5 slow cooker tips and tricks

Slow cookers are a busy mom’s best friend. No time to cook? Plan ahead and let this appliance do the work for you. Not sure how to use one? Here are helpful tips to get started!

1. Simple sauté

If you’re preparing a batch of menudo or tortilla soup, keep the recipe simple. There’s no need to dirty a frying pan to sauté some of the ingredients. Before filling the cooker with liquids, turn the appliance on to the high setting. Add your sliced onions, peppers, and any other vegetables that require sautéing. Add a little fat from bacon, tripe, or pigs’ feet, and let the vegetables gently wilt. Then, turn the cooker back to low and go follow the slow cooker recipe.

2. Easy cleanup
Simmering a batch of chili con carne all day long can leave your slow cooker covered in tough baked-on sauce. To make cleanup a breeze, get in the habit of using slow cooker liners. These melt-proof plastic liners are perfect for dishes with thick sauces that like to cling to the sides of the cooker. After cooking, simply lift the plastic liner out of the crock, wipe any splatters off the crock, and that’s it!

3. Even cooking
Do your slow cooker recipes usually fail? Make sure the cooker is preheated and filled at least half full, but no more than two-thirds full. Before adding any ingredients to the crock, let it pre-heat on the low setting for 10 minutes with the lid on. Using a preheated cooker and filling it properly ensures even heating without overcooking.

4. Tender cooking
When cooking tough cuts of meat, choose the low setting. Then, add ample liquids to the slow cooker. Whether you choose sauces or broth, keep the moisture in the cooker by using the lid. Choose a cooker with a clear lid so you don’t loose any moisture by peeking on the meat. Each time you do open the lid to check the meat, add 20 minutes to the cooking time to make up for the lost heat.

5. Adding seasoning
If you’re making a spiced chili or soup, add the seasonings close to the end of the cooking process. Since these recipes tend to cook down and partially evaporate, you don’t want the seasoning to stick to the sides of the cooker and not mix into the food. If you’re worried about the recipe not being flavorful enough, tuck the seasoning into a tea ball, and dip the metal container into the center of the crock so the flavors can permeate the dish throughout the entire cooking process.