Five reasons why my slow cooker is ruining dinner

Bad slow cooker meal

My slow cooker is ruining my life! Or, okay fine. But it’s at least messing with dinner.

There I am, all chopping and dicing first thing in the morning before I’ve even had my third coffee, thinking about how much I am totally owning this Wednesday. That’s right, people. Give me your best shot. Deadlines? Appointments? Meetings? Lunches? Sick kids? Two hockey practices, a subway delay, and a freaking blizzard? NICE TRY. But, sorry, you can’t get me down because I have dinner made. Better luck next time.

And then. And then. You have got to be kidding me.  The stew I made for dinner had that god-awful, gag-me-now, unidentified slow cooker flavour. Again this has happened? For real? How is a woman supposed to take over the world and feed her family at this same time when dinner keeps getting sabotaged?

The taste is hard to pin point. It’s definitely an undertone that permeates the entire dish rather than one element or another. It’s not-quite metallic, but I almost want to use that description for lack of a better word. It certainly doesn’t remind me of any other food flavour I’ve experienced other than “slow cooker.” Dishes with more or stronger seasoning and less liquid seem to have less of this flavour and chicken dishes, especially any kind of chicken soup, chowder, or stew seem to have the most.

At first, I thought it was just a bad recipe. Then I got hip and realized this was a problem for me with slow cooking in general. But what I couldn’t figure out was why so many people swear by their slow cookers. Don’t they have the same problem? Then, after last night’s slow-cooking-tainted dinner, something snapped and I became downright obsessed. WHAT IS THIS TASTE?

So I used the tried-and-true method of asking around and googling a bunch and here’s what I came up with. It’s gotta be one of these five things.

My slow cooker is the worstI have a seven or eight-year-old Crock-Pot with a stoneware insert that could be, maybe, absorbing flavours. Maybe it has absorbed enough weird tastes that it taints all the dishes made in it. Maybe the stoneware itself is leaching some sort of off-tasting substance into the food! Maybe I’ve thought about this possibility on and off for years, but then went, “Eh, but it’s probably fine,” and kept on using it and now the guilt is driving me insane and I am hallucinating the flavour.

I’m doing it wrong. This is the crowd favourite and, really, who can blame them? After all, everybody else likes their slow cooker! They make wonderful and delicious meals that are hot and ready for their family AND they kick butt all day not standing over the stove. I’m probably an idiot; some kind of savant who can work a stove top, oven, barbecue, broiler, and waffle maker, but just cannot wrap my head around a frigging crock pot. Listen! I’m not saying they’re wrong. It’s entirely possible. They tell me to choose a recipe that actually needs a long cooking time, to avoid ingredients that will turn bitter like garlic and peppers, and to sear meat before adding it, and, by god, I will try to do those things better.

I’m cooking the food to death. Here’s a wild idea. PERHAPS slow cooking most food on low for 7 to 8 hours is an insanely long time and finally my dinner has to roll over and surrender. “I already died around the five hour mark, lady. Now I am actually rotting. That flavour you can’t put your finger on is decomposition.” Right. That almost actually makes sense. Like, maybe anything short of a braised shoulder roast which does, in fact, require a small eternity to break down, should just be thrown in on high for three to four hours instead. Better yet, I could simply use a pot.

I should use a liner. Hold up. Say again? You can buy disposable heat-safe plastic liners that you can dump all your food into so you never have to wash another Crock-Pot in your life?!? Sign. Me. Up. Hey, maybe that’ll even help with the flavour.

I am one of the chosen ones. Or just maybe every dish ever cooked in a slow cooker tastes like garbage, but only people with an *ahem* refined enough palette can pick up on it. But seriously! Maybe it’s like how some people gag on cilantro while the rest of us are getting fat off guacamole. Maybe not everyone can taste it. My husband, for example, thought last night meal was “pretty good.” Half the people I talk to are all, “I KNOW EXACTLY WHAT YOU MEAN,” while the other half just shrug and say, “I can give you a recipe if you want.”

Now that we’ve narrowed down the possibilities, the only thing left is to see how many more slow cooker dinners I can stomach trying to get to the bottom of this. Oh yes, I am way too crazy invested to let this drop now. Let’s see which of these theories holds water.