Slow Cooker Tips

How do you stretch your dinnertime dollars? Use Slow Cookers to make the most of inexpensive cuts of meat. Watch this for tips on how to get the best results.

-Better Homes and Gardens is pleased to partner with General Mills to bring you the Weeknight Budget Series. Everybody wants to serve their families delicious, nutritious dinners. But can you do it on a budget? You bet---- with some timely tips from Better Homes and Gardens. Slow cookers are a great way to stretch your dinner dollars especially when it comes to meat. They take inexpensive cuts and they'd make them more tender and tasty. So let's get to it. First, let's talk about what cuts to look for. General categories---- shank, shoulder, rump, ribs, and round. So, cuts such as beef chunk, beef round steak, or roast, ribs, beef brisket, pork shoulder, Boston butt, chicken thighs and legs, ground beef, and ground chicken are all good choices for slow cookers. So, no matter what you're making, here are a few ground rules for using a slow cooker. Trim up your meats by removing the excess fat. The fat will melt down during the long cook times and result in a pretty unpleasant texture. And if you're using poultry, make sure you remove the skin because there's a lot of excess fat there as well. Most meats benefit from some browning before they go into the slow cooker. It adds a great layer of flavor, so don't skip it. And if it's ground meat that you're using, you have to precook it. Now that your meat is prepared, how do you pack a slow cooker? Put whatever is the longest to cook on the bottom of the Crock-Pot. So if you're using fresh vegetables, put those in the bottom because they don't cook as quickly as the meat does. Only fill your Crock-Pot half to two-thirds full. The food won't cook correctly if it's filled to the brim. If it's less than half full, the foods will cook too quickly. Most meats are gonna take 8 hours of cooking on low and resist the urge to lift the lid. Every time you break that seal, you can extend the cook time by 20 minutes to half an hour. The exception to the rule, if you're adding tender vegetables or thawed, frozen vegetables. Those will usually go in during the last hour of cook time so they don't get mushy. Vegetables are a great way to extend the recipe; and if you look for brands that's flash freeze, you can be confident you're gonna get all those good vitamins and minerals intact. With these basics under your belt, you can take advantage of those bargain meats and put that slow cooker to work.