As obvious as it may seem, it may not be that easy to use a slow cooker especially if you are a beginner. There are several things you need to know before using your cooker.
Firstly, different foods are prepared in different ways using a slow cooker. In addition, not all foods can be cooked with this device. Some meals require prepping before being added to the slow cooker. More so, a slow cooker is not cleaned like any other pot; there are steps one should follow when cleaning so as not to damage it. Most slow cookers come with a manual. However, it takes some time before one can master all the guidelines. That said, here are some tips on how to use a slow cooker.
Steps to Follow When Using a Slow Cooker
Minimize Your preparation time
For you to make the perfect meal and reduce the time spent cooking, it is necessary to do some preparations before cooking. For instance, adding uncooked onions will alter the taste of your food. Hence you should fry the onions first and have them ready. Some meats also require browning to get the desired color. Once you have all the ingredients ready you can add them all at once to the slow cooker.
Choose Meals That Are Easy To Prepare
Some meals like chicken thighs, sausages, lasagna, and beef briskets are fairly easy to prepare in a slow cooker. Raw meat takes a lot of time to prepare. Slow cookers are also not ideal for cooking foods with a lot of fat content.
Reduce Fat From Meat Before Slow Cooking
The moisture in a slow cooker prevents the food from sticking. The slow cooker doesn’t drain fat from meat; therefore, if you don’t reduce the fat the food can have a lot of oil. Removing fat from meat makes it tastier.
Reduce the Liquid Before Slow Cooking
A slow cooker tends to add more moisture to the food. The tight lid makes it impossible for moisture to escape from the slow cooker. The water/ liquid should be just enough to cover your food. Too much water prevents the meal from cooking properly or it can take away the taste and create a watery soup.
Add Flour to Thicken Your Soups
A slow cooker doesn’t naturally make your soups thick. You can make a paste with a little water and two spoonfuls of corn starch or flour, then gradually add it to your meal as you stir. This will help you achieve your desired thickness.
Use the Lowest Setting of the Slow Cooker
Simmering food in low heat helps bring out extra flavor. You are advised to set your slow cooker on the lowest heat so that the food can cook well. You can do other chores as the food cooks slowly. Cooking on low heat also helps avoid overcooking.
Avoid Opening the Slow Cooker to Check the Food
Some heat is lost every time you open the slow cooker. This prolongs the cooking process. Once you set the timer on your cooker, let it run its course instead of periodically opening it to check the contents.
Add all Ingredients at the Start
A slow cooker is an excellent choice especially for multitasking while cooking as it gives you room to do other things while your food cooks. You should look for a meal where you can add all the ingredients at once. Nevertheless, foods such as pasta and herbs should be added at the end to prevent overcooking.
Foods that take longer to cook should be added first and at the bottom of the cooking pot for them to cook well.
What Not to Cook in a Slow Cooker
Although a slow cooker can prepare most foods, it is important to note that some foods can’t be cooked using a slow cooker. Here is a list of some of these foods.
Foods Not to Cook in a Slow Cooker
- Dairy products
Dairy products like milk, yogurt, cheese, and cream curdle when cooked in a slow cooker. The end result is not pleasing to your taste buds.
A slow cooker is designed to prepare foods that take a long time to cook. Rice takes about 20 minutes to prepare. Rice made in a slow cooker can be easily undercooked or overcooked.
Pasta cooked in a slow cooker is often sloppy and not enjoyable at all. It should be cooked separately and added toward the end when cooking meals like lasagna.
- Boneless chicken breast
Chicken breast is very lean. Cooking it in a slow cooker can make it tough and dry. The end will be sticky and rubbery meat. Boneless chicken breast is tastier when grilled or roasted.
- Raw meat
One is advised to precook meat before adding it to the slow cooker. Meat takes a long time to boil; adding raw meat to the slow cooker will not bring out the flavor.
- Delicate herbs
Soft herbs and vegetables should be added towards the end as they tend to overcook. Some herbs like coriander and basil lose their flavor when cooked for long. They should be added when the heat is turned off and the meal is ready for serving. Cabbages, carrots, and potatoes can be cooked in a slow cooker as they taste best when cooked slowly for a few hours.
- Too many spices
The more you cook spices the hotter they become. Additionally, a slow cooker adds taste to food. Adding a lot of spices will make your food too hot. The food will lose its taste as it will be too spicy.
How to Clean a Slow Cooker
When you are done cooking, the next part is cleaning your pot. Unlike other cooking pots that are fairly easy to clean, a slow cooker should be cleaned carefully following some steps. Not cleaning the cooker carefully can damage some of the parts and alter its function ability.
Steps to Follow When Cleaning a Slow Cooker
- Wash the lid and pot separately
First, leave the lid and pot to cool. Once cooled, wash them with soap and water.
- Wipe the outside of the slow cooker with a wet cloth
The exterior of the slow cooker should be wiped with a damp soapy cloth to remove spills and stains. Washing the outside with water is not advisable as it can ruin the cooker.
- Soak the tough spots in baking powder
Some spots can be stubborn to clean. For these spots:
- Make a paste with a little water and baking powder
- Let it soak for 30 minutes to an hour
- Gently scrub with a soft brush
- Leave it to dry
For a cooker with many tough spots, use the following steps while cleaning:
- Add two-quarters of water, a quarter vinegar, and a quarter baking soda
- Let soak for an hour
- Clean gently with a soft brush
Read also: Pressure Cooker vs Slow Cooker
Preparing meals with a slow cooker is quite simple. Plus, slow cookers come with recipes that you can follow to make delicious meals. However, it is important to research how to prepare new recipes before cooking in your slow cooker. Lastly, taking good care of your cooker goes a long way in ensuring its longevity.