Crock Pot Basics
Whether you’re a novice to the kitchen or an experienced cook, the crock pot is a must have for healthy and delicious on-the-go dinners. They provide “all-day-in-the-kitchen-homemade-flavor” without all the work. If you’re new to the crock pot, here are some basic guidelines to get you started.
Purchasing and Safety
- Look for a crock pot with a removable liner for easier prepping and clean up
- For food safety, it is best to cook on HIGH for the first hour to quickly bring the temperature up to 140ºF.
Then turn the dial to LOW and finish cooking. Some crock pots are programmable and can be set to do this.
- One hour on HIGH is equal to two hours on LOW.
- Remove cooked food from the crock pot before you refrigerate. The liner is made of thick material and the food cannot cool down quickly enough to prevent the growth of bacteria.
General Cooking Tips
- Only fill the crock pot one half to two thirds full. Too full will prevent foods from cooking properly, too low
will cause foods to cook too quickly!
- Remove skin from poultry, and trim excess fat from meats. Fats will melt with long cooking times, and will
add an unpleasant texture, not to mention excess calories, to the finished dish.
- You can thicken juices and concentrate flavors by removing the lid and cooking on HIGH for the last half hour
of cooking time.
- Most meats require 8 hours of cooking on LOW. Less tender cuts of meat like chuck and stew meat work well
with this cooking method.
- Don’t lift the lid to stir, especially if you are cooking on the low setting. Each time you lift the lid, enough heat
will escape that the cooking time should be extended by 20-30 minutes.
- For best results, ground meats must be cooked in a skillet before cooking in the crock pot.
- Seafood should be added during the last hour of cooking time, or it will overcook and have a rubbery texture.
- Large pieces of meat can be browned before cooking in the crock pot, but this step isn’t necessary. Browning
adds color and helps in flavor development.
- Cayenne pepper and hot sauce tend to become bitter if cooked for long periods of time — use small amounts
and add toward the end of the cooking time.
- Add tender vegetables like tomatoes, mushrooms and zucchini during the last 45 minutes of cooking time so
they do not overcook.
- Dairy products should be added during the last 30 minutes of cooking time, unless the recipes states otherwise.
- Liquids do not boil away in the crock pot, so if you are making a recipe that wasn’t specifically developed for
the crock pot, reduce the liquid by 1/3 to 1/2 unless you are cooking rice or making soup.
- Stir in spices during the last hour of cooking. They will lose flavor if cooked with the rest of the ingredients for
the entire cooking period.