You can create incredible dishes with little effort with a slow cooker. Just keep in mind these tips for foolproof slow cooker meals:
Fill it up: Get the best results when you fill the slow cooker somewhere between 2/3 and 3/4 full. Helpful hint: Spray it with cooking spray before you fill it to make cleanup super quick.
Layer it right: Put carrots and potatoes at the bottom, cut in small, even-size pieces. Meat, seasoning and liquid go on top. Quick tip: Cover potatoes with liquid and they won't get dark-colored. Try it out with a classic beef stew recipe.
Don’t peak! Try not to open the lid to check your recipe's progress. It slows down the cooking time by about 20 minutes a peak.
Brown the meat: You'll get a richer flavor and color if you brown the meat before you put it in the cooker. If you’re short on time, you can skip it. But always brown ground meats first, and put it in the slow cooker immediately. Otherwise, it's not safe.
Trust your recipe: Don’t worry if the ingredients look dry when you start the slow cooker. But you don’t have to add extra liquid – there's no evaporation, so it'll be fine.
Thaw it first: Don't cook frozen meat in the slow cooker. And thaw frozen veggies first, unless you’re adding them at the end of the cooking time. Frozen peas are fabulous in this wild rice soup.
Keep it secure on the go: Headed for a potluck? Wrap the slow cooker in a towel and set it in a box so it won't spill in your car. Slow Cooker Pulled Pork Fajitas are a super choice for a potluck.
Stay warm: After it's finished cooking, you can keep food in the slow cooker for about an hour. After that, it's time to pack it up.
Don't even think about it: Whole poultry, like chicken or turkey, takes too long to get to a safe cooking temperature in the slow cooker. Stick with poultry pieces or other meats instead.
Test the temp: When the cooking time is over, make sure your food is at a safe temperature:
- Food: At least 160 to 165 degrees F in the center
- Poultry breasts: 170 degrees F
- Dark meat poultry: 180 degrees F