By Pamela Redwine
Slow cooking is the perfect way to cook delicious meals without spending hours in the kitchen. Here are 20 tips and tricks to turn your slow-cooked meals from good to great.
1. Ensure that the temperature is between 165 degrees and 200 degrees Fahrenheit. This is the appropriate temperature for low-heat cooking. Most slow-cooker models are set to about 200 degrees Fahrenheit, but make sure you confirm the temperature beforehand.
2. Higher temperatures may cause your food to stick. You can convert your recipe’s high settings to low by doubling the cooking time.
3. Use high settings for the first 8 hours when slow cooking meats and poultry. This will ensure that the heat destroys bacteria.
4. Do not overfill the slow cooker. Make sure it is at least half-full so your food cooks thoroughly.
5. If you are tempted to peek into the cooker and stir the food, resist the temptation! Opening the lid will require you to extend the cooking time.
6. Ensure the lid fits properly and seals the pot. Sealing the lid creates steam for cooking. It also prevents spills when travelling with your food.
7. Make sure that the slow cooker is the right size. Small slow cookers are suitable for making dips while larger slow cookers are best for meals to feed the entire family.
8. You need adequate preparation time to ensure that your food cooks evenly. For example, in the recipe, you can make the meal tastier by browning the chicken before adding it to the pot.
9. Sautéing vegetables, such as carrots and onions, prior to slow cooking softens them and improves the flavor of the meal.
10. Thaw your poultry or meat before adding it to the slow cooker.
11 Poultry and meat cook faster than vegetables. Therefore, put the vegetables first and the meat on top.
12. Prevent pasta from sticking to the slow cooker by cooking it according to the directions on the package and then adding it into the slow cooker before serving.
13. If the slow cooker seems to double the liquid of your recipe, add more seasoning such as rosemary, lemon, and garlic.
14. Putting less liquid in your recipe will prevent your meal from becoming too watery.
15. Alternatively, add whole wheat flour or corn starch to thicken your food. Use one tablespoon for a cup of cooking liquid to create a paste.
16. It’s easy to thicken soups or stews without flour or cornstarch. The last 15 minutes of cooking time, simply remove about 1 cup of the solids, (example: beans, veggies, meats etc.,) and mash with a fork or puree in a blender. Return to the slow cooker, stir and continue cooking until thick, about 15 minutes. The taste is phenomenal!
17. Seal in the moisture of your meat, chicken, and turkey by rubbing it with extra virgin olive oil and herbs before slow cooking.
18. Add dairy products such as milk and sour cream to the slow cooker during the last 10-15 minutes of your slow cooking.
19. Refrigerate the leftovers within two hours.
20. Do not use the slow cooker to reheat the leftovers to prevent food borne illness.