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Slow cooker know-how

When the temperature starts dropping, many of us pull out our slow cookers once again. Here are some tips on how to make the best use of yours.

slow cooker

With fall here and winter soon upon us, there’s nothing quite like coming home to a hot, ready-to-eat meal you’ve prepped in advance. Indeed the slow cooker can be a boon in these chilly months, especially as we start to get busy with the holiday season and have less time and less desire to get home and start cooking a meal.

But are you using your Crock-Pot to its fullest potential? Find out here!

Use cheaper cuts of meat

Given the long, slow cooking time, you can use cheaper cuts of meat in your slow cooker. They’ll soften and become fall-off-the-bone tender as they cook throughout the day (or overnight) in your slow cooker. Look for cuts that refer to simmering, stewing or braising. Cuts are often from the shoulder or shank. Keep in mind, though, that cheaper cuts of meat may also come with more fat on them, so to avoid a greasy meal, be sure to trim off the fat before putting them in the slow cooker.

Break out your frying pan

If you’re new to using a slow cooker, you may think recipes just call for dumping all your ingredients into the slow cooker and switching it on. The truth is that most recipes call for more work beforehand. You might want to fry your meat first to get a nice sear and colour on the outside or to soften and brown vegetables such as mushrooms and onions to bring out their flavours. There are, of course, recipes that simply call for putting everything in the slow cooker, such as this delicious apple cider turkey loin.

How to handle your vegetables

As with other methods of cooking, cut vegetables to the same uniform size so they cook evenly. Also, when using root vegetables such as potatoes, carrots and parsnips, remember that they take longer to cook than meat does, so place those in your slow cooker first and the meat overtop.

Advice for the best slow cooker results

Although you may be tempted to lift the cover to see how the recipe is coming along or to give it a stir, don’t do it! You release a lot of heat when you lift that cover off, and it’ll affect the cooking time (you’ll need to cook your dish longer for proper results). After the entire recipe is cooked, if you find the sauce isn’t as thick as you like, mix a tablespoon of cornstarch with a tablespoon of water in a saucepan, add some of the sauce from your slow cooker, and cook over low heat until the sauce has thickened. Then mix this back into the rest of your dish to give it an overall thicker consistency.

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