If you’re just starting out or looking to improve then these 15 slow cooker tips should help with getting to know some the best things about slow cooking.
These aren’t all the tips around so if you have your own that you would love to share or think I got one of these wrong then please be sure to leave a comment at the bottom of this page.
1. Cook it slow
Try to use the “low” heat setting as much as possible. You will find that most dishes will benefit greatly from the gentle heat that helps brings out those amazing flavors. You should only use the high setting if you’re running low on time or the recipe requests that you use it.
2. Less Liquids
Since a slow cooker is a sealed unit the liquid will not evaporate so try not to get the urge to add more liquid if it’s looking a bit dry at the start. You will find that there will be plenty of liquid within a few hours of cooking.
3. Trim The Fat
Trimming the fat off of the meat or using leaner cuts of meat will help reduce the amount of liquid fat produced throughout cooking. Browning the meat before adding it to the pot is also a great way to prevent extra fat from sitting on the top of your food, just don’t tip in the fat/juices from the fry pan. Alternatively, you can skim the pools of fat off the top of your food at the end of cooking.
As the liquid doesn’t reduce in a slow cooker it’s unlikely to thicken by itself. Rolling meat in flour at the start or using cornstarch at the end is a great way to thicken it. If you’re using cornstarch, mix 2 Tbsp. with a little bit of water before adding it to the dish. You may find that you need to add more if it doesn’t thicken up enough.
5. Save Money
Out of all the slow cooker tips this one is certainly great for people on limited budgets.You should try to stick to cheaper cuts of meat such as shoulder, thigh, brisket, silverside, chuck and blade. Since you’ll be cooking these for a long time they will cook to be incredibly tender and full of flavor.
You can also bulk out a lot of recipes using cheaper ingredients such as carrots, onions and beans. Of course this depends on the type of dish you’re cooking but typically you can save money without sacrificing on flavor and texture.
6. Prep ahead
If you’re often running low on time in the morning, then most slow cooker recipes can be prepped ahead of time and stored in the fridge. Simply remove from the fridge in the morning, throw everything into the slow cooker and turn it on to cook.
Since everything is cooking from the fridge temperature you may want to add 30 minutes onto the cooking time or leave it to warm up before turning on the slow cooker.
7. Add Greens Last
When it comes to adding peas, spinach, green beans and most other greens they should be added towards the end of cooking. If you add them at the start you will find that they discolor and will not look very nice once you’re done cooking.
It’s also important to note that ingredients such as rice or pasta should also be added at the end of cooking otherwise they may go a weird unappetizing texture.
8. Leave the lid on
Whenever you’re cooking something in the slow cooker it’s important that you leave the lid on. Every time you remove the lid it allows for the heat to escape and will possibly add cooking time onto your dish.
If you’re worried about your dish not cooking right after removing the lid, then you should find 15 more minutes is enough time to compensate for the heat loss.
This is a very important tip when it comes to food hygiene. It’s important to not leave your slow cooker switched off with food in it for extended periods of time. The food danger zone is 4 to 60 °C (39 to 140 °F) and is when harmful bacteria will start to grow.
You may find some “keep warm” settings will not keep the food hot enough to keep it out of the danger zone for long. It’s best to check the temperature of the food to make sure it’s at safe levels.
10. Don’t Overfill the Slow Cooker
An important slow cooker tip is to remember to not overfill the slow cooker as your food may not cook correctly. A good rule of thumb is to not fill it past the 2/3 mark of the insert. You will find some slow cookers will mark this whilst others you will just have to guess.
11. Speed Up Cleaning
Using a slow cooker liner can help speed up cleaning. They’re incredibly easy to use and will prevent the annoyance of having to wash out the insert. You will find them extremely useful when it comes to cooking cakes, loafs and puddings.
12. Dairy at the end
With most recipes it’s important to add the dairy at the end of cooking as this will help prevent it from splitting. There are of course some exceptions to this rule but for something like a tasty beef stroganoff you’re best leaving it till the end.
13. Brown the meat
Not essential but can help improve the flavor and texture of the meat. Simply brown the meat before placing it in the slow cooker for enhanced flavors and better texture. You will find some slow cookers have a built in sear program so you can do it completely in one pot.
14. Not just Dinner & Stews
This might be pretty obvious but the slow cooker can be used for more than just dinners and stews. You can cook some pretty amazing desserts and even breakfasts in the slow cooker. There are even some condiments and sauces that you’re able to do.
15. Slow Cooker Conversion Times
If you need to convert a recipe from cooking on low to high or high to low then the conversions are pretty straight forward. The cool picture below has all the standard conversions that you may come across.
I hope these slow cooker tips help with your future slow cooking endeavors. If you have any feedback or extra trips that you would love to share, then please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below.