There’s nothing better than a slower cooker…throw in the ingredients and return a few hours later to a cooked meal…it’s like magic right?
Here are a few mistakes everyone seems to make when using slow cookers…so you can avoid them yourself.
Taking a peek
Whatever is cooking in your house has it smelling delicious and the temptation is there to lift the lid…don’t do it! It took your slow cooker longer than you think to get to its target temperature.
Lifting the lid for even one second lets out the hot air which reduces the temperature inside. Obviously, this means it needs more time to cook. In fact, every time you lift the lid, it takes a further 30 mins to cook. So, you have been warned.
Using expensive cuts of meat
Those fancy cuts of meat certainly look great at the dinner table but there is no need to buy them for a slow cooker. Since slow cookers cook slow and low, they make even the toughest joint juicy and tender. No one will guess you have used the cheapest of cuts.
Not searing your meat first
Be honest, if the recipe says to sear your meat first before you drop it in the slow cooker, do you do that…or skip it? You may think it is a reasonable thing to do skipping it. Simple answer…don’t.
Skipping this step changes the flavor of the meat and not necessarily for the better. Searing over a high heat caramelizes the surface of the meat, which enhances the savory ‘meat’ flavor. It adds texture and an extra layer of flavor.
If you’ve never seared meat before slow cooking, you don’t know what you’re missing.
Cooking skin on chicken
Chicken cooked with the skin on in an oven will probably end up crispy and gorgeous. In a slow cooker that is not the case. More than likely, if will end up rubbery and soft.
If you don’t want to add any extra steps before you serve dinner, use skinless chicken. There is a workaround though if you do leave the skin on. Put the chicken in a broiler pan and under the broiler for a few minutes at the end. This will crisp up the outside of the chicken and turn it golden brown.
Fresh vs dry herbs
For all the talk of fresh herbs, the go to in slow cooking is actually dried herbs. Dried herbs perform best when cooked over long periods of time. That’s not to say you can’t use fresh herbs in a slow cooker, you can. Just don’t add them at the beginning as there won’t be anything left by the end when it’s time to serve.
Instead, put them in towards the end of the cooking time, so they’re still fresh and full of flavor when you sit down to eat.
Using the wrong size slow cooker
Slow cookers come in different sizes. One slow cooker does not fit every slow cooker recipe.
The cooking time on a recipe depends on using the same size slow cooker…meaning its filled to the appropriate level. Your slow cooker should be filled half way to three quarters of the way full.
If its not full enough, your food will end up overcooked. If its too full, it may end up under cooked…and even an overflow resulting in a big mess.
Adding dairy too soon
Dairy products do not do well warm and the slow cooker is no exception. If you ingredients like milk, cheese, cream, sour cream or cream cheese too early in the cooking process, you’ll end up with a disgusting mess by the end.
To save your dish without sacrificing the creamy flavor you want, cook it without any dairy and then add those ingredients within the last half an hour. This gives it just long enough to cook and blend properly into the dish.
Using too much alcohol
It is usually OK to use a heavy hand when cooking with wine on the stovetop. That is not the case with a slow cooker though because the lid stays on tight and nothing evaporates. In fact, when you add wine to a slow cooker recipe, you’ll taste more of the wine than you would on a stove cooked dish.
For that reason, it is best to skip the wine, or use it sparingly.
Cooking frozen food
As easy as it sounds, its not a good idea to put frozen food – especially meat – in your slow cooker. If your slow cooker is full of frozen food, it will take too long for it to reach a safe temperature for consumption. It will spend longer at temperatures where it is unsafe.
Not layering correctly
Believe it or not, your slow cooker does not cook evenly all the way through. The foods at the bottom cook faster so foods that need longer cooking times, like root vegetables, should go at the bottom of the slow cooker followed by the meat, which cooks faster.
Slow cookers may make cooking a breeze, but they can make clean up a real pain. They usually spend more time soaking on your sink than they do cooking. Even then, you need an awful lot of elbow grease to get them clean.
Save yourself some time and use a cooking spray or a slow cooker liner to make clean up that much easier.
So, there you have it. There is nothing like a fresh meal waiting for you when you return from a hard day’s work…and nothing more frustrating when it doesn’t turn out like it looks in the recipe book.
Make your slow cooking experience all the more fruitful and remove these headaches. By introducing these rules to your slow cooking, you will cook better and more efficiently.
These tips will improve your success rate and mean you get better results every time. We all make mistakes but let’s remove these basic errors.
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