The slow cooker is known for letting you “set it and forget it”, but getting your recipes to taste good is another matter!
Today we’re here to talk about one of the simplest and handiest kitchen appliances around – The Slow Cooker – which you might also hear sometimes called a Crock-Pot.
But, that’s just one of those super pervasive brand names like Band-Aid or Kleenex.
Slow cookers are wonderful for cooking big batches of deliciousness with relatively little hands-on attention.
They’re awesome for cooking for a crowd, bringing to potlucks or just prepping like, a whole weeks-worth of lunches.
So here’s some pro tips on how to get the most out of your slow cooker.
Tip 1: Think ahead!
As the name implies, these appliances are slow, so you want to plan your recipe at least 3 to 12 hours ahead. If you want something cooked in an hour, then a rice cooker or instant pot might be a better option for you.
Some slow cookers come with only a few buttons, like “low,” “high” and “warm” that you’ll have to adjust manually according to the time specified by the recipe.
But programmable slow cookers are designed to be turned on to either low or high for a set amount of time, before automatically turning to “warm.”
Tip 2: Preheat!
All that said, you can preheat your slow cooker while you prep your ingredients to get them to a good cooking temperature quicker.
Don’t leave it preheating for longer than 20 minutes or so, though, to avoid scorching the insert. And yeah, they call the pot inside the slow cooker an “insert.”
Apparently appliance manufacturers were going through, like, a really straightforward phase when they were naming slow cookers.
Tip #3: To Dump or not to Dump!
Slow cookers aren’t the most hands-on appliances, but they’re not totally hands-free. You may have seen a late-night infomercial or cookbook advertising “Dump” recipes.
These recipes tell you you can just dump in all the ingredients and everything will turn out deliciously.
Well, slow cookers are magic, but they’re not THAT magic. If you have the time, most slow cooker recipes benefit from a little bit of advance legwork to make your ingredients the best ingredients they can be.
Most slow cookers cannot sear or saute, and those are important ways to build flavor. Big pieces of meat should be seared on the stove top first.
Aromatics like onions and garlic benefit from a little sizzle in the pan before they get added to a stew.
Pasta, seafood, and other delicate items should not be added until close to the end of the cooking time. If your recipe calls for a few extra steps like these, it’s probably for a good reason.
But aside from boosting the flavor-factor, it’s also very important to thaw your ingredients before you pop them in.
Slow cookers cook slowly, so you run the risk of having your ingredients hang out in a dangerous temperature range for too long if you don’t thaw them first.
Tip #4: Cooking Times May Vary!
If you’re not following a recipe super closely, expect your cook time to vary. A slow cooker that’s, like, half full it’s going to cook a lot faster than a slow cooker that’s full all the way to the top.
The first couple times you’re playing with your slow cooker, it’s a good idea to do it while you can check it every couple hours or so to see if everything is progressing the way that you expected.
Tip 5: Cook at night!
Don’t forget that you can use your slow cooker at night—just prep before you go to bed!
There are even slow-cooker friendly brunch recipes, which are great for weekends. But if you live in a small apartment, be aware that the smell of anything you’re cooking will permeate the place.
That might be a lovely thing, but It’s something to consider if your roommate, like, really hates the smell of cooked beans.
Tip 6: Finish your recipe!
You know what often makes the difference between a home-cooked meal and something you eat in a fancy restaurant?
It’s whether the dish was finished. Finishing a dish means adding a couple extra flourishes to boost and brighten the flavor.
Think of like, squeezed lemon juice, or a sprinkling of chopped parsley, stirring in an extra pat of butter.
Finishing is a small extra step but it will make all the difference, especially with a slow-cooker meal that may have lost some of its more subtle flavors over the hours.
Uh… I’m hungry now. All done!
Exciting News for Those of You Looking for Quick & Easy Cooking
I’m confident that…
If you are a first time use, these cooking tips will help you maximize flavor and ensure a mouth-watering meal for you and your family every time.
Now, I would like to share a few tips with you about using a slow cooker that I’ve learned over the years….
Tip #1 STOP! No Peeking Allowed When Using a Crock Pot
Yes, it’s so tempting to lift up that lid, isn’t it?
But, do you realize by lifting the lid up on your slow cooker you’re taking away 20 to 30 minutes of cooking by letting out steam?
And, no stirring unless clearly stated in recipe!
Tip #2 Fill Your Slow Cooker Properly
When you put too little or too much food in your slow cooker it will not cook properly.
Filling the slow cooker directly to the top causes the food to steam instead of simmer.
This results in a much longer cooking time and not as tasty results.
So, always make sure your slow-cooker is 1/2 to 2/3 full.
Tip #3 Cooking Vegetables in Crock Pot is a Sure Thing
When cutting up carrots and potatoes to put in your crock pot, keep the pieces about the same size.
By having the vegetables the same size, the pieces will cook uniformly and be finished at the same time
And, the vegetables are soft enough for eating without seeming overcooked.
Tip # 4 There’s a Simple Approach to Cooking Meat – Now You Know…
By cooking meat in my crock pot, I know the meat will be tender enough to cut with a fork.
if you’re going to be slow cooking with meat, always layer the vegetables in first.
Then, add your meat on top because, believe it or not, the meat and vegetables are going to finish cooking at the same time
if you’re using ground beef or ground turkey for soup or chili, brown it, then drain it.
By taking this step, your dish will be more flavorful.
Don’t Know What to Cook In Your Slow Cooker? Using a Slow Cooker is Simple – Really!
My favorite thing to cook in my slow cooker is chicken, And,by the way I’ve written several slow cooker cookbooks I believe you’ll enjoy.
And, these books are available from the world’s largest retailer. Go Here to check them out >>>
Above all, it’s no secret that chicken can be cooked many different ways, but I’ve found that cooking it in a slow cooker is a perfect way to make the chicken even more tender and flavorful.
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Thanks – Jean
Filed under: Cooking Tips