Crockpots are a great kitchen gadget because they are so convenient and easy to use. Instead of spending the day cooking over a hot stove, a few minutes of prep can lead to a delicious meal later on. Mastering the crockpot doesn’t take a lot of work, but there are a few tips that should be followed to ensure that food is cooked properly.
- Avoid filling the crockpot too much. Food that is tightly packed into a crockpot won’t cook properly which can lead to foodborne illnesses. Be sure to use the right sized crockpot for each dish and only fill the ingredients two-thirds of the way full.
- Prep ingredients in advance. Meat and vegetables that are chopped ahead of time makes it easy to throw dishes together quickly. Try to chop ingredients in similar sizes so that each item cooks evenly. Trimming the fat off of meat will help to avoid a greasy finished product.
- Brown meat for more flavor. Although it’s not a necessary step, browning meat before adding it to the crockpot will lead to a more flavorful dish. Add any browned bits that end up at the bottom of the saute pan to the crockpot for even more seasoning.
- Pay attention to temperature changes. Cold food added to a hot crockpot and vice versa can crack the stoneware. Only place cold or room temperature food in a cold crockpot. When adding hot sauces or browned meat, preheat the crockpot for a few minutes first. Never add frozen food to a crockpot since it takes too long to defrost and can lead to improperly cooked food.
- Use the correct heat setting. Dishes that will cook all day should be left on the low setting to avoid burning. Quick cooking dishes should be placed on the high setting to ensure food is brought up to the right temperature. Purchasing a crockpot that automatically switches to the warm setting once food is cooked will help avoid overdone dishes.
- Avoid peeking. Lifting the lid too frequently releases hot steam and can lead to longer cook times. Only lift the lid when absolutely necessary to stir the dish, otherwise, avoid removing the lid until the last hour of cooking.