Secrets to Better Crockpot Cooking

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Secrets to better crockpot cooking. Join our 14 day Healthy Crockpot Creations challenge on Facebook Sept 12 - 26
Crockpot meals can be a lifesaver for busy parents. Throw a few ingredients into the pot in the morning and hit the on button and viola... the whole family has a hot, delicious meal waiting for them after school and work. Although slow cooker meals can be a great convenience, they can also be disappointing if they aren't prepared correctly. Here are some secrets to cooking no-fail crockpot meals:

  1. Use the right size slow cooker. Crockpots range from 1 - 8.5 quarts. Generally speaking, most recipes work best in a 4-6 quart cooker, but refer to your recipe or owner's manual for a suggested size to insure accurate cooking time.
  2. Don't overfill or underfill. Fill your crockpot between 1/2 and 2/3 with ingredients. More or less will affect cooking time.
  3. Keep the lid on. Removing the lid releases heat and slows down cooking time. Resist the urge to remove the lid until the final 45 minutes of cooking to check for doneness.
  4. Plan ahead. Keep in mind, most recipes require a minimum of 6 hours cooking time. The main reason we are using a crockpot is for convenience. Having ingredients on hand and prepared in advance will prevent mess in the kitchen and save you time when you need it most. 
  5. For added flavor, brown meats and saute vegetables in a pan first before adding them to the crockpot. Then, de-glaze the saute pan with some liquid like broth or wine, and add the juices to the crockpot for even more richness.
  6. Use the correct temperature for even cooking and to avoid safety hazards and bacteria setting in. Refer to the recipe or your owner's manual for temperature guidelines.
  7. Never add frozen ingredients straight from the freezer to the crockpot. Avoid bacteria by allowing them to thaw overnight in the refrigerator before adding them to the slow cooker. Pre-packaged freezer meals are safe to use frozen as long as you carefully follow the instructions on the package. 
  8. Trim fat from meat, and remove skin from poultry ahead of time to avoid a slimy, greasy meal.
  9. Layer foods properly. Place firm vegetables like potatoes, carrots and onions on the bottom and meats on top for even cooking. Place delicate vegetables in during the final 30 - 45 minutes of cooking so they remain firm.
  10. Add dairy during the last 15 minutes of cooking to prevent it from breaking down.
  11. Use caution when cooking with wine. Keeping the lid on the crockpot prevents the alcohol from evaporating. It's best to add it to the meats and vegetables as you brown them ahead of time, or use the wine to de-glaze the pan.
  12. Forget to turn on the crockpot? Don't take any chances. Letting meat and poultry set out a room temperature for an extended period of time can allow bacteria to set in.
  13. You can thicken the cooking juices by letting the lid off and setting the crockpot to high during the final hour of cooking.
  14. Save by purchasing less expensive cuts of meat at the grocery store. These cuts have more fat and are not as tender which makes them more suitable for slow cooking. Cook slow and low and you'll be pleased with the tender and flavorful outcome.
  15. Always brown ground meats first and drain them before placing in the crockpot.
  16. Add seafood during the final hour of cooking to prevent it from becoming too rubbery or breaking down.
  17. Save fresh herbs and cheeses for last. Cooking herbs for too lang can destroy their flavor and cheeses can break down if cooked too long. 
  18. To enhance flavor, squeeze some fresh lemon or lime juice, or add a small amount of vinegar to the pot at the very last minute.
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Rock your Crock with us!!!

Our grilling days are almost gone. Time to dig out the crockpot and warm up to the idea of fall with tasty home-style cooking! But who's got time for that? Wouldn't it be great not to have to think about what to have for supper for one week? Even better, wouldn't it be great to just throw a bunch of ingredients together and come home to a delicious meal - no fuss, no muss! For two weeks, I'm going to help you with all that. I've decided to share my favorite quick & easy crockpot recipes in a FREE 14-day Healthy Crockpot Creations challenge! In week one, everyone gets a one week meal plan with recipes and grocery list. You also get tips and advice on how to make your slow cooker meals tastier and easier than ever. Simply follow along and find out how easy and affordable it is to eat healthy meals every day! Then in week two, we'll put our skills to the test and rock the crock all week long!

All participants will receive 21 new recipes to try - 7 breakfasts, 7 lunches and 7 dinners, all easily to prepare in a slow cooker. I'll also share healthy fall snack and beverage ideas. All recipes can be prepared in 20 minutes or less and contain only whole, natural ingredients. So not only are they a cinch to prepare, but they're healthy too!

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