My husband and I feel pretty lukewarm about our slow cooker. Like many other models, it requires searing a roast on the stovetop before putting it inside the pot. That means dirtying a pan and the slow cooker, each a pain to clean.
So I was intrigued by the Ninja 3-in-1 Cooking System, ninjakitchen.com, which sears meat and slow cooks in one pot. And it bakes and roasts with steam infusion. My dream kitchen includes a steam oven for healthier cooking — typically half the fat is needed for moistness compared to conventional ovens. Steam ovens are pricey, $3,000 and more. Ninja has an MSRP of $199, although you can get it for $50 less at Walmart.
Traditional slow cooking: We made carnitas as well as Puchero de Res (beef soup with corn and potatoes), both from “The Mexican Slow Cooker” by Deborah Schneider. The carnitas, 4 pounds of pork flavored only with 2 teaspoons salt, was more tender than what has cooked in our other slow cooker. Flavors in the soup mingled nicely.
Searing: I followed the Ninja cookbook’s Coffee-Braised Beef With Mushroom Sauce recipe. Using the stovetop setting, the beef seared perfectly, and using the steam oven function, it roasted nicely, too. But the coffee and mushroom sauce left such a bitter flavor we didn’t use it on our meat.
On the plus side was the easy cleanup. I basically just wiped the nonstick surface instead of having to scrub it like our other cooker.
Steam baking: I looked forward to making mini blueberry muffins using half the oil. But my mini muffin pan, small already, was too large to fit inside. So I decided to make a German chocolate cake using the traditional 9-inch round pan used in most mixes, but that was also too big. I flipped to the back of the Ninja’s cookbook and saw that super petite bakeware is required — therefore so was a trip to a specialty store such as Pryde’s Old Westport. Baked in a 6-inch round pan, using half the vegetable oil, the German chocolate cake turned out moist but a bit soggy. Guess I’ll have to keep dreaming.
Stacy Downs, email@example.com