With so many fantastic slow cooker recipes available finding something to cook is never a problem. In fact, the hardest part is often deciding what to cook from the many choices.
When you first buy a slow cooker, the manufacturer will supply enough recipes to get you started. From there, you can start to adapt some of your favorite recipes to suit the slow cooker. And once you’re up and running, check out the many resources online and in bookstores.
But, before you begin cooking there are a few pointers you need to know about. These make it easy to adapt recipes and help you feel confident in your cooking.
Below are my top tips to to help you achieve perfect slow cooker results every time.
Slow Cooker Tips
1. Only fill the slow cooker from half to three-quarters full. Too much liquid will prevent the food from cooking properly and may bubble out of the top. Conversely, too little liquid will result in dry food.
2. Always trim the excess fat from your meat. Excess fat will create a layer in the slow cooker and coat your food. Not great for health and it can also result in leaving an unpleasant taste to your dish. It’s easier to trim the fat before cooking than try and deal with it afterwards.
3. Most meats will take about 8 hours to cook so slow cooking is a great way to tender up those cheaper cuts of meat. Those meats that are often chewy and unpleasant to eat will melt in your mouth when slow cooked. Plus this saves you money on your grocery bill.
4. Don’t lift the lid! This allows too much heat to escape and prolongs the cooking time. Some recipes may ask for additions towards the end of cooking time, and in this instance it’s fine.
5. Liquids do not boil away inside the slow cooker. If you are adapting a recipe be sure to reduce the amount of liquid. It’s important to keep your food moist but you don’t want so much liquid it spoils the recipe.
6. To thicken your sauce remove the lid for the last 30 minutes (it’s OK to do it now the cooking is complete) and turn your setting up to high. This really helps the flavors to concentrate in the liquid as well.
7. Vegetables tend to cook slower in a slow cooker so it is best to place them in the bottom of the pot. This also adds flavor as they sit in the liquids and juices of the food while cooking.
8. Cut all vegetables and potatoes approximately the same size. This helps to ensure that they cook at the same rate to the same tenderness.
9. Don’t use frozen meats or poultry. It is best to use fresh or defrost first. Meat needs to reach an internal temperature of 145 F and poultry 165 F within and hour and a half. A slow cooker will not reach these temperatures quick enough.
10. Pepper can become bitter when cooked over a long period. If required, add it at the end.
11. Use whole leafed herbs such as bay leaves and whole spices in place of ground ones. The slow cooking brings out their fragrance and flavor without the need for grinding.
If you are using a traditional recipe and want to make it in your slow cooker you can use the following times as a guide.
Traditional recipe – 30 minutes = Approx 6 hours in your slow cooker
Traditional recipe – 45 minutes to 1 hour = Approx 8 hours in your slow cooker
Traditional recipe – 3 hours = Approx 16 hours in your slow cooker
It might take some experimenting to get the perfect time down but the above times should be a good gauge. Just remember to add enough liquid so that the food can braise.
Using a slow cooker is a great way to get healthy food on the table with minimal fuss. With the tips above and using your slow cooker the right way, it will become an indispensable tool in the kitchen. Have fun with it 🙂