Slow cookers have been around for decades, and they really are worth all the hype. It’s a big statement, but they really are one of the best kitchen gadgets out there. Because what else is cheap to buy, economical to use, time-saving, and makes budget foods taste incredible? There is no better time than the onset of cold weather to dust off your slow cookers to make some tasty roasts and stews.
8 Helpful Slow-Cooker Tips
Slow cookers are perfect if you’re on a busy schedule, but still looking to save money and cook healthy and effortless meals. Here are some tips for you to get the most out of this magical cooking vessel.
1. Pick recipes with minimal amounts of preparation.
This is a key for people with a busy schedule and want to save time and effort. ‘Slow cookers are time-saving’ is a total paradox, but it’s true! So long as you’re picking recipes that don’t require too much attention. It is why slow cookers are so popular for brewing up delicious stews, soups, and roasts. You can throw all the ingredients together and just let the magic happen.
2. Prep the night before.
It’s the morning, and you have to whip up breakfast for you and your family, take the dog out, pack lunches, and drop the kids off for school. All of this before getting to work on time. Who really has the time? To make things easier, just prep all the ingredients the night before, toss them in the slow cooker in the morning, then get out the door! The rest of the work is done for you.
3. Trim the fat.
It’s important to remember that what goes in a slow cooker stays in a slow cooker! Unless you want your food to marinate in a bath of oil, it would be advisable to trim the excess fat that you wouldn’t usually from your meat. It’ll taste better and is a healthier option.
4. Choose the right meat.
Trimming excess fat doesn’t necessarily mean that you should pick lean meat. Cuts that are part of the ribs, chuck, shoulders, and shanks are all good selections as they tend to be fattier and tougher, and they’re usually budget-friendly! The slow cooker will make them tender and juicy, whereas if you were to use leaner cuts like chicken breasts and the tenderloin, they will only dry out by the time your meal is ready.
5. Avoid raw meat. Browning is key.
This isn’t mandatory, but it’s best not to add raw meat to your slow cooker. If you have a few extra minutes, brown your meat and sauté your vegetables on the stovetop before putting them in the slow cooker. This will enhance the flavours, and you will be rewarded an extra delicious meal.
6. Avoid frozen food.
Unless it’s a pre-cooked, pre-packaged, slow-cooking meal, frozen food is not advised for slow cooking. Bacteria tend to thrive in warm temperatures, which means while your frozen food is slowly warming up in the slow cooker, the bacteria is blooming quickly. So remember to thaw your meat and vegetables beforehand!
7. Layer strategically. Don’t overfill.
Big, chunky, slow-cooking vegetables like potatoes, carrots, and parsnips go on the bottom, and meat goes on the top. This will allow the meat to tenderise while the root vegetables cook in the rich, brothy flavour of the meat fat. And remember not to overfill your slow cooker! Two-thirds full is plentiful. The lid must fit perfectly on top to prevent loss of moisture and longer cooking time.
8. Know when to add food.
Most recipes will allow you to leave the slow cooker alone while you go to work and run errands, but there are certain foods you should only add towards the end. Dairy, pasta, rice, herbs, and citrus should all be added towards or at the end. Dairy breaks down quickly, pasta and rice get soggy, and herbs and citrus are most ideal for cutting the richness of a slow-cooked meal.
Are you a fan of slow cookers? Share with us your tips and tricks to make the best out of your slow cooker!