Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Crock Pot Cooking Tips

I love using the crock pot - throw it all in and come home later to a delicious meal.  Here are a few helpful hints when using your crock:

Temperature Cooking Comparisons:
There are generally two settings; low and high
 - The low setting is usually about 200 degrees F.
 - The high setting is usually about 300 degrees F.

 - Generally, 2 - 2 1/2 hours on low equals 1 hour on high
 - A slow cooker can take as long as 30 minutes to regain the heat lost when the cover is removed during cooking.

 - garlic, chilies, chili powder and pepper will increase in flavor the longer they are cooked, which can result in them becoming very harsh and extra-spicy.
 - Flavors of fresh herbs will also increase during long cooing, making them a good choice for slow cookers.
 - Dried herbs tend to diminish in flavor over longer periods due to steam adding additional liquid and diluting the dish.  (This is the opposite of conventional cooking, which results in the evaporation of liquid, causing dried herbs to become stronger the loger they are cooked).
 - Cakes and Breads:
When cooking cakes, breads, or anything you want to prevent getting soggy, take a few paper towels and put them under the lid.  As your food cooks, condensation rises and sticks to your lid, which later drops down onto your food; not a big deal with soups and stews, but terrible for cakes and breads.
A few paper towels will trap that moisture and keep it off of your food.

- As a side note: inserts can be purchased for your crockpot specifically for cakes and breads.  I personally don't cook enough of these types of things to purchase one.

Choosing a Crock Pot:
There are a ton of different crock pots out there.  Here are some things I would recommend looking into before bringing one home:

- Get an oval shaped one.  Tall and skinny crocks work great for soups and stews, but aren't great if you want to cook a roast or other large pieces of meat.

- Crock pots that are attached to the heating element are difficult to clean, and don't allow you to transport the food easily.  Get a removable pan, preferably dishwasher and oven safe.  This will allow you to store the leftovers in the same pot as well; just stick it in the fridge.

- Some crocks come with an insulated carrying case - with handles and everything.  Not a big deal if you don't leave home, but very handy for taking to potlucks, neighbors, etc.  Along this same idea, a lid that seals shut would be a wonderful thing to have - no mess while transporting.

- Knobs, switches and timers... there are a lot of options, but that doesn't necessarily make it that much better.  Some automatic crocks include timers, but can only be set for 4 hours on low and 8 hours on high - meaning they may turn off before food is done, or cook it too long.  Think of what you would realistically use before you spend the extra money.  In my opinion, an OFF, HIGH, and LOW is all you need.

No comments:

Post a Comment