Believe it or not, 75 years have passed since the invention of the crock pot. These days its popularity is increasing not just for regular meal times but also for Super Bowl Sundays, Holiday dinners and to supplement BBQs. Many people try slow cooking, only to end up with a culinary disaster of mush in a pot. If you’re new to crock pot cooking or you’ve already had a couple of disasters, here are some tips to help you get it just right.
Things Not to Do With Your Crock Pot
Don’t use raw meat or poultry: You can’t beat the convenience of crock pots, but if you want to get the best flavor and texture from your meat and poultry then the best thing to do is to lightly brown it on the stovetop first. That way you can add a few herbs and spices to give a flavor you wouldn’t otherwise get from the crock pot alone.
Don’t use the wrong cut of meat: In actual fact, there aren’t exactly wrong cuts of meat for crock pots. However, some cuts perform much better than others. Avoid lean meats like tender chicken breasts, if you cook these for a long time, they tend to become tough and chewy. The most suitable cuts are, fortunately, the least expensive ones like shoulder cuts and stewing meat. They will give you the most tender bites in your crock pot casserole. Learn from PaleoHacks how to cook the best cuts of meat.
Don’t overdo the alcohol: If you’re adding wine or liquor keep it to a minimum. Unlike cooking on the stove top, where alcohol will reduce, it won’t boil down in a slow cooker, so you tend to get a harsher alcohol flavor. The best way to combat this is to use wine or liquor to deglaze the pan after you have lightly browned your meat, then add this stock to the crock pot.
Don’t be tempted to open the lid during cooking: Leave it be. Each time you pop the lid open, the crock pot will lose heat. It will take a while to heat back up so you’re food will take longer to cook and may not cook evenly. There’s really no need to remove the lid while your crock pot is cooking.
Don’t add dairy products until the end: If you add ingredients like cheese, milk, sour cream or yogurt too soon they will curdle and your meal will be ruined. Wait until the very end to add them.
Don’t use chicken with the skin: Skin your poultry before putting it in the crock pot otherwise it will turn out rubbery and tough. Chicken will not become crispy in the crock pot because of the low heat. By all means use the bones, they will keep your chicken tender and flavor the stock.
Don’t forget to layer correctly: It’s quite logical really, the ingredients that take the longest to cook, such as root vegetables, should go on the bottom of the crock pot. The ingredients that take less long to cook should be placed closer to the top. This will make sure the food cooks evenly throughout and will all be ready at the same time.
Don’t overcook your meals: This is one of the biggest mistakes people make with crock pot meals. Your crock pot will cook for up to ten hours, few meals actually need to be cooked for that long. The easiest way to avoid this is to invest in a crock pot with a timer. That way it will switch itself off as soon as the meal is done, whether it’s a 2 or 4-hour meal and you will have a delicious dinner waiting for you when you get home from work, instead of a bowl of mush.
Don’t fill the pot too full: Most crock pots should only be filled 2/3 of the way. If you fill it to the top what will happen is the ingredients will steam instead of simmering. So it’s important to know exactly what size crock pot you need to make sure you have enough room.
Don’t forget to cover the meat: Your crock pot will work with optimum efficiency make sure all the ingredients are submerged. If you leave the meat uncovered it will dry out. Give it a central position covering the tougher vegetables and cover with water.
Don’t be put off if you’ve had a few disasters, If you follow these helpful tips, you are sure to get many delicious meals for family and friends from your crock pot.
Maya Morrison enjoys cooking for her family but juggling motherhood and a career was leaving little time for the kitchen. She shares how her slow cooker recipes save the day!