There’s nothing like coming home from your garden patch with lots of potatoes, carrots, broccoli and other veggies. But what do you do with them? Sure, there’s the standard baking or boiling, but in the summer heat, maybe you don’t want to turn on the oven. So how are you going to cook your delightful harvest without turning your apartment into a sauna?
How about using a slow-cooker?
A slow-cooker is an amazing thing. You throw some ingredients in, turn it on, and you have a meal several hours later. It’s an easy way for busy people to make nutritious and delicious meals. Follow these tips and your recipes will turn out better than ever.
There are a variety of slow-cooker sizes. Make sure you are making a recipe that is appropriate for your crock pot’s size. An overfilled slow-cooker requires more time to cook. Slow-cookers should not be filled more than two-thirds full.
The best way to save flavor is to brown meat and or veggies in a skillet directly before adding them to the slow cooker. Make sure you also include all the brown caramelized bits that are stuck to the pan.
Temperatures between 40° and 140°F are the “Danger Zone,” where harmful bacteria grow quickly. It’s important that foods never sit in the danger zone for very long. Don’t add refrigerated or frozen ingredients directly to the slow cooker. It won’t be able to heat up to cooking temperature quickly enough.
Fattier cuts of meat like short ribs, lamb shanks or dark meat chicken handle the low heat better than leaner cuts. The leaner cuts will dry out and become tough, while the fattier cuts become moist and tender.
Each time you open the lid, you let out heat and add 15 to 20 minutes to the cooking process.
Remember, slow-cookers are not hot enough to cook the alcohol out of a sauce. Go easy on the wine or leave it out entirely. If you want the taste of wine in your recipe, add it to the pan while while browning the meat. This will cook the alcohol out and give you a liquid to collect the caramelized left-behinds in.
Dairy will tend to break down so don’t add dairy products until the last 20 minutes of cooking.
Do you have a favorite slow-cooker recipe? Please share it in the comments.