A slow cooker, or Crockpot, can be a valuable kitchen appliance for busy people. It requires little attention, doesn’t heat up the house and uses minimal electricity. Not to mention, it can turn cheap cuts of meat into a tender, delicious dinner. Here are eight tips to maximize this tool.
Use less water. If your slow-cooked meals are turning out soupy or flavorless, use less water. When adjusting a recipe from a stove top or oven baked one, also cut out a portion of the water. Slow cookers are kept covered, so the natural juices from meat and vegetables do not evaporate very quickly.
Fill dish at least halfway. It can be tempting to add any amount of ingredients to the slow cooker and let it run. But it cooks best when filled at least halfway full, and not more than three-quarters.
Use a liner. If you’re concerned about cleanup, consider using a liner. They are small bags that are cut to fit into different sizes and shaped slow cookers. Just place in the bag, fill with ingredients and cook like usual. Please only use bags which are specifically designed for this use because they are able to handle the heat without risk.
Choose the right slow cooker. If you don’t like the idea of using a liner, you can still make clean up easier by picking the right slow cooker. First, verify the crock, or dish, removes from the appliance. A good slow cooker should come apart so the outside base (which has the cord) can be separated from the dish that holds the ingredients. Second, check that the bottom of the actual crock, when removed, is glazed or finished. This mean it’s probably dishwasher safe. Unglazed or finished pieces are best left out of the dishwasher, usually.
Reduce dried herbs. If you are using dried herbs in place of fresh, reduce the amount by about one-third. Since ingredients simmer for a long time in a slow cooker, dried herbs can overpower the dish if not used sparingly.
Low is better. While slow cookers can be turned up for faster cooking, it’s better to use the low setting if unattended. In most cases, a slow cooker left on low can cook well past done and not burn or dry out the dish.
More than just dinner. Contrary to popular belief, slow cookers can be used for other foods than just making a tender pot roast. There are many recipes for breakfasts, desserts, warm drinks and even bread. Small slow cookers are also great for making dip and keeping it warm.
Adding pasta or dairy. Slow cookers are mostly self-sufficient, with a few exceptions. Any dairy products should be added near the end of the cooking time, usually around 30 minutes to an hour. Otherwise, it might curdle or become unappetizing. Pastas and rice should also be added near the end as the long cooking time can cause them to disintegrate.
Anyone who has ever come home from a long day and wished dinner was ready will appreciate the versatility and ease of a slow cooker. Choosing the right one and knowing a few tricks about how to use it means dinner can be waiting for you any night of the week.