Using a slow cooker is a quick and convenient way of preparing a meal. They can be left to cook while you are at work, or while you are getting on with other things around the house. All you need to do is prepare the food, some models even give you instruction for when you need to add the different ingredients.
If you are looking to purchase a new appliance, be sure to read some slow cooker reviews, this always help to make sure you are buying the right appliance for your needs.
Here are some tips to ensure you are getting the most out of your slow cooker.
Clear Some Counter Space
Modern slow cookers are safe enough to set them to work then walk away, but a few safety measures never hurt. The sides generate some moderate heat, so always position the cooker six inches or so away from any walls or other appliances so the heat can dissipate. The bottom is made to be safe on any counter, but you can set it on a cooling rack if you’re concerned.
Prepare the Recipe
Most of the slow cooker recipes available allow the user to simply prepare the meat and vegetables and place them in the pot with the correct amount of liquid. For best results, it is always best to sear or brown the meat first, this will ensure the meat is tender. Some slow cookers offer this as a function.
Put the Ingredients in the Slow Cooker
The slow cooker should be between halfway and three-quarters full for best results. If your recipe uses liquid, it should come around halfway up the ingredients (or less). Very little liquid will evaporate during cooking, so you generally don’t need a lot of it!
Put the Lid On
The lid of the cooker should fit neatly and snugly to prevent moisture escaping. Slow cookers depend on bringing your food up to a stable temperature (usually around 210°) and keeping it there. If the lid isn’t snug, the cooker won’t work as efficiently. If your lid has been dropped on the floor one too many times and has some gaps, wrap a sheet of aluminum foil over the top of the cooker to seal everything in.
Set the Cooking Time
The cooking temperature is the same on all settings (again, about 210°), so the setting you choose merely dictates how quickly the slow cooker gets to that temperature. The lower settings, usually between an 8 and 10 hour cooking time, heats food gently, whereas the higher settings, between 4 and 6 hours cooking time, will heat it more quickly. Modern slow cookers are designed to bring food to temperature within a safe window of time and maintain it at that level.
Walk Away and Let It Cook!
This is the beauty of a slow cooker, set the time and walk away. You don’t need to stir the contents or check the progress, in fact, this will let heat escape and can disrupt the cooking process. Some recipes will say to add quick cooking ingredients like tender vegetables, pasta or seafood in the last hour of cooking, but other than that, nothing more is needed.
Like any other dish, slow cooker dishes need to be eaten, cooled and stored within a safe time period, so make sure you’re around when the cooking cycle ends. Most modern models will automatically switch over to a warming cycle at the end of cooking if you’re not there, which alleviates this problem. This should keep food hot enough to prevent it from spoiling, but it can overcook your food if used for too long.
If you suspect that there has been a power outage, dispose of the food, it could be harmful.