A Crock Pot Slow Cooker
Because these appliances work at lower temperatures and operate over a longer period of time, they are also called "slow cookers." (Some even have multiple settings or time-controlled settings.)
We have successfully used crock pots in our trucks.
We can also testify to the fact that leaving food in a slow cooker for too long a period of time can result in overcooked food. So they're not fool-proof.
Also, it should be noted that most (if not all) 120-volt slow cookers come with instructions that they are "for household use only" and they are not to be used for "other than intended use."
However, we have seen crockpots for sale at truck stops specifically for use in 18-wheel tractor trailers. So, please use your own best judgment in this regard.
The basic parts of this appliance are:
For many units, replacement parts are available from the manufacturer.
Also, some manufacturers include in their owner's manuals a number of recipes to provide ideas for cooking meals. Some recipes are simple and others are quite complex. If you have always aspired to be a roaming gourmet in your truck, using one of these appliances might enable you to fulfill your dream.
Size and Capacity
The capacity of every crock pot slow cooker we've ever seen has been listed in quarts. The largest we've ever seen is 6½ quarts (a really huge appliance designed for fixing a lot of food). We have a 6-quart appliance at home and would never consider using it in our truck because of size.
working part of any crock pot is that which heats the food in the
liner. Special precautions should be taken with these parts. Obviously,
the heater can become quite hot when it is turned on. You'll want to
use the handles or knobs (and possible even oven mitts) to move it,
being careful of the hot liquids within.
Remember that the heating base is powered externally.
Most slow cookers we've seen are AC-powered, but there are 12-volt DC-powered and propane-powered units available.
Standard precautions should be used in protecting the power cords or gas cylinders when operating your appliance.
None of the heating bases we've seen are immersible like those of hot pots or electric skillets. Always follow the manufacturer's recommendations with respect to cleaning them.
Many more options open up for using appliances in your truck if you have an inverter -- especially a battery-connected one.
Three things that you will want to bear in mind as you shop for an appliance are:
For what it is worth, the large CorningWare™ Electrics unit we own doesn't much act like a slow cooker because it cooks hotter than the others we own. Whereas one appliance might take all night to cook a piece of meat, this one takes only 4-6 hours (even on "low")! So be aware that not all units operate at the same temperature.
You may have to run your appliance a few times to get a feel for how long it takes to cook, heat, or reheat various foods based on the temperature setting.
One of our pet peeves is the poor quality of most 12-volt appliances. That's one of the reasons why we encourage truckers to submit product reviews on our site, to help prevent other truckers from falling in a money pit (especially if a product is purchased from a truck stop that limits returns or exchanges).
Even if you are limited to using a 12-volt cigarette lighter inverter in your truck, you can still find good quality 120-volt slow cookers that require very low wattage to operate.
Our massive 6-quart CorningWare appliance uses 340 watts, which would be easy for a 1500-watt battery-connected inverter to supply but impossible for a plug-in, cigarette lighter-style 175 watt inverter to supply.
Each of the three crock pots we own have three "feet" upon which they "sit." The higher the unit, however, the more likely it is to tip over (especially when it contains food). This is a special concern for professional drivers who desire to cook while they're rolling down the road. By taking one good curve in the road a little too fast, the appliance can tip over, causing a real mess and ruining your meal.
|We do not recommend this, but
one idea for keeping a crock pot from tipping over is to brace it by
putting it -- surrounded by towels -- in a heat-resistant container to
keep it upright.
If such a device resists heat well enough, consider using something like a lined milk crate. Of course, in the process of bracing your appliance, you will need to make sure it does not create a fire hazard.
Removable or Non-Removable Liner
One crock pot we used on the road had a non-removable liner. This was convenient because there was no opportunity for the liner to be jarred and accidentally cracked when being transported.
On the other hand, removable liners can be cleaned more easily and even put away in the refrigerator (after cooling appropriately).
One of the problems we've seen is that if any food spills past the lid, it can run down in between the heating base and liner, requiring more time for clean-up.
Most of the liners we've seen are some kind of ceramic or stoneware material. Sudden temperature changes can lead to cracked crocks. They need to be handled with care.
Since we first started using a crock pot in our trucks, a new product called a slow cooker liner has come on the market. There are even off-brand liners available now, although the cost savings may be minimal compared to name brand liners.
Just as we had success in using Reynolds oven bags for cooking meats in an oven at home, so we had success using a slow cooker liner in a crock pot in our trucks.
Note that these items generally cost $1 or more each, which adds to your meal preparation costs. However, ask yourself if it cost you $1 worth (or more) of your time to clean your slow cooker.
We wonder how many truckers "stack" multiple items in a slow cooker liner, each separated by a "twist" of the bag.
For example, one could put the meat in the bottom of the bag, twist it closed, and then layer the vegetables in the top and tie it closed.
Of course, if you want for the vegetables to take on the flavor of the meat (such as we did with our pot roast), there's no need to stack foods.
It is easier to stack foods in a slow cooker liner if the liner is deeper than wider.
Most if not all crock pot lids are designed to allow you to see your food while it is cooking. They are made of either hard plastic or glass.
While the lid fits on top of an appliance to keep food in while allowing steam to escape, we're sure you know that the bumpier the road you travel, the more likely it is that the lid can rattle, become dislodged or break. Just as you will want to brace your unit to keep it from tipping over during your trip, so you will want to place something heat-resistant on the lid to keep it in place.
We do not recommend this, but are sharing it based on our experience: Vicki greatly dislikes rattles, so to eliminate any rattling from the lid on top of the crock pot when traveling down the road, she started putting a heavy towel or blanket on top to anchor it in place. Not only can the towel help keep the lid from moving, but it can absorb any steam that escapes from the cooking food.
We have also used a very large rubber band to secure a lid in transit.
If you accidentally break the lid, you might be able to find a source that sells replacement lids online. However, if they cost as much as one that Vicki found to replace the lid from our brown crock pot, by the time you pay for the replacement lid plus postage, you can probably buy a brand new appliance (lid included!). That's what we ended up doing.
Crock pots are generally either round or oval, and short or tall. If you have the space already blocked out in your truck for storing the unit, the shape might not matter as much as the exterior dimensions. Just bear in mind that you will need to allow a little extra space for the knobs or handles on the sides of the unit.
Also, if you have a tall unit, make sure that you have the space to brace it so it won't tip over.
Not Created Equal
In doing research for this page, we came across the manual for a "32 oz. Double Dipper™ Slow Cooker" which states,
"The unit is not designed for use with uncooked meats. If a recipe calls for meat, it should be fully cooked before combining with other ingredients and heating it in the unit."
So, be aware of how the unit is to be used before you buy it.
As we're sure you know, a crock pot has its limits with respect to cooking:
But what it does, it does very well, which is to cook slowly.
Cost and Warranty
Depending on the materials, programming and size, this appliance can be one of the most affordable cooking options on the market today.
Before you buy a crock pot, pay special attention to the length of the warranty. We recommend that if the unit has only a "limited 90 day warranty," keep looking.
Buying a 120-volt slow cooker with a one-year warranty, combined with an inverter, is a much better value (in our opinion) than buying a 12-volt unit with only a limited 90-day warranty.
Not only is the warranty period longer, but you can use an A/C-powered device in your truck with an inverter or in your home (or hotel room).
Our overall results in using a crock pot in our trucks having been excellent, our adage in using one is:
Of course, you don't want to let it go ... and go ... and go. There is a limit to how long certain foods can be cooked before they lose all nutritional content or get mushy or become inedible. Once, we overcooked raw hamburger meat in our unit and had to deal with both an inedible blob sitting in a large pool of grease. Yuck!
On the other hand, we occasionally purchase a boneless turkey that we cook in the crock pot. We usually always have one for Thanksgiving dinner. When we do that, we put the turkey in the unit on low, let it cook for a number of hours, prepare all the rest of the trimmings we desire, and have a most delicious Thanksgiving Day meal right there in our truck. There was enough meat left each time that we were able to make a couple more meals. When we look back on these experiences, we congratulate ourselves over having been so frugal as to have saved the cost of Thanksgiving Day meals in a restaurant each time.
Besides the bracing aspects of transporting a working appliance, we don't recommend this but have found that another noise muffler is to put the working crock pot under the bunk. Depending on what you're cooking, you won't be able to ignore or forget what is being cooked under the bunk because the delicious smells coming forth may drive you crazy!
Crock Pot Slow Cooker Recipes
These are some of the recipes for foods that we have personally cooked in our trucks over the years:
Money saving tip: Once when we were teaming, we prepared a pot of barbeque before we swapped out driving. Mike took over driving while Vicki slept. As soon as Vicki woke up, she asked, "Do you smell that?" Mike replied, "How can you not?" Vicki prepared the rest of the meal prior to reaching our stopping point. When we arrived, we had a most bodacious meal and saved the cost of two meals at a barbeque restaurant.
From poultry to beef to pork; from soups to stews to beans and peas; a crock pot can be used to cook and heat up so many things that your money saving options are practically unlimited.
You may want to fix some foods that are previously unprepared. Or you may choose to warm up previously prepared things, such as what your home support team has canned or frozen.
To help spur your imagination, you may wish to peruse RecipeSource.com's "Crockpot Recipes".
If you were to eat just one crock pot-cooked meal in your truck per week -- that you would have spent $10 on in a restaurant (meal plus tip) -- and you multiply that by 52 weeks per year, you will have saved over $500 per year.
To put your potential savings into perspective, we made two sets of calculations –- one on a weekly basis and the other on a yearly basis -- with
How much will your savings would be...?
Professional truck drivers, please take advantage of the freebies and discounts being offered to you at the Mid America Trucking Show.
For more info like this, please return to our Mid America Trucking Show page.
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