A slow cooker is one of the best appliances to have in your kitchen. While the quality of the product is essential, there are certain things you can do to improve the overall experience.
Cooking on slow cookers can be tedious, and often the result is a dish that doesn’t taste so good or is not up to your expectations.
So today, I am giving you some slow cooker tips that will exponentially improve your cooking:
1. Take Care of Your Cooker
Always take care of your cooker. An easy way of doing that is regularly cleaning it.
A clean and well-maintained cooker performs better than one that isn’t. For instance, slow cooker power consumption is much lower for well-maintained devices.
Also, cleaning cookers periodically ensures that the food you are cooking tastes fresh and has no residues from what you cooked previously.
2. Apply Non-Stick Spray
Using non-stick spray on your slow cooker can make your life much easier. It not only stops food from sticking to the walls of the cooker, but it also means easier cleaning afterward.
3. Lower the Amount of Liquids
A slow cooker is usually used for cooking for an extended period in an airtight environment.
Since you are supposed to keep the lid on most of the time, the liquids remain contained within the utensil, so using lesser amounts of fluid is better. Ultimately, it will result in a less liquidy and more flavorful dish.
4. Choose Proper Cuts of Meat
Slow cookers are perfect appliances for certain kinds of meats. Usually, meats that require a long time to cook are perfect for slow cookers.
For instance, cheap and tough cuts of meat are best simmered at low temperatures, making slow cookers an ideal option.
5. Trim the Fat
Cutting off excess fat from the meat is a good and healthy choice. It will result in a less greasy end product and make the final dish healthier.
6. Sear the Meat Beforehand
Searing meat off before cooking them in the slow cooker is an effective way of making your dish tastier. Browning meats increase their meaty flavor notes. It boosts the umami flavors of any dish and makes it look more delicious.
7. Add All the Ingredients in the Start
It is always best to add everything in a slow cooker, except for ingredients that you want to taste fresh. For example, herbs and fresh leaves.
Also, ingredients like cheese and dairy should be added at the end. Besides these, almost all other components should be added together unless specified by the recipe.
8. Carefully Cutting the Ingredients
If the dish you are cooking requires chopped vegetables, it is always better to cut them uniformly. All the pieces should be of the relatively same size and thickness. This will ensure even cooking of the vegetables and also helps you avoid overcooking and undercooking.
Here is a helpful guide for choosing the best knives to step up your cutting game!
9. Avoid Over Crowding
It is a good practice not to overcrowd any appliances or utensils you cook in. Overfilling any appliance means longer cooking times.
They are moreover, overfilling results in improper and uneven cooking. Often, ingredients remain undercooked. Besides this, overcrowding any appliance during cooking may lead to a spill or an overflow, creating a massive mess for you to clean up afterward.
10. Use Less Oil
Using less oil is always a healthier option. Usually, foods cooked in slow cookers are stew based or have a slightly runny consistency. It was so that using lesser oil results in a less fatty end product that tastes better and is healthier.
11. Brown the Food Beforehand
Browning the food before cooking them in the slow cooker is always a good idea. Browning off ingredients results in a more flavorful dish in the end.
When any vegetable, herbs, or aromatics are browned first, it helps them release more of their flavors. On top of that, it also results in a more aesthetically pleasing dish as browned food looks more appetizing.
12. Place Root Vegetables in the Bottom
Placing root vegetables at the bottom of the slow cooker is an excellent practice. Root vegetables are usually hard and require a lot of cooking to soften them up and make them edible. So placing them at the bottom ensures they will receive more heat and cook faster than other ingredients.
Many of the best dinner recipes can be made better by following this tip.
13. Cook Pasta Separately
If your recipe has any pasta or noodle-based element, it is best to cook that separately and later add it to the dish.
14. Add Dairy Product Like Cheese Last
Any dish with dairy products like milk, curd, yogurt, and cheese must be cooked with care. Dairy products tend to split. The milk solids of dairy ingredients tend to separate from the fats. This may result in a messy end product. When dairy products split or curdle up, they destroy the dish’s consistency and make it unpalatable.
So always add cheeses and other dairy products at the very end for the best results!
15. Add Fresh Herbs and Veggies Last
Herbs and veggies meant to be tasted in their new state should be put into a slow cooker at the very end. When herbs and leafy vegetables are added at the start, they tend to wilt, disintegrate, and lose their vibrant freshness.
So they should be added at the end. This will ensure that they remain fresh and relatively crispy and retain their vibrancy and texture.
16. Mise En Place
This French term means to have all ingredients and elements of a dish ready to be cooked. This includes cleaning, cutting, trimming, peeling, etc.
Mise en place is always a good habit, regardless of what dish you make.
17. Use Cheap Wine
Always use inexpensive and cheap wine when cooking. It is always an excellent option to use a wine you don’t like to drink for cooking. Because when cooked, it doesn’t matter if you use cheap or expensive wines.
18. Use Thickening Agents
If the dish you cook turns out to be too runny, you can always use thickening agents such as flour, corn flour, and others to thicken up the dish.
Make a slurry and add it to the cooker. A slurry is a mixture of corn flour and water. It is an excellent way to add volume and change the consistency of many kinds of dishes.
19. Thaw the Ingredients
If any of the ingredients you use in your dish is frozen, you must first thaw them out and let them reach room temperature. This is crucial as not doing so will result in improper cooking.
Moreover, it will cause the other ingredients to cook unevenly. So it is always wise to defrost and thaw out any frozen or refrigerated ingredients and let them reach room temperature before cooking them.
20. Stop Checking Unnecessarily
This is a widespread mistake we all tend to make. Whether you are a professional chef or an amateur cook at home, we all can get nervous and impatient. As a result, we repeatedly open the lids and check how the dish is progressing.
This is a terrible practice because doing so disrupts the cooking process and often causes dishes to be cooked improperly. Moreover, repeatedly opening and closing the lid results in heat and steam escaping the utensil, so it is best to avoid doing it.
21. Stop Stirring Unnecessarily
Stop stirring the contents of the utensils or kitchen appliances unnecessarily. This causes the dish to cook unevenly. Moreover, mixing things too often breaks and smashes up delicate ingredients in the dish so that the entire dish may get ruined.
While these tips and tricks will improve your cooking, they won’t matter much if your cooker is not good enough. So here are a few things to look out for when choosing a cooker.
21. What to Look for In A Slow Cooker?
When buying a cooker, consider and factor in the following things:
- Your budget
- The material of the cooker.
- It’s construction.
- Size of the cooker.
- The accessories.
- Its functionality.
Now that you are armed with the necessary slow cooker tips and tricks, I hope you can dramatically improve your cooking skills. Just follow as many of the tips mentioned here and you should easily be able to impress your friends and family and, most importantly, yourself.