Are you looking for the best tips for better slow cooking?
I mean, who doesn’t love walking into the house at the end of the day to the most delicious smells? Dinner is done! And you didn’t have to do much for like 8 hours.
As often as possible, I love using my slow cooker in the morning to prepare a meal that is going to taste amazing later. If you’re here reading this, you must need help with using your slow cooker to make amazing crock pot recipes, too.
In this post, I’m going to show you:
- My best tips for better slow cooking
- Super simple crock pot tricks
- Common slow cooking mistakes you might be facing
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Why Use a Crock Pot?
We all have busy lives to live but that doesn’t mean we can’t have home cooked meals at the end of the day. Crock pots and slow cookers do this for us.
As I mentioned above, I LOVE walking into the house after being gone all day and smelling the home cooked meal that is ready for my family and I to eat. It’s convenience. Yes, it takes time in the morning to prepare. But at the end of the day when I’m tired, I’m so happy to have supper finished and ready to eat.
You can also do this with other meals. You could cook breakfast overnight in a crock pot!
I love tips to save time, don’t you? And crock pots can definitely do this for you.
How to Use a Crock Pot
It’s pretty simple, really. But no pot is the same as another one. And no recipe is, either.
Before you leave for it for a day, you’ll want to try it out on a day you’re going to be home until you understand how yours works.
A rule of thumb is that cooking on the low setting takes about twice as long as cooking on the high setting. Also, understand that some cuts of meat and recipes are better suited to one setting over the other.
Many times, your pot comes with instructions and recipes you can try that have been tested with it. Try them out and then branch out to other recipes. The possibilities really are endless.
What can you cook in a slow cooker?
You can cook anything slow. I have even cooked spaghetti squash in one and the sauce in another.
More often than not, it’s soup. But nothing is really off limits for slow cooking. As your learning or improving your skill, follow the recipes you try to a tee.
Some foods need to be prepped or browned in a certain way ahead of time for better cooking. The following is a short list of some food prep techniques prior to slow cooking.
Doing a little work ahead of time can result in a much tastier meal later. Here are a few tips for some food prep for your crock:
Trim fat: For silky sauces and gravies, take a minute or two and cut the excess fat from the meat. Skip this step and you risk ending up with oily, greasy cooking liquid. When possible, remove chicken skin too.
Layer wisely: For even cooking, cut food into uniform-size pieces. Place firm, slow-cooking root vegetables like potatoes and carrots at the bottom of the crock and pile the meat on top.
Add dairy last: Sour cream, milk and yogurt tend to break down in the slow cooker, so stir them in during the last 15 minutes of cooking.
Watch the wine: Because the cooker is sealed, the alcohol in wine doesn’t evaporate out as it would in a regular pot or skillet. Just a splash goes a long way.
Adding in some flavor: A sprinkle of fresh herbs or squeeze of lemon juice at the end of simmering can brighten flavors and cut through the richness of long-cooked recipes. Other excellent finishing touches: hot sauce, citrus zest, grated Parmesan, good-quality olive oil or even sauteed garlic.
Now, where to find those recipes?
Where to find great slow cooker recipes
Pinterest is my go-to for great recipe. Head over there now and follow my slow cooker board!
I share recipes I love or plan to use in the future to that board. You’ll see those pins if you choose to follow it. It’s like a virtual recipe box!
Also, some of my recipes are at the bottom of this post. However, they are also on the Pinterest board, too.
Slow Cooker Mistakes
Not Food Prepping Ahead of Time: You can certainly just pile food into the slow cooker, turn it on and get tasty results. But when you take a couple of minutes to brown your meat and saute your vegetables before adding them to the crock, you’re rewarded with an additional layer of deep, caramelized flavor. (This is doubly true with ground meat.) Want a thicker sauce? Dredge the meat in flour before browning. This really works!
Using frozen food: Loading a slow cooker with icy ingredients will keep food in the danger zone where bacteria can flourish (40 to 140 degrees F). So make sure your meat and vegetables are fully thawed before turning the cooker on. The exception: Prepackaged slow-cooker meals sold in the freezer case are fine to use as long as you follow the package’s directions.
Overcrowding in the pot: For the best results, fill a slow cooker between one-half and two-thirds full. Go ahead and cook big roasts and whole chickens; just make sure you use a large crock and that the lid fits snugly on top.
Crock Pot Care
The ceramic insert in a slow cooker can crack if exposed to abrupt temperature shifts. In other words, don’t place a hot ceramic insert directly on a cold counter; put down a dishtowel first.
Same goes for using a filled insert you’ve stowed overnight in the refrigerator: Let it come to room temperature before putting it in a preheated base.
I also highly recommend hand washing your insert right after it’s empty so you can use it again as soon as possible.
Naturally. Here are some safety tips for using your crock pot.
Adjust for high altitude: For high-altitude cooking, add an additional 30 minutes for each hour of time specified in the recipe. Legumes take about twice as long as they would at sea level.
Unplugged means unusable: Forgot to turn on your cooker (or accidentally tried to “cook” your meal on warm)? Any food that sits between the temperatures of 40 and 140 degrees F can harbor bacteria. Toss the contents and start again.
I suggest using a meat thermometer to test the internal temperature of your meat.
Keep the lid closed: Each peek you take during the cooking process will add an additional 15 to 20 minutes of cooking time. And curb the urge to stir; it’s usually not necessary and tends to slow down the cooking. You’ll need to adjust for this, of course.
On Your Way to Better Slow Cooking!
How many times have we came home at the end of the day and wished we had a meal already cooked for us?
The answer is – You can! With your slow cooker!
I’ve given you lots of crock pot tricks plus some common slow cooking mistakes to avoid. Now, you have the best tips for better slow cooking that will actually save you time, money and sanity.
~ Much Love ~
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