Everyone loves a home-cooked meal, freshly prepared with love and care. However, with our busy schedules, there is often no time to treat yourself and your family to homemade dinner. One kitchen appliance that can help you out is a slow cooker. More commonly known by its name brand, the Crockpot, a slow cooker, is a life-saver that you can use to cut your cooking effort into half without compromising on the taste.
You can basically make elaborate meals by just dumping all the ingredients into your slow cooker, and that’s it. The machine does all the work for you, and in a few hours, you have yourself a delicious dinner ready!
If you’re considering getting a Crockpot, or you already have one, you need to know how to get the most out of your utensil. For that, we have put together a carefully selected list of tips that you should know as a slow cooker owner. Let’s get started!
1. Use Enough Water
A common complaint among new Crockpot users is that their food feels dry and tough. The reason for this is quite simple: there is insufficient liquid in the Crockpot. A slow cooker takes hours to cook a meal; it does, after all, the word slow in its name.
As such, with the constant heat, the water content in the food starts to evaporate, and once enough water is gone, the food begins to dry out. Whether it is tough steak or parboiled rice that you’re ending up with, all you need to do is increase the liquid content. You can add water, broth, milk, sauce, cream, or even soup like in this Crockpot chicken and rice recipe to solve this issue.
2. Be Careful not to Overcook
Another problem many people face as new Crockpot owners is that their food tends to overcook and the meat ends up tough while the veggies and rice end up mushy. That is why it is essential to be careful with respect to the cooking time and cooking temperature when using a Crockpot.
To do that, first and foremost, stick to the recipe’s cooking instructions down to the last minute. Secondly, if after the prescribed time, you still think the food could use a little more, turn on the “Keep Warm” setting on your Crockpot, which will provide just enough heat to finish up your dish.
3. Sear the Meat Before
Another tip that can elevate your Crockpot recipes is to simply sear the meat before you begin. Slow cookers are like steam ovens, and they will cook your meat until it is absolutely fall-off-the-bone delicious. However, they can’t give you the crusty exterior that we all love on our meat.
By searing the meat for a minute or two on each side before you add it to the Crockpot, you can get that crunchy outside and that soft and beautiful inside. Bonus points if you rub the meat with a little bit of seasoning or spice mix before searing, as the flavor will be amplified manifold. Searing will also help lock in the meat’s juices, making the end product much more juicy and delicious.
4. Leave the Crockpot Alone
You may have heard the saying, a watched pot never boils. This fits quite aptly when referring to a Crockpot. Slow cookers use slow and steady distribution of heat to cook food. As such, the inside of a slow cooker is a delicate ecosystem, the temperature of which needs to be kept stable. However, every time you open the lid to check on the food, the temperature gets disturbed, and it takes some time for the cooking process to get back on track.
Therefore, the best thing to do is to just leave your little mechanical friend to its job while it’s cooking and only check on it once, if at all. We promise the end result will be well worth the wait.
5. Use the Juices
As food cooks in a slow cooker, it slowly releases its juices, which accumulate at the bottom of the pot into a watery residue. However, there is so much flavor in this leftover that you can use it to make a tantalizing sauce for your dinner.
All you need to do is strain the liquid and transfer it to a saucepan over medium heat. At this point, you can add seasonings or sauces if you like. Let the liquid reduce slightly, and then use a 1:1 cornflour to water the mixture to thicken the liquid into a sauce. The result will absolutely blow your mind.
6. Cheese Goes at the End
We love cheese and have nothing against Crockpot meals that have cheese. However, unless you’re making mac and cheese, adding cheese at the start along with the other ingredients will only result in a mess. If you want a cheesy, crusty topping to your dish, the cheese always goes in at the end.
Let your dish cook as per instructions. Once it’s fully ready, pop open the lid and add your cheese of choice. Close the lid and use the “Keep Warm” setting on your slow cooker to allow the cheese to melt. This way, the cheese will retain all of its deliciousness, as will the rest of your meal.
There you have it, our top 6 secret tips for slow cooker owners. With these tips on hand, you will be able to master your Crockpot and create gorgeous, mouth-watering meals without extensive effort!