Crock Pot Cooking Tips
Herbs and Spices
• Only fill the crock pot one half to two thirds full. The foods will not cook properly if the appliance is filled to the brim. If the food and liquid level is lower, the foods will cook too quickly.
• Liquids do not boil away in the crock pot, so if you are making a recipe that wasn't specifically developed for the crock pot, reduce the liquid by 1/3 to 1/2 unless you are cooking rice or making soup.
• Foods cooked on the bottom of the slow cooker cook faster and will be moister because they are immersed in the simmering liquid.
• You can thicken the juices and concentrate flavors by removing the lid and cooking on HIGH for the last half hour of cooking time.
• Always defrost frozen ingredients before placing them in a crock pot. Food must reach a safe cooking temperature, above 140º, as soon as possible to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria. For the same reason, it's a good idea to cook on HIGH for the first hour to quickly bring the temperature up to 140 degrees. 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.
• Lifting the lid causes heat to escape. Allow about 15-20 minutes extra cooking time for every time you peek!
• To avoid cracks, never add cold water to a hot crock pot. To remove cooked on food, let the crock pot cool to room temperature first or add hot soapy water and let it soak. Inspect the inside of a crock pot for cracks before using.
• To make clean-up easier, spray a crock pot with a nonstick cooking spray before adding the food.
• Seafood should be added during the last hour of cooking time, or it will overcook and have a rubbery texture.
Herbs and Spices
• When cooking with your Crock-Pot ® slow cooker, it is best to use whole herbs and spices rather than crushed or ground. The flavor of crushed or ground herbs and spices seems to lessen during the extended cooking time with the slow cooker. Fresh herbs and spices take longer to release their flavor, and therefore withstand the extended cooking times required of slow cooking.
• Cayenne pepper and tabasco sauce tend to become bitter if cooked for long periods of time. Use small amounts and add toward the end of the cooking time.
• Stir in spices for the last hour of cooking. They will lose flavor if cooked with the rest of the ingredients for the long cooking period.
• Beans must be softened completely before combining with sugar and/or acid foods (NOTE: Sugar and acid have a hardening effect on beans and will prevent softening). Dried beans, especially red kidney beans, should be boiled before adding to a recipe. Cover the beans with 3 times their volume of unsalted water and bring to a boil. Boil 10 minutes, reduce heat, cover and allow to simmer 1 1/2 hours or until beans are tender. Soaking in water, if desired, should be completed before boiling. Discard water after soaking or boiling.
• Add tender vegetables like tomatoes, mushrooms and zucchini during the last 45 minutes of cooking time so they don't overcook.
• Follow the layering instructions carefully. Vegetables do not cook as quickly as meat, so they should be placed in the bottom of the appliance.
• Dairy products should be added during the last 30 minutes of cooking time, unless the recipes states otherwise.
. For best results with pasta, cook in a pot of boiling water until just tender. Add the pasta to the stoneware during the last half hour of cooking.
. For best results with rice, always use long grain converted rice. If it doesn't seem to cook completely after the suggested time, you may try adding an extra 1 to 1 2/3 cup of liquid per cup of rice.
• Remove skin from poultry, and trim excess fat from meats. Fats will melt with long cooking times, and will add an unpleasant texture to the finished dish. Fatty foods will also cook too quickly.
• Most meats require 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 crock pot cooking. Moist, long cooking times result in very tender meats.
• Ground meats must be cooked in a skillet before cooking in the crock pot.
• Large pieces of meat can be browned before cooking in the crock pot, but this step isn't necessary. Browning adds color and helps in flavor development.
• Lean meat and chicken can be cooked in a crock pot without browning it first, but browning, then draining ground beef, other meats, and chicken with skin on will reduce fat. Browning also gives ground beef a meatier taste and produces a better overall color.