Tips and safety for using the slow cooker
How good is the slow cooker? We use ours all the time.
It’s so handy to be able to throw something in to the slow cooker in the morning and come home to a beautiful hot meal. We often think of using slow cookers in winter but they are great to use in summer too because they don’t heat up the house.
It’s brilliant for families who eat at different times for dinner. You can keep everything warm and just dish out portions as needed.
Slow cookers are a pretty easy way to cook but there are a few tips that can help you get the most out of your appliance. Let me know if you have any other tips to share in the comments!
Tips for cooking in the slow cooker:
♥ Stack the denser vegetables and meat on the bottom of the slow cooker and the lighter vegetables on top.
♥ Resist the urge to open the lid, you lose cooking time every time you peek!
♥ Browning meat first is totally optional, but it will add to the flavour. Do it if you have time and can be bothered washing another pan. Don’t forget to deglaze the pan with some liquid and add it to your slow cooker to get all that extra flavour.
♥ The general rule is four hours on high or eight hours on low for most meals. I prefer low and slow and try to cook things longer for better flavour.
♥ Slow cookers need a lot less liquid, so if you are adapting a favourite recipe, cut the liquid down by about a third. Remember that your veges will release a lot of liquid too.
♥ If you want your liquid to thicken in the slow cooker, coat meat in flour and brown in a frypan first. If you want to thicken at the end of cooking time, just make a paste of cornflour and water and add to the slow cooker, stirring in well. Leave it on high heat for ten to fifteen minutes or until it’s the thickness you want. You can also just take the lid off and turn the heat up to high to reduce the liquid too.
♥ Don’t overfill the slow cooker! Leave room for air flow to get consistent cooking.
♥ Always add cream, coconut cream, yoghurt or milk towards the end of the cooking time. Too much cooking makes these curdle.
♥ Lean meat tends to dry out so stick to meat with some fat or tougher cuts. For example, chicken thighs work better than chicken breasts. The cheaper cuts of meat like neck chops and chuck steak work perfectly in the slow cooker.
♥ Slow cookers are perfect for cooking roasts! I pop a few large slices of onion on the bottom of the pot and then add a good splash of water. Your roast will be beautifully tender.
♥ Slow cookers are also great for making your own bone broth. You can leave it on overnight and not worry about it burning dry!
♥ Hard herbs like rosemary and thyme will take the long slow cooking of a slow-cooker but soft herbs like parsley and basil are best added just at the end of cooking time and stirred through.
♥ Make sure your food is defrosted before it goes in the slow cooker or you could risk bacteria growing.
♥ Slow cookers are very forgiving for beginner cooks and it’s pretty hard to stuff up a meal! As long as there is enough liquid, most meals will be okay well past the eight hour mark.
♥ Meat, vegetables, liquid and some seasonings are all that is needed to make a yummy meal. Experiment with different combinations.
♥ Don’t limit yourself to stews and braises, you can cook all sorts of things in your slow cooker from porridge to cakes and it makes the best sweet potatoes! We often cook bulk amounts of (pre-soaked) chickpeas and beans in the slow cooker too.
♥ Most slow cooker inserts should go in the dishwasher. If not, you can get rid of baked-on food with bicarb and vinegar.
Slow cooker or crockpot? Same thing! Crockpot is just a brand name for a slow cooker.
Slow cooker safety:
Slow cooker safety is an issue that has come up lately and some of you are a bit worried.
Personally, I would not use a slow cooker with a non-stick surface and anything with Teflon is a definite no from me. Even if they proclaim to be safe, I am still very wary of the chemicals they use to make it non-stick! Check out my post about non-toxic cookware to find out more.
There is also some concern about lead in the ceramic glaze of slow cookers. For this reason, I would avoid really old slow cookers, stick to quality brands, ring the manufacturer and ask about your brand or invest in a slow cooker with a stainless steel or glass insert.
There are recommendations to avoid cookware made in China as they have less regulation around lead safety. I would definitely avoid cheap slow cookers!
You can buy also lead testing kits at hardware stores to check your current slow cooker to make sure it’s safe.
KitchenAid and Cuisinart have both stated that their slow cookers do not contain lead. I recommend both brands. Having worked in a kitchen store, these are top performers! You can get both on sale here.
Slow cooker recipes:
Check out my bumper list of 20 Wholefood Slow Cooker Recipe
You might also like to read: