8 Slow Cooker Hacks That Make Cooking Easier
A slow cooker fills the house with delicious smells and keeps dinner ready at the end of the workday. Used properly, the slow cooker can be the fairy godmother of the kitchen. But that doesn't mean there aren't pitfalls - common problems include dried-out dishes that lack flavor, or promising-looking slow cooker recipes that mysteriously turn into overcooked, mushy disappointments.
These unpleasant surprises are easy to avoid: With handy tricks that make cooking a breeze, the slow stove can earn its place on your countertop. The following tips will help you get the most out of this mighty appliance - from tender roasting to your role as an entertainer. With these handy tips, your slow stove will be easier to clean, faster to use, and even the life of the party.
1. Use a sling for the slow cooker
If you want to use the slow cooker for delicate dishes like salmon or hard-to-remove foods like stuffed peppers and baked goods, line it with a piece of parchment paper or aluminum foil long enough to reach over the sides. The cooked food can then be easily lifted out and placed intact on a serving platter. Bonus: Cleanup is a breeze.
Do you neglect your slow cooker because you hate to clean it? To remove stubborn residue, fill the slow stove with water to just above the edge of the food residue and add a combination of ½ cup baking soda and ½ cup distilled white vinegar for a 3-quart slow cooker (double this amount for a 6-quart slow stove). Cover and place on low for one hour or up to four hours. Let cool before rinsing the insert in the sink with warm water. Ta-da! Your slow stove is now self-cleaning.
3. Grease before cooking
To avoid scrubbing, coat the inside of your slow cooker with a non-stick cooking spray before putting ingredients in. This isn't necessary for recipes like soups or stews that contain a lot of liquid, but it's good insurance for starchier ingredients like pasta and risotto that tend to stick.
For recipes calling for sautéed or sautéed ingredients, it's a good idea to preheat the slow cooker before adding the cooked ingredients. Turn the slow cooker on high heat so it comes up to temperature quickly, then set it to the desired temperature. If you add hot ingredients to a cold vessel, the temperature will drop, increasing the cooking time.
5. Remove the lid
It's advisable to keep the lid of the slow stove in any case during use, otherwise it'll increase the cooking time. However, there are some exceptions in which the slow stove is useful without the lid. When meat and vegetables are done cooking, make use of the delicious juices that remain in the pot. Turn the cooker on a high setting and open the lid for 30-45 minutes to allow excess moisture to escape. The liquid will reduce, leaving a thick and delicious gravy or sauce. (Tip: This trick can also be used to thicken stews, or if you have accidentally added too much liquid)
6. Contain moisture with parchment paper or aluminum foil
When cooking low-volume ingredients (like chicken breasts), place a piece of parchment paper or aluminum foil over them before closing the lid of the slow cooker. This will trap moisture from ingredients that don't reach the top and prevent them from drying out (and protect you if your slow cooker has an overly aggressive steam vent).
7. Turn it into a reheating station
Use your slow cooker pull double-duty and use it as a reheating station at large family gatherings. Place side dishes, such as mashed potatoes, in the cooker on low heat for up to an hour on low heat to keep them warm until dinner time.
8. Turn it into a serving station
The slow cooker also doubles as a serving vessel for hot drinks like mulled wine or cider at a winter feast. It's even better if you can prepare them in the slow cooker too.