Where do I start with my slow cooker?
So you’ve got a yourself a Slow Cooker? Congratulations! But now, where do you start? Your new slow cooker will often come with a recipe booklet. That’s a good guide to begin with as every make of slow cooker is a little different. The power settings can be a little different and size does matter.
No recipe booklet? No matter. Your conventional oven didn’t come with a recipe book either and yet you managed quite well.
My best advice is to keep an eye on your cooker in the later stages of the cooking. Your recipe may require a little top-up of liquid or it may need to be dried out a little. You’ll soon come to know your slow cooker well.
Once you start cooking with the slow cooker, you’ll be a convert.
What can I cook in my Slow Cooker?
You can cook almost anything in your slow cooker that you would cook in a conventional oven. Use less liquid than you normally would when cooking on the stove. Liquids don’t boil away in the slow cooker so you will usually have more liquid at the end of cooking, not less.
There’s no hard and fast conversion times for ovens versus slow cookers. My experience with a casserole type recipe has been –
In the oven 30 minutes, slow cooker 5 hours on Low or 3 hours on High.
In the oven 1 hour, slow cooker 6 hours on Low or 4 hours on High
In the oven 3 hours, slow cooker 9 hours on Low or 6 hours on High
As you see there’s no regular rule.
N.B. Your slow cooker must be at least half full or food won’t cook through properly. Adjust your recipe volume to the size of your slow cooker.
Adding Liquid to your Slow Cooker
If your food looks as if it could do with a little more liquid, don’t add water straight from the cold tap. Boil the kettle, wait a few minutes, and then use the heated water.
If you’re adding more stock, or sauce, warm it up in a small saucepan before adding it to the slow cooker
Remember when you take off the lid that you’re slowing the cooking process and you need to add another 15 – 30 minutes to the time.
Reducing Liquid in your Slow Cooker
The water content of different vegetables and meats will vary, so you may end up with excess liquid.
Take off the lid and let the liquid reduce. Depending on what you’re cooking, this can take up to 45 minutes.
Remember that slow cooking prevents practically any evaporation so you won’t need much liquid to start with. Some foods can be cooked without any liquid at all.
Slow Cooking Tips
Brown – sear – any meat before you add it to the Slow Cooker. This will caramelise the surface of the meat and lend rich flavor to the finished dish. Meat dredged in flour before browning will add body to the sauce. Minced meat should always be browned and drained before going into the slow cooker, otherwise it will clump and add grease to the dish.
Cooking a Roast in the Slow Cooker
Roasts will take at least 7 hours in the slow cooker.
The more fat or marbling on the meat, the less liquid you need. It’s possible to cook a roast without any liquid at all but I like to have about 1/4 to 1/2 cup so that I can make gravy in the cooker too.
Gravy : Drain any liquid from the slow cooker after the the roast is cooked. (I use a gravy separator when I’ve poured it off)
Pour the de-fatted liquid back in the bowl. Make up a paste of plain flour (all purpose flour). Add it to the pot and stir.
You can now add more water, stock or wine. (Don’t forget to warm the liquid that you’re going to add). Stir again. Turn the setting to high and let it cook for 1/2 an hour.
Cooking Vegetables in the Slow Cooker
Cut your vegetables into small chunks so that they cook through properly. If you’re cooking them with meat, put the vegetables at the bottom of the pot.
Carrots are better peeled, chopped and placed under liquid
New potatoes (chats), if they’re small, can be cooked without any liquid for 8 – 10 hours
Pulses in the Slow Cooker
Before you add any soup mix medleys, dried beans, lentils or peas, prepare the pulses as you would normally. All pulses will need to be soaked overnight, then boiled for 10 minutes to get rid of the toxins.
Puddings in the Slow Cooker
Put the ingredients into a pudding bowl, or other suitable small bowl. Cover the top of the bowl with foil, making a little peak in the foil to contain steam and place the bowl in the slow cooker, Pour very hot.water halfway up the side of the bowl.
Turn the setting to Low and cook about 5 -6 hours. Rich puddings, thick with fruits (Christmas pudding) need about 10 hours.
Foods which DON’T suit the Slow Cooker
Some foods just don’t take to slow cooking.
Noodles – Cook noodles until just tender before adding to the slow cooker about 20 minutes before the end of cooking.
Don’t add Asian green vegetables. Give them a quick steam instead
Don’t add sauces made with a foundation of milk or cream. You can add milk, yogurt, fresh or sour cream, buttermilk etc but only in the last half hour of cooking.
Caring for the Ceramic Bowl
Look after your ceramic bowl. If it chips or cracks, you just throw the whole appliance away.
Wash it after the meal is cooked. If you leave it too long, the food remnants will never come out. (Don’t I know it!) If you’re really tired and can’t lift a finger, soak the bowl in warm water and a little salt or detergent overnight, but clean it first thing in the morning. Use a cloth sponge, or rubber spatula to remove food residue.
Don’t pour cold water into the bowl when it’s hot, likewise don’t pour very hot water in when the bowl is cold.
Never put frozen food, or very cold food, into the bowl when the bowl has been warmed and is hot to the touch.
Enjoy your Slow Cooker!