How To Use a Slow Cooker Properly and Our Favorite
Slow cookers (also known as crock pots) make cooking healthy meals simple. The types of meat that work best in a slow cooker are the cheaper cuts. You simply put the ingredients into the cooker and set it to cook. Low heat usually takes about eight hours, or you may choose high heat for about three to four hours. It’s not the same as cooking in the oven or stove top, you can turn it on and leave the cabin, for hours if you like. Your food will cook slowly throughout the day, without worrying about overcooking your food. Your dinner can be served whenever you wish.
There are several different sizes of slow cookers. They are available in sizes from one quart to eight quarts, and some even a bit larger. We prefer the six quart Kitchenaid oval cooker (more on this below). When you have visitors, it’s handy to have a few slow cookers available.
For best results, brown the meat in a frying pan before adding to the cooker. Sear the meat with butter for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, for that nice brown look. You will be adding a layer of flavor you can’t get otherwise. Add-ons for extra flavor can be: lightly sauteed bacon and onions, black pepper, Worcestershire sauce, touch of brown sugar and tomato paste. If you are making a chicken dish, a few add-on choices could be: lemon slices, chopped parsley, cilantro and celery, that would add to the flavor. Fresh herbs and spices are better than the dried variety for extended slow cooking times because they take longer to release their flavors. Soak dried beans before adding them to the cooker. A touch of sugar may be added to the beans after they become tender.
Items that should be added later in the cooking process are: milk, sour cream, dairy products, cooked noodles and any other types of pasta. Wait until the last 20 minutes or so to add them. If making a soup or stew with cabbage, the cabbage will disappear if you let it cook too long. Save it for the last hour of cooking. When assembling your ingredients in the slow cooker, veggies first (they take longer to cook), then add your meat.
While your meal is cooking, unless the recipe requires you to “stir the pot,” resist the urge to take off the lid and peek at your meal. Opening the slow cooker lets heat escape and slows cooking. Never add frozen ingredients to your cooker. Thaw them in advance. Refrigerate any ingredients you’ve prepped ahead in separate storage containers and bring liquids to a simmer if you’re cooking on low before adding them to your cooker to give the heating process a jump start.
Cook raw meat and poultry dishes on HIGH setting for the first hour to speed up the time it takes to get to a safe temperature, and that also gives the meal an extra boost. If you aren’t using a disposable liner (we don’t) be sure to coat the inside of the cooker with a cooking spray for easy cleanup.
If your dinner looks like soup, but that wasn’t what you intended to serve, turn the dial to ‘high’ and open the lid, and place it sideways on top (or take it off entirely) to let the steam escape. Let it cook until it is of the consistency you wanted it to be.
On the cold days of winter, fill a slow cooker with cider, and any combination of apple slices, cinnamon sticks, pumpkin spice, etc., and serve in individual mugs. The smell is wonderful, and the drink is warming.
Our Favorite Slow Cooker Recipe: The Classic Pot Roast
Medium size chuck roast (3 lbs)
Onion, 2 celery stalks, 2 potatoes
6 medium carrots
2 tab. Worcestershire sauce
Stir together a small amount of cold water (about 4 oz.) and 2 tab. cornstarch in a glass.
Chop vegetables, season with salt and pepper, toss and put in slow cooker. Add cornstarch liquid.
Brown roast on stove, (any pan drippings, add to crock pot) sprinkle with salt and pepper, place in slow cooker on top of veggies. Drizzle the Worcestershire sauce over meat.
Cook. High – 6 hours, Low – 10 hours, or a combination of both to fit your schedule.
Best served with mashed potatoes.
KitchenAid KSC6223SS 6-Qt. Slow Cooker with Standard Lid – Stainless Steel
Why We Recommend This
This is the king of slow cookers. It holds a low temperature better than any other slow cooker on the market, and has a very low “warm” setting, which is often too hot on most slow cookers. This slow cooker keeps the temperature astoundingly even, again, which most do not. The controls are extremely easy to read, and very easy to use. Don’t consider an alternative, even if much pricier- this is the best slow cooker you will ever own.
Here are two excellent videos that provide a number of tips for using a slow cooker (not specific to the recommended product below).
From the Manufacturer:
Slow Cooker / Crockpot Books:
Phyllis Pellman Good is a New York Times bestselling author whose books have sold more than 11 million copies. Good is the author of the nationally acclaimed Fix-It and Forget-It slow-cooker cookbooks, several of which have appeared on the New York Times bestseller list, as well as the bestseller lists of USA Today, Publishers Weekly, and Book Sense. The series includes eight titles. The most recent are Fix-It and Forget-It Pink Cookbook, to benefit the Avon Foundation and Fix-It and Forget-It Diabetic Cookbook, Revised and Updated, with the American Diabetes Association. Good is also the author of the Fix-It and Enjoy-It series, a “cousin” series to the phenomenally successful Fix-It and Forget-It Cookbooks. Phyllis Pellman Good is Executive Editor at Good Books. (Good Books has published hundreds of titles by more than 135 authors.) She received her B.A. and M.A. in English from New York University. She and her husband, Merle, are the parents of two young-adult daughters. For a complete listing of books by Phyllis Pellman Good, as well as excerpts and reviews, visit www.Fix-ItandForget-It.com or www.GoodBooks.com.
GINA HOMOLKA is the author of the New York Times bestselling The Skinnytaste Cookbook and the founder of Skinnytaste, the award-winning blog that’s been featured on Fitness and Better Homes and Gardens, among other media outlets. She lives on Long Island with her husband and their two children.
HEATHER K. JONES, R.D., is a registered dietitian, the author of several nutrition books, and the founder of heatherkjones.com, a weight-loss site about healing and hope instead of diets and deprivation.
Fix-It and Forget-It Favorite Slow Cooker Recipes for Dad: 150 Recipes Dad Will Love to Make, Eat, and Share!
Dad deserves the very best home cooking. But he doesn’t have a lot of time, and neither do you! With these easy slow cooker recipes, you can make his favorite ribs, wings, chili, fudge brownies, and more with minimal preparation time and easy-to-find ingredients. Whether Dad likes to cook or likes to be cooked for, these tried and true recipes are sure to be a hit.
Have you ever found yourself going home, tired after a long day, only to discover that you still have to cook food? The prospect of having to prepare several ingredients, use a frying pan or an oven, and then perform other complicated and time consuming tasks may either make you to order out or skip dinner altogether.