Slow Cookers – Tips for Success

I think that slow cookers are one of the greatest kitchen appliances out there. I like microwaves for the convenience, but crock pots lead the way in terms of creating delicious food. Even better, with a slow cooker, you can have a hot savory meal at the end of a busy day with minimal effort on the part of the cook.

While they are easy to use, there are some helpful tips which should improve any one's crock pot cooking.

1) Be sure that your crock pot is at least half full for best cooking results.

This is because the heating elements in most models run along the bottom and up the sides of the cooking crock. If your crock pot is not at least half full, you may be trying to use a slow cooker that is too large for that recipe. Food can stick and over cook, if the pot is too large.

2) Inexpensive cuts of meat work well .

The long, slow, steaming method of slow cookers results in tender, moist meat. This means that you can often get by with less expensive cuts of meats and still serve a delicious, successful meal. Some good beef cuts for a slow cooker are anything that says "chuck," "rump," or "shank". Briskets and short ribs are also good choices.

3) Because the moisture is retained in a slow cooker, be careful not to add too much liquid, unless you are making soup.

4) In a slow cooker, one hour on high equals 2 hours on low. Use this for a guide if you need to adjust your cooking time.

For example:

You will be putting meal in the slow cooker at 11:00, and you need to have supper at 6:00. This allows for 7 hours of cooking time.

However, the recipe calls for 8 hours on low. So, what to do?

Using the adjustment of one hour on high equals two hours on low, the cooking time can be reduced the necessary hour by cooking it for one hour on high, then 6 hours on low.

5) It is possible to over cook food in a crock pot.

While some recipes claim that the dish needs to be cooked all day, this is rarely the reality. Make the time to experiment with your recipes and your slow cooker to see how long they really need.

6) Avoid lifting the lid.

Doing so releases the steam and also drops the temperature and can result in adding up to 30 minutes to the cooking time. Having said that, you may need to watch closely toward the end of a recipe in order to avoid over cooking, especially if the crock pot is new and you are not used to its idiosyncrasies. If you are going to check, just try to lift the lid quickly.

7) Crock pot liners can make clean up easier.

Crock pot liners are disposable plastic bags that hold the ingredients while they cook. At the end of the cooking time, transfer the meal into serving dishes and toss the liner.

There are several different brands out there. If you are comparing prices, be sure to check out how many liners you actually get per package.

All in all, crock pots are easy to use and you can ensure success by following the above tips. Happy slow cooking!