Slow Cooker Ideas

Slow Cooker Ideas

Hi all, and welcome back to my home and garden blog.  When I first set out writing this blog I promised that I would only give you tips and ideas that were affordable and relatively simple.   We’ve previously looked at a lot of DIY home makeover ideas, painting, up-cycling kitchen cupboards, and have only briefly touched on my other big passion – cooking.  Now in keeping with the blog ideals I thought that today we would look at my favourite way of cooking.  It’s economical, time-saving, minimally labour intensive and creates some dishes that are oh so amazing, the slow cooker.

Now when you look into purchasing a slow cooker it can be fairly daunting.  They range in price from ridiculously affordable, as little as a tenner, to as much as a couple of hundred pounds, but they also have differences which you may not realise.  

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Here are things to watch out for when buying

Heat distribution – with cheaper models, the smaller to medium sized slow cookers tend to have better heat distribution, whereas the larger pots tend to be patchier.  

Transparent lids – theres nothing worse than continuously having to take the lid on and off the slow cooker to see and monitor the progress.  A transparent glass lid or a thick plastic lid works best.

Pot size – this depends on how many people you’re cooking for.  Slow cookers can’t be filled to the rim so if you want 4 litres of food it’s best to look at a 5-6 litre model.  1.5 litres will produce around 800ml of food.

Hob-safe – If you will likely be cooking with meat having an inner ceramic pot which you can use on the hob for browning and searing the meat.

Other things to look out for include, heat settings, size,  dual functionality – some higher end models will have settings for sauteing as well as baking and steaming, and the standard stewing function.
I bought mine online from here: http://www.for-sale.co.uk/slow-cooker

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Top tips

Now once you’ve purchased your slow cooker the fun starts.  Here are my top tips on how to get the best out of your slow cooker:

  • Don’t remove the lid too often, this allows heat loss and will allow the evaporation of liquid.

  • Liquid doesn’t escape from a slow cooker.  If you are wanting to convert a stove top or any other non slow cooker recipe over then you will need to reduce any added liquids.  The best proportion I have found is reducing it by a third.

  • The inside pot needs to be at room temperature before you start cooking.  This means that if you have put the remainder of last nights meal in the fridge still in the slow cooker you will need to wait for the slow cooker to have warmed up prior to turning the slow cooker on.

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  • Rice and pasta dishes tend to work better on the high setting for as short a time as possible. Easy cook rice, rinsed well to remove as much starch as possible works best.

  • Don’t worry if your food looks unusually pale.  This happens to food cooked in a slow cooker.  You can add marmite or gravy browning to add some colour back in, and remember to season appropriately at the same time.

  • Add lots of herbs, if you read my post last month hopefully you’ll have some from your back garden

  • With meat its best to brown the meat really well before adding it to the slow cooker.  This helps not only with the colour, but also helps to flavour the meat as with the liquid in the slow cooker not reducing flavours don’t concentrate which means you need to pack and add the flavour in when and where you can.

  • To thicken a sauce add arrowroot or cornflour.  Remove a spoonful of sauce first, and mix in 1 – 2 tablespoons of your preferred thickener, whisking well.  Then return to the pot.

  • With soups and sauces a dash of cream or creme fraiche at the last minute can enrich the flavour.

  • Trim the fat of the meat before you add it to the slow cooker.  Fat doesnt drain away, and you’ll be left with pools of oil in your stew.

  • Look out for cheaper cuts as the work really well.  Beef brisket, pork shoulder, lamb shoulder and chicken thighs work amazing.  

  • Root vegetables take longer to cook than meat and vegetables, so put these nearer to the heat – at the bottom of the pot.

  • Remember your slow cooker isn’t just for stews, you can also cook desserts, soup, pasta and rice dishes

  • Slow cooking can be slow, and this works great as you can be super organised in the morning and have the slow cooker set to cook whilst your busy working away.

A great place to look for recipes is http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/collection/slow-cooker