Slow Cooker Tips
Slow Cooker Tips
- Resist the urge to peek!
This is #1 for a reason. Look through the top if you like, but leave the lid intact and don’t mess with the ingredients. This is especially important near the beginning of the cooking process as each time you open the lid it adds about 20 minutes to the cooking time due to lost heat. Some recipes can use a stir or accept added ingredients near the end of cooking, but not before then.
- Preparation, as usual, is key.
Try to cut pieces about the same size so that they cook uniformly. If you’re a night owl, then do the cutting and chopping the night before to make the use of a slow cooker even more valuable. Just be careful to store the ingredients separately so that reactions are all saved for the next day while cooking.
- Remember that root vegetables belong at the bottom.
Put your potatoes and carrots into the pot first for two reasons, so they’ll be covered with liquid to keep them moist and so that they’ll insulate the meat and/or more delicate ingredients above them from becoming overcooked.
- Don’t overfill the container of your crock pot or slow cooker, leave air space (about 2 inches) at the top.
This prevents hot liquids from bubbling out the top and over the sides of your slow cooker.
- For richer meat flavor, brown meats first on the stove and then scrape the entire pan into the slow cooker.
Although browning isn’t a necessary step, it does add more meat flavor. Trim excess fat, but some fat is needed on slow cooker meats to keep them moist and tender.
- Save some herbs, whether fresh or dried, to throw in at the end.
The long cooking process causes herbs to break down and dissipate, so throwing some in at the end will awaken the flavor. Another idea is to use whole spices, for instance a cinnamon stick or bay leaf that will continue to release flavor throughout the cooking process.
- Long, slow cooking can make some of the leaner meats become rather grainy in texture.
That’s why most chicken recipes call for using the thighs instead of breasts. Heed their advice and save chicken breasts for a quicker cooking method.
- If your recipe calls for dairy ingredients, add them at the end.
Milks, creams and cheeses tend to break down with the long cooking process so should be added at completion. Don’t worry, the soup will be hot enough to melt the cheese.
- If you end up with soup, and that wasn’t your intention, then transfer your ingredients with a slotted spoon to a bowl and cover them with foil.
Then, turn the crock pot to high and leave the lid off while the broth cooks and thickens – maybe 10 minutes or so. If you decide to make the recipe again, reduce the amount of liquid to start with.
- If you don’t like cleaning the pot, you can try using slow cooker bowl liners – but be careful.
If you do, scoop out contents as usual and don’t try to lift the liner out while it contains plenty of hot liquid that could burst the bag. The cooker bowl is heavy, but is actually easy to clean.