Slow cookers are one of those kitchen gadgets that once you start using them, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it in your life! Imagine coming home to a house filled with wonderful aromas and your dinner already cooked and ready to dish up? If evening meal times are always a rush to throw something together then slow cookers are the answer to your prayers. We’re sharing our top recipes as well as some hints and tips for working with the slow cooker.
Slow cookers, as the name suggests, cook your food on a low temperature for a long time. Most recipes will take around 6 – 8 hours to cook. So you won’t be able to pop it on when you come home in the evening and be ready to go for dinner. It does require some planning ahead but once you get into the habit, you’ll be glad you did.
- You can prepare your meat and veggies the night before and place them into a container in the fridge, ready to pop into your slow cooker in the morning. It’s not a good idea to place your ceramic slow cooker container in the fridge as the constant change of temperatures can cause it to crack.
- If you are into your meal prep then there is no reason why you can’t prepare all of your ingredients for the week’s meals and pop them straight into the freezer. Add your meat, your herbs and spices and your vegetables for the meals into a freezer bag, label and pop in the freezer. In the morning take out your bag, pop everything in the freezer and add your liquids. By the time the slow cooker goes on at around 12 noon to be ready for the evening everything is defrosted and ready to go.
- If your slow cooker doesn’t come with a timer setting to make it turn on you can easily get around this by attaching it to a timer plug. Simply turn on your slow cooker then set the time for it to come on using your clock on the timer plug. This way you can have it come on while you’re out at work or even if you are at home, it’s set and forget.
What goes in must come out
A slow cooker doesn’t work in the same way that cooking on a hob or in the oven does. It maintains a steady lower temperature which means that your food becomes tender as it cooks. One major difference though is that the liquid amounts will remain the same throughout your cooking, the slow cooker keeps all of the moisture inside. You won’t be able to turn the stew you have up high and burn off some other the excess liquid to make it thicker like you would in a saucepan.
A great recipe to use as an example of this is our Chicken Cacciatore, a perfect dish to adapt for the slow cooker. The original recipe calls for 700 ml of chicken stock and 450 g of chopped tomatoes. To use in the slow cooker it would be best to half the stock amount and keep the tomatoes the same. The sauce will then be thicker when it comes time to dish up your tasty meals. The dish would cook for 6 hours on a low setting in your slow cooker.
Root Vegetables for the win
Root vegetables cook best in the slow cooker because they won’t turn to mush when they are cooked for longer periods of time. If you are using a recipe that calls for vegetables like peppers, broccoli, cauliflower or spinach you can add these ingredients about 30 mins before the end.
Our Spanish Chicken Casserole is a great recipe that you can use in your slow cooker. You can add in your peppers, green beans and mushrooms around 30 mins before the end of cooking. This dish would cook for 5 – 6 hours on low, depending on the temperature settings of your machine.
Slow cook for flavor
Using your slow cooker means that your food has plenty of time to absorb all of the delicious flavors that you add to your dish. Our Beef Hot Pot recipe is the perfect dish to add to your slow cooker and get all of the amazing aromas infused from the fresh parsley. You can add a sprig of fresh rosemary as well to really bring out the flavor of your beef.
Cooking beef in the slow cooker really brings out the flavor and texture of the meat, it becomes very tender and soft. You can afford to buy a cheaper cut of beef as well as the low and slow cooking will bring out the best in it. Remove most of the fat but leave a small amount in to keep it tender.
We’ve got a great new slow cooker recipe that’s sure to be a hit in your house from our leader, Darryn Loughnane. His delicious slow cooker pesto chicken is so simple and easy to prepare and is made from store cupboard ingredients. This would be a perfect recipe to prepare in the morning and come home to in the evening to enjoy.
Travel to France over the dinner table
Another fabulous recipe from Darryn is the Slow Cooker Coq Au Vin. One of the best things about the slow cooker is the set and forget part of it. You can throw nearly all your ingredients into it and no worry about it boiling over or burning. A dish like Coq Au Vin can seem more complicated than it is and it may put a lot of people off trying it. By simply putting everything together in the slow cooker you can enjoy this full of flavor meal after a long and busy day. At only 0.5 bites per person this meal is the perfect comfort food for winter evenings.