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Top 10 Tips For Using A Slow Cooker

Published by: Maria Kelley • Updated: January 14, 2024 • Checked By: Chef Matty Riedel

To use a slow cooker, fill it to the right level, use cheaper cuts of meat, remove the fat, brown the meat in advance, avoid overfilling the cooker, avoid thawing food, work with lower settings, avoid checking on the food and add dairy or creamy items at the end.

10 Top Tips For Using A Slow Cooker

Whenever I need to make a stew or soup, I usually combine all the ingredients in my slow cooker and leave them for a few hours while focussing on some of my other tasks. This is perfect for a busy day, given that a delicious meal is waiting for me at the end.

To learn some great tips to use a slow cooker and make the most of it, go through the following points.

1. Avoid Too Much Preparation

Generally speaking, when it comes to slow cookers, you do not need to use multiple pots and pans to cook some of your meat and vegetables before adding them to the cooker. The slow cooking method makes it possible for all elements of the dish you are making to become well cooked.

person holding a knife above a food that has been chopped on a chopping board

For this reason, you should avoid preparing your ingredients too much beforehand as this might result in overcooking. Simply chop them, place them all in the cooker and add your flavouring ingredients.

2. Do Not Overfill

Given that you might wish to add a bunch of ingredients at once into your slow cooker, it is necessary to remain cautious while doing so. Slow cookers tend to have a maximum limit to ensure that there are no spills or leaks.

Follow that limit or line strictly and maintain a good balance of ingredients.

3. Use Cheap Cuts Of Meat

In other cooking methods, it makes sense to avoid cheap cuts of meat given the shorter cooking time. However, since slow cooking takes a longer time, it can work on the extra layers of the meat to reduce the levels of fat and tenderise the meat well.

Moreover, the fat that breaks down and away from the meat will add more flavour and depth to your dish. You can also save a bunch of money by buying the cheaper cuts.

4. Sear Meat Beforehand

Slow cookers will not be able to sear or brown the meat for you. If you wish to add some more richness and depth to your meat, you can undertake a single extra step before slow cooking, which is to sear the meat in some oil on a separate pan.

Do not do this for too long since the cooking will take place later in the slow cooker anyway.

5. Avoid Too Much Liquid

You should avoid adding too much water or liquid to the slow cooker with the rest of your ingredients. Since the lid of the slow cooker is tight and seals everything in, you will have a hard time reducing the liquid unless you remove the lid.

Along with the other ingredients and the moisture they let out, the water level could rise and lead to leaks. Stick to half (or slightly more) the level of the cooker for liquids.

6. Avoid Thawing

If you have just removed foods from the freezer, you should avoid thawing them directly in the slow cooker as this could lead to uneven cooking. Instead, you should thaw them in the fridge, at room temperature, or in the oven before you place them in the slow cooker.

7. Try Lower Settings

If you have enough time on your hands, the best way to obtain flavourful and rich results is to use lower settings and temperatures to prepare your meal in the slow cooker. This will give enough time for the ingredients to cook and spread their flavours around.

The automatic shut-off function will further remove the need for you to physically be around to turn it off.

8. Avoid Checking The Food

You can rest assured that your slow cooker will fully cook the food for you. It is better to let it be than to keep turning it off and removing the lid at regular intervals since this could result in uneven cooking and may take a longer time.

9. Leave Dairy For Later

If you want to pour some dairy into your slow cooker ingredients, do not do this at the beginning. Save it for the last 10-15 minutes so that you can let it mix well without the risk of breaking it down and spoiling the taste of the food.

10. Transfer Food For Refrigeration

Slow cookers usually have an inner shelf or container that you can remove for easier serving and cleaning. However, this does not mean that you should use this container for storage in the fridge or freezer. Keep the food in another box or bag if you want to refrigerate it.


FAQs

How Long Does Cooking Take In A Slow Cooker?

How long cooking takes in a slow cooker depends on whether you opt for low or high settings. How much food you have inside can also make a difference. Generally, higher settings take around 4-5 hours, whereas lower settings take anywhere between 6 and 12 hours.
For dishes that usually take only 20 minutes, however, it can take you a couple of hours on higher settings and up to 4 hours on lower settings.

Should I Place Meat At The Bottom Of The Slow Cooker?

Yes, you should place your meat at the bottom of the slow cooker while adding the liquids and other vegetables over it. This is particularly important for tougher and cheaper cuts of meat. However, if your meat is finer and your vegetables are bigger and tougher, place the meat on top to give the vegetables more direct heat.


Tips For Using A Slow Cooker: The Bottom Line

Using a slow cooker is a great way to leave your cooking aside in a single container while going about the rest of your day. Although the cooking time is higher, this kind of cooking involves minimal preparation while still resulting in tender and hearty meals by the time you are ready to eat.

Maria Kelley