Cooking In A Slow Cooker With Great Results
The Smell Of Dinner Cooking Fills The House ~
It's so incredibly nice to have the technology to put food in a device like a slow cooker in the morning, and then to just have it cook all day, filling the house with that wonderful smell of dinner cooking. I've found it to be really handy on days when I want to get a lot of writing done. I just put dinner in the slow cooker and let it simmer away.
Even with something as easy as a slow cooker, there are some tips that you can use to help your food to turn out its best. Yes it easy to use a slow cooker, just turn the little dial to low or high, depending on how long you want the food to cook. But there are still some things you need to know for great results.
- Keep that cover ON the slow cooker! ~ As tempting as it is to constantly be lifting the lid to "check" on dinner or to just make the house smell even better, keeping the lid on the cooker allows the heat to stay inside where it belongs. If you keep lifting the lid, you'll have to let food cook about an extra 15 minutes. So, unless your recipe says to stir something after a certain amount of time, try to keep the cover on.
- To save some time in the morning ~ You can put food in the slow cooker the night before and put it in the refrigerator overnight. Because the slow cooker has been chilled like this, you will have to remember to add at least an additional hour or even 1 1/2 hours to the total cooking time.
- Choose cuts of meat that are normally tough ~ Choose cuts of meat that are normally considered by most people to be too difficult to cook to a nice, desirable tenderness. The extra time the meat spends going through the slow cooking process allows for a breakdown of that tough tissue that usually makes it so tough and chewy. Because of the very slow cooking process, you will most likely get a melt in your mouth result. Some great examples of good cuts of meat to try are brisket or chuck steak.
- Don't over-fill the slow cooker ~ This is just as important as under-filling the cooker. If you don't put enough into it, food can cook too fast and dry out. If you overfill it, you could have an overflowing mess on your hands!
- Browning is always a good option ~ Some recipes will tell you to brown meat first. This is a good idea for beef, and especially ground beef. Sometimes the recipe will also say to brown chicken. You don't have to brown it, but if you do, it should add more flavor to your recipe, especially if you also add meat drippings from the pan.
- Experts recommend never putting frozen food in a slow cooker ~ Make sure to thaw cuts of meat before placing them in the slow cooker, or use the thaw setting on your microwave to thaw meat first. This is to help ensure food safety. You would not want anyone getting sick from meat that wasn't cooked properly. If frozen meat is cooked in the slow cooker, it isn't always dangerous, but you could be taking a risk.
- Remove food from the slow cooker to refrigerate it after eating ~ As tempting as it might be to just put the heavy crockery liner into the refrigerator with the leftovers still in it, (covered of course), this is not a good idea because the glass used for slow cooker liners is so thick. Food won't be able to cool down properly, making it risky. Harmful bacteria can build up in food if it can't cool properly. It's always best to put leftover slow cooker food into another container before refrigerating it.
- If your recipe calls for mushrooms ~ Add them about 45 minutes before cooking is done so they won't overcook. If dairy products are to be used, they need to be added about 1/2 hour before cooking time is done to prevent overcooking.
- Cut Meat Into Smaller Pieces ~ You don't want to ever put a huge chunk of meat into a slow cooker. It's much better to cut the meat into smaller pieces to be sure the meat cooks properly. This helps to cut the risk of harmful bacteria being allowed to cause illness.
Following these tips will help to ensure you get the most out of your slow cooker and enjoy incredibly easy and tasty meals from it. The smell of food cooking when you walk in the door after a long day is a wonderful thing to come home to. Or if you are like me and you are at home during the day working from home, the smell is a wonderful thing to have in the background. If you have animals like we do, they will most likely be in the kitchen sniffing.
I always thought that sniffing in the kitchen would be a "dog thing," but we have a little brown tabby mix cat named Misty who loves to walk into the kitchen with her little pink nose up in the air sniffing. I think the smell of food cooking lets her know she is home, because she IS home. Enjoy your slow cooker and be safe using it and it will give you years of fantastic, easy to prepare and delicious meals!
My Recipe For Delicious Fiesta Chicken
2 tbsps. Oil
2-3 Lbs. Boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into about 3 pieces per breast
1 Green Pepper, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 14 oz. can of diced tomatoes, Mexican style (with mild chiles)
1 tsp. minced garlic (I use dried, McCormack Brand, not fresh, but you can use fresh)
1/4 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. Oregano
In a large skillet, heat 2 tbsps. of oil and cook the chicken pieces until slightly browned. Overcooking might result in dry chicken, slow cooker will complete the chicken's cooking, so it's better to slightly under-cook. Remove chicken and drain pan. Place onion, green pepper and garlic in skillet and cook until slightly cooked. Add all ingredients to the slow cooker and stir. Then place cover on top and TRY not to uncover it for the duration of cooking. Cook on low for 8 hours, or high for 4 hours. Great with Mexican style rice or white rice and steamed vegetables.