Meskin Chiskin: Summertime Cooking is a Crock

Today, the Object at Hand, is my energy efficient crock pot and its summer use outdoors to produce “Meskin Chiskin.” Or Mexican Chicken, should you prefer to eschew cutesy neologisms.

One room in which keeping cool really matters is the kitchen. I don’t have central air. I grew up in a 1920’s house with window units in the bedrooms. I had no air conditioning at all in any of my college apartments where I cooked my own meals. And now in my 1890’s house, I again just have a few strategic window units. This situation helps keep me aware of how much it costs to keep cool; both in dollars and carbon. A refrigerator pumps out quite a bit of heat on its own. So in the summertime, we spend much less time and energy cooking indoors.

But first, some exposition about heat and efficiency:

In the air conditioning season, there is a particular penalty for using appliances. Every watt you use indoors (lights, TV, toasters, microwave, fridge, etc.) produces 3.4 BTU’s per hour. Then you burn another half watt or more to remove that heat via the air conditioner. So if you want to slow cook a meal with a 250 watt crock pot for five hours, you spend the 1.25 kilowatt-hours for the cooking, plus another 0.6 kilowatt hours to remove the heat. That’s assuming a high efficiency, properly cleaned and maintained A/C. Plus, it heats up the kitchen until the heat can get pumped back out.

Raw ChickenSo I decided to put out the crock. Yes, I fill it in the kitchen, then fire it up outside, where it bleeds its waste heat into the already sultry air.

To start:

  • Five small chicken leg quarters, skin and fat removed,
  • Two large onions, peeled and chopped into big chunks
  • A few cloves of garlic, peeled and broken.
  • Two cans of chopped tomatoes,
  • One can of mixed chiles and tomatoes
  • Three seeded hot jalapeño peppers (from a friend’s garden)
  • Cayenne, cumin, and pepper flakes to taste

And later added:

  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 12 oz chicken broth (should have had this up front)

Cooked ChickenSo I throw the first list in the crock and set it outdoors for five hours, giving it a quick stir every hour or so,

After 5 hours, I pulled out the bones, from which the meat has fallen, and added the rice and preheated chicken broth (because it didn’t have enough free liquid left for the rice). Another hour or two later, we have something like a risotto, but with a southwestern flavor.

And all those cooking BTU’s did not fill the house, nor require that much more energy to remove them.

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