Slow cookers, or crockpots, are not just a thing to take out when you want to make some soup or stew. In fact, a crockpot is the secret weapon in your kitchen. Crockpots can make life a lot easier for you, especially if you are out of the house all day, but many people have not gotten on board with the crockpot way of life. This could be down to the very simple reason that they tried a dish, but it came out bland and mushy. So what can you do to make the most of your crockpot?
Use Cheaper Cuts of Meat
To avoid getting tougher cuts of meat at the store because they become tougher during the cooking process, but the great thing about a crockpot is that you need to cook your meats low and slow. Having tougher and cheaper cuts of meat is usually lower in fat but has richer tastes. Cooking them over a long time at low heat will bring out very tender meat that is full of flavor. This delicious, easy-to-make pepper steak with onion recipe is a great example, but you can easily go to your butcher and ask for the cheaper parts of the animal.
Brown Your Meat Before Cooking
You may think that the whole point of a crockpot is to chuck everything in one pot and let it cook, but if you want a richer flavor, the best thing you should do before you start is to brown your meat. It doesn’t take long to do, just put a frying pan on high heat and brown the meat on each side for a couple of minutes, and then you can toss all of the ingredients into the crockpot. It will make a massive difference.
Remove as Much Fat as You Can
Fat is in favor more these days because of diets such as the ketogenic one, but in the crockpot, any residual fat sits in a layer at the top of the food, causing it to be very greasy. If you like fatty foods, this is fine, but a lot of people don’t like the texture of the fat, as it’s something they’ve not been used to as they grow up. The best thing you can do is to trim the fat and if you want to have it as part of the meal, put it in the oven for 20-minutes, as this would crisp it all up, and can be an extra texture. For example, when you are cooking a pork loin, you can trim the fat, and make delicious crackling!
Layer the Foods Properly
You’ve got to look at the foods you plan on putting together. If you are making something like a chicken stew, you need to remember the vegetables should go at the bottom, as they will be exposed to more heated liquid, and the meat will be soft and tender. Always layer the harder foods at the bottom for this very simple reason. And as an added bonus, when you put the meat on top of the vegetables, as the meat cooks it will release all of those flavors into the vegetables, making them extra delicious, and could make a massive difference to how your children enjoy vegetables.
Don’t Use Much Liquid
One of the rookie errors many people make in the slow cooking journey is to think they need to put in more liquids, especially if they are out all day. Slow cooking doesn’t cause evaporation, so therefore it requires less liquid. If you are adapting a recipe that is normally on the hob and needs to suit your crockpot, bear in mind that you will have to undergo some trial and error to reduce your liquid.
Avoid Frozen Foods Where You Can
This is especially true with regards to meat. You can put small frozen vegetables in there, but you will need to increase the cooking time and it’s a good idea to use fresh food where you can. As the internal temperature of any meat rises slowly, if you are looking to cook something frozen, you’ve got to cook it for at least 24-hours.
The crockpot is an amazing addition to your kitchen. It can help you cook an abundance of meals that you didn’t realize could be done from great gluten-free options to meatloaf, and anything that you can put your mind to. But bear in mind two simple things before you start: read the manual and keep the lid on!