a "been-there" mom of six offers encouragement
to wives, young mothers, and those not so young,
and simple common-sense approaches to
the "ings" of life:
child-rearing (hints and helps), homemaking (all areas),
cooking (simple, cheap, and do-it-yourself)
making (toys and gifts), preparing (for the unexpected),
maintaining (sanity and peace in this increasingly crazy world) and more---
all aspects of making the most of making do on little---
and having fun in the process.

Friday, February 10, 2012

20 Tips for Making the Most of your Slow Cooker

Also called a crock pot, a slow cooker is one of the busy person's best tools. 

Don't miss the amazing "roasted" turkey
breast recipe at the end of this blog!

Slow cookers come in a wide range of sizes. Smaller ones are best for every-day use for singles, couples or small families. Large ones are terrific for cooking stews and big batches of soup.

Recommendations indicate a cooker should be at least half full, but no more than two-thirds full, when cooking. Occasionally I have had my 5-quart  filled almost to the brim. The results have been fine but since this is probably not the best way to get the most from the appliance, I don't recommend it.

20 Simple Hints for Maximizing Over-all Results

1. Greasing the pot with a vegetable oil product, when appropriate, will make clean-up easier.

2. Cook at the right temperature. High cooks foods about twice as fast as low. Often you choose high or low to fit your individual time restraints but I have found, for the most part, I prefer the slow, low temp., especially with meats.

3.  Some suggest it's a good idea to turn the cooker on high first to heat the ingredients through, then turn it down to low for the rest of the cooking time.

4.  High in a slow cooker is about 300 degrees F. and low is about 200 degrees F. This may help you if you are converting conventional recipes for the crock pot.

5.  Avoid the temptation to lift the lid when using a slow cooker. Amazingly with each lid lift, the temperature drops 10 to 15 degrees----and takes quite a while to regain the heat loss. The steam condensing on the lid lets you know the food is cooking evenly.

6.  Use less liquid if you are converting your stove-top soup and  stew recipes to the slow cooker. The cooker conserves liquid. Since little boils away, you don't need as much liquid. You will have to experiment at first and keep adjusting, if necessary, to find the suitable amount .  You can start out cutting the liquid by a quarter and if that is not enough, then a third.

7.  When the dish is fully cooked, if there is still too much liquid, remove the lid, turn the setting to high if it is not already, and let the mixture boil until it reduces to your liking.

8.  Use less-expensive cuts of meat. While they are less tender in regular cooking, the slow cooking makes them tender.

9.  For  the best color and flavor, you may want to brown meat and chicken in a skillet before placing in the cooker.

10. If your recipe calls for raw rice as an ingredient, increase the liquid called for by 1 cup for each cup of uncooked rice.

11. Cut vegetables into uniform pieces so that they all cook at the same rate.

12. Add ingredients in the following order for best results: Aromatic veggies, like onions, garlic and carrots, should go on the bottom of the cooker. Place meat and chicken on top of them.

13.Whole herbs and spices flavors hold up better than ground herbs and spices during the slow cooking process.

14. Canned beans work better than dried beans in a slow cooker. If using dried beans, they should be soaked for 10 minutes and pre-cooked for about 1-1/2 hours before adding to the cooker.

15. Lentils do not need pre-cooking and work well in a crock pot.

16. Pasta should be pre-cooked before being added to a slow cooker. You can cook the pasta the previous day, refrigerate and stir into soups or stews during the last hour of cooking.

17. Dairy products such as milk, cream, and sour cream should not be added until the last hour of cooking so that they don't curdle.

18. Hot drinks, like cocoa, wassail, or spiced cider can be made and/or served from your slow cooker. You can add the recipe ingredients to the cooker and heat them on low for 3 to 4 hours before serving ---- and then maintaining the temperature on low. Or, you can bring the drink just to the boiling point on the stove top and transfer it to the cooker for one hour on high before serving. Change the setting to low when it is time to serve.

19. Do not use a slow-cooker for reheating foods.

20. If you want to soak the interior of a crock pot before washing it, NEVER fill a hot crock pot with cold water.

This recipe for "roasted" turkey breast is amazing. It tastes just like the real thing. I first had it about 15 years ago. I couldn't believe it then and I still can't believe it now.
Simply . . .
buy a frozen turkey breast that will fit your crock pot. Thaw, wash and pat dry. Place breast side up and ribs down (as much as possible). Cook on low for 12 hours.  

That's all there is to it!

'til we eat again,
          Simply, Gail

1 comment:

Norm and Heather said...

I sure missed my crock pot in Hungary.I even tried to find one to buy but they are almost non existent over there. I am going to try that roast turkey!