A slow cooker is a great helper in the kitchen as it produces tasty dishes with minimal effort. Now that people are super busy in their daily routines, they opt for slow cookers as they are convenient to use. You can find many different slow cookers with added features in the market at reasonable prices. It is a onetime investment that produces delicious dishes for a long time.
Slow cookers keep cooking the food for hours and you can go about doing your chores or running errands. You can even use it overnight by putting in everything before sleeping and waking up to a warm, fully cooked delicious meal. And if that is not enough to convince you to get a slow cooker, think of this: you can take a slow cooker to a picnic or a game and have hot food that you and your family and friends can enjoy. Such are the benefits of using a slow cooker.
If you are getting yourself a slow cooker for the first time, worry not as here are the steps for using a slow cooker:
Clearing Counter Space
You need to clear up some space on your counter to leave some space around the cooker. Its walls are going to be hot and it will sit on the counter for a long time. So, as a precautionary measure, it is recommended you allow at least 6 inches of space between the pot and the walls/other stuff. The counters are generally made of heat proof materials but just in case you want to provide more protection, you can slide in a cooling rack underneath.
This step depends on your recipe. Generally, slow cooker recipes require little preparation. You will be cutting vegetables or meat. Make sure you trim the meat and cut it into small or medium sized pieces. You can also sear the vegetables or meat before putting it in. In fact, some slow cookers may have this feature already.
Putting the Ingredients In
Stuff like root vegetables, that take a long time to cook, should be placed at the bottom of the pot. Then place the meat and finally add the liquid elements. There will be need for at least some quantity of water or other liquid so the ingredients do not go dry. The slow cooker should be filled between halfway or three quarters. If you are making a stock or a broth, you do not need to put in extra liquid as a little amount will eventually evaporate. Dairy products, seafood and soft vegetables should not be added at the start as they break down and separate.
Important Tip: Do not add frozen meat. Make sure you thaw the meat first.
Putting the Lid On
The lid should sit on your cooker snugly so there is no room for steam to escape. Steam plays a vital role in slow cooking as it helps increase the heat and bring it to stable temperature. A loose lid will result in undercooked contents. In case it is s bit loose, you can wrap aluminum foil around the top of the pot so the steam stays packed in.
Setting the Time
The temperature range for all the settings (low, simmer, and high) is usually the same in almost all slow cookers. This setting determines how long it will take to get to that temperature. The lower settings may take up to 8 hours. On the other hand, the high setting may take as low as 3 or 4 hours. Most modern slow cookers bring the food to the required temperature fast and keep it there for the set duration. This is because the food should be brought to a certain temperature quickly enough to avoid formation of bacteria, particularly in meat.
Now your job is done. It is time for the slow cooker to do its magic. You can just walk away and watch TV or work out or go pick your son up from school. This is the advantage of a slow cooker that you can just leave it and the cooking will take care of itself. You do not have to stir again and again or lift the lid. This will allow the steam to get out and the cooking will be disrupted. You can, however, lift the lid towards the end of the cook. You may need to add last minute ingredients, like cream or garnish. You can also use a thermometer to check the doneness of the meat or poultry.
Even if you are not around, most modern slow cookers will turn on the warm mode which will cease the cooking and bring down the temperature enough to keep the food warm. Now you can take out your dish and enjoy it.
This is probably the part of cooking that most people run away from but slow cookers are pretty easy to clean. Many slow cookers have removable pots that can easily be removed and washed without having the need to wash the entire pot. Some even are dishwasher friendly. Do not put cold water in a hot cooker as it may result in cracks.
You can now be a pro at using slow cookers. It is super easy to use and clean, which makes it a great piece of equipment that everyone can use. From students to professionals to homemakers, everyone will find slow cookers convenient and affordable. Slow cookers are known to produce some amazing dishes that leave you wanting more. Since it takes a lot of time, the flavors are infused into every ingredient.
Make sure you follow the steps for cooking with a slow cooker and read the recipe thoroughly beforehand. The temperature range and the time required to cook will depend on the recipe you are using. Once you have set it for cooking, you can leave it unattended without any worries. With these, you can enjoy rich broths and juicy meats with minimal effort.