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Slow cookers seem like an easy way to cook a meal if you are prepared to wait the 8 hours or so for the meal to cook.

Can you simply put all the ingredients, including onion, for something like bolognese in a slow cooker and expect it cook properly? Will the onion soften like it does when fried with oil?

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I had no idea that would be an issue with a slow cooker. –  Blessed Geek Dec 21 '12 at 1:30
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2 Answers 2

With regard to your comment, "what can you cook in a slow cooker", I cook almost everything in the slow cooker!

With regard to onions, I suggest that you precook the onions so that they obtain the texture that you want and then add them to the slow cooker. For example, when I cook stew, I caramelise the onions before placing them in the slow cooker, for the cooking temperature is too low for Maillard reactions.

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What do you see as the main advantage of the slow cooker? –  Paul Lassiter Dec 20 '12 at 12:19
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@Paul Lassiter: One can make very tasty dishes with a minimum of effort as well as using cheaper cuts of meat. One uses less electricity and one doesn't heat the house in the summer (by not using the oven). Your mileage may vary, of course. But a slow cooker is not a panacea: certain cooking techniques will not work in a slow cooker. –  No'am Newman Dec 20 '12 at 13:37
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The problem's not in the slow cooking -- the problem's in the putting all of the ingredients together. The acid of the tomatoes will prevent the onions from softening, so you'll not get the same texture that you'd get from cooking the onions first, then adding the tomatoes.

You might be able to solve that problem by not chopping the onions -- use a grater to effectively turn it into onion juice, and you won't have to worry about the chunkiness problems.

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So if onions are effectively out, what can you cook in a slow-cooker? –  Paul Lassiter Dec 20 '12 at 8:10
    
@PaulLassiter : you can cook them, you just won't get the same texture; just like how you won't get any browning. (although there are some newer devices on the markets that are combined slow cookers / steam oven / electric skillet, which get hot enough to brown things first, then switch it over to slow cooking) (although, I'm still waiting for the slow cooker / deep fryer / rice cooker combo ... all just bulky things that heat up) –  Joe Dec 20 '12 at 9:32
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