth watering meal.

As food preparation became more refined, family chefs looked for quicker ways to prepare their meals. Modern appliances and easy fixing meals meant that all day cooking was a thing of the past. Slow cooking was considered an archaic pastime and primarily used to for stewing old hens, preparing kettles of soup and baking beans.

With canned bean selections pretty limited in the early 1960s, it's no wonder that the West Bend developed an electric bean cooker called the Bean Pot. This early electric slow cooker resembled a tradition crockery bean pot which rested on a warming tray.

The Crock Pot is developed
The Naxon Utilities Corp of Chicago developed their own version of a bean cooker, called the Beanery. This primitive slow cooker was a self contained unit and the precursor of the modern slow cooker. In 1970, the Rival company acquired the assets of the Naxon Utilities Corp and the rights to the Beanery. Rival refined the looks of the Beanery, and in 1971, introduced the Rival Crock-pot slow cooker.

The Crock Pot was an instant success and soon housewives across America included Crock Pots in their lineup of must have appliances. In 1974, Rival redesigned the Crock Pot once again to include a removable stoneware liner. This removable liner made it much easier to store the food in the refrigerator and made cleanup a snap.

After only 10 years, Crock Pot sales reached $30 million dollar in 1981.

These days, Crock Pots and slow cookers aren't quite as popular as they once were, and are often the butt of Wedding Gift jokes. I myself received six of them back in the late 1970s! All six of the Crock Pots were returned since I already had one of my own ~ Mom's old Rival's 1971 debut Crock Pot in Brady Bunch orange. 35 years later, her old crock pot is still being used twice a week to prepare family dinners. I think of it as my little secret for cooking mouthwatering meals on a shoe-string budget.

How Crock Pot cooking can save time & money in the kitchen
The idea behind the slow cooker is still a sound one. That long, slow simmering does tenderize tough cuts of roasts and chicken, and bring a fullness of flavor to home made soups. It's also ideal for cooking dried beans and legumes which require hours of slow simmering to soften. Stews and soups aren't all that Crock Pots can do ~ in our household, we slow cook everything from casseroles to rice & pasta dishes, steamed puddings and even breads.

The greatest advantage of all, is something that our mothers discovered back in 1971. Fifteen minutes of prep time in the morning meant that a steaming hot dinner greeted our families at the door after a long day at school and work. For a family watching pennies, even after 35 years, Crock Pot cooking continues to be an easy and affordable way to prepare evening meals.

Written by C. Jeanne Heida - Featured Business & Finance Contributor

1 comment:

  1. My form of crock pot cooking is an old fashioned iron pot simmering on the wood stove all day. In the winter, the wood stove is going all day anyway so it even saves of fuel for my stove.

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