Basic Crock-Pot Cooking Tips Edit
Contributed by Delma Catsrecipes Y-Group
- When purchasing a crock-pot, look for one with a removable bowl. They are much easier to clean. If you have a non-removable bowl, however, all is not lost! Line your crock-pot with a crock-pot cooking bag liner and you'll have no cleanup at all. Spray the inside of the bowl with cooking spray before you fill it to make cleanup easier. I also use the crock-pot bag liners on my removable crock-pot bowl just so there is little or no cleanup at all.
- Only fill the crock-pot one half to two thirds full (Leave about 2 inches from the top). The foods will not cook properly if the appliance is filled to the brim. If the food and liquid level is lower, the foods will cook too quickly.
- Foods cooked on the bottom of the slow cooker cook faster and will be moister because they are immersed in the simmering liquid (Meats and fresh vegetables should be place in the bottom for thorough cooking).
- Remove skin from poultry, and trim excess fat from meats. Fats will melt with long cooking times, and will add a greasy texture to the finished dish. Fatty foods will also cook too quickly.
- You can thicken the juices and concentrate flavors by removing the lid and cooking on HIGH for the last half hour of cooking time.
- 140 degrees is the temperature the food needs to reach as quickly as possible. If you are at home during the cooking times, test the food temperature after four hours of cooking on LOW - the temp should be at least 140 degrees. If it isn't, there's a problem with your crock-pot and you should get a new one.
- For food safety reasons, it's a good idea to cook on HIGH for the first hour to quickly bring the temperature up to 140 degrees. Then turn the dial to LOW and finish cooking.
- The LOW setting is about 200 degrees, and the HIGH setting is about 300 degrees. Note that both of these temps are well above the minimum safe temperature of 140 degrees.
- Experts recommend you do not put frozen foods in the crock-pot. All foods should be defrosted before cooking so the food temperature can reach 140 degrees as soon as possible.
- Most meats require 8 hours of cooking on LOW. Use cheaper cuts of meat - not only do you save money, but these meats work better in the slow cooker. Cheaper cuts of meat have less fat, which makes them more suited to crock-pot cooking. Moist, long cooking times result in very tender meats.
- Ground meats should be cooked in a skillet before cooking in the crock-pot.
- Seafood should be added during the last hour of cooking time, or it will overcook and have a rubbery texture.
- Large pieces of meat can be browned before cooking in the crock-pot, but this step isn't necessary. Browning adds color and helps in flavor development.
- One hour on HIGH is equal to two hours on LOW.
- Cayenne pepper and Tabasco sauce tend to become bitter if cooked for long periods of time. Use small amounts and add toward the end of the cooking time.
- Add tender vegetables like tomatoes, mushrooms and zucchini during the last 45 minutes of cooking time so they don't overcook and turn mushy.
- Dairy products should be added during the last 30 minutes of cooking time, unless the recipes states otherwise.
- Liquids do not boil away in the crock-pot, so if you are making a recipe that wasn't specifically developed for the crock-pot, reduce the liquid by ⅓ to ½ unless you are cooking rice or making soup.
- Remove cooked food from the crock-pot or liner before storage. Because the liner is made of such thick material, the food won't cool down quickly enough to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria.
- Stir in spices for the last hour of cooking. They will lose flavor if cooked with the rest of the ingredients for the long cooking period. Follow the layering instructions carefully. Vegetables do not cook as quickly as meat, so they should be placed in the bottom of the appliance.
- Don't lift the lid to stir, especially if you are cooking on the low setting. Each time you lift the lid, enough heat will escape that the cooking time should be extended by 20 minutes to half an hour. To check progress without lifting the lid, spin the cover until the condensation falls off. Then it's easy to see inside.
- Put the unpeeled onion in the freezer and leave it there for about ten minutes. Remove the onion from the freezer and peel it. The onion can now be sliced, chopped, or minced without tears.
- Burn a candle on the counter near where you're cutting the onion. It'll burn off the fumes that cause eye irritation. A scented candle also smells better than raw, chopped Onion!