Slow cookers have been around us for quite a long period. This does not change the fact that many still find it a challenge to cook meals properly is a slow cooker. In fact, there is a very small percentage of no-owners who know how to cook in a slow cooker. Last weak I wrote how to use slow cooker as a rice cooker.
In this guide, I’ll take you through the steps on using a slow cooker, preparing your food for slow cooking, and how to ensure your safety with the kitchenware as well as the food. First, let us look at how the slow cooker works.
How the Slow Cooker Works
A slow cooker consists of three major parts; a stoneware or ceramic pot, the heating element, and the lid (gals in most cases). The stoneware pot is heavy, designed to keep heat supply constant and even.
For slow cookers with a heating element at the base only, the heating at the base of the pot and spreads up the pot sides. The pot heats up the food and once a sufficient temperature is reached, steam is generated but does not escape. The glass lid forms an airtight cover to preserve heat and prevent excessive evaporation.
Slow cookers are either programmable or manually operated. You will find three heat settings in most slow cookers, i.e. High, Low, and Keep Warm. Use either heat setting according to your recipe.
Why you Should Cook in a Slow Cooker
Slow cooker meals are tied to certain benefits, directly or indirectly. A programmable slow cooker has some nice important feathers. On the other hand manual slow cooker is easy to use. Mostly slow cooker is easy to clean. Slow cook has Let us find out what they are.
Slow cookers are of a small wattage. This means unlike with your oven or stovetop, your power bill will be significantly lower and at great convenience.
a slow cooker is the best way to soften the tough cuts of meat without a chemical tenderizer. This means you do not have to go for the expensive cuts- this is another saving.
Do you find prepping dinner time-consuming? Or do you wish your food would cook as you attend other matters? A slow cooker could just what you haven’t tried. In the Low heat setting, a slow cooker can have your meals ready in 6-8 hours. This is to say that your dinner can cook as you attend to your day job!
Slow cookers are known to afford extremely low-fat meals, with a taste incomparable to other cooking methods. Poaching and braising are good examples of healthy options you can make in your slow cooker.
With all these benefits, you surely do not want to mess a thing while cooking. Luckily, the slow cooker is easy to operate, despite the unbelievable stews and curries.
How to use a slow cooker?
1. Filling the pot
There’s a general rule of the thumb that your slow cooker should neither go below ½ full nor exceed ¾ full. This is to prevent overcooking and spilling the broth once boiling starts. Trust me, you do not want to mess your kitchen this way while away.
2. Heat Settings
Next, set your heat level. Most crockpots have two power settings and an additional Keep Warm feature to maintain food at a safe temperature once cooking is complete.
3. Cooking Time
Depending on your recipe, you can use Low or High heat settings. You can also select depending on how fast you want your meal ready.
The cooking time depends on the particular recipe at hand. The recipes are also specific to temperature, the type of meat cuts, and how much you fill the cooker. As a general practice, most slow cooker recipes advise that you use twice as much cooking time on the low heat, as you’d have needed on the High setting.
At this point, I presume you have also read the manufacturer’s manual on operations of the slow cooker. Now, different foods call for different cooking styles. For slow cookers, the preparation and timing are all that makes the difference. Below is a brief guide on how to get your ingredients ready.
How to Prepare Different Foods for slow Cooking.
There are two categories of vegetables. Tubers such as potatoes and carrots, and leafy and fruity types like broccoli and zucchini. Carrots and potatoes take longer than meat to cook. You should chop them into smaller pieces and below the meat inside the cooker.
Add the delicate vegetables not more than one hour before serving. These vegetables will overcook if the cooker is on Keep Warm mode for too long.
Dry beans are a big no for the slow cooker. To use them in your recipe though, you have two options. You either have canned beans- which you need to add to the cooker in the last 30 minutes of cooking.
If all you’ve got is dried beans, then soak them overnight or for 8 hours before cooking. You do not need to soak split peas or lentils in this case.
When cooking soaked beans, avoid salt, sugar, or any acids at the beginning of cooking. You add these only at the end of cooking lest your beans don’t tenderize.
Dairy products tend to come apart into individual constituents if cooked for too long. To avoid such mess, add any of the dairy products you need to use at the end of cooking, preferably the last hour.
Seafood and Fish
These foods cook very fast and should thus be added into the slow cooker towards the end of your cooking.
To make the best meat in terms of color texture and taste, browning is required before slow cooking. If you want just the soup, you can skip this.
Also, when cooking larger cuts of meat, exceeding three pounds, cut them into halves for even and complete cooking.
Lay off excess fat in meat when cooking if you do not want to end up overcooking it. Fat is an excellent heat retainer. An overcooked fatty soup is something you do not want to have in place of your expected delicious stew.
Rice and pasta
Rice and pasta tend to cook extremely fast. Some experts even warn against cooking these in a slow cooker as the odds of overcooking are very high. these two are best cooked separately then added to the slow cooker contents towards the end on cooking
Slow cooker tips
- Never toss your unthawed meat or poultry into the slow cooker. The meat tends to stay in an unsafe temperature range for too long.
- Do not open the lid while cooking. Doing this releases heat forcing you to add 20 -30 extra minutes of cooking
- Do not cook dried and fresh herbs such as coriander in the slow cooker as they lose their aroma and taste, considerably.
- Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines carefully for the best results.
How to Cook Chicken and Rice in the Slow Cooker Easly
There is more about how to cook in a slow cooker than meets the eye. As you enjoy the tips we have just overviewed, remember that every brand is different in some ways. Always check and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the best slow cooker meals.
Jennifer D. Simon has spent the last 26 years studying and practicing nutrition science. She has used a larger part of this time in improving people’s livelihoods. She has done so by coming up with unquestionable ideas on how to tackle food problems in her community. Read More