It might seem like an obvious thing to say, but not every “hack” on the internet is a good idea. Even though the majority of tipsters have the best intentions, the world is not secretly full of undiscovered Martha Stewarts, waiting to emerge as fully fledged domestic gods and goddesses. The sad truth is that quite a lot of our cunning plans are actually pretty crap. Case in point, the slow cooker breakfast.
Last week, we told the story of a photo that captured the internet’s imagination. Posted to the Facebook group, “Slow Cooker Recipes & Tips,” the picture showed an entire cooked breakfast, carefully assembled in the bottom of a crock pot. Mugs of mushrooms, hash browns and beans were encased in a ring of sausages, bacon and more hash browns. According to the caption, any time-poor breakfaster could simply whack the whole mix on a low heat, leave overnight and wake up to a tasty morning meal. Though there were a few negative Nelly’s, almost everyone was enthusiastic about the plan. As was I.
In fact, so positive was I about the prospect of a one-pan, ostensibly mess-less breakfast, that I decided to put the hack to the test. Buoyed on by innocent optimism, I dusted off the Twisted cooker, set off to the shop and assembled the necessaries. Who cared if by the time my “fry” up was ready it would almost be hometime? I was in the mood for the world’s slowest bacon and some lengthy sausages.
Like the photographs captured from the first day of the Somme, mere words cannot do justice to the full horror of what followed.
As per the detailed instructions provided alongside the original recipe post, I took the precautionary step of lining my pot with baking paper, in the hope that this would prevent my brekky from sticking to the sides. I needn’t have worried. As it turns out, this measure was the equivalent of putting a fan in your bedroom because you’re worried about it being a bit stuffy, while the rest of your house is on fire.
I arranged the ingredients, carefully portioning mushrooms and beans, adding a little salt and diced garlic to each. Next, I lined the pot with a layer of hash browns, taking care to rest them against the rim for “added crispiness”, before folding cheap bacon into piggy cigarillos and stacking up a row of pork sausages. I set it on low and left it in a corner, like a tickly cough that you keep ignoring, until eventually it turns into emphysema. Only when I lifted the lid, six hours later, did I realise the abomination that had been created.
The first thing I noticed was the grease. I hadn’t added any oil, yet my breakfast was covered in it. Not covered like you might “cover” yourself with a cursory squirt of suncream to appease an anxious parent. Drowned in it. Choking on it. The pot looked like the Gulf of Mexico after the BP oil spill. It was the kind of grease that could kill entire species if it accidentally ended up in the ocean. This was not the start I had been hoping for.
Apart from making anyone who looked into the cauldron want to throw up, the grease had the unfortunate effect of soaking everything it came into contact with. Hash browns, sausages and bacon were all indiscriminately dip-dyed in a coat of fat. This had the unusual consequence of causing the bottom half of the breakfast to dissolve into a salty sludge, while the top remained disturbingly firm. The hash browns had almost entirely congealed, and where they had been submerged in oil, disintegrated to the point where they looked like someone had regurgitated all the other elements of the breakfast back into the bowl.
Things got even weirder with the bacon. Having spent several hours exposed at a low temperature, the tips of the rolls were almost entirely devoid of moisture, making them taste like the sole of a porky shoe. The bottoms, by contrast, had completely jellified, which made each mouthful taste like you were eating biltong and aspic at the same time. Every miniature bacon roll looked like one of the tubular worms that David Attenborough occasionally finds clinging to the side of an undersea volcano.
The situation did not improve with the sausages, which will go down in history as the scariest thing I’ve ever put in my mouth. They had the texture of a bag of flour, held together by an old bottle of PVA glue. As Tara, one of our chefs, mused after I’d offered her a horrible mouthful, “If my mum gave this to me, I’d murder her.” Never have I been more grateful to not be Tara’s mum.
However, despite the alien-like texture and flavour of the sausages, bacon and potatoes, there were a few positives to take from the debacle. Aside from the fact that you don’t need any teeth to eat most of the components, the beans and mushrooms were genuinely delicious - buttery and garlicky and safely removed from grease that had successfully ruined everything else. Unfortunately, prolonged exposure to the slow cooker meant that handling the mugs was like grabbing a Bunsen burner. In the end, we were forced to fashion a weird gauntlet out of paper, just to get them out.
If the slow cooked breakfast has taught me anything, it’s that every idea - no matter how brilliant it might seem on paper - should be subject to scrutiny. Humanity has been cooking for hundreds of thousands of years - the chances of us stumbling across something completely new and game-changing are, unfortunately, minimal. Maybe it’s time we all agreed that serious advances in cooking theory are best left to the experts. At least we’d avoid ruining the good name of breakfast for everyone.