We’re heading into slow cooker season and I sure do love my slow cookers. Yes, I have more than one; at last count, there were 5 in different shapes and sizes. They do take up a fair amount of cupboard space and I can’t stack them like pots and pans, but I have to admit that I use mine year round. In the summertime, they keep the house nice and cool by not having to turn on the oven, and in the winter, I just can’t resist coming home to that wonderful warm aroma of dinner all ready to dish out.
Slow cookers are great for soups, stews, even breads and desserts. It’s probably the most versatile appliance in my kitchen and makes weeknight dinners so much easier. For many dishes, particularly soups and stews, I really just throw all the ingredients in. If you are in a rush most mornings like I am, prepare and get everything into the slow cooker the night before. Cover it and keep it in the refrigerator over night, then just drop it into the base, set it to low, and head out the door.
Use the low setting as much as you can, letting the slow, gentle heat bring out the flavors. Many slow cookers have a setting that automatically turns to warm when done and I highly recommend this if you don’t know just when you are getting home.
Being the lazy cook that I am, I skip the advice in many recipes to brown the meat . It does give the meat some additional warm color but this is not an essential step.
Slow cookers are great for cooking cheaper cuts of meat. As a result of the long, low-temperature cooking, slow cookers help tenderize less expensive cuts of meat.
The nice part about using a slow cooker is that you don’t need a lot of fat on your meat. A slow cooker brings out the flavor in foods. The fat doesn’t drain away, keeping your food moist and tender for great taste and a healthier result. Try bulking up on vegetables, using less meat in recipes to stretch servings since slow cookers extract meat’s flavor letting it permeate the whole dish.
Here are a few Slow Cooker Tidbits of interest.
- A slow cooker uses less electricity than an oven.
- Don’t add water to meat recipes. Meats cooked in a slow cooker make their own juices, and you dilute the flavor and toughen the meat.
- If a dish normally takes 30 mins – 1 hour, cook it for 2 – 3 hours on High or 5 – 7 hours on Low
- If a dish normally takes 1 – 2 hours, cook it for 3 – 4 hours on High or 6 – 8 hours on Low
- If a dish normally takes 2 – 4 hours, cook it for 4 – 6 hours on High or 8 – 12 hours on Low
There are a ton of slow cooker recipes out there. Of course, I recommend that you check recipes at http://www.spiceblends.com. My most used and favorite blends for slow cookers include: Healthy Solutions Authentic Chili/Tacos, Bold Beef Rub, Hearty Beef Stew, Italian Meatballs, Cajun Seafood and Shrimp Scampi. Check them out and let me know your thoughts.