Basic Tips for Crock Pot Cooking
Recently, the Crock Pot or Slow Cooker has emerged as a popular appliance for quick meal preparation. It is great because it cooks all day so that when you get home, dinner is ready and there are no hassles. If it and the foods you are using have been handled properly, it is a very safe, handy way to provide nutritious meals for the entire family.
For information on food safety in the United States and Canada please look at the following links
U.S. Food and Drug Administration
OR Canadian Food Inspection Agency
. For those who aren't that familiar with crock pots and crock pot cooking, here are some very helpful tips and suggestions:
- One hour on HIGH is equal to two hours on LOW.
- Only fill the crock pot one half to three quarters full...the foods will not cook properly if the crock pot is filled to the brim.
- Foods cooked on the bottom of the slow cooker are moister and cook faster because they are covered by the simmering liquid.
- An easy way to check the progress of your meal without lifting the lid...simply spin the cover until the condensation falls off and then it is easy to take a peak inside.
- To thicken the juices and concentrate the flavours of your meal, remove the lid and set the crock pot on HIGH for the last half hour of the cooking time.
- For food safety reasons, it is a good idea to cook on HIGH for the first hour to rapidly bring the temperature up to 140 degrees. Then turn the dial to LOW and finish cooking.
- Tabasco sauce and Cayenne pepper usually become bitter if they are cooked for long periods of time, so use small amounts and try to add them toward the end of the cooking time.
- Stir in spices during the last hour of cooking because they will lose their flavour if cooked with the rest of the ingredients for a long cooking period.
- Remove all the skin from poultry and trim excess fat from meats.
- Add tender vegetables such as: tomatoes, mushrooms and zucchini during the last 45 minutes of cooking time so they do not overcook.
- It is important to follow the layering instructions carefully. Vegetables do not cook as quickly as meat, so they should be placed at the bottom of your crock pot.
- Do not lift the lid to stir...especially if you are cooking on the LOW setting! Each time you lift the lid, enough heat will escape so that the cooking time will be extended by 20 minutes to half an hour.
- When cooking meat or poultry in your slow cooker, make sure it is completely defrosted and cut into small pieces.
- It is safe to cook food on LOW all day but it is suggested that you place the setting on HIGH for the first hour to help the temperature reach 140 degrees as quickly as possible.
- Most uncooked meat, poultry and vegetable combinations will take at least 8 hours on LOW to cook.
- If you have leftovers, they should be placed in shallow containers and in the refrigerator within two hours after cooking is completed.
- Since vegetables take longer to cook in a crock pot, place them on the bottom and the sides of your slow cooker.