Slow Cooking Tips and Tricks and Other Things You May Not Know

• Slow cookers tend to work best when they’re ⅔ to ¾ of the way full. You may need to increase the cooking time if you’ve exceeded that amount, or reduce it if you’ve put in less than that. If you’re going to exceed that limit, it would be best to reduce the recipe, or split it between two slow cookers. (Remember how I suggested owning at least two or three slow cookers?)
• Keep your veggies on the bottom. That puts them in more direct contact with the heat. The more your slow cooker, the longer it takes to cook. Also, the more densely packed the cooker’s contents are, the longer they will take to cook. And finally, the larger the chunks of meat or vegetables, the more time they will need to cook.
• Keep the lid on! Every time you take a peek, you lose 20 minutes of cooking time. Please take this into consideration each time you lift the lid! I know, some of you can’t help yourself and are going to lift anyway. Just don’t forget to tack on 20 minutes to your cook time for each time you peeked!
• Sometimes it’s beneficial to remove the lid. If you’d like your dish to thicken a bit, take the lid off during the last half hour to an hour of cooking time.
• If you have a big slow cooker (7- to 8-quart), you can cook a small batch in it by putting the recipe ingredients into an oven-safe baking dish or baking pan and then placing that into the cooker’s crock. First, put a trivet or some metal jar rings on the bottom of the crock, and then set your dish or pan on top of them. Or a loaf pan may “hook onto” the top ridges of the crock belonging to a large oval cooker and hang there straight and securely, “baking” a cake or quick bread. Cover the cooker and flip it on.
• The outside of your slow cooker will be hot! Please remember to keep it out of reach of children and keep that in mind for yourself as well!
• Get yourself a quick-read meat thermometer and use it! This helps remove the question of whether or not your meat is fully cooked, and helps prevent you from overcooking your meat as well. Internal Cooking Temperatures:
• Beef—125–130°F (rare); 140–145°F (medium); 160°F (well-done)
• Pork—140–145°F (rare); 145–150°F (medium); 160°F (well-done)
• Turkey and Chicken—165°F
• Frozen meat: The basic rule of thumb is, don’t put frozen meat into the slow cooker. The meat does not reach the proper internal temperature in time. This especially applies to thick cuts of meat! Proceed with caution!
• Add fresh herbs 10 minutes before the end of the cooking time to maximize their flavour.
• If your recipe calls for cooked pasta, add it 10 minutes before the end of the cooking time if the cooker is on High; 30 minutes before the end of the cooking time if it’s on Low. Then the pasta won’t get mushy.
• If your recipe calls for sour cream or cream, stir it in 5 minutes before the end of the cooking time. You want it to heat but not boil or simmer.
• Approximate Slow Cooker Temperatures (Remember, each slow cooker is different):
• High—212–300°F
• Low—170–200°F
• Simmer—185°F
• Warm—165°F
• Cooked and dried bean measurements:
• 16-oz. can, drained = about 1¾ cups beans
• 19-oz. can, drained = about 2 cups beans
• 1 lb. dried beans (about 2½ cups) = 5 cups cooked beans

Enjoy!

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