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A beginner's guide to slow cookers

Amy is the writer behind the food blog, The Blond Cook. She and her boxer dog Chance live on the coast of North Carolina in Morehead City. Amy works in the medical field by day, and is an avid food lover and photographer by night. Amy’s ...

Cook smarter, not harder!

What's not to love about a slow cooker? No kitchen is complete without one. Slow cookers are inexpensive appliances and can be lifesaving luxuries when time is limited.

Who doesn't love coming home to a house full of aroma from a fully cooked meal in a slow cooker? If you're new to using a slow cooker, read these helpful hints to help you make the most of this time-saving appliance.

  1. Never fill your slow cooker more than 2/3 full. Food that is filled to the brim of a slow cooker can overflow and cook unevenly.
  2. Although it is safe to leave a slow cooker unattended, ensure that it is 6 to 8 inches away from other items, appliances or walls before leaving it unattended.
  3. Confirm that the lid is seated tightly before leaving a slow cooker unattended.
  4. Confused about which heat setting to use? One hour on high heat (approximately 300 degrees F) is the equivalent of two hours on low heat (approximately 200 degrees F).
  5. It is recommended not to cook frozen foods in your slow cooker. Completely thaw frozen foods for the best cooking results in your slow cooker.
  6. Be sparing in the amount of liquids you add to your recipes, as less evaporation takes place in a slow cooker. Never add more liquid than the recipe calls for.
  7. Foods on the bottom of a slow cooker will cook faster, so it is important to layer your ingredients accordingly.
  8. Softer ingredients (such as tomatoes) should be added during the last hour of cooking.
  9. Always allow food to cool before placing it in the refrigerator. Never place a slow cooker's liner in the refrigerator. Instead, transfer it to a sealed container.
  10. It is a good idea to trim fat from all meats before placing them in a slow cooker.
  11. Removing the lid from your slow cooker while the setting is on "low" prolongs cooking time. Heat quickly escapes, adding 20 to 30 minutes to overall cooking time each time the lid is removed.
  12. If you're rushed for time, cut vegetables and meats the night before cooking. Store them separately in the refrigerator and quickly add them to your slow cooker in the morning.
  13. Season your recipes very generously. Since slow cookers cook longer and slower, the flavors of seasonings will be reduced. When using fresh herbs, add them during the last hour of cooking.
  14. Add dairy products during the last hour of cooking to prevent curdling.
  15. Before adding ingredients, spray the liner of your slow cooker with a nonstick cooking spray for easier cleanup.

Click here for 62 Delicious Slow Cooker Recipes

Recipes for your slow cooker

Slow cooker cocktail meatballs
16 Slow cooker comfort food recipes
Easy weeknight slow cooker chicken tacos

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