Whether you got it as a wedding present or bought it on sale a few years ago and have yet to open the box, it’s time to get to know your slow cooker.
While there are many dedicated fans of the slow cooker, it’s important to keep expectations realistic and to know what slow cookers are good for, and what they’re not meant to do. They’re not a magic device that turns a bag of carrots and a tray of meat into supper without any prep. But they are a great tool for when you want to cook something but don’t have the time to be constantly stirring the pot or babysitting a pan on the stove.
Why do people love slow cookers? Whether you’re skiing or out for the day with your family, it‘s great to come home to a hot meal that’s ready to serve. Pulled pork, hearty chili and chicken cacciatore are a few of the recipes that can be done ahead in the slow cooker and served with buns and a salad.
They’re not perfect for everything, though, and some recipes stretch the limits of what can reasonably be expected from a slow cooker, choosing novelty over flavour. Slow cookers are ideally meant for braising, stewing, and preparing other dishes with a long cook time at moderate heat. Prep technique and steps are also fundamentally important to slow-cooker success. Look for recipes that call for meat to be seared beforehand or recipes where not all ingredients are added at once, as this benefits the texture and taste of the meal.
If you’re new to slow cookers (or could just use a handy reminder), here are some slow-cooker tips from our team of professional home economists:
- Use fresh or thawed (not frozen) meat or poultry in the slow cooker.
- If called for in a recipe, brown the meat or poultry just prior to cooking in the slow cooker. Ground meat must always be fully cooked before adding to other ingredients in the slow cooker.
- Fill the slow cooker at least one-half but no more than three-quarters full.
- Keep the lid on! Each time the lid is removed, the cooking time may increase by 15 - 25 minutes.
- Ingredients such as pasta, seafood, milk, cream and sour cream should usually be added to the slow cooker in the last hour of cooking.
- Cooking times may vary with makes and models of slow cookers.
- Keep electrical cords of appliances at the back of the counter. Pets and young children won’t be tempted to tug on them.0 seconds or so. This gives the other side a bit of toasting, and helps the melted garlic butter work its way down into the bread. Once it’s done, remove it from the pan and serve warm.
For recipe ideas, check out our Slow Cooker Supper Solutions menu ideas page.