Tips for Cooking in Slow Cookers Tips for Cooking in Slow Cookers This document is intended to provide general tips and guidelines for cooking in slow cookers also known as crockpots. These tips are not specific to any particular brand or model of slow cooker. As with many appliances, practise and a preparedness to experiment are among your most helpful tools! WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A SLOW COOKER A removable liner/cooking bowl - much easier to clean than a non-removable one. A non-stick liner/cooking bowl means less elbow-grease will be required when you are cleaning up. GENERAL TIPS Line your cooking bowl with a cooking bag for a super-easy clean up. Or spray with a little cooking oil. One hour on HIGH is roughly equivalent to two hours on LOW. Ceramic slow cooker bowls can crack if exposed to sudden temperature changes. When removing the bowl from your slow cooker, do not place the bowl straight on to a cold bench; place it on a folded tea towel or cloth. If you have had the bowl in the refrigerator, do not place it directly into the slow cooker from the fridge. FOOD SAFETY TIPS It’s advised to cook on HIGH for the first hour to ensure that food reaches minimum temperatures to be safe. Many recommend that you do not place frozen foods in a slow cooker. Defrost before cooking. If you are going to refrigerate food after cooking in a slow cooker, you must remove it from the liner/cooking pan and place it in a suitable food storage container. Your slow cooker liner/cooking bowl will not cool down quickly enough and food will remain in the unsafe temperature zone for too long and harmful bacteria may grow. Tips for Cooking in Slow Cookers COOKING TIPS Do not fill your slow cooker more than two thirds full. If you over fill the slow cooker, foods will not cook properly. If the slow cooker does not have enough food and liquid in it, food will over cook. Foods that are immersed in liquid cook faster and will be more moist. Fatty foods tend to cook faster so it is wise to remove poultry skin, excess meat fat etc. If not removed, the fats dissolve in the cooking liquid and can give the cooked food a texture that is unpleasant to eat. If you wish to thicken cooking liquid, turn the unit to HIGH for the last half hour of cooking and also remove the lid for this time. Cheaper cuts of meat are better in the slow cooker as they have less fat. However most meats need about 8 hours of cooking on LOW; this gives a more tender result. Layer your ingredients so that the ones that require more cooking are in the BOTTOM of the slow cooker. DO NOT lift the lid to check the food. Each time you lift the lid, heat escapes and this can add many minutes to your overall cooking time … as much as 15-20 minutes per lift lid. Resist the urge to stir unless your recipe advises to do so. It is generally not necessary to stir when using a slow cooker. Minced meats are best if first browned in a frypan on the stove top, before placing in slow cooker. Large pieces of meat can also be browned before placing in slow cooker. This isn’t absolutely necessary but browning does add flavour and colour. Seafood does not take long to cook and should be added towards the end of your cooking time … about one hour. Overcooked seafood has a rubbery texture. Sauteing vegetables before cooking in the slow cooker also adds more flavour. Soft vegetables like mushrooms, courgettes, tomatoes etc do not take long to cook. Add them about 45 minutes before end of cooking. Dairy products are best added about 15-30 minutes from end of cooking, unless you are using a recipe that has other instructions. Dairy products tend to break down in slow cookers and adding them at the end of cooking will help prevent this. Some items like cayenne pepper and tabasco sauce can become bitter if cooked for too long. Add these towards the end of cooking time, and use quite small amounts. Spices tend to lose flavour if cooked for too long with the other ingredients so add towards end of cooking time … during the last hour. Herbs are best when you use whole leaves and use about half the amount you would use for a conventional recipe. If using ground herbs, add them in the last hour of cooking. If you are using a recipe that was not developed for slow cooker use, you will need less liquid. This is because liquids to not evaporate in the same way that they do for other methods of cooking. Reduce liquid by a third to a half … unless you are cooking rice or making soup, in which case use your recipe as is. Dusting meat in flour before placing in slow cooker will give you a thicker sauce. If you are cooking at high altitudes, you need to allow about 30 extra minutes for each hour specified in the recipe. Legumes take about twice as long to cook at high altitudes. Trim excess fat off meat. Fat retains heat better than water does so fattier foods like meat cook faster than less fatty foods eg vegetables. If you are cooking meat and vegetables together in your slow cooker, try placing veges on the bottom and sides and meat on top.
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