Slow Cooking for Beginners
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.
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.
I have a Slow Cooker, now what?
Now you'll want to know how to cook all sorts of meals in your new appliance.
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.
Keep food at least 2 cm or 1 inch below the top of the bowl or the lid will lift during cooking
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 and 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.
Heat up your slow cooker for 15 minutes before you add the food (unless the food is frozen)
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 an y 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-fattted 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 . Stir again. Turn the setting too high and let it cook for 1/2 an hour.
Brown or sear meat (especially chicken) in a hot pan before starting to slow cook
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 willl need to be soaked overnight, then boiled for 10 minutes to get rid of the toxins.
Puddings in the Slow Cooker
Puddings can be slow cooked.
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
Asian green vegetables Give them a quick steam instead
Sauces made with a foundation of milk or cream
You can add milk, yoghurt, fresh or sour cream, but only in the last half hour of cooking.
A Slow Cooker you can program
With a stainless steel base for easy storage and clean-up, plus separate temperature probe for large cuts of meat. Let the meal cook while you're out - this slow cooker boasts power-interrupt protection.
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 remanants will never come out. (Don't I know it!). If your'e 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.
Some Slow Cooked Meals
Slow Cook Pot Roast
If you haven't cooked with tougher cuts of beef before it can look pretty daunting, but don't pass it by! Tougher meat has more flavour. Slow cooking in the...
Lamb Shanks in the Slow Cooker
Lamb Shanks have changed remarkably since my mother cooked them. The lamb shanks themselves are still the same, it's the ingredients and method of cooking th...