Helpful Hints For Using Your Slow Cooker

Wednesday, July 4, 2012
On the one hand, your slow cooker takes up a lot of room in your kitchen cabinets or on your counter top. 

On the other hand, how can you think of running a family kitchen without one? Slow cookers save you time and money while providing an easy way for you to make healthy, nutritious meals for your family.
There are many styles and brands to choose from, but all slow cookers perform the same basic functions. 

When you’re shopping for a slow cooker, give strong consideration to one with a removable liner that you can take out and wash in the sink. If you don’t have that, you can line your slow cooker with a cooking bag. That helps make clean up quicker and more efficient.
No matter what model slow cooker you might have, the basics are all the same. But some useful hints will help you get the most from your slow cooker as well as your grocery budget. Here are some basic things to know:
Give your slow cooker plenty of counter space. Your slow cooker is designed to be safe for you to leave it. But it’s never a bad idea to be safe. The sides of most cookers will generate some heat. So just keep the area around the cooker clear. Give it a good six inches or so away from the wall, other appliances or other kitchen items. It’s perfectly safe to sit on your counter top. But you can put it on a cooking rack if that makes you feel a bit safer.
Take the time to properly prepare your recipe. Sometimes that’s just a matter of slicing the vegetables or trimming the meat before combining it all in the slow cooker. When cooking meat, you’ll get a better flavor if you brown it first. Ground meats especially should be cooked in a skillet before being added to slow cooker recipe. Seafood should be added in the last hour of cooking to keep it from developing a rubbery texture.
Put the ingredients in the slow cooker. For best cooking it should be about three-quarters full. If the recipe calls for liquid, it should come up about halfway on the ingredients, or maybe a little less. Because the lid is on while you’re cooking, very little liquid will evaporate.
The lid should fit snugly on the slow cooker with no gaps for steam to escape. The slow cooker works by bringing your food to a stable temperature. Gaps in the lid will affect the efficiency of the cooker. If you have some gaps in the lid, wrap a sheet of aluminum foil over the top of the cooker to seal it.
Set the cooking time. In most slow cookers, the cooking temperature is the same so the setting just determines how quickly it gets to that temperature of 210°.
Let the cooking begin! This is the greatest part about the slow cooker. You can walk away, take a nap, read a book, go to work, or whatever you need to do. When you come home, your meal will be ready. No need to stir or check the contents. In fact that’s a major mistake when using a slow cooker as it allows the heat to escape and disrupts the cooking.
Once your meal is done, don’t leave it in the slow cooker too long. Otherwise it will continue to cook and may become dry or overdone. You also need to be concerned about bacteria for food that is left out too long.
As a caution, don’t use your slow cooker to defrost the food. In other words, don’t put frozen food in your slow cooker.


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