Many appliances used in today’s kitchens saves time or effort, but only one allows you to return home at the end of the day to the aromas of dinner waiting. The crockpot or slow cooker is one of the best time saving appliances in the kitchen. It’s great for the beginning cooks because all you have to do is fill it and turn it on. Hours later, you come home to a house filled with wonderful smells of dinner ready for the table.
Here are some basic tips about using your crockpot:
• Always begin with a clean cooker, clean utensils, and a clean work area. Wash your hands before and during food preparation.
• For food safety reasons, it’s a good idea to cook on High for the first hour to quickly bring the temperature up to 140 degrees, and then turn the dial to low and finish cooking.
• The LOW setting is about 200 degrees, and the HIGH setting is about 300 degrees. NOTE THAT BOTH OF THESE TEMPS ARE WELL ABOVE THE MINIMUM SAFE TEMPERATURE OF 140 DEGREES.
• Cut dense vegetables into chunks or small pieces to ensure rapid heat transfer, leaving the peel on slow-cooked vegetables retains nutrients and helps them keep their shape.
• Because vegetables cook slower than meat and poultry in a slow cooker, put the vegetables in first. Then, add meat and liquid such as broth or water. Use hot liquids if possible.
• Add tender vegetables like tomatoes, mushrooms and zucchini during the last 45 minutes of cooking time so they don’t overcook.
• Never place frozen meats directly into the slow cooker. If necessary, thaw frozen meat the day before putting it in the slow cooker. Most meat requires 8 hours of cooking on LOW. Use cheaper cuts of meat- not only do you save money, but these meats work better in the slow cooker. Cheaper cuts of meat have less fat, which makes them more suited to crockpot cooking. Most long cooking times result in very tender meats.
• DO NOT lift the lid to stir, especially if you are cooking on the low setting. Each time you lift the lid enough heat will escape that the cooking time should be extended by 20 to 30 minutes. To check the progress without lifting the lid, spin the cover until the condensation falls off. Then it’s easy to see inside.
Try these two quick and simple recipes in your crockpot soon. I think you will enjoy the flavor and time saver.
Crockpot BBQ Ribs:
2 lbs. boneless ribs, 1 large onion, chopped, 1 tbsp. garlic salt, 1 bottle of your favorite BBQ sauce. Combine all ingredients in crockpot and cook on low setting for at least 6 to 8 hours.
4 boneless chicken breasts, 1 can cream of celery soup, 1 small jar mushrooms, 1 packet onion soup mix. Pour all ingredients into crockpot and cook on low for about 6 hours. Serve over noodles, rice or stuffing.
Sources: WVU Extension Service Families and Health Programs
Busy Cooks: Recipes: Cooks.Com
For more information contact Lethia Lee, EFNEP Assistant with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service at 910-592-7161.