There’s nothing like coming home to a hot meal, especially one you can prep in advance and cook when your schedule is full. With our amazing small appliances, you can make a tasty slow-cooked meal that doesn’t require too much of your time. Here are some hacks and recipes to get you started!
1. Easy Prep, Easy Cleanup
One of the main appeals of slow cooking is easy meal prep. Thaw the meat ahead of time, cut your ingredients to a uniform size (ex: meat, potatoes, and carrots), and stick them in your slow cooker. If you’re making a pot roast or a stew, place the meat at the bottom followed by the spices, vegetables, and dry ingredients. Then, immerse your ingredients in water or vegetable broth (be careful not to overfill) and cover it.
2. Get to the Meat of It
Fattier meats are best for slow cooking, so choose your cut of meat carefully. For example, meats like short ribs and chuck roast become tender when they’re slow cooked unlike pork tenderloin, which dries out when cooked over a long period of time. The bigger and fattier the meat, the longer it needs to be cooked. So, if you’re cooking something like pork shoulder, cook it low and slow for about 8 hours, or until the meat starts falling apart.
TIP: Give the meat a quick sear before you put it in the slow cooker. This will help the meat develop more complex flavor and prevent the meat from adding excess grease to your finished dish.
3. Sensible Seasoning
Since meals typically cook for a long time in a slow cooker, you should always use dried herbs and spices rather than fresh ones. Why? Because a slow cooker will overcook fresh seasonings and potentially add a burnt taste to your meal.
As you add ingredients to your slow cooker, add your herbs and spices on top of the meat. This helps build the flavor. And if your recipe calls for broth or stock, consider adding bouillon cubes instead and mix it with less water than suggested. Try out this technique by making our Garlic Parmesan Chicken With Cauliflower Mash, which features a lovely combination of garlic, parsley, and Italian seasoning.
4. The Deal About Dairy
While dairy can be used in a slow cooker, it should be added toward the end of the cook time to avoid curdling. Make sure you’re using fresh dairy and only cook it on low heat. You can prevent most dairy products from curdling in a slow cooker by adding cornstarch to them (which is also a good thickening option). If your dish has too much liquid, you can save it by making a roux with equal parts butter and flour plus a little milk.
5. Lowdown on Layering
As you add ingredients to your slow cooker, follow this order: meat, herbs and spices, vegetables, other dry ingredients, and liquid. Denser ingredients (ex: meat and potatoes) should be closer to the bottom because they need to cook more thoroughly.
But of course, there are some delicious rulebreakers to consider. You can also poach fish over a layer of herbs or steam vegetables over a layer of lemongrass on top of water (or another liquid). Your slow cooker can be used to make just about any dish! There’s nothing like the smell of our Slow Cooker Minestrone made in the slow cooker on the weekend to gather family around the table.
TIP: Whenever you’re slow cooking, resist the urge to remove the lid and stir the ingredients. If you remove the lid while it cooks, you’ll release lots of heat. That means you’ll have to extend your cook time to ensure everything is evenly cooked.
What’s your favorite slow cooker recipe? Share it with us in the comments below.