What are electric casseroles? How should they be used?
Electric casseroles are 9×13-in, rectangular crockery slow cookers. Known as casserole cookers or slow cooker casseroles, they work like a slow cooker but are ideal for preparing favorite casserole dishes, lasagna, desserts and more that one would ordinarily bake in the oven because they do not present well when made in a traditional slow cooker. Like a slow cooker, they are ideal for make-ahead meals to simplify mealtime for busy families.
There are at least two manufacturers that make casseroles cookers—Crock-Pot® and Chefman. Hamilton Beach also offered one but it appears to no longer be available. These appliances have a 3.5 quart, stoneware, oven-safe, crock insert that is removable for easy cleaning or for actually baking in the oven. All of the models come with a locking lid system for easy transport without spills making them safe and ideal for carry-in or potluck meals. Like a slow cooker, they reduce heat in the kitchen and free up oven space when the kitchen is on overload. Crock-Pot® offers both a manual setting (high, low, warm) unit as well as a programmable unit; the Chefman appliance offers only manual features. The stoneware crocks are dishwasher-safe making cleanup a breeze.
Should one need to put the removable insert into the oven for baking, reheating, melting toppings or browning, Crock Pot® asserts that the crockery insert can be used safely in the microwave or the oven up to 400ºF without the lid. The Chefman website says the crock insert can be used over an open flame on the stovetop to simmer sauce, sauté vegetables, or brown meat before slow cooking for greater depth of flavor. It can also be used in an oven to roast, bake, or reheat.
Any recipe that one would make in a traditional slow cooker will work in the casserole cookers. Also any casserole recipe designed for the oven will work as long as additional time is allowed for cooking. For the most part, the cooking time required of a traditional slow cooker is the same for the casserole cooker. However, timing may vary some depending upon manufacturers and different appliances.
Here’s some ideas to get one thinking about how to use a slow cooker casserole: corn casserole, baked beans, scalloped potatoes and ham, funeral potatoes, spaghetti and meat balls, beef and noodles, enchiladas, tater tot casserole, bbq chicken, apple or fruit crisps, lasagna, French toast casserole, egg bake, vegetable gratins, and green bean casserole. Cookies can even be baked in the crocks. There are any number of slow cooker recipe books available—a cookbook for everyone, every cuisine, and every occasion—as well as numerous websites with ideas and recipes.
While the casserole cooker option likely won’t replace the traditional slow cooker, it is a great option for slow cooking recipes that are more casserole-like. I have one and find it quite useful, especially when the family comes home.