You know I am obsessed with all things fall… especially the crock pot (sorry C!). My grandma got me this great recipe book that I love to refer to… and Julie Gunter from eMeals has some great tips for you as well! P.S. Check out eMeals — it is a great service that helps you plan homecooked meals! Definitely take a look.
As the weather cools down, things tend to heat up in the kitchen. Below, Julie Gunter, Senior Menu Editor at eMeals provides 10 tips to help you get the most out of a slow cooker.
- Size It Up. For best results, your slow cooker should be half to two-thirds full for cooking. For everyday cooking, the 4-quart cooker may well be the best all-around pick. But you’ll want to purchase a size that suits your family’s needs.
- Beyond Chili. Slow cookers are versatile and forgiving. Yes, they’re ideal for cooking stews and chili, but also for other meaty dishes like stroganoff or lasagna and even mac ‘n cheese. And many slow cooker dishes like these can tolerate some extra cook time without the quality being affected. So the pressure’s off. No need to hurry dinner time.
- Even Keel. The slow cooker’s best feature? Convenience and hands-off, even cooking. Except for prepping your ingredients, once everything goes into the pot, your work is done. Don’t forget the slow cooker offers a welcome heat-free cooking option in the hot summer months.
- It’s Economical. Many slow cooker recipes feature inexpensive cuts of meat that need tenderizing. The low and slow cooking turns a tough roast into a meltingly tender entrée. The slow cooker is a great choice for cooking dried beans too. The good news is beans don’t need any presoaking.
- When in Doubt, Brown it. Meat and poultry don’t brown in the slow cooker as they do when sautéed in a skillet or roasted in the oven. That’s why an initial browning of meats on the stovetop is done to develop a richer dimension of flavor. Ground beef needs to be browned first before being added to the pot. This step is for texture as well as flavor and it removes excess fat.
- Taking a Peek. If you feel you need to lift the lid or stir the food during cooking, do it quickly and then promptly replace the cover.
- Hot Spots. Ever notice that one area of your slow cooker seems to brown food too fast? This could be a hot spot that can develop over time. Try using potholders to rotate the stoneware insert halfway through cooking for more even cooking and browning around the edges.
- Go for the Garnish. Brighten the appearance and the flavor of a slow cooked dish by punching it up with a colorful garnish. Think fresh herbs, finely chopped bell pepper, citrus slices, crushed chips or avocado. While you can always opt to skip a garnish without sacrificing taste, the extra step takes barely a minute.
- Party Worthy. A slow cooker is great to use for preparing party food because there’s no last-minute prep. Work ahead and be ready to enjoy your guests. And you can utilize the warming feature for serving fondue, other hot dips, meatballs and wings at party time.
- Just Say No. In general, fish and shellfish require too short a cooking time to reap the benefits of the slow cooker. And for the most part, dairy dishes are poor slow cooker candidates as they are prone to separate during long, slow cooking.
Julie Gunter is the Senior Menu Editor at eMeals, a service dedicated to helping people plan and budget meals that fit into a variety of lifestyles, tastes and preferences. . Gunter holds a Bachelor of Science, Food and Nutrition from the University of Alabama and has had an accomplished two-decade career at Oxmoor House, the cookbook division of Southern Living, including roles as food editor, test kitchen director and recipe editor.
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