Now that the cooler weather is here and we are back to busier weeknights, one of my favorite ways to simplify the dinner routine is to use my slow cooker. There are so many great recipes to use with this time saving device and it always is a great way to come home at the end of the day and have dinner on the counter ready to be served.
I have listed some tips for making the best use of the Slow Cooker:
- No Peeking! Lifting the lid can add up to additional cooking time. It is sometime hard to resist the urge to take off the lid, give it a stir, and take in the wonderful smells of your dinner but each time you do it releases the steam that is cooking the food.
- To save yourself even more time in the am, prep the recipe the night before! Cover and refrigerate overnight and then in the morning, just place in the cooker and set to correct temp setting. Off you go and your dinner is done! Note: in the am the insert should be placed in a cool cooker-do not preheat it as placing the cold dish in a hot cooker could result in cracking.
- Slow cookers should not be used to reheat leftovers for food safety reasons. You should always reheat leftovers in an oven or stove top.
- When using recipes that call for longer cooking vegetables (potatoes, carrots, turnips etc) these foods should be placed in the cooker so they are in direct contact with the pot, such as the bottom or around the perimeter. The meat and other more delicate ingredients can be placed on top.
- Ingredients should never come up to the very top of the insert and should be no more than 2/3 full for optimum cooking.
- Spraying the insert with cooking spray prior to filling will save time and scrubbing during clean up. Do not use scouring pads to clean it as it may scratch the coating on the insert.
- Cooking times between different manufacturers can vary. The newer models tend to cook faster so you may need to adjust the time suggested in the recipe.
Happy Slow Cooking!
source: Taste of Home, Casseroles, Slow cooker, and Soups 2011