Slow Cooker Meals can Save Lots of time at the end of the Day.
I love to use my crock pot. I can throw all of the ingredients into it early in the day and let it do its job all day long. At the end of the day, my house smells great when I come home after being out all day. But there are a few cooking tips to make sure that your slow cooker meals work out the way you plan.
Slow cookers are a housewife’s dream machine. They make dinner time meal prep a breeze. But while the slow cooker is a set and forget machine, there are somethings you need to keep in mind when you use it. Not all crock pot recipes turn out perfectly if are guilty of any of the commonly made mistakes.If you are new to cooking with a crock pot, or just want a few refresher suggestions, these 15 tips will ensure that your crock pot recipes turn out perfectly every time.
1. Use the Right size. It is important to make sure the your recipe matches the size of the slow cooker that you are going to use. Crock pots come in all sizes. Some are perfect to cook meals for 2 people and others will feed a crowd. This Hamilton Beach model is a 7 quart slow cooker. My recommendations are 6-8 quart size. I have used smaller ones and they never seem large enough to do what I want to do for a recipe.2. Brown your meat first. A slow cooker will not brown any meat (the same goes for a microwave.) Brown your meat in a bit of oil before adding it to the crock pot. This will maximize the flavor. Adding flour to the meat before browning it also helps to thicken a sauce.
3. Choose the Right cut. Choose less expensive cuts of meat for your slow cooker recipes. Yay! This means that you should choose fatty, tougher cuts. Lean cuts of meat can dry out quickly in a crock pot and are better saved for stove top cooking.
4. Keep the lid on. A crock pot works by trapping steam in the top of the container. If you open the lid, you will let the steam release and this will add to the cooking time.
5. Don’t over fill. Most manufacturers suggest filling a crock pot no more than 2/3. (check your manual. This can vary.) Filling it too full will mean extra cooking time and will not allow the steam to be trapped at the top, which is what is needed.
6. Plan ahead. Before you go to bed, make sure that the meat is defrosted and the ingredients are ready to add in the morning. This means and easy start to the day, as well as an easy meal time prep later.
7. Use a timer. Some recipes only call for 4-6 hours of cooking time. That means 4-6 hours. Not a whole day. If you will not be around to turn the crock pot on, invest in a crock pot with a timer, or buy a mechanical outlet timer to use with the one you have.8. Be sure the meat is defrosted. If you use frozen food, the temperature in the slow cooker can fall to a dangerous range for bacteria to grow. Be sure to defrost any meats that you will be using before adding them to the slow cooker.
9. Trim the fat. It just takes a few minutes to trim the extra fat on particularly fatty meats. If you don’t, you will end up with a very greasy looking casserole that no one will want to eat.
10. Save the dairy till the last 30 minutes. Some dairy products, such as cream, sour cream and yoghurt, can break down in a slow cooker. It is best to add them in the last 30 minutes of cooking.
11. Go slow on the wine. A slow cooker does not evaporate the alcohol in wine the way a skillet on the stove does. Just a splash goes a long way in the crock pot.
12. Save fresh herbs for last. Fresh herbs are full of flavor but if you add them too soon to a slow cooker, you will lose most of the flavor. Add them at the very end of the cooking time for best results.
13. Layering in the key. Be sure that your vegetables are cut into even sized pieces and add them to the bottom. The meat is layered above the vegetables and any liquids are poured over all. As a general rule: Firm root vegetables go in first, softer vegetables next and meat on top.
14. High altitudes. Higher altitudes affect cooking time. Add 30 minutes to the recipe directions if you have in a higher altitude location.
15. Use both temperatures. For safety sake, it is best to cook on high for the first hour and then it is okay to reduce the temperature to low. The warm setting is just for keeping food warm after cooking. Do not cook with this setting for safety’s sake.
What are some of your favorite crock pot recipes? Please share them in the comments below.