Sunday, January 17, 2010

General Instructions for a Slow Cooker

This information is from Rival Crock-Pot's Smart-Pot Slow Cooker Owner's Guide.

I thought it would be easier to reference them on here than to keep the booklet around somewhere in a kitchen drawer.

Pasta and Rice
  • If you are converting a recipe that calls for uncooked noodles, macaroni, or pasta, cook them on the stovetop just until slightly tender before adding them to slow cooker
  • If you are converting a recipe that calls for cooked rice, stirin raw rice with other ingredients; add 1/4 cup extra liquid per 1/4 cup of raw rice. Use long grain converted rice for best results in all-day cooking.

  • Beans must be softened completely before combining with sugar and/or acidic foods. Sugar and acid have a hardening effect on beans and will prevent softening.
  • Dried beans, especially red kidney beans, should be boiled before adding to a recipe. Cover the beans with three times their volume of unsalted water and bring to a boil. Boil 10 minutes, reduce heat, cover and simmer 1 1/2 hours or until beans are tender. Soaking in water, if desired, should be completed before boiling. Discard water after soaking or boiling.
  • Fully cooked canned beans may be used as a substitute for dried beans.

  • Many vegetables benefit from slow cook times and low temperatures and are able to develop their full flavor. They tend not to overcook in your slow cooker as they might in your oven or on your stovetop.
  • When cooking recipes with vegetables and meat, place vegetables in slow cooker before meat. Vegetables usually cook slower than meat in the slow cooker.
  • Place vegetables near the sides or bottom of the stoneware to facilitate cooking. Stir in chopped or sliced vegetables with other ingredients.
  • Because eggplant has avery strong flavor, you should parboil or saute the eggplant before adding it to the slow cooker.

  • It is not necessary to use more than 1/2 to 1 cup liquid in most instances since juices in meats and vegetables are retained more in slow cooking than in conventional cooking. When converting conventional cooking recipes to slow cooking recipes, use about half of the recommended amount of liquids, except for in recipes that contain rice or pasta.

  • Milk, cream, and sour cream break down during extended cooking. When possible, add during last 15 to 30 minutes of cooking.
  • Condensed soups lmay be substituted for milk and can cook for extended times.

  • Some soup recipes cal for 2 to 3 quarts of water. Ad other soup ingredients to the slow cooker first; then add water only to cover. If thinner soup is desired, add more liquid at serving time.
  • If milk-based soup recipes have no other liquid for initial cooking, add 1 or 2 cups water. Since milk, cream or sour cream will break down if heated above boiling point, carefully stir them in at end of cooking cycle.

  • For meats, trim fats, wipe or rinse well, and pat dry with paper towels. Browning meat ina separate skillet or broiler alows fat to be drained off before slow cooking and also adds greater depth of flavor to the dish.
  • Larger roasts, chickens, and hams are the perfect size for your slow cooker. Select boneless roasts or halms ranging from 2 to 4 pounds for a 4-quart slow cooker, 2.5 to 5 pounds for a 5-quart slow cooker, and 3 to 6 pounds for a 6-1uart slow cooker.
  • Bone-in cuts like ribs, loin cuts, or turkey pieces fit easily and cook well in your slow cooker. Cook turkey legs, thighs, and breasts, up to 4 pounds for 4-quart slow cookers, 5 pounds for 5-quart slow cookers, and 6 pounds for 6-quart slow cookers.
  • If you select a smaller roast, alter the amount of vegetables or potatoes so that the stoneware is 1/2 to 3/4 full.
  • Always remember, the size of the meat and the recommended cook time are just estimates. The exact weight of a roast that can be cooked in the slow cooker will depend upon the specific cut, meat configuration, and bone structure.
  • Cut meat into smaller pieces when cooking with precooked bealns, fruit, or lighter vegetables such as mushrooms, diced onion, eggplant or finely minced vegetables. This will enable food to cook at the same rate.
  • Lean meats such as chicken or pork tenderloin will cook faster than meats with more connective tissue and fat such as beef chuck or pork shoulder.
  • Meat should be positioned so that it rests in the stoneware and does not touch the lid.
  • If you are cooking frozen meats (such as roasts or chickens), you must first add at least 1 cup of warm liquid. THe liquid will act as a "cushion" to prevent sudden temperature changes. For most recipes containing cubed frozen meat, cook meats an additional 4 hours on LOW or 2 hours on HIGH. For large cuts of frozen meat, it may take much longer to defrost and tenderize.

  • Fish cooks quickly and should be added at the end of the cooking cycle, during last fifteen minutes to hour of cooking.

Specialty Dishes
  • Specialty dishes, such as stuffed chops or steak rolls, stuffed cabbage leaves, stuffed peppers, or baked apples can be arranged in a single layer so they cook easily and serve attractively.