You don’t need any kitchen skills to use a slow cooker and you don’t need to follow complicated recipes; just throw all the ingredients into to the stoneware pot and they will come out tasty and healthy. But, to get the best out of your slow cooker, why not learn some easy rules and follow a few recipes to enjoy premium dishes, and surprise and impress your family and friends with amazing meals.
Simple tips like meat browning makes your meat dishes even tastier and more impressive.
You still don’t have a slow cooker? I have two models of in different sizes and with different features in my kitchen but, to start, you most probably just need one. Here are my favorite models for features, prices and sizes. Have a look and find the one that best suits your needs – My Favorite Slow Cookers.
Here are some great tips to help you get more from your slow cooker!
Opening the lid
Don’t open the lid during the first hour of cooking and, if you can, don’t open the lid until your meal is ready. If you do, maybe to stir the ingredients, remember that it will lose temperature and since slow cookers heat slowly, consider adding 20 more minutes to the cooking time.
Only add dairy products 15 minutes before the end of cooking
Milk, cheese, sour cream, or yogurt should only be added to the slow cooker 15 minutes before it finishes.
Use Cheap Meat Cuts
Tough cuts are always best as they are tastier and cheaper.
Avoid the lean and expensive cuts and go for cheaper cuts like stewing meat and shoulder cuts
I’ve shared an article all about the best beef cuts for your slow cooker, and another article about the best slow cooker pork cuts.
For slow cooking, I prefer pork and beef, but you can use white meats like chicken and turkey too. Just add some sauce to avoid it getting too dry
Some people would say “Yeah, sure, just add the raw meat into the mix” and yes, you can do this and it’ll probably taste good but, if you brown the meat before putting it in your slow cooker, it’ll taste even better!
To do this, get a pan and add some olive oil – extra virgin olive oil would be best. Allow the olive oil to heat up. When the oil is hot and liquified, with a watery texture, add the meat chunks. The meat chunks should not touch each other.
Keep the temperature medium-high and, after a few minutes, try to flip the meat. If the meat still sticks to the pan, you need to wait a few minutes more. If not, flip it and brown off the other side too.
After you flip the meat, you will see a brown colored crust which means that side is done. Now you only need to wait for the other side to be browned.
Browning the meat removes the excess fat in beef or pork, but you usually don’t need to do it for chicken or other lean, white meats. Browning also helps keep the meat chunks on one piece and stops it from breaking apart during cooking.
Don’t worry if not’s cooked inside; the slow and steady cooking process will make sure it’s cooked properly.
Eight hours before, soak any beans you are going to cook in water so they soften up before they go into the slow cooker.
Filling the slow cooker
Your slow cooker should always be, at least, half full and never more than 2/3 full. That’s why the size matters.
You don’t want to use a six quart slow cooker if you are only cooking for two people (recipes just for two persons will be published soon) unless you are doing a big batch for the next few days or for freezing. (Iris Stew prepare ahead with slow cooker).
Whatever you are cooking, always add some water. It’s not good for the stoneware pot if you heat it while empty or only containing dry ingredients.
Time and Temperature
Most slow cookers have a Low and High Temperature setting and recipes always include the cooking time and temperature.
As a rule of thumb, most meals are ready in four hours when using the high temperature setting but, if you want to leave the slow cooker on for a longer period, use the low temperature setting for eight hours
Recipes and Servings
Some recipes are written for four quart slow cookers while others are for eight quart cookers.
So, if you have a eight quart slow cooker but the recipe is for a four quart slow cooker, just multiply the ingredients by two. If it’s the other way around, just divide by two instead – simple!
Although the quantities will change, the cooking time will not so, if the recipe calls for six hours on the low temperature setting for a four quart slow cooker, it will be the same time for an eight quart slow cooker but with the double of the ingredients.
Dried herbs can be added on the beginning of cooking for a lovely, rich nice flavor, while fresh herbs should be only added ten minutes before cooking finishes.
My Favorite Slow Cookers
I’ve shared my favorite models and help you find you the best slow cooker for your needs and budget here.