Veteran Tool #2: The Slowcooker

I use a 6 quart Crockpot brand slowcookert and, now that we're empty nesters, the slowcooker function on my 3 quart mini Instant Pot
I use a 6 quart Crockpot brand slowcooker and, now that we’re empty nesters, the slowcooker function on my 3 quart mini Instant Pot for all my slowcooking recipes

Years ago… like 20+… we lived a particularly hectic life. With two very active kids, full-time, burgeoning careers, and full social lives, getting a healthy dinner on the table was, to coin a phrase, ‘challenging’. I don’t remember who made the suggestion or how I came to possess my Crockpot brand 6-quart slowcooker but, I do know I have used it hundreds and hundreds of times and it’s NEVER let me down. I cannot tell you how many times I’d do some quick chopping and mincing , maybe a little searing and/or browning the night before then, pull everything out of the fridge in the morning, set up the device, dump it all in, set it and forget it…AMAZING!

Slow cookers are really very simple cooking tools and, I think, essential in any kitchen. The key components are a heavy stoneware crock, along with a tight-fitting lid. The crock fits into a base that generates low, consistent heat from underneath. The crock gradually builds heat to a maximum point of about 210 degrees and then holds it steady. The lid ensures that nearly all steam is recaptured, producing a gentle, moist cooking environment particularly ideal for breaking down tough connective tissues in meat.

Slowcookers braise your food. That long, slow application of heat in a moist environment at low temperature produces truly amazing results. They do great things for soups, stews and chili, but they really shine in how they transform meats and poultry. It’s easy to overcook roasts in the oven. It’s virtually impossible in a slowcooker.

Cheaper, tougher cuts of meat like beef brisket, pork or lamb shoulder or even chicken thighs turn deliciously tender. And, the slowcooking process transforms their juices into incredible sauces. Those incredible juices also mean you can use less meat and bulk up on more veggies to let them soak up the flavour saving money and improving overall nutrition

Considering all the amazing value above, for my money, the absolute best thing about my slowcooker is that I pre-prep everything and throw it all in together, set the heat and time and walk away! And, I always have lots of leftovers to freeze for later or to eat throughout the week.

I like spray my slowcooker with a little olive oil before each use because it makes cleanup even easier.
Reserve safe counter space for your slowcooker.
Position it at least 6 inches away from any and everything as the sides generate a lot of heat.
The bottom is safe. Some place their unit on a cooling rack but I think that’s overdoing it.
Also, very little will ever stick to the stone crock so its not really necessary to grease it. I spray mine with a little olive oil before each use because it makes cleanup even easier… up to you.
Once you've got everything in the pot, set it and forget it! Just walk away, don’t disrupt the process by stirring or you’ll lose heat and add cook time.
I preheat my slowcooker before use choosing the highest setting for 20 minutes or so while I get all the ingredients organized. I feel like I get better results.
But, once you’ve got everything in the pot, set it and forget it! Just walk away. Don’t disrupt the process by stirring or you’ll lose heat and add cook time.
Some recipes call for touchy ingredients to be added in the last hour… cream, pasta, rice, fresh herbs, tender veggies etc. because cooking them for long periods can break them into their base components and make them appear and taste mushy. Follow the recipe!
You really can usually just dump all the ingredients into the pot and set it. But, Food Safety comes first. Make sure you thoroughly defrost all meats before adding them to the pot.
You really can usually just dump all the ingredients into the pot and set it.
But, Food Safety comes first.
Make sure you thoroughly defrost all meats before adding them to the pot.
Also, take a little time to sear or brown meat or lightly sauté veggies first. Use a cast iron frying pan to sear roasts or brown chicken… just 2 or 3 minutes a side and it’s ready.
It greatly improves taste and things look better too!
You’ll be glad you took the time!
Filling the slowcooker no more than half way to three quarters is best otherwise it will be tough to achieve the active cooking temperature of 210 degrees and it's not food safe.
Filling the slowcooker no more than half way to three quarters is best otherwise it will be tough to achieve the active cooking temperature of 210 degrees and it’s not food safe.
Also, very little liquid evaporates so, if you’re adapting a recipe from off the stove or oven, reduce liquid by a third and any liquid added shouldn’t go more than half way up the veggies unless you’re cooking a soup, sauce or stew.
Just as very little liquid escapes it also doesn’t thicken in a slowcooker. I dredge meat in flour or cornstarch first then add it or, I make a cornstarch paste. This helps thicken the juices as they cook.
Just as very little liquid escapes it also doesn’t thicken in a slowcooker.
But, you really want to take advantage of how delicious the juices are going to be.
I dredge meat in flour or cornstarch first then add it. This helps thicken its juices as it cooks.
Or, I make a cornstarch paste: two tsp of starch to a tbsp or two of water and add that usually an hour to half an hour before ready… another key Veteran Move.
If there are gaps in the seal, wrap aluminum foil around the edge to improve the fit.
The top should fit snug. Slowcooking relies on a consistent 210 degrees of moist heat.
Take the top off to stir and you lose 60 degrees and moisture. Don’t do it!
Some use a tea towel to improve the seal but, that absorbs steam and can dry out the dish.
If there are gaps in the seal, wrap aluminum foil around the edge to improve the fit.
Even though many units have a warm cycle when cooking is complete don’t leave it on warm too long or food can burn or worse, it can spoil.
Most slowcookers have a ‘warm’ setting when the cycle is done to keep food at a safe temperature. But, be there when it’s done!
Don’t leave it on warm too long or food can burn or worse, it can spoil.
Also, if you get home and discover the power’s gone out, no ifs, ands or buts… pitch it!
Meat left at room temperature all day, is not safe to eat.
There’s no trick I know of to save it… be safe, toss it in the bin.

Here’s a handy chart that will help you adapt recipes from the stovetop or oven:

If a recipe calls for 4 hours on 'High', 8 hours will work well and maybe even improve overall taste. Vice versa works too but you'll lose the benefit of low and slow cooking.

One final Veteran Move worth noting: Root vegetables like parsnips, potatoes, turnips etc can take longer than meat and other vegetables so, always try to put these near the heat source, at the bottom of the pot, then the meat or the rest of the mixed veggies.

Try this recipe. If you like it… even if you don’t… please comment and like the blog. Come back and see us some time!

One thought on “Veteran Tool #2: The Slowcooker

  1. Pingback: Veteran Tool #2: The Slowcooker — VeteranMovesforMenIntheKitchen.com – Sarah's Attic Of Treasures

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