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Best Slow Cooker Tips

Table of ContentsSlow Cooker Recipes from AlansKitchen.com

To improve your slow cooking skills, we've developed Slow Cooking Tips to help you succeed with any slow cooking recipe.

Stirring

  • Due to the nature of a slow cooker, there is no need to stir the food unless it specifically says to in your recipe. 

  • In fact, taking the lid off to stir food causes the slow cooker to lose a significant amount of heat, extending the cooking time required. 

  • Therefore, it is best not to remove the lid for stirring.

Cooking for Larger Quantity Yields

  • The recipes in this cookbook are recommended for 3 to 4 1/2 quart sizes. 

  • When preparing recipes in a larger unit, such as a 5 to 7-quart slow cooker, here are guidelines for doubling or tripling ingredients:

    • When preparing dishes with beef or pork in a larger unit, browning the meat in a skillet before adding to the slow cooker yields the best results; the meat will cook more evenly.

    • Roasted meats, chicken, and turkey quantities may be doubled or tripled, and seasonings adjusted by half.

    • Caution: Flavorful spices such as garlic and chili powder will intensify during long slow cooking.

    • Add just 25 to 65 percent more spices as needed to balance the flavors.

    • When preparing a soup or a stew, you may double all ingredients except liquids, seasonings, and dried herbs. Increase liquid volume by half, or as needed.

    • The slow cooker lid collects steam, which condenses to keep foods moist and maintain liquid volume.

    • Do not double thickeners, such as cornstarch, at the beginning. You may always add more thickener later if needed.

    • When preparing baked goods or cheesecakes, it is best to simply prepare the original recipe as many times as needed to serve more people.

Adding Ingredients at the End of the Cooking Time

  • Certain ingredients tend to break down during extended cooking.

  • When possible add these ingredients toward the end of the cooking time.

  • These include:

    • Milk, cream and sour cream - add during the last 15 minutes of cooking time.

    • Seafood - add in the last hour of cooking time, unless the recipe specifies otherwise.

Pasta and Rice

  • With pasta, cook in a pot of boiling water until just tender. Add the pasta to the stoneware during the last half hour of cooking.

  • With rice, always use long grain converted rice.

  • If it doesn't seem to cook completely after the suggested time, you may try adding an extra 1 to 1-2/3 cup of liquid per cup of rice.

Beans

  • Beans must be softened completely before combining with sugar and/or acid foods (NOTE: Sugar and acid have a hardening effect on beans and will prevent softening).

  • Dried beans, especially red kidney beans, should be boiled before adding to a recipe.

  • Cover the beans with 3 times their volume of unsalted water and bring to a boil.

  • Boil 10 minutes, reduce heat, cover and allow to simmer 1-1/2 hours or until beans are tender.

  • Soaking in water, if desired, should be completed before boiling.

  • Discard water after soaking or boiling.

Meats

  • Due to the nature of a slow cooker, meat does not brown as it would if it were cooked in a skillet or oven.

  • It is not necessary to brown meat before slow cooking, however, if you prefer the flavor and look of browned meat, brown your meat in a skillet with a little oil, then place the meat in the stoneware and follow the recipe as usual.

  • Trim fats and wipe meats well to remove residue. (If meats contain fats, brown in a separate skillet or broiler and drain well before adding to cooker).

  • Season with salt and pepper.

  • Place meat in stoneware on top of vegetables.

  • For roasts and stews, pour liquid over meat.

  • Use no more liquid than specified in the recipe.

  • More juices in meats and vegetables are retained in slow cooking than in conventional cooking.

Liquids

  • A specific liquid called for in a recipe may be varied if an equal quantity is substituted (such as substituting a 10-1/2 ounce can of soup plus 4 ounces of water for a 14 1/2 ounce can of tomatoes OR 1/2 cup beef or chicken broth for 1/2 cup of wine, etc).

  • Roasts can be cooked without water when set on LOW.

  • We recommend a small amount, however, because the gravies are especially tasty.

  • The more fat or "marbling" the meat has, the less liquid you need.

  • The liquid is needed to properly soften and cook vegetables.

Herbs and Spices

  • When cooking with your slow cooker, it is best to use whole herbs and spices rather than crushed or ground. 

  • The flavor of crushed or ground herbs and spices seems to lessen during the extended cooking time with the slow cooker. 

  • Fresh herbs and spices take longer to release their flavor, and therefore withstand the extended cooking times required of slow cooking.

Vegetables

  • Most vegetables should be thinly sliced or placed near the sides or bottom of the stoneware. 

  • Meats generally cook faster than most vegetables in a slow cooker.

Cooking Breads and Cakes

  • Here are some tips on making the delicious cakes found in the Dessert section of this web site:

  • Do not over-beat breads and cakes. Follow all recommended mixing times.

  • Do not add water to the slow cooker unless it specifically says to in the recipe.

  • After breads and cakes have finished cooking, allow them to cook for 5 minutes before from the cake pan.

Cooking with Frozen Foods

  • You can cook frozen meats in your slow cooker, however it is best to use the following guidelines:

  • Add at least 1 cup of warm liquid to the stoneware before placing meat in the stoneware.

  • Do not preheat the slow cooker.

  • Cook recipes containing frozen meats for an additional 4 to 6 hours on LOW, or an additional 2 hours on HIGH.

Cooking Temperatures and Food Safety

  • Cooking meats in a slow cooker is perfectly safe. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, bacteria in food is killed at a temperature of 165F.

  • Meats cooked in the slow cooker reach an internal temperature of 170F. in beef and as high as 190F in poultry.

  • It is important to follow the recommended cooking times and to keep the cover on your slow cooker during the cooking process.

  • If your food isn't done after 8 hours when the recipe calls for 8 to 10 hours, this could be due to voltage variations which are commonplace everywhere; due to altitude or even extreme humidity.

  • The slight fluctuations in power do not have a noticeable effect on most appliances; however, it can slightly alter the cooking times.

  • Allow plenty of time, and remember, it is practically impossible to overcook. You will learn through experience whether to decrease or increase cooking times.

Removable Stoneware

  • The removable stoneware slow cookers make cleaning easy. Here are some tips on the use and care of your stoneware:

Do not preheat the slow cooker.

  • Your slow cooker makes a great server for hot beverages or dips. Keep it on the LOW setting to maintain the proper serving temperature.

  • Because there is no direct heat at the bottom, always fill the stoneware at least half full to conform to recommended times.

  • Small quantities may be prepared, however, cooking time will be affected.

Cooking Know-How

  • Every time you lift the lid, you lose heat.

  • So, keep the lid on and resist the urge to peek!

More Slow Cooker Recipes

 
 


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