Follow these simple slow cooker basics to make your slow-cooked recipes taste even better.
- Brown meats, poultry and other proteins before adding them to the slow cooker. Browning builds the flavor of a dish.
- Sautéing onions, garlic, dried herbs and spices before adding them into the cooker gives a balanced flavor.
- Use dried rather than fresh herbs when slow cooking. If at the end of the cooking time you want to refresh a flavor, add fresh herbs at that time.
- As a general rule, dishes cooked on low can be cooked safely on high for half the time.
- Keep the lid on. Slow cookers can lose 20 to 30 minutes of cooking time when the lid is removed.
- Don’t place frozen foods in a slow cooker; make sure foods are totally defrosted to be food safe.
- Never fill a slow cooker more than ⅔ full and no less than halfway, for optimum performance.
- Always brown ground meats before adding to a slow cooker.
- Layer ingredients so those that are the densest and take the longest to cook (such as potatoes) are on the bottom.
- For best results, remove excess fat from meats and the skin from poultry before putting it into a slow cooker.
- After a dish is cooked, strain, then boil the braising liquid in a saucepan over high heat to concentrate the flavor.
- A squeeze of lime juice or a drizzle of vinegar added at the last minute will enhance the flavors in almost any dish. Add flavor, color and texture by finishing a dish with a scattering of fresh herbs – chopped basil, dill parsley or oregano, or a finely diced, crunchy vegetable such as red bell pepper, jicama, fennel or cucumber.