Crockpot Cooking Basics – An Introduction

Crockpot

Crockpot Cooking Guide

Cooking with a crockpot brings joy back to food. A crockpot is a versatile appliance that offers limitless opportunities for cooking. Slow cookers are not just for soups and stews, you can also bake bread and cakes, roast meat, steam vegetables and serve up some hot apple cider in a crockpot. We have a lovely blue colored one we bought but we also have one in a set which you can see here, which is the Caphalon brand.

Slow cooking food is healthy. The slow cooking process retains more nutrients than many other methods of cooking. Slow cookers usually have two settings – high and low. The low setting is equivalent to about 200 degrees Fahrenheit, while the high setting is about 300 degrees.

Slow cookers heat up slowly, taking two to three hours to get up to their highest temperature. This ensures that the food retains nutrients and prevents scorching or burning. Because slow cookers cook by indirect heat, you never have to stir the food to make sure it’s evenly cooked.Check crockpots and slow cookers Prices On Amazon

A real slow cooker has a crockery insert that warms up evenly, spreading the heat evenly throughout the food. A device that provides heat only from the bottom to a metal container is not a slow cooker.

Slow cookers come in many shapes and sizes. Virtually all of them come in pleasing colors to fit in any kitchen decor. With so many different styles to choose from, how do you pick the one that’s right for you?

Crockpot

Choosing a Crock Pot

~ If your a small family you might want to start with the midsize and most versatile type of slow cooker. The 2 1/2 quart version is still the most popular for first-time buyers.
~ If you are routinely gone for more than nine hours during the day, you might want to consider one with the automatic timer and warming function included.
~ If you don’t like to spend a lot of time washing pots and pans, consider a slow cooker with a removable crockery insert. These can be cleaned in the dishwasher.

What a Slow Cooker Won’t Do

There are a few things that a slow cooker can’t do. Because it cooks foods over several hours, it won’t brown meats and vegetables. For that reason, some recipes ask you to brown the meat, garlic, and onions before putting them into the crockpot.

Any recipe that requires quick cooking or high heat isn’t well suited to a slow cooker. You can’t deep-fry or parboil anything. Milk products also offer special challenges for crockpots. Some cheeses will separate when cooked over the long term and most milk products will turn brown. There’s a reason many slow-cooker recipes call for condensed cream soups instead of “real” cream or whole milk – the cooking process in canned soups stabilizes the milk so it doesn’t react to lengthy cooking times.

Rice and pasta also add special challenges when slow cooking, because they tend to absorb too much water when cooked over long periods. Many recipes may ask you to add these items later in the cooking process.

Crockpot Cooking Basics

As with conventional cooking recipes, slow cooker recipe time ranges are provided to account for variables such as temperature of ingredients before cooking, how full the crockpot is and even altitude. Once you become familiar with your crockpot you’ll have a good idea which end of the time range to use.

Manufactures recommend that slow cookers should be one-half to three-quarters full for best results. Keep a lid on it! The slow cooker can take as long as twenty minutes to regain the heat lost when the cover is removed. If the recipe calls for stirring or checking the dish near the end of the cooking time, replace the lid as quickly as you can.

To clean your crockpot, follow the manufacturer’s instructions. To make cleanup even easier, spray with nonstick cooking spray before adding food. Always taste the finished dish before serving and adjust seasonings to your preference. Consider adding a dash of any of the following: salt, pepper, seasoned salt, seasoned herb blends, lemon juice, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, flavored vinegar, freshly ground pepper or minced fresh herbs.

Crock Pot Cooking

Cutting Your Vegetables: Vegetables often take longer to cook than meats. Cut vegetables into small, thin pieces and place them on the bottom or near the sides of the slow cooker. Pay careful attention to the recipe instructions in order to cut vegetables to the proper size.

Selecting the Right Meat: A good tip to keep in mind while shopping is that you can, and in fact should, use tougher, inexpensive cuts of meat. Top quality cuts, such as loin chops or filet mignon, fall apart during long cooking periods. Keep those for roasting, broiling or grilling and save money when you use your crockpot. You will be amazed to find even the toughest cuts come out fork-tender and flavorful.

Reducing Fat: The slow cooker can help you make meals lower in fat because you won’t be cooking in fat as you do when you stir-fry and saute. And tougher cuts of meat have less fat than prime cuts. Many recipes contain less than 30% calories from fat. If you do use fatty cuts, such as ribs, consider browning them first on top of the range to cook off excess fat.

Adjusting Recipes for Crockpot Cooking

Time Guide

If Recipe SaysCook on Low                  orCook on High
15 to 30 minutes4 to 6 hours1 ½ to 2 hours
35 to 45 minutes6 to 10 hours3 to 4 hours
50 minutes to 3 hours8 to 18 hours4 to 6 hours

Most uncooked meat and vegetable combinations will require at least 8 hours on LOW.