Kitchen Hints and Tips # 3 … Tips for Making the Most of your Slow Cooker …

Kitchen Hints and Tips #3 ... Tips for Making the Most of your Slow Cooker

 

I love my Slow Cooker and use it all year round.  I work part-time and it’s especially ideal for those days when I know I’ll be getting home late and won’t have the energy or motivation to cook.  It’s also wonderful for cooking for large groups of people or cooking a large quantity of a particular dish allowing me to freeze several meals to be eaten at another time … and that means I get a night off.

 

So to ensure you get the best results, here are some simple tips:

 

  • Before adding meat to your slow cooker, take the time to brown it by searing it on the outside over a fairly high heat.  Turn the meat so that it browns evenly all over and brown the meat in small batches. If the pan isn’t hot enough, or you try to brown too much at once, the meat will only stew.  Browning the meat will give it a beautiful rich colour and the lovely caramelisation will help improve the flavour. Although you can, don’t be tempted to skip this step in an effort to save time.

 

  • Not everything that goes into your Slow Cooker should cook for hours … things like leafy green vegetables and dairy items like cream should only be added to the Slow Cooker in the last 15 – 20 minutes.

 

  • A Slow Cooker is perfect for producing beautifully tender meat that will literally fall apart.  This means you can use cheaper cuts of meat, which will ultimately save money. Slow cooking also allows the meaty flavour to work it’s way through the whole dish so you can save even more money by using less meat and filling out the dish with more vegetables.

 

  • If you do choose to use cheaper cuts of meat, the fat content may be higher so be sure to trim off as much excess fat as possible.  To remove any remaining fat that floats to the top during cooking, refrigerate the dish once cooked, allowing any fats to accumulate on the top and harden/solidify.  Using a spoon, remove the hardened fats and throw them out.  If you don’t have time for this process, lay a piece of absorbent paper across the surface of the dish. This will absorb any fat that has accumulated on the top and the paper towel can simply be thrown out.

 

  • If you would like to thicken the sauce of your slow cooked dish, you have two options.  Either roll your meat in some flour before adding it to the Slow Cooker at the beginning or add a little corn flour at the end.   To do this, mix a small amount of corn flour with some water to form a thick paste.  Stir this through the dish, put the lid back on and cook for a further 20 minutes. It should thicken up nicely.

 

  • It’s easy to covert a casserole or stew recipe to cook them in a Slow Cooker. The secret is to reduce any liquid by roughly one third.  Generally, less liquid is used in a Slow Cooker because a tightly fitted lid ensures no steam evaporates keeping it trapped inside. As a guide, there should only be enough liquid to cover the meat and vegetables.

 

  • Ideally, a Slow Cooker should only be around two-thirds or three quarters full to ensure nothing leaks out.  If the lid doesn’t remain tightly sealed, the meat and vegetables may not cook thoroughly and won’t be soft and tender.

 

  • Low and slow is the best way to use a Slow Cooker but if you haven’t turned it on early enough in the morning, it’s still possible to slow cook your meal but speed up the process.  As a general rule, the high heat setting will cook twice as fast as the low heat setting.  In other words, 4 hours on high will produce roughly the same result as 8 hours on low.

 

  • If when freezing leftovers from your slow cooked meal, you find you have too much liquid or sauce left over, don’t waste it and throw it out.  Freeze it separately and use it as a sauce for another meal or as the base for a soup or other dish.

 

  • Some mornings can be busy, so if you anticipate you won’t have much time, prepare everything the night before … trim and brown the meat, peel and chop any vegetables, mix any sauces and measure out any dry ingredients.  Store these in separate containers in the fridge and simply combine when adding to the Slow Cooker in the morning.  This is the safest way to pre-prepare your ingredients.  Avoid putting ingredients into the Slow Cooker insert and refrigerating as the cold dish may take too long to heat up and affect the cooking time.

 

  • Avoid checking on your Slow Cooker meal too frequently.  Slow cookers are designed to be left alone and, each time the lid is removed, it allows heat and steam to escape.  If this is done too often, you will potentially need to increase the cooking time.

 

So tell me, do you own a Slow Cooker and do you love yours as much as I love mine?

 

 

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