Get creative with a slow cooker

Get creative with a slow cooker

If you want to convert your favourite recipe or get creative with your slow cooker, here are a few things to know first.

Get creative with a slow cooker

How slow cookers cook

A heavy, tight-fitting lid keeps moisture in the slow cookers, so that even the juices coming off the meat are recycled back to it. In effect, the slow cooker constantly bastes while it cooks. Heating coils in the outer pot ensure that the sides and bottom of the inner, ceramic pot maintain the same temperature. Most slow cookers maintain heat of 82-93 C (180-200 F) on the low setting, and up to 149 C (300 F) on the high setting.

What to know for recipes

  • Liquids don't evaporate in a slow cooker. If you are adapting another recipe for a slow cooker, cut the liquid by a third to half.
  • Fats and oils are not necessary. Don't add oil, and trim the fat from meat.
  • Poultry should be cooked with the skin to keep the meat from drying out. Some experts even suggest wrapping cut up chicken in foil and laying it over the vegetables so that it doesn't cook too fast.
  • Meat, even cheap cuts, becomes extra tender and flavourful with slow cooking.
  • Root Vegetables should be put on the bottom of the pot, because they take longer to cook than meat.
  • Spices: Your meal will absorb the flavours put into the pot. For this reason, you might want to add stronger or fresh spices (including pepper) at the very end of the cooking time, rather than letting them percolate all day.
  • Pasta and Rice should be cooked separately.
  • Dairy breaks down during slow cooking and should not be added until the last 15 minutes.

Be aware of...

  • Liquids don't thicken in a slow cooker— something to keep in mind if you have your heart set on gravy.
  • Beans should be rinsed and boiled in advance of slow cooking to kill any toxins.
  • Never add frozen food! All ingredients should be thawed completely before being added to a slow cooker.
  • Try not to peek. Lifting the lid lets the heat out and interrupts cooking time.

Cheese dips or sauces — any sauce, really — cook beautifully in slow cookers, so having two or three allows for versatility in the evening meal. You can even make porridge or desserts like cheesecake or pudding in a slow cooker. Look online to see sample recipes, then go get creative!

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