When it comes to easy and quick meals, slow cookers are truly kitchen superstars. While some people enjoy a slow cooker all year round, fall dishes like chili, soups, and stews, seem to call out for this handy appliance. The ability to “set it and forget it” allows more time with your family and less time fretting over the oven.
To get the most out of your slow cooker, consider the following tips:
- Recipes often call for a specific cut of meat. Swapping one cut for another may result in a tough, dry dish. When slow-cooking, cuts like chuck roast, pork shoulder and chicken thighs are often recommended. To reduce fat, trim meats before cooking or plan to skim off fat before serving.
- Some recipes call for meat to be browned. Browning or searing the meat prior to adding it to the slow cooker will help lock in extra flavor and seal in the meat’s juices. This step just takes a few minutes, but it makes a big difference in the overall quality of the dish.
- Fill your slow cooker to about ¾ capacity to prevent overcooking and overflow. Underfilling or overfilling may require cooking time adjustments.
- To ensure everything in the slow cooker cooks evenly, cut individual ingredients in a uniform size.
- While it is tempting to peek, resist the urge to remove the lid. Each time the lid is opened, heat escapes which will increase cooking time.
- When cooking “solid” dishes like lasagna and meatloaf, it is ok to lift the lid near the end of cooking time to make sure the food is not sticking to the sides of the slow cooker. Use a heat resistant spatula to loosen the food from the sides if necessary.
- Thicken the sauce if needed. Juices won’t evaporate in a slow cooker because the lid is closed. As a result, they may be thinner or more plentiful than you wish. Simply transfer juice to a saucepan and thicken it into a gravy with flour or cornstarch.
- Add cheese at the end, when the dish is just about ready, about 5 to 10 minutes before serving. This will avoid a gooey and rubbery topping and still allow the cheese to melt.
- If you find your vegetables are mushy and your meat is muddy, you may be overcooking your recipes. Take advantage of the slow cooker’s “keep warm” setting if the dish is ready to eat and you are not. Consider your schedule and mealtime when determining if your recipe will be cooked on high or low heat. Many recipes give both options.
- Make clean up easy. Just like parchment is a godsend when cleaning cooking sheets, slow cooking liners help to eliminate much of the cleaning.
- Get Creative. You can cook almost anything in a slow cooker. Try some of these delicious options.
- Set up the crock pot in the morning and enjoy this Hearty Vegetable Soup for a worry free, easy dinner.This succulent Beef Brisket is a perfect slow-cooker meal, complete with fall inspired vegetables.
- This Pork Tostadas dish stays moist and juicy in the slow cooker.