Slow Cooker Tips
Your family's slow cooker can be the ultimate tool to conveniently get meals on the table quickly and without much hassle. Learn how to use a slow cooker to its full potential so you can make the most of this essential appliance. We'll show you how to get amazing results from just about any recipe with these simple secrets and basic info.
Slow Cooker Tips and Tricks
The slow cooker lets you create no-fuss meals your family will enjoy all year long. Tasty soups and stews, tender meat dishes, and decadent desserts ... the slow cooker can do them all. With our tips, tricks, and ideas, your slow cooker will become your go-to kitchen tool.
Just the Right Amount
One of our most important slow cooker cooking tips: Put the correct amount of food in the slow cooker before turning it on. When prepping your meal, make sure the cooker is at least half full, but no more than two-thirds full.
Not quite at the right level? You can always add an extra potato, carrot, or onion to fill the cooker to the halfway point without altering the flavor.
Working with Veggies
Cut potatoes, carrots, parsnips, and other dense vegetables into bite-size pieces before dropping them into your cooker. These heavier, fresh veggies make for a great base at the bottom of your cooker.
Tender vegetables—like frozen broccoli, green beans, or peas—are better added toward of the end of your cook time. Another tip is to cook those veggies on a high-heat setting for roughly 30 minutes or until tender.
Ground Meats, Poultry, and Sausage
Slow cooking is a great way to transform tough, budget-friendly cuts of meat into moist, juicy morsels. Cuts such as beef chuck, beef brisket, pork shoulder, and stew meat often sell for less, and they make for excellent slow cooker protein options.
To prep meat, trim fat and halve any roasts that are larger than 2-1/2 pounds. Place the meat on top of a bed of vegetables to season the meat more.
Working with poultry? Be sure to remove the skin before placing them in your cooker.
Here's a tip: Prior to adding ground meats, poultry, or sausage, brown it first in a skillet over medium heat. This prevents meat from clumping together and limits the fats in your final dish. Additionally, browning adds a deeper, richer flavor to your dish.
Do you want to learn how to cook chicken in a slow cooker? Check out these healthy slow cooker chicken recipes.
Adapting Recipes for Slow Cooker
Turn some of your favorite recipes into slow cooker meals by following these tips:
- Choose recipes featuring less-tender cuts of meat, then find a slow cooker recipe similar to the recipe you want to convert. Use the slow cooker recipe as a guide for quantities, piece sizes, liquid levels, and cooking times. These cuts of meat work best in your slow cooker:
- Beef: arm pot roast, blade steak, brisket, chuck pot roast, chuck short ribs, flank steak, round steak, rump roast, shank cross cuts, shoulder steak, stew meat
- Pork: blade roast, boneless pork shoulder roast, country-style ribs, sirloin chops, sirloin roast, smoked pork hocks
- Chicken and Turkey: breast halves (bone-in), drumsticks, thighs (bone-in or boneless)
- Unless your recipe contains long grain rice, reduce the liquids in the recipe you are adapting by about half.
- Trim the meat, cut it to the right size for a slow cooker, and, if desired, brown it.
- Cut vegetables into bite-size pieces; place them at the bottom of the slow cooker so they'll cook evenly and completely.
- Enhance the flavor of meat dishes by adding broth, wine, or juice for the liquid.
Occassionally veggies like onions can release too much liquid in slow cooker recipes. If your dish is looking thin, put your slow cooker on high instead of low and remove the lid for the last 30 to 45 minutes of cooking to boil off excess moisture.
Another trick is to start with only half of the total amount of liquid specified in your recipes, and add liquid only if needed.
If your soup or stew isn't reaching the consistency you'd like, try these ideas to thicken it.
- Use quick-cooking tapioca as a thickener for stew and sauces.
- Use cornstarch or flour to thicken the juices in a saucepan at the end of cooking. We suggest using 1 tablespoon cornstarch or 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour for every cup of liquid.
Adding Dairy Products
Milk, cream, and natural cheeses break down when cooked for long periods of time. This can make using these ingredients in a slow cooker recipe a little tricky.
If you're looking for extra creaminess in your dish, try adding canned condensed cream soups and packaged white sauce mixes. Evaporated milk works if you add it the last 30 to 60 minutes of cooking time. Stir cheeses into the finished dish just before serving.
Incorporating Dried Beans
Not cooking dried beans correctly can ruin your slow cooker dish. In order to incorporate them successfully into your recipe, first rinse beans and place them in a saucepan. Add enough water to cover the beans by 2 inches and bring to boiling. Then reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, 10 minutes.
Remove the saucepan of beans from the heat, cover, and let it stand for 1 hour before draining and rinsing the beans.
After you've cooked, drained, and rinsed the beans, they're ready to go into your slow cooker.
Care and Clean Up
Although convenient and easy to use, slow cookers can be a pain to clean. To help make your dish simple from start to finish, use a handy slow cooker liner, such as Reynolds KitchensTM Slow Cooker Liners, to keep your cooker clean.
Before tossing ingredients into your slow cooker, put a liner in your pot. And when it comes time to tackle kitchen cleanup, toss the liner and you're done!
Savory and Sweet Slow Cooker Ideas
Want to learn how to cook chicken in a slow cooker? Or are you looking for a recipes to add to your repertoire? Look no further! These easy slow cooker ideas will help you learn how to cook chicken, prepare an easy dinner, and even serve sweet treats.