Handy Slow Cooker Tips

Slow cookers are the unsung heroes of the food world. They save users time, effort and money. Whether you’re a culinary academy graduate or a parent with too much on your plate, slow cookers are truly life savers. For most dishes, you can just toss all of the ingredients in the morning and by dinnertime, you’ll be all set to eat. You don’t have to check its progress or stir it up throughout the day. It just sits on your counter and does its job.

Slow cookers can also make tougher, cheaper cuts of meat tender and juicy by simmering them at a low heat for an extended period of time. Since everything is cooking along with the meat, the flavor of the meat clings to the other ingredients, so you can bulk the dish up with cheaper vegetables instead of more meat. Everything you need to know about your slow cooker – that isn’t in your owner’s manual – can be found right here:

Tips to get the most out of your slow cooker

  • A slow cooker pretty much keeps its heat to itself, but it’s best to err on the side of caution. When using your slow cooker, have it a few inches from anything else on the counter or the wall.
  • Like most ceramic objects, the insert of your slow cooker is fragile. It’ll crack if it’s exposed to extreme temperature differences, so if you’re putting the insert on a cold counter, set it on a potholder. If you’re transferring the insert from the refrigerator to the slow cooker, either let it reach room temperature first, or don’t turn the slow cooker on until the insert is inside.
  • If there are any cracks or chips in your slow cooker lid, cover it in aluminum foil so heat doesn’t escape during cooking.

Tips for preparing slow cooked dishes

  • Trim the fat on your meats: The fat won’t drain in a slow cooker like it will when you fry or broil it. It’ll just sit in the slow cooker making your meal oily. Trim as much of the fat off of your meat as you can before cooking. The rate of cooking will make your meat tender even without the fat. Your meal will be healthier this way, too.
  • Thaw your meat before putting it in the slow cooker: Putting frozen meat in a slow cooker will keep it between 40 and 140 Fahrenheit degrees for too long, leaving it susceptible to bacteria. You don’t want to contaminate your entire dinner. Make sure everything is thawed before cooking.
  • Don’t overfill your slow cooker: The liquids, meats and vegetables shouldn’t fill more than a half to two thirds of the slow cooker. If it’s filled higher than that, liquids might start to leak out and your food will be cooked unevenly. Since there’s a lid on the slow cooker, the liquid won’t evaporate, so whatever you load it up with in the morning is how much food you’ll have at dinnertime.
  • Keep it uniform: Try to cut all of the food being put in the slow cooker into similar-sized pieces. This will ensure it cooks evenly.
  • Layer your ingredients: Put the firmest vegetables on the bottom, flimsier vegetables on top of them and the meat right on top.
  • Stop peeking!: Every time you take the lid off of your slow cooker, it adds about 15 minutes to your cooking time.
  • Be mindful of your wine: If you’re cooking with wine, you don’t need as much as you would in any other method of cooking. The wine is trapped inside the cooker, so the alcohol won’t evaporate.
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