Slow cookers or crock pots are a busy cook’s best friend. All the preparation can be done beforehand. Place all the ingredients into the pot, leave to bubble away while you do other things, then when you return your meal will be ready.
There's nothing better than returning home to the smell of a hot home-cooked meal, specially on a cold wintry day.
Not only that but I believe that long, slow simmering brings out the flavors in foods. Perhaps this is why slow cooking is enjoying something of a resurgence in recent years.
To help you get started and get the most out of your slow cooker or crock pot, here are our top crock pot cooking tips.
Read the instruction manual for your slow cooker before you use it and become familiar with the safety guidelines.
Always properly thaw frozen meat or poultry before cooking. Frozen meat will not cook properly during cooking and may be undercooked.
Cut ingredients into similar-sized pieces for more even cooking.
Brown the meat first. This step is necessary to seal in the juices, which makes your meat really tender and is best done in a large heated, frying pan in a small amount of oil. First make sure the pan is hot, you want to sear the meat not stew it. Add the meat in batches so that the pan doesn’t become over-crowded and each piece is browned all over.
Trim excess fat from meat or poultry as it will not break down during cooking.
Even after removing excess fat meat that cooks over a long period of time can still produce a lot of fat. This is best removed once the dish has cooled. When cool enough, place the dish in the refrigerator. The fat will settle on top of the liquid and set hard, then it can simply be lifted off with a spoon and discarded.
Don’t be tempted to keep lifting the lid during cooking to check on progress. The steam from the cooker creates a heat seal, which is lost each time the lid is opened. The result will be a longer cooking time.
Meat and poultry require at least 6 hours of cooking on the low setting.
If there is too much liquid remaining at the end of cooking time, spoon a little into a small saucepan. Simmer until the liquid reduces and thickens, then return to the slow cooker.
Prepare the vegetables the night before. This will save valuable time in the morning. Then all you need to do is add the meat and liquid. But don’t use the slow cooker insert to store the vegetables in the fridge. It will simply slow the cooking time, and take too long to heat up, running the risk of bacteria developing.
The slow cooker should be at least half full when cooking these dishes. Place the vegetables in the cooker first, then put the meat on top and add the liquid.
One of the easiest dishes to prepare in a slow cooker. Make sure the cooker is at least half full.
It is possible to cook amazing roasts in a slow cooker using minimal liquid. Place the piece of meat on a bed of vegetables, then add a small quantity of liquid.