Using a slow cooker is super easy. But before you set it and forget it, check out these tips to turn your slow-cooker meals up a notch.
Tips and Tricks for Slow Cooking:
- Preheat Your Slow Cooker
A slow cooker is like a mini oven. If you have the time, let your slow cooker preheat for 10 to 15 minutes before adding ingredients. This will help speed up the cooking time. Bringing your liquids to a simmer before adding also gives your cooking time a jumpstart.
- Brown Your Meat
Although not necessary, browning your meat before adding to the slow cooker adds a depth of flavor and a more eye-appealing finished dish.
- Layer Your Food
Since the heat of a slow cooker comes from the bottom, layer the longer cooking foods on the bottom and the quicker cooking foods on the top. Vegetables like potatoes and tougher cuts of meat start at the bottom, while vegetables like green beans are better at the top. Vegetables like peas or fresh herbs can be stirred in at the very end, since they take hardly any cooking time at all!
- Don't Overfill Your Slow Cooker
Overfilling your slow cooker causes the food to steam instead of simmer. Filling your slow cooker around two-thirds full is usually the best.
- Plan Ahead
The night before, cut and chop your meat and vegetables. Get your dry ingredients and sauces ready. Refrigerate ingredients in separate containers. Don’t refrigerate ingredients in the slow cooker insert, because a cold insert takes longer to heat up.
The next morning, preheat your slow cooker for 10 to 15 minutes. While your slow cooker is preheating, let your meat and vegetables come to room temperature. Heat any sauce you’re using to a simmer. Combine the meat, vegetables and sauce into the slow cooker, and off you go!
- Add Dairy at the End
If you’re using dairy like cream or sour cream, stir it into the slow cooker during the last the last 30 minutes of cooking time. Your creams can curdle if added too early or cooked for too long.