If you have a slow cooker, you NEED to know these hints and tips for successful, delicious slow-cooked meals. Step this way to put your best-slow-cooked meal forward!
Some of us might not even be that great at operating our slow cooker appliance which means it mostly gathers dust on a shelf or is pushed into the darkness of the back of a cupboard. Or that could be just me.
So listen up, these slow cooker hints, tips and hacks are going to be GAMECHANGERS to your cooking game. Get ready to cook slooooooowly.
15 slow cooker tips to lift your cooking game
1. Find your fit!
It’s SUPER important to use the right size slow cooker for your recipe. Your slow cooker should be half to two-thirds full when using. If you find that you’re constantly filling it to the top, it’s time to buy a bigger one!
2. Prep it the night before
It’s a fact that sometimes things can take a LONG time to cook in the slow cooker, so you need to have your skates on in the morning to set it up. And I for one, often don’t.
SO prep it the night before (for things you can ie. a roast), putting the whole slow cooker pot in the fridge for the morning.
You DO need to let it come back to room temperature before cooking so get it out first thing, even before your coffee! Dinner is done!
3. Use cheaper cuts of meat
It’s true – generally, the cheaper cuts have a lot more fat in them which breaks down and keeps the meat moist and tender as it’s cooked. More expensive cuts have less fat and connective tissue which means they turn tough. Choose chuck steak over rump steak, folks.
4. Dairy is the last stop
Anyone who has ever made a curry in the slow cooker and added the cream a little too early, only to watch it split as it gets too hot – this one is for you.
Add dairy products AT THE END – or at least in the last 30 minutes of cooking, giving it enough time to heat through and serve.
5. Brown the meat first – yes or no?
Browning meat first – It’s the question that divides the internet, is it not? So the answer is this – YES AND NO. Yes, brown the meat if you have time, don’t mind washing an extra pan and want more flavour in your dish.
If you don’t care for any of that, then no, chuck it straight in.
6. Use your slow cooker ALL year round!
There’s a common misconception that slow cooking is for winter only. Wrong! Use it all year round for amazing curries, soups, bolognese sauces, taco mince, pulled meats for salad – the lot!
7. Don’t cook frozen food in the slow cooker
Despite what you read, avoid putting frozen food in your slow cooker. For two reasons. One, food doesn’t defrost evenly, therefore doesn’t heat and cook evenly. And two, any takers for food poisoning?
8. Keep your lid on
Every time you want to sneak a peek at how things are going in the slow cooker, or stir it, or taste it, you’re extending the cooking time. DO NOT LIFT THE LID. It can take as long as half an hour for the temperature to come back up again.
9. Bury your vegetables
Potatoes, carrots, parsnips – all the hard root veggies, put them at the bottom of the slow cooker where the liquid is. They’ll cook a lot better there than what they will if placed on top.
10. Herbs can wait in line
Just like the dairy, also keep your fresh herbs out until the end. If cooked for too long, they turn to mush and lose their vibrancy.
11. Reduce your liquid
Remember in a slow cooker environment, the liquid doesn’t evaporate because of the lid. There’s no need to add a lot of liquid, so try cutting it back by a third.
12. Preheating is important
You wouldn’t put something in the oven without preheating it, the same should go for the slow cooker. Turn it on to a low setting while you prep your ingredients to give it a headstart in reaching temperature. It’ll be ready to cook from the get-go!
13. Get greasy with it
Do grease your slow cooker insert. By spraying the inside of the slow cooker pot with oil, it’ll prevent food from sticking and will save a whole lot of elbow grease at the kitchen sink later.
14. Also, why is nothing thick?
True that. Just as the slow cooker doesn’t reduce liquids, it also fails to thicken sauces because of the darn lid. To help thicken sauces and gravies, try dusting meat in flour before cooking and adding a slurry of cornflour and water paste to a simmering slow cooker, mix it through and replace the lid.
15. Experiment and have fun
Don’t be afraid to try something new in your slow cooker. You might just stumble across a new favourite recipe or dinner. Did you know you can even make pavlova in the slow cooker? Go on, we dare you!
With these tips tucked in your apron pocket, we hope you get LOTS more enjoyment out of your slow cooker – I know I will!