The time has arrived to learn how to use an electric slow cooker again. They're an easy and convenient way of cooking meals while you’re not home. Electric slow cookers use low temperature settings and the lid keeps moisture in so food doesn't burn.
Electric slow cookers have a low and high temperature setting, but a few also have a medium setting. Just as the name implies, slow cookers stay at a modest 180 to 200 degrees on the lowest temperature setting and usually never above 280 to 300 degrees on the highest setting. A tight-fitting lid covers the electric slow cooker allowing steam to become an important part of the cooking process.
Since moisture plays an important role in how a slow cooker performs, soups, stews and chili are ideal for this type of cooking. But inexpensive cuts of meat that would normally need to be braised in liquid on the stovetop are what makes an electric slow cooker shine its brightest! The meat goes in early in the morning for a long day of being slowly tenderized into something fabulous at day’s end.
- When cooking large cuts of meat, such as beef roast, always thaw the meat first. Since the temperature stays low all day, the center of the meat could actually allow harmful bacteria to begin growing in the meat’s center.
- Keep in mind that an electric slow cooker can’t brown the meat. If you want a browned skin on the meat, sear it quickly in a small amount of olive oil before placing in the electric slow cooker.
- Always place vegetables in the bottom of the slow cooker first, followed by the roasts or large cuts of meat. If the meat is in small chunks for soups, just mix all of the ingredients together before covering it with the lid.
- The ideal setting for a slow cooker is high for the first hour. Then the temperature can be lowered for the remainder of the cooking time. Leaving it on high at first just allows for the ingredients to reach a higher and safer temperature faster. Don’t worry if the food will not be safe to eat if you don’t do this step. The food will still heat to a safe temperature if started on low temperature setting.
- Don’t be tempted to use more liquid than the amount called for in the recipe. The liquid doesn’t evaporate so it stays in the electric slow cooker all day. As a matter of fact, the liquid often increases from moisture of vegetables and meat, plus the fat content of the meat.
- Leave the lid on the slow cooker to keep the temperature consistent. Remove the lid only when necessary to stir the food or to check if the meat is done. Because of the low temperatures of an electric slow cooker, leaving the lid off for long periods will decrease the temperature in the pot and let moisture escape.
- Put the correct amount of food in the slow cooker. Don’t fill the crock all the way to the top. Fill the slow cooker approximately two-thirds of the way full to allow for proper cooking temperatures. On the other hand, don’t put a tiny amount of food in the bottom of a large slow cooker and expect an accurate cook time.
Now that you know how to use an electric slow cooker, don’t be afraid to experiment with some of your favorite recipes that normally go on top of the stove. Place your soup or stew ingredients in the electric slow cooker in the morning and arrive home to the smell of a wonderful home cooked meal in the evening!