Our Best Slow Cooker Recipes
7 Best Crock Pot Tips
Your slow cooker can be the best kitchen helper you've ever had. Because it lengthens cooking time, the slow cooker tenderizes the toughest -- and least expensive! -- cuts of meat. Also, it's hard to overcook a meal, even if you get home an hour late. Because you typically cook in a liquid, the slow cooker also produces a rich, flavorful gravy as the food cooks. Finally, the lack of high heat reduces sticking, making clean-up a snap.
Follow these tips to get the most from your slow cooker:
- Before you buy. Make sure your new slow cooker has a removable liner, which makes cleanup easier. If you already own a cooker without a liner, use disposable cooking bags (available in the aluminum foil/plastic wrap section of most grocery stores). They're inexpensive, and you can just throw out the used bag after dinner.
- Before you cook: Remove skin from chicken, and trim excess fat from meat. Since fat doesn't drain away during cooking, you want to keep it to a minimum. Too much fat will result in an unpleasant texture in the final meal.
- Watch food placement: Be conscious of what foods are where in your crock pot! If the recipe specifies what order to add ingredients, follow closely. In general, vegetables cook more slowly than meat, so they should go at the bottom of the pot.
- About browning.: Most meats do not need to be browned before adding to the slow cooker. The exception is ground meat, which may develop an unappetizing gray color if not pre-cooked. If you like a savory brown crust on your meat or poultry, however, brown them in a pan with a little oil before adding them to the pot. This process gives the meat a more developed taste.
- How full? The ideal fill level for a crock pot is between one-half and two-thirds full. Depending on the capacity of your slow cooker -- it can range 3.5 to 6 quarts -- you may have to adjust your recipe.
- Cooking times. Most people want to try adapting their favorite stews and sauces to the slow cooker. The chart below explains how to adjust cooking times.
15 - 30 min. 4 - 6 hours 1.5 - 2.5 hours 30 - 45 min. 6 - 8 hours 3 - 4 hours 45 min - 3 hours 8 - 16 hours 4 - 6 hours
- Above all: DON'T LIFT THE LID! The food does not need to be stirred, unless the recipe calls for it. If you cannot resist the urge to peek, grasp the top of the lid and swirl it in a circle. The spinning motion will shake condensation from the lid, and you'll be able to see the contents of the crock pot.
If you do lift the lid, add 20 minutes to the cooking time for each time you peek!
Do you have any great crock pot tips? Stop by the Food Message Boards and share your best advice!