5 Things You Need to Know Before You Use Your Slow Cooker
Don’t Drown The Meat
According to New York Times best-selling author and slow-cooking expert Stephanie O’Dea, covering your meat with liquid is “old school,” and results in bland, watery flavors. Instead, focus on seasoning meat really well, and then add just a half cup of broth or water for a large beef roast. “Pork butts and whole chickens release so much liquid on their own that you don't need to add any additional liquid; instead, just season the meat and place into the pot,” she says.
You Can Peek If You Want
O’Dea says that you should keep your slow-cooker lid on tight for the first few hours of cooking, but after that, take a look! “Feel free to poke, prod, and taste your slow-cooker fare near the end of cooking time and adjust the seasoning as necessary.”
Don’t Throw in Frozen Food
It can be tempting to toss a bag of frozen chicken thighs in your slow cooker and run out the door, but slow cookers don’t actually get hot enough to keep frozen meat at safe temperatures, which can lead to a nasty bout of food poisoning. Franco Robazetti, executive chef of Zeppelin Hall Biergarten, suggests always thawing your meat before using a slow cooker.
Traditionally, the slow-cooker has been a culinary free-for-all, with ingredients just heaped in a pile (some of which get really over-cooked), but there’s a better way. O’Dea suggests making “bundles of veggies seasoned with some butter or olive oil and fresh herbs in aluminum foil or parchment paper” and then placing “the packets on top of your meat while it's cooking for beautifully steamed vegetables.”
Easy on the Alcohol
Crock-pot coq au vin sounds fantastic in theory, but you may want to take it easy on the wine. “Since the lid of the slow cooker will always be on, the alcohol won't be able to evaporate and escape,” says Robazetti. “Just a few tablespoons of any alcohol will be plenty.”