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Cooking in a crock pot is awesome. You just dump in all of the ingredients before work, turn it on low, and come home to the scent of a home cooked meal. What a great invention! Here are some slow cooker tips to get the most out of your crock pot!
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Go for fat: Meats that contain fat are much less likely to dry out in your slow cooker, so go for the chicken thighs instead of breasts, and brisket over a sirloin. That extra little bit of fat will add loads of flavor to the whole dish as well keeping your meats tender! As a general rule, cheaper cuts of meat do better in the slow cooker (YAY!)! If using ground meats, they should always be cooked and drained first unless the recipe states otherwise.
Safety first: A slow cooker is a safe way to cook while you are not at home to watch it. Though the crock pot is designed to stay on all day, there are a few precautions you’ll want to take to keep your home, and your dinner, safe while you are away. Keep the cooker away from fabrics (like oven mitts and curtains). Be sure it’s on a high heat safe surface with the cord safely tucked away. Ensure your food is safe by following the times recommended in the recipe.
Fill it up: If you have a small and a large slow cooker, switch them out based on the size of the recipe. It is important to fill the cooker at least 1/2 -3/4 full. This helps to distribute the heat along the whole of the dish. If you only have a large crock pot and you want only a little, double the recipe and freeze the rest for later. Your dishes will come out better!
Keep the lid closed: Although it smells wonderful, we cooks have to fight the urge to stir our crock pot. Keep the lid closed on the slow cooker all throughout the process. The internal heating structure of the pot depends on the slow, consistent distribution of heat throughout the whole inside. If you release the steam from the top of the cooker, it will slow down and often mess up the cooking time and might dry out your dish.
Coddle the insert: Inserts on crock pots are the heavy, usually ceramic, inner pot where you put the food. The inserts may be heavy, but they are delicate. Be careful of abrupt temperature shifts. Don’t dump hot water into a cold insert, and don’t set a hot insert in the fridge or on a cold counter. The ceramic may crack as a result, then you’re out of a crock pot! Also, be wary of dishwashing your insert, as it may not be sealed or hearty enough to survive, unless the instruction manual specifically states they are dishwasher safe.
Put the meat on top: The order goes like this: Hard veggies first (like potatoes and onions), then meat, then the liquid. The fat in foods help to retain heat, so the meat will cook faster than vegetables. So make sure you have have the order right, so everything is cooked to perfection!
Dairy goes in later: Dairy doesn’t tend to hold up well in a slow cooker and the result can be a curdled looking dish. While the dish will still be safe to eat, the texture and appearance can be less than appealing! To avoid curdling dairy, add in your items within the last 30 minutes of cooking. This includes sour cream, cream, yogurt and milk.