Top Tips When Using Your Slow Cooker
What’s not to love about slow cookers? We’re such big fans that we’ve already dug ours out in time for hearty, homecooked autumnal meals.
Slow cookers use less electricity than an oven; they don’t require constant supervision during the cooking process and they help tenderise meat and bring out flavours in foods. If you’re looking for ways to put your slow cooker to good use, read on for our top tips.
Keep the Lid Closed
Slow cookers are designed to do their thing without you checking in to see how the cooking’s going. Still, it may be tempting to peek inside from time to time, if only to relish the aroma or stir the contents a bit.
Don’t! Every time you open the lid, you release heat, which extends the cooking time. What’s more, stirring is usually not necessary, as the food will cook evenly in the pot on its own. Stirring may add additional minutes to the cooking time, so be content to sit back and relax while your food cooks.
Thaw Frozen Ingredients Beforehand
Throwing frozen vegetables, meat and other ingredients into the slow cooker seems like a no-brainer time-saver. The temperature in the slow cooker, however, makes for a perfect environment for bacteria growth on the icy food. Be sure to properly thaw out frozen food and meat before putting them into your slow cooker. That brings us to our next step…
Prepare Ingredients the Night Before
Cut down on prep time by preparing ingredients the night before. Need to defrost meat? Place the meat on a plate in the refrigerator so it can thaw out overnight. Chop, cut and measure out other ingredients you’ll need for your slow cooker meal, so that when the time comes, you’ll need only to add all the ingredients to the pot without a hitch.
Opt For Cheap Cuts and Less Meat
Cheaper, tougher and fattier cuts are great for slow cookers, which will slowly tenderise the meat. Leaner meats, on the other hand, may dry out more easily. Additionally, the beauty of the slow cooker is that it releases the flavours of foods excellently, so you can actually cut down on the amount of meat you add without sacrificing any meaty flavours. Less meat and more vegetables can be a healthier, cheaper option.
Leaving the fat on meat may result in an oily, greasy texture when your meal finishes cooking. Be sure to take some time to trim excess fat from your cuts of meat, as well as removing skin when possible. The flavour of the meat will still remain, fat or no fat, and the resulting meal will be healthier.
Add Dairy Last
Cheese, yoghurt and other dairy products can break down and curdle when cooked for a long period of time, so save these ingredients for last. Stir your dairy products in during the last 15 minutes of cooking to get the right taste and texture.
Brown Meats Beforehand
For an extra flavour boost, sauté meat on the stove before throwing it into your slow cooker. This will take only a few minutes of prep time, but this will go a long way in giving your meal a savoury, caramelised taste. For a thicker gravy, add flour to your meat before browning it.
Until next time…