For generations, the slow cooker has been a kitchen staple. Then as time passed, we began favoring other methods of cooking and this quiet appliance got pushed to the back of the cupboard or thrown away. Its time to breath new life into your slow cooker. Especially now that it will start getting busier with kids going back to school, sport events, more work load and the holidays. Go into the kitchen , take out your slow cooker, dust if off and get ready to enjoy it again.
The genius of a slow cooker lies in its ability to cook unattended, making it an obvious favorite of working parents and other busy cooks. Plenty of people haul out the slow cooker in the winter when soups and stews appear on the family dinner menu. But this versatile countertop appliance deserves to stay front and center in your kitchen all year long. You can adapt many of your favorite meals to work in the slow cooker.
What’s the right size slow cooker for you?
If you are new to slow cookers and contemplating purchasing one (or a second), here are some tips:
1 to 1 ½ -quart: Perfect for one person or dips and sauces.
2 to 4 ½ -quart: Perfect for two adults who don’t want too many leftovers.
5 to 6-quart: family of four or larger and/or like to double recipes so that you can enjoy leftovers or freeze extras for another night, this is the right size for you. This is one I have and I love it.
8+ -quart: These are for feeding an army. If you like to make giant batches of food for events, you will want one of these giant slow cookers.
Note: I recommend getting a programmable slow cooker because you can then set it up in the morning to start cooking at the ideal time so you don’t return home to an overcooked meal.
Tips and Tricks to use your slow cooker
- Grease the ceramic insert with non-stick cooking spray or a light coat of neutral oil if you plan to cook directly in it. Coating the inside of the slow cooker with a non-stick spray can prevent the need for scrubbing later
- You can use liner bags that is used for slow cookers. The cleanup is quick and effortless
- The slow cooker should be filled between one-half and two-thirds
- Inexpensive cuts of meat are often high in fat, which break down during long, moist heat cooking methods and will help keep the meat juicy and tender. Lean cuts of meat tend to dry out in the slow cooker.
- Add dairy at the end. Milk, cream, and other dairy products can break down and coagulate if overheated. Stir these items into the slow cooker in the last 15-30 minutes, so they have just enough time to heat through.
- Brown meat before adding it to the slow cooker. This step isn’t mandatory for safety reasons, but it does increase the flavor and complexity of the dish. Because slow cookers retain moisture so well, meat will not brown once it is in the slow cooker..
- For most slow cookers, the high setting is approximately 280 F and the low setting is approximately 170 F.
- Cooking on high for one hour is about equal to cooking on the low setting for two hours.
- Add fresh herbs at the end to keep their flavors bright and fresh.
- Place hard vegetables at the bottom. Potatoes, carrots, and other root vegetables should be placed at the bottom of the slow cooker where they will have more moisture and cook swiftly.
- Use high heat, unless your recipe specifies otherwise.
- Don’t lift the lid until you’re ready to check for doneness.
- Allow the dessert to cool in the slow cooker for about 15 minutes before you serve it or try to remove it.
Place frozen food directly into the slow cooker. Frozen foods can increase the amount of time needed for the contents of the slow cooker to come up to a safe temperature (140 F).
Keep peeking or stirring. Every time the lid is opened heat escapes and it takes approximately 20-30 minutes for the slow cooker to come back up to the set temperature. Open the lid as little as possible while cooking.
Add too much liquid. Remember, meat and vegetables often give off a lot of liquid while cooking in a slow cooker and the lid prevents it from evaporating away. If you add too much liquid, it can be reduced by cooking on high without the lid for 1-2 hours.
Don’t store the cooked food using the ceramic slow cooker liner in the refrigerator. The ceramic liner is meant to retain heat and will not allow the food to cool quickly enough in the refrigerator. Always transfer your food to a separate container before storage.